Mary, Mother of God, and a new year

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When this title of Mary, Mary Mother of God, comes up I inevitably begin to draw a comparison to the titles of Mary used by the Orthodoxy. The one Greek title that comes to mind is Theotokos. Perhaps it is the foreign language that causes one to pause and think, I must study the word in order to understand its meaning, and that might be a hint as why the Latin rite should retain its Latin language. Translating leads to scholarship, important points are not glossed over due to their familiarity. Anyway, back to Theotokos. That word consists of two parts. The first part, Theo, refers to God. The second part, Tokos, refers to giving birth. Put the two halves together and you have giving birth to God, or more commonly God bearer. The western tradition translates this as “Mother of God .”

An interesting part regarding this word is that it is part of a heresy. The Nestorian heresy argued between two titles for Mary. Theotokos, and Christotokos. The orthodox are sticklers for details, they examine every word. While Theotokos refers to Mother of God, Christotokos refers to mother of Jesus (or “the messiah”). Whats the difference? Christotokos places emphasis on Jesus’s human nature. In Nestorianism Mary does not give birth to God, she gives birth to a human being separate and distinct from God. The name of today’s solemnity is Mary, Mother of God! Saint Gregory of Nazianzus said “If one does not acknowledge Mary as Theotokos, he is estranged from God.” Listen to the Nicene Creed and you’ll hear the difference.

It would be difficult to miss that this day falls on January first, the ringing in of a new year. A coincidence, I think not. The Church wants its faithful to begin the new year under the guidance and intercession of Mary. Church is “Holy Mother Church” and her patron and model is Mary, Mother of God. The New Year should be approached through her. It is through her that her Son enters into our condition, and she is the one that always remains close to Her Son.

There are two other things worth remembering at this time of year, they are the indulgences granted. The first s through the reciting of the Te Deum in a liturgical setting on the last day of the year, and the second is doing the same with Veni Creator on the first day of the year. Doing these two things, plus attending the Mass honoring the Mother of God are probably the best ways of truly obtaining a Happy New Year.

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