lunedì 1 gennaio 2018

«Sancta Dei Genetrix»

ΜΡ ΘΥ = Μήτηρ Θεοῦ (Mother of God)

Today is the Octave of Christmas: eight days have passed since December 25, when we celebrated the birth of Jesus. The gospel informs us that, on this day, according to the custom of the Jews, the child was circumcised and, in conformity with the directions of the angel, he was named Jesus.

Moreover, today is the New Year’s Day. I do not know whether the first reading has been chosen because it mentions the name of God to be invoked upon the Israelites—and so it would be a reference to the naming of Jesus—or because it is a blessing—and, on the first day of the year, we need a special blessing from the Lord.

The New Year’s Day, since 1968, as a result of a decision of Pope Paul VI, has become the World Day of Peace. And we, who live in a war-torn country, have every reason to pray for this intention. Also in the first reading we find a wish of peace: “The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!”

However, the title of this celebration is “Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God (Sancta Dei Genetrix).” The liturgy, on the Octave of Christmas, wants to remember the role played by the Blessed Virgin in the mystery of the incarnation. In the Creed, we say that Jesus Christ “by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” It is not an unimportant role that of Blessed Mother: it is through her that the incarnation came about. But this does not mean that Mary is the protagonist of this liturgy; the main character is still Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man. Look at the title, whereby we venerate today Our Lady: “Mother of God” (in Greek, Theotokos). It is the title given to her by the Council of Ephesus in 431. The Fathers of that Council did not proclaim Mary “Mother of God” because of their special devotion to her, but because they were condemning the heresy of Nestorius, who maintained that in Jesus there were two persons—the human person and the divine person. So, when Mary conceived Jesus, according to Nestorius, she conceived only a man, who subsequently would have become the Son of God. On the contrary, the Council says: the man conceived by Mary was already the Son of God, God himself. Mary truly begot God, and so, we can say that she is the Mother of God. But you can see that, while we honor the Virgin with this wonderful title, we are actually professing our faith in the divinity of Jesus. That is why at the center of today’s liturgy there is Christ. All others are just minor characters, who play an important but subordinate role. 

That said, we can learn a lot from these minor characters. From the shepherds we can learn the quickness with which they responded to the announcement of the angel, the sharing of what they had experienced with others, and the spirit of praise with which they gave thanks to God. Of the people who heard the witness of the shepherds we should imitate the amazement. Finally, from Mary we should learn the spirit of recollection with which she was reflecting in her heart on what was happening in her and around her. May she get for us the same contemplative aptitude, so that we too, like her, may understand the mystery of the incarnation.