Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the first one in the Gregorian calendar, the year 2017 of our Lord Jesus Christ, two millennia after He was born into the world as our Saviour, we celebrate together the New Year’s Day, but even more importantly as Christians, we also honour and glorify Mary, the blessed Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has been honoured by many titles, but all of which stemmed from the very one title that made her deserved all the others.
And it is this title which we all celebrate today, that Mary as the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ is the Mother of God, or Theotokos in the Greek language, coming from the word Theos or God in Greek, and also Tokos or Mother in Greek. The equivalent term in Latin is Dei Genetrix, both terms of which have been in use since the earliest days of the Church. It is this very special role that Mary played in the history of our salvation that made her so venerable throughout the history of the Church.
If we want to understand the significance of today’s celebration of Mary as the Mother of God, then we must look back long ago into the early days of the Church, up to the time of the first Ecumenical Council of the Church held in the city of Nicaea in the year 325 AD. During that time and in the earlier days of the Church, there were many people proclaiming different teachings from what the Church had passed down through the Apostles and the saints, the bishops and the priests who were their successors.
In that Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, the successors of the Apostles all worked and discussed together guided by the Holy Spirit, and most of them but a few rejected soundly the heresy of Arianism, as propagated by the heretic Arius, claiming that Jesus as Son of God was not equal with the Father, and was a mere creation by the Father. And there were also more extreme heresies that claimed that Jesus was mere Man, and not God.
The Nicene Creed that we recite at every celebration of the Holy Mass is a reminder of the strong stance that the faithful servants of God took against all these false teachings. And because Jesus is the Son of God, the One Who is God, and Who was with God from before the beginning of time, His mother can therefore also be called as the Mother of God.
And Mary was formally accorded with that most honourable title at the Third Ecumenical Council held in Ephesus in the year 431 AD, a century after the Ecumenical Council at Nicaea. There were the heresies of Nestorianism and others who claimed that the natures of God and Man in Jesus our Lord was separate, and that Jesus Christ as Man Who walked in this world is existentially and really distinct from the Divine Word of God He claimed to be.
Our faith taught us that Jesus is both God and Man at the same time, possessing the two distinct natures of God and Man, and yet they were united in the person of Christ, and cannot be separated one from the other, although distinct. Those who upheld the heresy claimed that because Jesus Christ was merely a Man and not God, then Mary is merely just the mother of a Man, no different from any other people, or from any other mothers.
This was what was rejected by the Church fathers and the faithful bishops and priests, who honoured Mary formally as the Theotokos, Dei Genetrix, the Mother of God and Lord of all the Universe. It was a sound and complete rejection of the false teachings of those who proposed that Jesus Christ was merely Man and not God. Thus Mary as the Theotokos, as the Mother of God is closely tied to our faith itself, for if we believe that Mary is the Mother of God, then we also believe in the divinity of Christ.
But then one might ask, why then the great honour we have given to Mary? Why is it that the Church had devoted so much time and effort in order to venerate her and glorify her? There are indeed some who criticised and even opposed the Church and our faith because they thought that we as Catholics and as Christians worship Mary just as if she is a goddess. But this was exactly where they got it wrong, for Mary is not a deity in her own right, and we honour her above all other created beings because of the virtue of her Son.
In the kingdom of Israel, as with many other kingdoms, while the king or the monarch is the highest authority in the entire realm, whose authority is absolute and great, but there was also another person whose presence, authority and advice were respected by the entire kingdom, and also by the king himself. And that person is the queen mother, the mother of the king.
And therefore, since Jesus our Lord, as both a Man born from His earthly mother by the power of the Holy Spirit, and also God as the Divine Word incarnate, and because of that, He is God, so as God is the King of all kings, Ruler and Master of the entire universe, hence His own mother is honoured as the Queen Mother of heaven and earth, of all creation. It was not by her own virtue, but because of the virtue of her Son, Christ the King of kings.
The fourth commandment in the Law of God or the Ten Commandments says, “Honour your father and mother.” And Jesus our Lord honours His mother and father, obeying them in all they had taught him, from the guidance of St. Joseph, the foster-father of our Lord, to the love and care of Mary, His mother, whom He had then elevated above every other men and women, and in our faith, we believe that He even granted her the singular exception that she would not suffer death.
And that is what we believe in the Blessed Virgin Mary, assumed into the glory of heaven, and we believe that she is there now seated at the right hand of her Son, as the great advisor and intercessor for our sake, at the head of the company of saints and martyrs, all of whom are our intercessors before God. They all pray for our sake and intercede on our behalf, beseeching that God will show mercy on us sinners still living and walking in this world.
That is precisely why we venerate Mary, we praise and glorify her, as because of her, her obedience and commitment to fulfilling to completion the Lord’s plan of salvation for us mankind, she had brought upon us the Saviour of the world. And our Lord Himself from the cross had entrusted her to us, just as at the same time, He has also entrusted all of us to her care, when He entrusted her to the care of His Apostle John, and vice versa.
Mary also loves each and every one of us like a mother, for indeed she is our mother. If Jesus has counted us among His brethren, as His brothers and sisters, then should we not then receive the same care, love and tenderness that our Lord has received from Mary? She is our greatest intercessor before her Son, and that is why we often ask her to intercede for our sake. We do not pray to her or ask her to perform miracles for our sake. Instead, we ask her to petition her Son that He will help us in our time of need.
Take for example the time when Jesus performed His first miracle in Cana, during a wedding when the bride and bridegroom had run out of wine for the guests. Mary was told of the situation, and she told her Son Jesus to help the wedding couple from embarrassment. Jesus was reluctant but His mother still wanted to help them, and therefore, she told the assistants to follow exactly as Jesus told them. In the end, He did listen to her plea for help, and thus performed His first miracle there at Cana. Jesus will listen to His own loving mother.
At the same time, not only that she intercedes for us, but she is also our role model in faith, for it was her obedience to the will of God despite all the uncertainties and fears she had, which had allowed her to persevere on throughout her life and throughout the time when she had Jesus with her. Otherwise, she would not have been able to endure the great pain of having to witness her own Son condemned to die like a criminal on the cross, rejected and humiliated by all. She never left the side of her Son, no matter what.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as all of us gather together to celebrate the Mother of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, Mary most holy and blessed among all women, and indeed among all creation, let us all spend some time to reflect within ourselves, within our hearts. Are we able to follow in her footsteps and live our lives as Mary had lived hers? Are we able to commit ourselves to the Lord in the same manner as Mary had committed her whole life to her Son?
Today, each and every one of us Christians are challenged, just as embark and begin on this New Year, to make that important resolution. For many of us, we often think that resolution means that we want to desire for success, glory and fame in the year to come. But what about aiming to be a better disciple and follower of our Lord? Should we not rather seek the true treasure of our life rather than what is temporary and perishable?
We should be resolved to devote ourselves more as we open this new year. We should begin the new year not with excessive parties and celebrations, but with stronger resolve and faith, and to live every day of our lives from now on, that in all the things we say, act and do, we will always proclaim the Lord to all those who see us, witness us and hear our works.
Are we ready to do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? Today we also mark the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for Peace, and we should indeed reflect on the state of our world today. In the past year there had been many acts of injustice, of greed, of hatred upon one another, all of which had caused great pain and sufferings among us.
Can we be resolved to champion peace, harmony, forgiveness and mercy among ourselves, within our own respective communities and societies? Are we able to make a difference in the lives of our brethren? We do not have to make ambitious plans, but what we really need is to begin from our own lives, and from our own families. Let us devote more time this year to do acts of love and mercy, especially to our brethren in need.
Let us all look upon Mary as our example, as our guide, for the saying is indeed true, “To Jesus through Mary,” which highlights to us that through Mary, the mother of our Lord, and who is also our own loving mother, she will guide us all to reach out to her Son, and therefore through her, the Co-Redemptrix of us mankind, God her Son may exercise His mercy on us, and we may be forgiven from our trespasses, and one day be found worthy to be together with Mary and all the saints, in the holy presence of God forevermore. May God be with us and guide us through all of our endeavours. Mary, Mother of God, Theotokos, pray for us now and to the hour of our death. Amen.