HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, THE MOTHER OF GOD
Bishop Rene Henry Gracida
WHO THROUGH THE FRUITFUL
VIRGINITY OF BLESSED MARY
BESTOWED ON THE HUMAN RACE
THE GRACE OF ETERNAL SALVATION,
GRANT, WE PRAY,
THAT WE MAY EXPERIENCE
THE INTERCESSION OF HER,
THROUGH WHOM WE WERE
TO RECEIVE THE AUTHOR OF LIFE,
OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, YOUR SON.
WHO LIVES AND REIGNS WITH YOU
IN THE UNITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT,
ONE GOD, FOR EVER AND EVER.
That prayer, the Collect of today’s Mass sums up beautifully the theological basis
upon which the Church from the beginning has called Mary the mother of God.
It was not easy for some of the clergy and laity in the first few centuries of the Christian era to accept calling Mary the Mother of God.
They reasoned that that title implied that Jesus Christ owed his divinity to Mary, his mother. In the Fifth Century the Archbishop of Constantinople, Nestorius, forbade the use of the title Mother of God.
In the year 430 a Council met at Ephesus and convicted Nestorius of heresy and deposed him at the same time proclaiming the validity of the title, Mother of God.
The key to understanding the rightness of that title lies in understanding the importance of identifying Jesus as the Word of God.
In his magnificent Prologue to his Gospel, Saint John wrote:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux wrote a beautiful prayer in which he makes a play on the word “word” which in its own way helps us to see the reasonableness of the Church calling Mary the Mother of God:
You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son;
you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit.
The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him.
We, too, are waiting, O Lady,
for your word of compassion;
the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us …
Answer quickly, O Virgin.
Reply in haste to the angel,
or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word,
receive the Word of God.
Speak your own word,
conceive the divine Word.
Breathe a passing word,
embrace the eternal Word.
Time flies, and here we are 1587 years after Nestorius and many non-Catholics still reject giving Mary the title Mother of God for the same reasons that led Nestorius and his followers into heresy.
It is absurd to try to divide the infant Jesus and to hold that Mary gave birth to the humanity of Our Lord but not his divinity. Christ cannot be divided anymore than the Holy Trinity of Persons can be divided, separated in their essential being. God is one, as we profess in the Nicene Creed. Jesus is one: God and man. The limitation of the human mind to fully comprehend that mystery is no excuse for anyone to deny the reality by acknowledging that Mary is the mother of Jesus the man while denying that Mary is the mother of Jesus the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Jesus Christ cannot be divided.
As we celebrate today the mystery of Mary’s motherhood embracing both the humanity and divinity of her Son we rejoice in the great gift that the Son gave to us when he said to the Beloved Disciple, John, standing at the foot of the cross, “Son behold your mother” and to Mary, “Woman behold your son.”
As we begin today this New Year of 2017 we are conscious of the reality that this year promises to be a year of great trial for the Church. Now more than ever we need to turn to our Mother Mary and beg her to intercede with her Son to sustain us as we go through the crisis which begins this month with the correction of Francis by the cardinals, something which last happened in the Church in the year 1330 with the correction of Pope John XXII.
(PRAYER OF SAINT JOHN PAUL II}
you, who more than any other human being have been consecrated to the Holy Spirit, help your Son’s Church to persevere in the same consecration, so that she may pour out upon all men the ineffable benefits of redemption and of sanctification for the liberation of the whole of creation [cf. Rom 8:21]. You, who were with the Church in the beginning of her mission, intercede for her in order that, going all over the world, she may continually teach all the nations and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. May the Word of Divine Truth and the Spirit of Love find an opening in the hearts of men, who, without this truth and without this love really cannot live the fullness of life.
IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT