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.”

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.”