Friday, 1 January 2021 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, World Day of Prayer for Peace (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this first day of the New Year, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Mother of God, or Theotokos, commemorating the Mary’s special role, privilege and honour as the Mother of God, and not just an ordinary mother like any other mothers. Mary is truly the Mother of God just as much as Jesus Christ, her Son, is God Himself. If anyone were to deny that Mary is the Mother of God, then they are in fact also denying the divinity of Jesus.

This title and honour of Mary as the Theotokos, or ‘God-bearer’ in Greek, was already an ancient one by the time of the first Ecumenical Council of the Church at Nicaea, as is the belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Our Lord and Saviour. The Church through the Apostles and their successors, guided by the truth and wisdom shown by the Holy Spirit had preserved this truth carefully against all the false ideas and heresies that denied the divinity of the Lord and the divine motherhood of Mary.

At that time, there were those who refused to believe in the divinity of Christ and that Jesus is the Son of God, or those who ascribed that the Son was a created Being, less than equal than the Father, the latter viewpoint as believed by the Arian heretics. In opposition against all these false teachings and ideas were the faithful bishops and all those who remained committed to the true, orthodox Christian faith.

Thus, first of all the bishops gathered and with the support of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great who was very favourable to the Christian faith, they commenced the first ever Ecumenical Council of the Universal Church at Nicaea, where the Faith itself was formalised and codified into a firm Creed, which we now know as the Nicene Creed, modified at the later Ecumenical Council in Constantinople into the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed that we still use to this day.

The divinity and equality of Jesus Christ with the Father was affirmed and codified into the Canon of the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, and all the false and heretical teachings such as that of Arius, the founder of the Arian heresy and many others were rejected and condemned as false and heretical. However, with regards to the status of Mary as the Mother of God, it would take yet another century before the issue was definitively settled at another Ecumenical Council.

At the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, another great matter dividing the faithful was the heresy of Nestorianism, which was the belief that the Lord Jesus was distinct in His human and divine nature, just as we believe it to this day, but with an important difference, as they believed that the humanity of Christ was totally distinct and separate, with two wills and two existences.

And this was related to the matter of Mary as the Mother of God because those who sided with Nestorius and his heretical views deemed that Mary could not be the Mother of God as she was just a human being, and that she was just merely the mother of the human Jesus Christ, the person born and distinct from the Son of God, thus, they preferred terms such as Christotokos, or the bearer of Christ, the human Jesus.

This was firmly rejected by all those who held strongly to the true faith, in holding to the view that the Lord Jesus was both Divine and Man, and although distinct in their respective natures, but these two natures are inseparably united in the perfect bond of love in the one person, Jesus Christ. Therefore, this is the core of our belief in the Lord Who exists in two natures, Divine and Man, but united perfectly in one Person, and thus, His mother is also the Mother of God and not just the Mother of Man.

At the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus therefore, the belief in Mary as the Mother of God or Theotokos was finalised and affirmed as a true teaching of the Christian faith, and all the other, dissenting teachings and falsehoods were considered as heresies and were condemned. Today on this Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, we celebrate that great victory of the truth, upholding that Mary truly is God’s own Mother by His incarnation into this world.

It is also very significant that this celebration is held on the eighth or Octave Day of Christmas, the very last day of the Christmas Octave, as the culmination of the peak of our celebrations of Christmas that will still nonetheless continue on with the upcoming Solemnity of the Epiphany. The celebration of the Divine Motherhood of Mary is an affirmation of the significance of Our Lord’s birth into this world, that through Mary, He has assumed our very own human nature, and became Man, that in time to come, He might save us all through His sacrifice on the Cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we honour Mary this day in memory of her faith and obedience to God’s will just as we honour her as the Mother of God. If we love our Lord and Saviour, then naturally we should also love His mother as well. How can we not love her when we say that we love her Son? But even more importantly, we should follow the example and the faith that Mary has shown us, in how she lived and in how she dedicate herself to the Lord.

She committed herself so thoroughly to God and obeyed Him, and dedicated herself to the care of her Son, following Him all the way to the foot of the Cross. And from the Cross, the Lord Himself entrusted her to us by symbolically entrusting her to His disciple St. John, while also entrusting all of us to her to be her beloved children in the same way. Hence, we look upon Mary not just as a distant and unknown woman, but as the loving Mother of Our God, Our Lord and Saviour, and also as our own Mother.

Let us all look at Mary’s way of life and her faith, and spend more time with her, by means of prayers and contemplation, and remind ourselves always to follow her examples in every moments of our lives. As we embark on this new year, let us all start it right by living our lives more and more in accordance with our Christian faith and way of life. And as we continue to celebrate this joyful season of Christmas, let us all focus our efforts and attentions to bring joy to the world, and not just any joy but the true joy of Christ.

May all of us as Christians be the bearers of Christ’s Light and joy, His peace, hope and love into our respective communities, families and to all those whose lives we touch. May Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, our loving Mother, continue to pray for us all sinners and guide us in our journey of faith so that one day, all of us may glorify God together with her, reconciled with her Son and forgiven from our many sins. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 1 January 2021 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, World Day of Prayer for Peace (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 2 : 16-21

So the shepherds came hurriedly, and found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby lying in the manger. On seeing Him, they related what they had been told about the Child, and all were astonished on hearing the shepherds.

As for Mary, she treasured all these words, and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds then returned, giving glory and praise to God for all they had heard and seen, just as the Angels had told them.

On the eighth day the circumcision of the Baby had to be performed; He was named Jesus, the Name the Angel had given Him before He was conceived.

Friday, 1 January 2021 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, World Day of Prayer for Peace (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Galatians 4 : 4-7

But when the fullness of time came, God sent His Son. He came born of woman and subject to the Law, in order to redeem the subjects of the Law, that we might receive adoption as children of God.

And because you are children, God has sent into your hearts the Spirit of His Son which cries out : Abba! That is, Father! You yourself are no longer a slave but a son or daughter, and yours is the inheritance by God’s grace.

Friday, 1 January 2021 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, World Day of Prayer for Peace (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 66 : 2-3, 5, 6 and 8

May God be gracious and bless us; may He let His face shine upon us, that Your way be known on earth and Your salvation among the nations.

May the countries be glad and sing for joy, for You rule the peoples with justice and guide the nations of the world.

May the peoples praise You, o God, may all the peoples praise You! May God bless us and be revered, to the very ends of the earth.

Friday, 1 January 2021 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, World Day of Prayer for Peace (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Numbers 6 : 22-27

Then YHVH spoke to Moses saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons and say to them : This is how you shall bless the people of Israel; you shall say : May YHVH bless you and keep you! May YHVH let His face shine on you, and be gracious to you! May YHVH look kindly on you, and give you His peace!”

“In that way they put My Name on the people of Israel and I will bless them.”