Wednesday, 1 January 2020 : Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and World Day of Prayer for Peace (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the first day of this new year, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Theotokos, or Mary as the Mother of God. This is celebrated on the eighth and last day of the Christmas Octave, to remember the very important and crucial role that Mary played in the history of our salvation and in Christmas, because she became the Mother of God by bearing Jesus Christ, Son of God in her.

This teaching and dogma of the Divine Motherhood of Mary, the Theotokos or Mother of God was formalised and made official at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in the year 431, out of the great debate of whether Mary was just the Mother of Jesus Christ the Man, or whether she was also the Mother of God because Jesus Christ is both God and Man, having both human nature and divine nature united in His one person.

During that time, the disagreements in the Church was led on one side by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius, who championed the preference to call Mary as Christotokos or Christ-Bearer or Mother of Christ rather than Theotokos or God-Bearer or Mother or God. Although it may have seemed trivial to us as merely involving a variation in the honorary names and titles of Mary, but theologically the two titles highlighted a very fundamental and critical difference in a very core part of our Christian faith.

I am referring to the fact that by denying Mary the title of Theotokos and preferring Christotokos as proposed by the supporters of Nestorius actually also affected the nature of Christ as if Mary is not the Mother of God, but only the mother of Christ the Man, then Jesus’ humanity and divinity cannot have been united in His one persona, but are distinct and separate. This is the view and school of thought championed by Nestorius and his supporters.

The opponents of Nestorius and the champions of orthodoxy held the view that as Christ has two natures which are distinct and yet united in one person of Christ, then Mary who bore Him in her womb and gave birth to Him must also be the Mother of God, as if the humanity of Christ is united perfectly with His divinity, though distinct, then one cannot accept that Jesus is both Man and God without also proclaiming His mother Mary as the Mother of God.

To say that Mary is just the mother of Christ or Christotokos rather than the Mother of God goes against the logic that Mary bore Christ into this world fully in being, giving birth to Jesus Christ, her Son, both God and Man, and she could not have just borne Christ the Man without also bearing His divinity. To imply in any way that Mary is not the Mother of God also in truth denies Christ’s unique two natures united in one person as the true, orthodox faith of the Apostles had always held.

Therefore the debate surrounding the dogma of Theotokos or the Mary as the Mother of God was truly serious as it affected the nature of Christ and His salvation, as heresies of that time had threatened to break the Church apart, with some contending that by Nestorius’ proposition, only Jesus the Man suffered and died on the Cross as God could not have suffered or died, contrary to the true teaching of the faith. This was brought about by the disagreement over the nature of Christ’s humanity and divinity which extends to whether Mary was the Mother of God or just the Mother of Christ.

We may think again that these disagreements may sound trivial and small in importance, but we must really understand and appreciate that the faith as we know it today came about only after many rounds of challenges, divisions, disagreements and heresies trying to misled members of the faithful throughout the long history of the Church, including this disagreement on the Theotokos or Mary as the Mother of God.

During those especially early critical years of the Church, many heresies came about because of the existence of many divergent schools of thought and idea that often disagreed on each other on the nature of Christ’s divinity, on whether His humanity and divinity are united inseparably, or separate into two different and disunited existence, or whether as what we hold in our true faith, that His humanity and divinity exists, though distinct, but united perfectly in the one person of Jesus.

The bitter divisions and divergence in the teachings were threatening the unity of the Church and the salvation of many souls, and that was why, the Ecumenical Councils of the Church, beginning with the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, and eventually to the one we focus on today, the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, began codifying and underlining the true and fundamental truths and orthodoxy in faith which we preserve in the Church until today.

Eventually, the supporters of Nestorius lost and the heresy was officially condemned in the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus which made canon and officially declared Mary as Theotokos, the Mother of God. And we rejoice today because of this great blessing which God has bestowed on us all through His mother, the very Mother of God so many of us Christians for ages have entrusted ourselves and devoted ourselves to.

Imagine, brothers and sisters in Christ, how we have the Mother of God herself as our greatest intercessor, as the one who constantly loves us and cares for us, that she, who sits closest to her Son’s throne in heaven, always constantly intercedes for our sake. And being the Mother of God, therefore, it means that she is truly honoured, just as how the kings of Israel and Judah of old honoured their mothers.

We devote ourselves to Mary and ask her for her intercession because we know that through Mary, we have the surest and most direct path to her Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. God Himself entrusted His mother Mary to us from the Cross, when He entrusted her to the care of His disciple, St. John, representing us the Universal Church, and then also entrusted him, again representing the Church, to Mary, His mother.

That is why Mary was always present throughout the history of the Church, in her many apparitions, several of which have been officially approved by the Church, especially appearing at the important juncture in our history and in moments of great darkness, calling on us mankind to turn back towards her Son and to repent from our many sins and evils. And we have to be thankful for the love that she has shown us, the same love with which she loved her Son from all her loving heart.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we also look up to Mary as our greatest role model, for her great faith and obedience to the will of God throughout her life. We should imitate her example and faith, dedicating ourselves to God through her and by following her inspiring dedication, in giving her whole self to serve the Lord and to glorify Him in all things. Are we able to do this, brothers and sisters?

Today, we are also called to keep in mind peace in our world, as today we also mark the World Day of Prayer for Peace, as we begin this new year with a new hope for the whole world for the cessation of conflict and wars, which have brought the worst out of us mankind, causing untold sufferings and destructions. All these wars, conflicts and disagreements, just like the disagreements we just went through in detail earlier on the nature of Mary as the Mother of God, are caused by man’s pride and greed.

As long as we allow ourselves to be swayed by ego and pride, ambition and greed, to be tempted by the many temptations found in this world, listening to the lies and corrupt teachings championed by the devil and his allies and supporters, there will always be divisions, conflicts, sufferings and trials in our world. And this is where, by following Mary and devoting ourselves to her, to imitate her faith and examples, we can break the unending chain of suffering and conflicts.

Let us all ask for Mary to intercede for us, for the Church and for the world, that through her intercession, God may bring His peace into this world, for He is the Prince of Peace promised to us all. And let us all get rid from ourselves all sorts of ego, of pride, of hubris and ambition, of greed and desires, and instead, put God once again at the centre of our lives and make Him the reason of our existence in this world.

May God continue to bless us, bless His Church and bless this world He has created and provided for us. May His mother Mary, Theotokos, the Mother of God also continue to inspire us all His faithful ones, that we may follow in her footsteps and draw ever closer to her Son, Jesus Christ, Son of God, our Lord and Saviour. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020 : Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and 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.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020 : Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and 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.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020 : Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and 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.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020 : Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and 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.”

Monday, 1 January 2018 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, Theotokos, World Day of Prayer for Peace (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the very first day of the new year, we always celebrate together with the entire Universal Church, the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. On this day we celebrate together for Mary, the holy woman whom God has appointed to become the Mother of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and today’s celebration is very closely linked to a core tenet of our faith, and it was very significant in the development and history of the Church.

As Christians, all of us believe that Jesus Christ, the Messiah or Saviour of the world, is not just mere Man, but is also God Incarnate, united in the person of Jesus. We believe that He is the Son of Man, precisely because He was born of a woman, as do any other men or women. He was born of Mary in Bethlehem, and thus He was a member of humanity, and He did really exist in the flesh, able to experience human sufferings and emotions as hunger, sorrow, and were able to be tempted by the devil, and eventually, suffered pain and anguish, leading up to His death on the cross.

All of these would not have been possible should Jesus Our Lord is only a Divine being, and not Man. That is why there are many of those who cannot comprehend what the Church and our faith teach about the nature of Our Lord and Saviour, as both God and Man at the same time. That also lead them to the lack of faith and belief in the crucifixion of Christ, for if Jesus Christ is merely God and not Man, He could not have suffered or died. God could not have died, for He is omnipotent and omnipresent.

That is why we believe that He is truly a Man, for He was born of Mary, walked in this world, and experienced all the things that we mankind have also experienced, all the challenges and sufferings in life, except for the complete absence of sin, for Jesus is the perfect Man, the New Adam, through Whom God wanted to save us all from our sins. And He is also God, because no Man could have saved us mankind from our sins, and only God can forgive us from our sins. But then, why is it that today’s celebration is actually so important for our faith and for the Church?

That was because, there were so many different opinions and schools of thought in the Church during its early centuries, as well as private interpretations by several groups and charismatic priests and leaders that ended up causing divisions and serious disagreements within the Church at the time, especially the one concerning the nature of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, His nature and truth, His identity and reality, on whether He was just merely Man, or whether He was just God, or whether He was both Man and God, but again some were later divided on whether this humanity and divinity were separate or mixed together and indistinguishable.

And on the very first Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, the heresy of Arianism was condemned officially by the Church. This heresy, based on the teaching of the popular priest Arian, taught that while Jesus is the Son of God, but He is not equal to God the Father because He was created by the Father and not existing with Him from before the beginning of time. This heresy was officially condemned, and the Church stood by the truth that Jesus is the Son of God, and as the Divine Word incarnate, He is equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the Holy Trinity.

Then dispute quickly arose again regarding the nature of His divinity and humanity. While as we discussed just earlier, that Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour is both equally Man and God, but at that time, people disagree on whether the person Jesus Christ we see in the Gospels is just a Man, and distinct and separate from the divinity of the Son of God, a position which was championed by another heretic, Nestorius, or whether Jesus Christ is both Man and God, united in the person of Jesus.

This is the very reason for the Church to officially declare Mary as the Mother of God, or in Greek, Theotokos, as the one who bore God into the world, as His mother. The supporters of Nestorius preferred to call Mary as Christotokos, or the one who bears Christ. And they preferred this title because it suited their false theology separating the divinity from the humanity of Christ, by saying that Mary is merely just the mother of the human Jesus and not the divine Son of God.

We may think that such a squabble and conflict was unnecessary and meaningless, but in reality, it is very important, as if the wrong teachings about the nature of Mary as the Mother of God managed to triumph over the truth, it would definitely also affect the truth and the teaching about the nature of Our Lord and Saviour as well. Those who denied that Mary is the Mother of God naturally also denied the fact and truth that Jesus Christ Our Lord is God and Divine.

In the end, those who defended the truth triumphed, and until today, the Church preserved the truth, and now we celebrate this very important feast day, on the very first day of the year based on the ancient tradition that the first day of the month of January is dedicated to honour the motherhood of Mary. She is indeed the mother who gave birth to Jesus the Messiah, and because Jesus is both God and Man, having human and divine natures united in the person of Jesus, Mary is therefore also the mother of God.

And that is exactly why we honour Mary such as we exalt her above all that of the other saints. Yet, we also do not worship her as if she is a divinity. After all, even though she was conceived without sin by God’s will in order to be a worthy and perfect vessel for His Son, but she is still a human being just like us. Yet, she is the perfect role model for each and every one of us, as she obeyed the Lord faithfully and followed His commandments, surrendering herself completely to His designs and plans.

While our first ancestors Adam and Eve said no to the Lord by their disobedience, and even though many of us mankind refused to listen to Him and preferred to go on our own way and follow our own desires and designs, but Mary said yes to the Lord when He revealed to her the divine plan of salvation through the Archangel Gabriel. She lived righteously and devoted herself entirely to love her Son Jesus.

Thus again, we honour her such, because of her extraordinary faith, on top of her motherhood of God. And we are all indeed very fortunate to have this greatest among all saints and intercessors, who is constantly praying for our sake and interceding for us, as she is indeed the closest one to her Son, Our God, at the side of His heavenly throne and glory. And just like at the wedding of Cana, when Jesus listened to His mother, even though He was reluctant to perform a miracle there, He performed it because He also listened to His mother’s petition on behalf of the wedding couple in distress.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we begin a new year, which will be filled with its own unique challenges and opportunities, let us all seek to imitate the examples of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, in her faith and commitment to God. Let us all strive to become like her in our own respective lives. We have to be thankful that God has given her to us, as a great gift. When she was entrusted by her Son from the cross to St. John, He also entrusted us to her. We are her adopted children as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, let us all pray that we may always live faithfully from now on, inspired by the faith of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, and we remember always this important tenet of our faith, and keep it faithfully with us, so that we may not fall into the temptation of false teachings which had so much divided the Church and our faith in the past.

Let us all ask Mary, the mother of God for her constant intercession, that she will continue to watch over us, her beloved children, that all of us will be able to eventually find our way towards the Lord, our loving God, her Son. Let us all draw closer to God, through Mary, through whom we can find the best and straightest path to His salvation and grace. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 1 January 2018 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, Theotokos, 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.

Monday, 1 January 2018 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, Theotokos, 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.

Monday, 1 January 2018 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, Theotokos, 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.

Monday, 1 January 2018 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, Theotokos, 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.”