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The Eighth Day of Christmas – Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Theotokos of Vladimir Icon
On December 31st we usher in the New Year with late night champagne, half-baked resolutions and epic movies. But in the midst of this activity the Church asks us to celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God; a feast day of epic proportions and fulfilled covenants, a dogma that sheds as much light on the nature of Christ as it does on the nature of His mother.

The Church has defined four dogmas pertaining to Mary. They include Mary, the mother of God, her perpetual virginity, Immaculate Conception, and her assumption into heaven. It is because of the first Marian dogma that she has been privileged with the other three. Therefore, it is essential to understand the meaning and implications of this doctrine before attempting to explain the more complicated and controversial Marian dogmas.

This year our store started selling a Christmas card called Kissing the Face of God by Morgan Weistling. The Christmas card sold amazingly well and so it was with great surprise that on two occasions customers called to inquire as to whether or not the title of the painting was printed on the card because they didn’t want to scandalize any of their friends. We don’t know if their concern had to do with a theological misunderstanding of Jesus as God or if it was just a difference in semantic tradition but it illustrates the Catholic belief that a greater understanding of Mary ultimately leads to a greater understanding of Christ.

The doctrine of Mary as the mother of God finds its roots in the New Testament when the archangel Gabriel says to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” Lk 1:35. The Gospel of Matthew also affirms the doctrine in 1:23, “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel (which means, God with us)”. This dogma was formally defined at the council of Ephesus in 431 when the Church gave Mary the official title Theotokos which literally means Christ-bearer.

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