January 9, 2023 | By Fr. Vincent Arisukwu
January 9, 2023 | By Fr. Vincent Arisukwu
On this first day of the year, we are invited to meditate on the gentle, humble, contemplative spirit of Mary as the mother of God. The use of the term “Mother of God” or “God-bearer” known in Greek as “Theotokos,” is the oldest, official title given to Our Lady. Because Jesus is both God and man, Mary is the mother of the whole person of Jesus. The title of Motherhood was decreed in the year 431 AD when the Council of Ephesus announced that Jesus is one divine person with two natures; a divine nature and a human nature, both intimately united. The Council of Ephesus decreed, “If anyone does not confess that God is truly Emmanuel, and that on this account the holy virgin is the “Theotokos“ (for according to the flesh she gave birth to the word of God become flesh by birth) let him be anathema.” Anathema means to be excommunicated from the Church, otherwise implying that the person be denied rights as Catholic.
When Luke narrates the gospel story of the shepherds’ arrival at Bethlehem, he captures that they “found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger” (2:16). The evangelist is affirming Mary’s motherhood. Mary tends to and nurtures the infant Jesus as a loving mother would her baby, reflecting and fulfilling the prophecy, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14). Mary is the mother of Christ, the Word incarnate.
Saint Paul articulates that God sent his Son into the world born of a woman (Gal. 4:4), while we recite in the Creed that Christ, conceived of the Holy Spirit, was born of the Virgin Mary (Apostle’s Creed). During the apparition of our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego in Mexico in the 16th Century, the Blessed Mother invited Saint Juan Diego to take advantage of her maternity when she spoke to him, “Know and understand well, you the most humble of my son, that I am the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth.”
Mary’s motherhood is at the heart of Christian theology because it builds on the doctrine of the Trinity. The son of Mary is both God and Man at the same time. He is both son and savior at the same time. The great mystery of the incarnation is that God used a humble Virgin to make Himself available to sinful humanity, for which Mary says, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word.” Mary’s unspoken words reflect God’s will in her life. Having heard the announcement by the angel, the message of the shepherds, and the prophecy of the high priest Simeon, “Mary kept all these things, pondering on them in her heart” (Lk. 2:19; 51).
In most of her artistic representations, the Blessed Mother is often depicted in icons with large eyes and ears but a small mouth. The message is that Our Lady spends more time watching and listening than speaking. She often contemplates, which is an image of her interior reflection. The scriptures don’t say “And Mary murmured in her heart.” As a young lady with personal plans for the future, Mary would have questioned why God would alter her plans. Or something like this, Why is my child surrounded by smelly animals? Why is God doing this to me? What if Joseph changes his mind about this boy? I can’t believe that guy said there’s no room at the inn. These shepherds are just annoying. Why isn’t Joseph moving fast? When exactly are we getting out of this place? Mary’s heart is quiet, peaceful, joyful, and thankful. She teaches us not to murmur or complain even when things do not work out as planned. She invites us to be be thankful through reflecting deeper on God’s will.
One of the biggest impediments in our culture today is the lack of silence (Check out Cardinal Sarah’s book: The Power of Silence Against the Dictatorship of Noise). We lack the ability to ponder things in our hearts. The noise makes it hard to reflect on the mystery of creation, the mystery of truth, the mystery of beauty, and the mystery of God’s peace in our time. Ironically, the first language we learned right inside our mother’s womb was silence. Silence is the best way to know God’s peace, as St. Paul puts it, “He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near” (Eph. 2:17). Peace is God’s language and Mary is the Queen of peace. She hosted Christ the Prince of Peace in her womb and contemplated this Great Peace in her heart.
As infants, each of us lived and developed in the safety, security, and silence of our mother’s womb, hearing the rhythm of her beating heart. It was awesome to know how much we pondered in our mother’s womb. It was peaceful. And then birth came. We crashed out, then everything changed. Brothers and sisters screaming, dogs barking, airplanes blasting across the roof, cars, etc. Now, we have the social media and technology noise which is more distracting than any other. So much noise. How can we ponder and reflect in today’s world?
Starting this new year, let’s seek the beauty of God. Where can you find this beauty? First, it is in your heart. Make your heart like Jesus’. Make your heart like Mary’s. Make your heart a quiet abode and let God’s peace reign. Holy reflection is looking for the beauty of God in our circumstances, even in our struggles. That doesn’t mean you don’t feel pain in your heart if you’re experiencing difficulties. It means that you’re able to ponder and seek God in every moment and circumstance. The Psalm says, “Deep is calling on deep, in the roar of waters” (Ps. 42:7). Our deep needs and desires always meet God’s all-sufficient presence and he pulls us out. To encounter God we have to step into the deep. Yes, be still and know that the Lord is in control; see the beauty of God’s face in the moment. Interior silence is calm, reflective and leaves room for God to speak. It leaves room for us to reflect. It leads to peace.
Be aware of this, God knows you intimately and knows everything that is going to happen, “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matt. 10:30). If I know that God who is my Father is with me, I’ll be able to persevere. The reflection questions for the new year should be: Am I able to ponder? Am I able to ponder on the beauty of God’s love in the Church through the sacraments? Am I able to ponder on the gift of the Blessed Eucharist?Am I able to ponder on how many times God pulls me out from my mess? Am I able to ponder on the beauty of my family and loved ones? Am I able to echo a sincere inner joy, just like the Blessed Mother? Can I truly sing, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior”? A heart that ponders will radiate peace in the exterior.
It does not matter your losses, anxiety, addiction, struggles, or fears this year that is ending. Learn to contemplate like Mary, the Queen of Peace, who leaves us a great example to get to the heart of her Son. God desires to restore broken hearts and to heal the world of violence and war. We can achieve greater world peace if we ponder on the beauty of love in each other and in the universe. God still speaks to us, still blesses us: “You shall say to them, The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Amen.
Readings: 1st- Num. 6:22-27; 2nd- Gal. 4:4-7; Gospel- Lk. 2:16-21