Maternity of Mary
from the Liturgical Year, 1910
The Church celebrates, today, the august prerogative of this divine Maternity, which was conferred on a mere creature, and which made her the co-operatrix with Jesus in the great work of man's salvation.
But it is today, that we, the children of the Roman Church, must pour forth all the love of our hearts for the Virgin-Mother, and rejoice with her in the exceeding happiness she feels at having given birth to her and our Lord. During Advent, we contemplated her as pregnant with the world's salvation; we proclaimed the glory of that Ark of the New Covenant, whose chaste womb was the earthly paradise, chosen by the King of Ages for His dwelling-place. Now, she has brought Him forth, the Infant-God; she adores Him, Him who is her Son. She has the right to call Him, her Child; and He, God as He is, calls her in strictest truth, his Mother. Let us not be surprised, therefore, at the enthusiasm and profound respect, wherewith the Church extols the Blessed Virgin, and her prerogatives.
Let us not be surprised, therefore, at the enthusiasm and profound respect, wherewith the Church extols the Blessed Virgin, and her prerogatives. Let us, on the contrary, be convinced, that all the praise the Church can give her, and all the devotion she can ever bear towards her, are far below what is due to her as Mother of the Incarnate God. No mortal will ever be able to describe, or even comprehend, how great a glory accrues to her from this sublime dignity. For, as the glory of Mary comes from her being the Mother of God, one would have first to comprehend God Himself, in order to measure the greatness of her dignity.
It is to God, that Mary gave our human nature; it is God, whom she had as her Child; it is God, who gloried in rendering Himself, inasmuch as He is Man, subject to her: hence, the true value of such a dignity, possessed by a mere creature, can only be appreciated, in proportion to our knowledge of the sovereign perfections of the great God, who thus deigns to make Himself dependent upon that favored creature. Let us, therefore, bow down in deepest adoration before the Majesty of our God; let us, therefore, acknowledge that we cannot respect, as it deserves, the extraordinary dignity of Her, whom He chose for His Mother.
The same sublime Mystery overpowers the mind from another point of view--what were the feelings of such a Mother towards such a Son? The Child she holds in her arms, and presses to her heart, is the Fruit of her virginal womb, and she loves Him as her own; she loves Him because she is His Mother, and a Mother loves her Child as herself, nay, more than herself:--but, when she thinks upon the infinite majesty of Him, who has thus given Himself to her to be the object of her love and her fond caresses-- she trembles in her humility, and her soul has to turn, in order to bear up against the overwhelming truth, to the other thought of the nine months she held this Babe in her womb, and of the filial smile He gave her when her eyes first met His. These two deep-rooted feelings--of a creature that adores, and of a Mother that loves--are in Mary's heart. The being Mother of God implies all this:--and may we not well say, that no pure creature could be exalted more than she? and that in order to comprehend her dignity, we should first have to comprehend God Himself? and that only God's infinite wisdom could plan such a work, and only his infinite power accomplish it?
A Mother of God!--It is the mystery, whose fulfillment the world, without knowing it, was awaiting for four thousand years. It is the work, which, in God's eyes, was incomparably greater than that of the creation of a million new worlds, for such a creation would cost Him nothing; He has but to speak, and all whatsoever He wills is made. But, that a creature should become Mother of God, He has had, not only to suspend the laws of nature by making a Virgin Mother, but also to put Himself in a state of dependence upon the happy creature He chose for His Mother. He had to give her rights over Himself, and contract the obligation of certain duties towards her. He had to make Her his Mother, and Himself her Son.
It follows from all this, that the blessings of the Incarnation, for which we are indebted to the love wherewith the Divine Word loved us, may and ought to be referred, though in an inferior degree, to Mary herself. If she be the Mother of God, it is because she consented to it, for God vouchsafed, not only to ask her consent, but, moreover, to make the coming of His Son into this world depend upon her giving it. As this His Son, the Eternal Word, spoke His Fiat over chaos, and the answer to His word was creation; so did Mary use the same word Fiat:--let it be done unto me, she said. God heard her word, and, immediately, the Son of God descended into her virginal womb. After God, then, it is to Mary, His ever Blessed Mother, that we are indebted for our Emmanuel.
The divine plan for the world's salvation included there being a Mother of God: and as heresy sought to deny the mystery of the Incarnation, it equally sought to deny the glorious prerogative of Mary. Nestorius asserted, that Jesus was only man; Mary, consequently was not Mother of God, but merely Mother of a Man, called Jesus. This impious doctrine roused the indignation of the Catholic world. The East and West united in proclaiming, that Jesus was God and Man, in unity of Person; and that Mary, being his Mother, was, in strict truth, "Mother of God." This victory over Nestorianism was won at the Council of Ephesus. It was hailed by the Christians of those times with an enthusiasm of Faith, which not only proved the tender love they had for the Mother of Jesus, but was sure to result in the setting up of some solemn trophy, that would perpetuate the memory of the victory. It was then that began, in both the Greek and Latin Churches, the pious custom of uniting, during Christmas, the veneration due to the Mother with the supreme worship given to the Son. The day assigned for the united commemoration varied in the several countries, but the sentiment of religion, which suggested the Feast, was one and the same throughout the entire Church.
The holy Pope Xystus 3rd ordered an immense Mosaic to be worked into the Chancel-Arch of the Church of St. Mary Major, in Rome, as a monument to the holy Mother of God. The Mosaic still exists, bearing testimony as to what was the faith held in the Fifth Century. It represents the various Scriptural types of our Lady, and the inscription of the holy Pontiff is still legible in its bold letters: Xystus Episcopus Plebi Dei, (Xystus Bishop to the People of God:) for the Saint had dedicated to the Faithful this his offering to Mary, the Mother of God.