Happy Feast of Mary, Mother of God

Happy Feast Day! Today is the solemnity that remembers Mary as theotokos, or God-bearer, a feast that extends back to the 8th century (although for a while Jan 1st was celebrated as the feast of the circumcision of the Lord, after Vatican II the church returned to its earlier practice of remembering Mary).

Mary’s title as theotokos, or God bearer, is a unique title, for she alone gave birth to Jesus who is both divine and human. I recently read that the early church resisted attempts to call Mary only Christ-bearer, which would emphasize that she was the mother of the Messiah, or those who sought to say that she only gave birth to Jesus, a human being. Instead, the Church’s tradition from early on was to say that Mary gave birth to Jesus who was both fully divine and fully human, and therefore, she bore the divine within her.

Everything we say about Mary also reminds us both of who Jesus is and who we, as human beings, might become. Mary as theotokos reminds us that God came to be with us, to be part of our humanity, not merely as a temporary visitor, but as one who united himself with the whole human race, and never departed. That union of the divine and human in Jesus remains. Mary is also a model for us, for our own souls, and so in an analogous way, we are also invited to be Christ-bearers: to remember that since God has first united God’s self to us, that we are already united to the divine in intimate relationship. God continues to exist in our relationships and our communities, in our love for one another, and in the messiness of our humanity.

Happy feast day, and blessings to you for this new year!