October 11 – The Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary
In the sixteenth century, even amidst their many divergences, the so-called Reformers agreed in utterly rejecting all the honors paid by the Catholic Church to the Blessed Virgin Mary, on the grounds that such veneration of the Mother detracted from the supreme worship due to her Divine Son. Four centuries have more than sufficed to show the result of so doing: the Son has followed the Mother! The descendants of those who refused to Mary the title and rights of Theotokos,—Mother of God—refuse to Jesus the title of Son of God in the traditional sense of the term. Many reject His Godhead altogether, placing Him merely at the head of the line of great moral and social world-teachers; others still retain the word “divinity” with respect to Him, but for them it is no longer synonymous with “deity.”
Holy Scripture tells us that those who first came to adore him who is Son of God and Son of Mary found him “with Mary his Mother.” At the scene of the first miracle at Cana, which marked the opening of his public life, “the Mother of Jesus was there.” In the tremendous hour when all was consummated, when types and shadows gave place to the mighty reality, “there stood by the Cross of Jesus His Mother.” And when the little flock who were to be the nucleus of the Church of God awaited in prayer the coming of the Paraclete, Who would teach them all truth, again it was in company with “Mary the Mother of Jesus.” Far from taking from the honor and love due to the Word Incarnate, devotion to Mary is a strong bulwark protecting the central doctrine. He is ever found with his Mother; where Mary is denied her rights, sooner or later Jesus is denied his; they stand or fall together.
This was realized in the year 431 when, at the General Council of Ephesus, the Church condemned the Nestorian heresy, whereby the Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius, had taught that, since in Christ there are two persons, a Divine and a human, Mary was mother only of the Man “Christ,” and therefore could not be called ”Mother of God.” He therefore denied ”that wondrous and substantial union of the two natures which we call hypostatic.”
On the occasion of the fifteenth centenary of the Council of Ephesus, the Sovereign Pontiff, Pius XI, issued the Encyclical Lux Veritatis, recalling the history of the heresy and commenting thus upon the dogma of the hypostatic union: “When once the doctrine of the hypostatic union is abandoned, whereon the dogmas of the Incarnation and of man’s Redemption rest and stand firm, the whole foundation of the Catholic religion falls and comes to ruin … When once this dogma of the truth is securely established, it is easy to gather from it that, by the mystery of the Incarnation, the whole aggregate of men and of mundane things has been endowed with a dignity than which certainly nothing greater can be imagined, and surely grander than that to which it was raised by the work of creation.”
Proceeding to speak of the special dignity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Pope emphasizes that, “because she brought forth the Redeemer of mankind, she is also in a manner the most tender Mother of us all, whom Christ our Lord deigned to have as his brothers; wherefore we may confidently entrust to her all things that are ours, our joys, our troubles, our hopes; especially if more difficult times fall upon the Church—if faith fail because charity has grown cold, if private and public morals take a turn for the worse.”
In this last connection we are reminded of another result of the loss of devotion to the Mother of God. Frequently and truly we hear and speak of the “paganism” of the present age. The decay of faith has been followed inevitably by a decline in morality, and our elaborate and complex civilization is threatened with the dissolving agent which contributed in no small measure to the overthrow of the magnificent civilization of old Rome: namely, the loss of the domestic virtues, the disappearance of healthy, normal family life, consequent upon the abandonment of the Christian ideals of marriage and parenthood.
It is a truism that one of the greatest social effects of Christianity was to raise the status of womanhood. Her legal position in the Ancient World was little better than that of a slave, and although classical literature furnishes us with examples of women who, in pagan homes, yet enjoyed high honor and affection, such are few indeed, and but serve to prove the rule. Divorce, infanticide, general degradation of womanhood, and not infrequently of childhood, were accepted features of pagan social order. The ideal and model of the “new woman” of the Christian dispensation was the Mother of God. It was Mary, “Mother of fair love,” “Madonna,” “our Lady,” who ennobled the degenerate old civilization, just as she tamed the fierce barbarian peoples; she it was who inspired the ideals of the later chivalry. In Mary, all her sex was uplifted; in her motherhood all motherhood became blessed. Now again the world needs the hallowing influence of the Mother of God and of men, if “the life of the family, the beginning and the foundation of all human society” is to be preserved in all its nobility and its purity.
Desirous “to mark the commemoration, and help to nourish the piety of clergy and people towards the great Mother of God,” His Holiness concludes the Encyclical by establishing the new feast of the Divine Motherhood, to be celebrated on October 11 by the universal Church.
|Ecce, Virgo concipiet, et pariet Filium, et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel.||Behold, a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.|
|Cantate Domino canticum novum, quia mirabilia fecit. Gloria Patri. Ecce.||Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle: because he hath done wonderful things. Glory be to the Father. Behold.|
|Deus, qui de beatæ Mariæ Virginis utero Verbum tuum, angelo nuntiante, carnem suscipere voluisti: præsta supplicibus tuis; ut, qui vere eam Genetricem Dei credimus, ejus apud te intercessionibus adjuvemur. Per eumdem Dominum.||O God, who wast pleased that at the message of an angel, thy Word should take flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary: grant that we, thy suppliants, who believe her to be truly the Mother of God, may be helped by her intercession with thee. Through the same.|
|Lectio libri Sapientiæ.||Lesson from the book of Wisdom.|
|Cap. xxiv.||Ch. xxiv.|
|Ego quasi vitis fructificavi suavitatem odoris: et flores mei fructus honoris et honestatis. Ego mater pulchræ dilectionis, et timoris, et agnitionis, et sanctæ spei. In me gratia omnis viae et veritatis: in me omnis spes vitæ et virtutis. Transite ad me, omnes qui concupiscitis me, et a generationibus meis implemini: spiritus enim meus super mel dulcis, et hæreditas mea super mel et favum. Memoria mea in generatione sæculorum. Qui edunt me, adhuc esurient, et qui bibunt me, adhuc sitient. Qui audit me non confundetur, et qui operantur in me non peccabunt: qui elucidant me, vitam æternam habebunt.||As the vine I have brought forth a pleasant odour: and my flowers are the fruit of honour and riches. I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue. Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits. For my spirit is sweet above honey, and my inheritance above honey and the honeycomb. My memory is unto everlasting generations. They that eat me, shall yet hunger: and they that drink me, shall yet thirst. He that hearkeneth to me, shall not be confounded: and they that work by me, shall not sin. They that explain me shall have life everlasting.|
|Egredietur virga de radice Jesse, et flos de radice ejus ascendet.||There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root.|
|℣. Et requiescet super eum Spiritus Domini.||℣. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.|
|Alleluial, alleluia. ℣. Virgo Dei Genetrix, quem totus non capit orbis, in tua se clausit viscera factus homo. Alleluia.||Alleluia, alleluia. ℣. O Virgin Mother of God, the world sufficeth not to contain him who, made man, was shut up in thy womb. Alleluia.|
|Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.||Sequel of the holy Gospel according to St. Luke.|
|Cap. ii.||Ch. ii.|
|In illo tempore: Cum redirent, remansit puer Jesus in Jerusalem, et non cognoverunt parentes ejus. Existimantes autem illum esse in comitatu, venerunt iter diei, et requirebant eum inter cognatos et notos. Et non invenientes, regressi sunt in Jerusalem, requirentes eum. Et factum est, post triduum invenerunt illum in templo sedentem in medio doctorum, audientem illos, et interrogantem eos. Stupebant autem omnes qui eum audiebant, super prudentia et responsis ejus. Et videntes admirati sunt. Et dixit mater ejus ad illum: Fili, quid fecisti nobis sic? ecce pater tuus et ego dolentes quaerebamus te. Et ait ad illos: Quid est quod me quærebatis? nesciebatis quia in his quæ Patris mei sunt, oportet me esse? Et ipsi non intellexerunt verbum quod locutus est ad eos. Et descendit cum eis, et venit Nazareth: et erat subditus illis.||At that time: When they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not. And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day’s journey, and sought him among their kinsfolks and acquaintance. And not finding him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his wisdom and his answers. And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father’s business? And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them.|
|Cum esset desponsata mater ejus Maria Joseph inventa est in utero habens de Spiritu Sancto.||When his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.|
|Tua, Domine, propitiatione, et beatæ Mariæ semper Virginis, Unigeniti tui matris, intercessione, ad perpetuam atque præsentem hæc oblatio nobis proficiat prosperitatem et pacem. Per eumdem Dominum.||Through thy merciful forgiveness, O Lord, and through the intercession of Blessed Mary ever Virgin, may this oblation avail us to the ensuring, now and always, of prosperity and peace. Through the same.|
Preface of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Et te in festivitate.
|Beata viscera Mariæ Virginis, quæ portaverunt æterni Patris Filium.||Blessed is the womb of Mary the Virgin, which bare the Son of the eternal Father.|
|Hæc nos communio, Domine, purget a crimine: et, in tercedente beata Virgine Dei Genetrice Maria, cælestis remedii faciat esse consortes. Per eumdem Dominum.||May this communion, O Lord, cleanse us from sin: and by the intercession of Blessed Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, may it unite us in him who is the heavenly healer of our souls. Through the same.|
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)