Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners. These words fall off our tongue so easily that we can forget what mysteries they contain. And yet a 3rd century Christian would have gasped in surprise to hear them.
The title Mother of God was one of the most passionately disputed topics in the early Church, not because of controversies over Mary, but because the Church was still wrestling with the question of who Jesus was. It took the Church nearly three hundred years to come to the understanding that from the moment of his conception, Jesus was both fully God and fully man. To say that Mary was only the mother of the human side of Jesus, as many thought, would be saying that Jesus, the human person, was separate from the divine Second Person of the Trinity. And such a claim called into question the redemption Jesus won for us.
We honour Mary today because the child she bore in her womb was not just an anointed prophet or Messiah but the uncreated Lord of all that exists. When Jesus took flesh from Mary, he became one like us. God the Son truly was, as Saint Paul says: “born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under that law, so that we might receive adoption as children” (Galatians 4:4-5). Through his very human life, sacrifice, and death, Jesus, the Son of God, freed us from the enslavements of this world. And he did it so that we could become coheirs with him of all the riches in heaven.
As the New Year begins, let us lay claim to our inheritance as children of God. Let us spend this year showing to those around us how good it can be to live in freedom as a child of God.