MARY, MOTHER OF GOD
The feast of Holy Mary, Mother of God, is placed in the liturgical calendar immediately after Christmas. In this way, we do not run the risk of isolating Mary, decreasing her important mission in relation with Christ her son and with the Church. The Christmas celebrations have been an occasion for contemplating the closeness and the tenderness of God that shares our human condition and our journey in time. In the midst of this mystery, Mary is like the paradigm of humanity that opens itself up to the gift of God, the incarnation of the ideal of the poor of Yahweh, the model of the disciple that listens to the word of God and puts it into practice. The new millennium opens under the sign of divine benediction (first reading) and under the loving gaze of the mother of Christ, “born of a woman, born a subject of the Law” (second reading). Today, the first of the New Year and of the new millennium, is also dedicated traditionally to peace, the great messianic gift, the biblical shalom. We begin this journey imploring peace and unity for the Church and all of the human family, ardent desire that finds its maximum expression in the celebration of the Eucharist.
The first reading (Num. 6,22-27) is a most beautiful formula of benediction that the Lord, through Moses, entrusted to the priests so that they could pronounce it over the people (vv. 22-23). This is the same benediction that is still used today by our Hebrew brothers and sisters in celebrations in synagogues. This words are not a simple desire or a formal ritual of greeting. It is God himself who has revealed this benediction, with which he gives himself to his people. Verse 27 sounds literally in Hebrew as: “So you will put my name over the Israelites and I will bless them”. The priestly blessing makes the people participants in the Name of God, that is to say, in his vital dynamism, his fecundity, his holy mystery. The blessing, in the bibilcal sense, is not simply a declaration of good will, but something active in the life of man and woman, unleashes a newness, produces an event. The text places the benediction of God in relation to the face of God: “the Lord let his face shine on you”, “the Lord uncover his face to you”. In the biblical worlds to see the face is to see the person; and to see the face of someone important (a king, for example) means to be admitted into his presence, with the trust that such a welcoming will be favorable. However, to say that God “let his face shine”, or “uncover his face”, is to say that he is disposed to manifest to the people his benevolence and favor, in synthesis, his peace. Peace (in Hebrew: shalom), represents in itself all of the gifts of God: protection, security, fecundity, health, well being. Israel is the people of God because they enjoy the benediction of God, by which man participates in his gratuitous love and his very life. The divine blessing is the carrier of peace and mercy, of life and fecundity. The man or woman blessed by God is called to be a “holy man or woman”, because they participate in the same sanctity of God and have been invited to collaborate intimately in his saving work.
The second reading (Gal. 4,4-7) makes reference to the Mother of Jesus only in an indirect way. Paul affirms: “When the appointed time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law…” (Gal. 4,4). The text, in the first place, evokes the long history of interventions of God in “the time” of humanity. When the Father sent his Son to the world, arrived “the appointed time”, the culminating point of saving history. It is in this decisive and full moment of redemption when Paul mentions the birth of Christ in the flesh (“born of a woman”). This woman is Mary, placed in the very center of the saving plan of God. In her, the Messiah – Son of God comes to be our “brother” truly (Heb. 2,11), sharing our very own flesh and blood (Heb. 2,14). Mary is Mother of God, to believe in her divine maternity, however, means to proclaim with certainty the infinite love of God for men and women, manifested in the Incarnation. Besides, if to be Christians means to welcome in one’s own life the eternal Word of God that has become flesh, Mary occupies a truly singular place in the life of the Christian community: she carried in her womb Jesus, Messiah and Lord, took care of him, educated him and introduced him into the traditions of the chosen people, followed him with faith even to the cross and came to be so the first believer of the new Israel.
The Gospel (Lk. 2, 16-21) makes up the final part of the narration of the birth of Jesus in the 2nd chapter of Luke. After the shepherd have received the message from the angel they hurried away (verb: speudô) to Bethlehem (v. 26), demonstrating their docility to the ways of God. As Mary had done before, going “with haste” (noun spoudé) to the house of Elizabeth (Lk. 1,39). The Virgin just like the shepherds obey with urgency and promptness the divine plan that is realized “today”, and in front of which no delay or slack is admissible. It is the attitude of the believer that lives open to the ways of the Lord and his docile to his inspirations.
That which is announced by the angel corresponds exactly to the reality of the facts (vv. 15-17): the shepherds “found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger” (v. 17). So those that before were the hearers of the good news (Lk. 2,10: verb euaggelízomaí ), are converted now in heralds of the same, and “they repeated what had been told about him” (2,17). “Everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say” (v. 18). The people are astonished (Greek: thaumazein). It is the normal reaction of the person that experiences the action of God, like Zechariah (Lk. 1,21), Mary and Joseph (Lk. 2,23), the habitants of Nazareth (4,22; cf. 9,43; 11,14.38; 20,26; 24,12.41). Apart, therefore, is placed the attitude of Mary: “AS for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (v. 19). The Greek verb translated as “treasured” is syntêreô, which means to say literally: “guard something precious”, “take care with carefulness something of value”. The other verb translated as “pondered” is the Greek very symballô, that means to say literally: “to place two things together”, “the unite realities that are separated”, “confront”. It supposes a mental activity and an attitude of spirit that creates synthesis that succeeds in finding a logic in the midst of things or situations apparently without relation. The Greek very is in the imperfect form, that which indicates a repeated or continuous action. Luke, however, describes Mary as someone that lives the listening of the Mystery and that, with a profound contemplative attitude, reads continually the happenings to discover its most profound meaning. Mary is here the true interpreter, hermeneutic, of the facts that have occurred. Mary remembers everything that has happened in her life of the part of God and goes on discovering the ways of the Lord and his will finding the relationship between them. The profoundly contemplative attitude is realized in the “heart”, seat of discernment, of intellectual exercise, and above all of faith open to the designs of God. The text concludes with the glorification and praise of the shepherds that have been able to experience that which God had announced to them (v. 20).
The figure of Mary, interpreter of the historical facts and contemplative before the actions of God, is a model for all believers, called to discover the mystery and presence of God in daily life and the ordinary of each day. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is mistress of the interior life, of prayer and of listening to the Word. She has welcomed the word of God in her life, and has allowed it to resound in her being, from the first word of the angel until the last words of Jesus on the cross. Mary has known how to find moments of silence for adoration and meditation. She has taught us to see life with the heart, contemplating with faith the things that God goes on realizing in us and around us. Mary represents the arrival point of religious experience as the poor of Yahweh that hoped with faith and humility the coming of the Messiah-Savior. She is, however, the best of Israel, the highest vertex of the believing experience of the people of the Old Covenant. Mary is also the model of discipleship in the New Testament. To look at the Mother of the Lord is to understand what we are and what we are called to be as believers that intend to say yes to Christ all of the days of our lives. Mary is the Abraham of the New Testament that goes out without knowing where and abandons herself totally to God and his plans. Mary, “servant of the Lord”, represents that which every disciple of Christ ought to be and also the Church for all times. The Church in the next millennium will have to live her holiness and faithfulness in ordinary life, like Mary, without looking for any greatness, or any extraordinary sign. The Church, like Mary, will have to live poverty and faith. A poor Church, without ambition of power and close and in solidarity with the poor of this world, that like Mary, are the object of the chosen love of the God. A Church submerged in faith, what will not be just simply a religious organization, with greater or less power, but a consecrated community to realize the plan of God, that searches out in the dark his mysterious ways, that trusts without reserve and that places in the center of her life the Word of God. A community that knows how to serve God without trying to take his place or reduce his mystery. A Church, like Mary, servant of God and of men and women, that journeys with infinite trust in the Lord in the midst of obstacles, infidelities, betrayals and the persecutions of history.