Saturday, January 01, 2005

Something About Mary...

It takes a lot to drag me out of retirement and back onto the blogging scene. Actually, not really... I'm just bored. Nonetheless, the subject that I choose to rant about today is one over which I frequently become incensed; it could, in a word, be summed up as "secularization." It has been for long my belief that everything true and good belongs, by right, to the Church. I've defended such practices as Christmas Trees and a fostered belief in Santa Claus against attacks from fundamentalists of my own persuasion, who see these as damaging to our creed. I think any celebration involving charity, familial gathering, peace and good will somehow leads (allbeit indirectly) back to God. But year after year, the raucus and hedonistic celebration of New Years eclipses the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God - and this I find to be inexcusable.

The magnitude of the feast we celebrate on January 1st of each year is greatly underestimated by most Catholics. Especially in the United States, where obligatory Mass attendance is abrogated when the feast falls on a Saturday, the faithful have seemed to lose a sense of what it means to say that Mary is the Mother of God. This dogma, defined at the Council of Ephesus in 431 and approved by Pope Celestine I, is the foundational dogma of Mariology. Mary's identity as Theotokos is the privelege in light of which her perpetual virginity, her immaculate conception, and her glorious assumption are fitting and proper. Yet, we invoke her by this title so often that we take for granted what a significant assignation it is.

The dogma was defined in refutation of the heresy of Nestorius, whose false "communication of idioms" tried to identify Mary as the mother of Christ's human nature only. The hypostatic union, as yet undefined, was at issue and in the debate surrounding Nestorius' teachings the Church gained some of the best Christological teaching in history, courtesy of Saint Cyril of Alexandria. Through Cyril's writings, and the subsequent declarations of the Council, it can be seen how Mary as the true God-bearer illuminates our understanding of the mystery of the Trinity and helps us to more fully appreciate the Incarnation. Mary is truly the mother of God, for Christ was truly human. The dogma enforces our belief in the fullness of Christ's share in humanity (and humanity's subsequent priveleged share in Christ's Divinity, which the Church celebrates in the antiphons for this Solemnity.)

December 31st does give us adequate reason to pop open a bottle of champaigne and celebrate. It is fitting and proper to hug those whom you love and wish them well. But it's not merely because the march of time has continued through one more passage of the stars across the sky. Rather, it's because Mary became the Mother of the Incarnation and was given to us, in turn, as our Mother. We have for a loving caregiver the Queen of the Universe, who sits enthroned in Heaven above all creation. She protects our race and brings healing to our brokenness, mediating all graces which flow from the side of her Son. I pray that next year, on New Years Eve, when that ball drops, this is one old aquaintance that shall not be forgot.


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