Solemnity of the Mother of God
The Solemnity of the Mother of God (Theotokos, Bearer of God, in Greek) has been celebrated on the Octave (8th day) of Christmas since 1974, but the recognition of the role of Mary as the bearer of Jesus has been with us a lot longer, and the more formal acknowledgement could be traced to the Council of Ephesus in 431.
It mattered then, it matters now to know that we have a spiritual mother. Sometimes our earthly mothers have things they’re working on to become even more perfect, but Mary started out that way, through the miracle of the Immaculate Conception. While the rest of us are saved after sinning, she is saved before sinning. Pretty important to have a clean vessel for bearing God Himself into the world.
So what is going on in Luke 2:16-21? The shepherds obeyed the directions of the angels (more accurate than Google Maps) to head toward Bethlehem to locate a stable with a baby wrapped up and lying in the manger. (As a person interested in languages, I find it cool that the word “manger” is from the French verb for “to eat,” fitting for the Son of God who gives Himself to us for spiritual food in the Eucharist.) The shepherds didn’t just meander down to town from the hills, they went “in haste.” I would like to think that when the Lord speaks to me and tells me what to do, I would obey with the same alacrity. The simplicity of the shepherds would possibly enable them to be open and ready to listen to the messengers from God. They would be hard to ignore in this case, but the Pharisees had no trouble ignoring the resurrection of Lazarus and Jesus Himself, not to mention numerous miracles and healings that He performed.
One of the gifts we can ask from Mary is that “readiness of faith” that she displayed in the Annunciation. It was an informed faith, as ours too should be, even though the acquisition of knowledge as an end in itself is not the same as the feeding of our faith with the output of both science and theology. Mary “kept all these things” that she heard from the Shepherds about the role of her Son. The Greek mentions her “treasuring” and “pondering” the things she heard in her heart. Looking inwardly is a skill that is tricky to balance, with some of us lacking the ability of deeper thinking and others being overly introverted, but regardless, what Mary demonstrates is the value she places on the truths that she thinks about extensively. These truths reside in her heart, not just her mind, and the heart is (and was) considered the place of decision-making, the will. What a great model for us is this young virgin mother, in that she kept herself pure, was open to God’s request, thought about it as far as wanting to understand and then simply said, “Yes.”
The rest of creation simply says, “Whew! Or Thank God!” that she accepted her role as the greatest mother of all time.
Note that after hearing and obeying the angels, then reporting what they heard from them to Mary and Joseph, the shepherds didn’t just hang about the stable, but they returned to their work, glorifying and praising God for what they had seen and heard. Again, I take a lesson from these characters – glorify and praise God as I go to work. Treasure and ponder. What a joyful time to be alive – we have a great mother and the fruit of her womb, Jesus!
Be glad and rejoice!
Word for us
Συμβάλλουσα – Symballousa – pondering – (a fun looking word) knowing how important it is to think deeply on God’s themes for us as Mary did. It struck me that part of her remaining sinless was this pondering. We can do the same by praying the mysteries of the Rosary, in that it is pretty hard to rationalize sinful behavior while recalling Jesus’ Passion, just for instance.