When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, she was greeted as the “Mother of the Lord (Luke 1: 43),” a recognition both of her unique place in God’s holy plan and her faith in accepting his will. For centuries, the Church has honored Mary’s role in the history of salvation. At the words of the angel Gabriel foretelling her divine maternity, Mary replied, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word (Luke 1: 38).” Her complete faith and trust in God alone made her the channel through which Christ the Messiah entered the world. And, so, the Lord Jesus was born.
In 431, the Church Council of Ephesus declared that Christ is truly divine and that Mary is the Mother of God (theotokos). Many dioceses throughout the world, including Rome, had adopted the January 1 date for commemorating this affirmation of faith over the centuries and, in 1931, Pope Pius XI officially placed the feast of Mary itself on the Church’s universal calendar. Pope St. John XXIII named it “the Octave (eighth day) of the Nativity” in 1960.
In 1969, the Church’s calendar was revised and January 1 was celebrated as “the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.” In his 1974 apostolic letter Marialis Cultus, Pope St. Paul VI wrote that the feast was “meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in this mystery of salvation” and “to exalt the singular dignity which this mystery brings to the Holy Mother … through whom we were found worthy to receive the Author of Life.” The Church was encouraged to use this feast to beg God for “the supreme gift of peace.”
Let us pray: God our Father, may we always profit by the prayers of the Virgin Mother Mary, for you bring us life and salvation through Jesus Christ her Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.