Liturgical Colour : White or Blue
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is the first day of the solar Gregorian calendar year, marking the New Year and the beginning of a year ahead that I am sure we all hope to be better than last year and also the previous year before that. And today, the Church also celebrates a great Solemnity in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God or Theotokos, on this Octave or eighth day of Christmas, capping the great eight day celebrations of the Christmas Octave, although the Christmas season itself will still continue through the Epiphany this coming days and beyond.
First of all, the importance of this great Solemnity cannot be underestimated, as the belief in Mary as the Mother of God is a fundamental and essential Christian tenet that is inseparable from our believe in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour as God Himself, incarnate in the flesh. That is why today’s celebration is a fitting reminder of the true nature and importance of Christmas, a reminder for us all why we celebrate and rejoice during this Christmas season, a time for us to remember the love of God manifested to us in the flesh and appearing before us in Christ.
For at the time when the Dogma of the Divine Motherhood of God was officially proclaimed by the Church at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus almost a thousand and six hundred years ago, there had been a lot of arguments and divisions amongst the members of the Church regarding the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ. The debates were whether He was truly the Son of God or just a mere Man, and whether He was the Co-Eternal and Co-Equal Son of God or subordinate to the Father. These divergent ideas and teachings had led to a lot of heresies which had misled many among the faithful and caused divisions in the Christian communities.
That was why, beginning with the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, the Church and its many leaders have already gathered together and inspired by the Holy Spirit to safeguard the true teachings of the Church as handed down to all of them and which we have also now received, from the hands of the Apostles and their successors. Firstly, the relationship between Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour and the Father was clarified, that He is not only just the Son of God, but is also Co-Equal and Co-Eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, not subordinated but in equal and indivisible unity within the Holy Trinity, the One Triune God that yet maintains its distinct identities, One God in Three Persons.
This became the Nicene Creed as we know it today, which was then further updated at the subsequent Ecumenical Council of Constantinople to become the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed that we are still using regularly to this day. Through this Creed and the many other decisions by the venerable and courageous Church fathers inspired by the Holy Spirit, those who sought to subvert and change the teachings of the Church to suit their own self interests and ambitions were thwarted and many of those who have fallen to the heretical teachings and thoughts eventually returned to the Holy Mother Church.
Nonetheless, there were still disagreements and controversies surrounding the nature of Christ until that time particularly with regards to Mary, the Mother of Our Lord as there were disagreements between those who thought that Mary, as a mere woman could not have been the Mother of God, the same Infinite God and Creator of all the Universe. They thought how it was possible for a woman, a created being to become the mother of the One and Eternal God and Creator, for a created being to become the Mother of the Creator. This was the argument of those who also held the view that Jesus the Man was distinct and separate from the Divine Son of God.
Hence, they used the terms such as the Mother of Christ, or the Bearer of Christ in their references of Mary, highlighting that Mary was merely the mother of the human Jesus Christ, and not the Mother of God. But this view was totally flawed in that in the true nature of Our Lord, we can never completely separate His human and divine natures. Instead, as affirmed by the Ecumenical Councils at Ephesus and Chalcedon, the Lord and Saviour, Son of God and Son of Man is indeed one and only Person but with two distinct yet inseparable natures, Divine and Human at the same time. Each natures are distinct from each other and yet perfectly and completely united in the one Person of Jesus Christ.
And naturally therefore, if Jesus Christ is not just Man but also God, then Mary being His mother, as the one who bore Him in her womb, is also the Mother of God and not just the mother of Jesus Christ the Man. Just as Christ’s Divine and Human natures are inseparable, we cannot separate Mary’s motherhood of Christ from the fact that she is indeed the Mother of God. She was indeed full of grace and blessed among all women as said by her cousin Elizabeth, because she alone from all the creatures of the Lord was to bear the Almighty God Himself in the flesh, in her womb.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect today on Mary as the Mother of God, today all of us are also called to look to her examples and dedication to the Lord. She is not just honourable because she is the Mother of God but because she is also truly dedicated and faithful in her own way as well. She has obeyed the Lord wholeheartedly and followed Him throughout His life and ministry, ever since He was still in her womb, and then after He was born and then grew up, she still cared for Him, followed Him even throughout His works and then even through to the foot of the Cross. She remained true and faithful to the mission which God has entrusted to her.
Today we look up to Mary, who is not only just the Mother of God but also the mother of us all. For through His incarnation in the flesh, Our Lord has become part of our humanity and by sharing in our nature and in entrusting His own mother to us from the Cross, He has made all of us to be Mary’s own adopted children. She has watchfully guided us all and has never ceased praying for each and every one of us, and hoping that we can also follow her examples and also the examples of many of our faithful brothers and sisters, that we may also be truly faithful to God in all things.
Today we may then be wondering why is it that we are celebrating this occasion on the New Year’s Day. This is important because on this New Year’s Day, all of us are called to start the year right and not to continue living our lives in the manner that is not proper and unbecoming of our calling as Christians if that is what we have been doing all these while. All of us ought to remember that first and foremost, as Christians all of us are called to live our lives faithfully in accordance to the Law and the commandments that God has placed before us, which He has taught us and revealed to us through His Church.
If we call ourselves as Christians, then it is only right that all of us commit ourselves to a new life in God, to be true followers of Our Lord and be genuinely dedicated to Him in the way that Mary, the Mother of God and our mother had done. As we rejoice for her sake today, let us remember how all of us should also listen to her and her Son, in how we live our lives so that we do not end up being hypocrites in our Christian faith. That is why, as we begin this current new year, all of us should do our best and spend the time and effort to begin a year that is new, blessed and filled with true joy in Christ. The Lord has given us many opportunities in life and as such let us not forget to give Him thanks and to show our gratitude towards Him for His ever enduring patience and love for us.
In our lives in this new year, let us do whatever we can to be a source of light and hope, inspiration and strength to one another, especially to our brothers and sisters who are now suffering and are filled with sorrow and despair. In whatever way we can, and at least even through prayer, let us reach out to those who need our help, our love, care and attention. Just as Christ, Our Lord and Saviour has brought us the light of God’s salvation and revealed to us the wonders of His love, let us all pass on the light, love and all the wonders we have received to our fellow brothers and sisters.
Today, we also mark the occasion of the World Day of Peace, and hence it is an appropriate time for us to also dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of peace in our world. We all know how conflict and troubles had affected our world and many innocent people out there. If we do not actively make strides to go forth towards bringing Gos’s peace and harmony into our midst, then let us know just how our year and livelihood could be ruined by the conflicts, disagreements and hatred that are all around us. As Christians, all of us are called to pray for peace and to always work hard in championing the cause of peace.
Let us all do our best to live out our new year with ever greater faith in God and be ever fuller in love for Him, as we all gather together to celebrate this new year. And as we rejoice in all the new year celebrations, let us not forget to put Christ back at the centre of our hearts, our lives and existence so that we may live our lives from now on with Him as the focus and the inspiration for everything that we say and do.
Let us follow Mary, the Mother of God and our loving mother that we may be ever more righteous and obedient in following the Lord and in living our lives as role models to our fellow brothers and sisters, as genuine Christians at all times. And let us not forget to share our joy and blessings with others, especially those who have little or none to rejoice with this new year. Let us bring hope to the downtrodden and those who are in need of strength, encouragement and hope.
May God bless us all and may He empower each and every one of us so that we may grow ever stronger in faith and that we may always ever strive to seek Him and to walk in His ways. May our new year be blessed and be filled with joy, through Christ our Lord, through His light and hope. May God be with is all, now and forevermore. Amen.