During the Fifth Century, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was accorded
the title of “Mother of God” (Theotokos) as
a way of reaffirming the unity of Jesus’ personhood. Throughout
the Fourth Century the whole Church, East and West, struggled to
find vocabulary that adequately named the experience of Jesus’
human presence and the powerful post-Resurrection experience of
his divine presence. What did it mean for God to become human? One
of the ideas that emerged was that Mary of Nazareth, his human Mother
was mother of his humanity only, but if that was asserted, then
Jesus’ two natures would be seen to divide his personhood.
The title of Mother of God became a way of appreciating a profound
unity in Jesus, as well as the wonder of what God was doing within
a human person, Mary and all other human persons by extension. As
with all the feasts in the Christmas season, this wonderful celebration
invites us to keep the mystery of God becoming human in our hearts
and reflect carefully on what we have been told.
God, by entering into historical reality and participating in human
time and place as a specific human, is blessing and keeping us.
By living with human limitations and striving with human challenges
he is letting his face shine upon us, and by giving his life to
us and for us he is giving us peace, itself. Our response to these
overwhelming gifts can only be praise and gratitude if we have any
humanity within us.
As with all feasts of Mary, this is an ecclesial feast and points
us to the meaning of the Incarnation for the life of the Church.
In the second reading today, Paul assures us that by entering human
life through birth from a human mother, Jesus takes each of us into
a relationship of sibling with his humanity and his divinity which
At every celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy, the presiding priest
mixes water with wine during the preparation of the gifts. This
simple action is a symbol of the “great exchange” that
the early Fathers of the Church understood that by God becoming
human each human who enters sibling relationship with Jesus becomes
divine. He took on our human nature so that we could receive his
The Eucharist is one of the primary actions of God’s Spirit
to carry out this great exchange. We think of the bread and wine
being consecrated into the Body and Blood of the Lord, but we must
see beyond that to understand that the bread and the wine are ourselves.
For this reason they (the gifts) must come from the assembly. By
giving them over we give ourselves over, and God takes the gift
of bread and wine (ourselves) and changes the very substance of
the gift and the giver into divine life. We seal the gift with the
enactment of eating what we have offered – we bond it to ourselves
so that the gift we have given is truly ourselves and therefore
we truly have become recipients of divine nature.
The Word, of God, the Second Person of God, was conceived in the
body of a human woman taking on all the dimensions of humanity that
belong to human nature as God created it, without the broken addition
of sin which human failure added on, so that he could reconcile
us perfectly to the Father and make us heirs to divine life. Dare
we ponder this as Mary did in our hearts? Dare we believe that Christ
lifts us into a familiar relationship with God, so that we can address
the creator of heaven and earth as “Abba” or papa? Dare
we consider that God has indeed let his face – his whole being
- shine upon us and be gracious to us?
What word can we utter but . . . thanks?