Homily for January 1, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
Today is a very important celebration. New Year’s Day… is not the one I’m talking about; today is the liturgical solemn feast day of Mary, Mother of God. Calling Mary by this title – Mother of God – was the subject of some controversy in the early Church. In the fifth century the Council of Ephesus clarified that Jesus is both God and man united in one Person, so although Christ’s divine nature existed long before Mary became the mother of Jesus, she can truly be called the Mother of God.
This feast is not celebrated today because it is the beginning of the new year; rather, it is because today is the eighth day after Christmas. Pope Paul VI assigned the celebration to this day, because he wanted the celebration of Mary’s maternity to be close to the celebration of Christ’s birth. This is also the day on which Jesus was circumcised, making Him a participant in the covenant of Abraham, and the day on which He was named. Logically it is a good day to rejoice with His parents, especially His Mother, Mary.
Celebrating the motherhood of Mary, we honor her holiness and her fidelity in carrying out her role as Mother. She cared for her Son faithfully, from the day of the Annunciation when God became flesh in her womb, through the public life and passion of Jesus, all the way to the Ascension of the Lord into heaven. Even afterwards, she continued to carry out her role as Mother for the Apostles in the early Church, and she continues to do so today for us. As Mother of Christ, she is also the Mother of the Church, in which we are all united to Christ.
It is also very appropriate that it is the beginning of the New Year. Mary is the beginning of our redemption in Christ both because she is His mother and because she is the first person to be redeemed by Him. Having this feast at the beginning of the year is a reminder for us to make a new start, to look to her as an example of how to live these next 365 days, and to turn to her for her prayers whenever we need help throughout the year.
Today is also the World Day of Peace. Mary brought us the Prince of Peace, at Whose birth the angels proclaimed “peace on earth”. True peace can only come through Jesus, Who reconciles us with God and unites us to each other with His grace. In Him we all have one commandment: to love one another. We have one common goal: to be all together with God in heaven. And we have one common Mother, Mary, who prays for us and leads us to Her Son.
Today we put our future in her hands once more and ask her to guide us and unite the world in the love of her Son, which is the way of peace.