Every calendar year, the Church celebrates the Blessed Virgin Mary under her greatest title, the holy Mother of God.
The Council of Ephesus (431) solemnly declared that our Lady was not simply known as the mother of Jesus Christ in His human nature, but she is also the true mother of God because Jesus is one Person: He is eternal in His divine nature, and because of His hypostatic union, He is the same divine Person now with a human nature. Therefore, the Virgin Mary is not the mother of two persons. She is the mother of one Person who has both a divine and human nature: Jesus Christ. Mary is the mother of the one Person who is both fully God and fully man. The Church has rightly celebrated the Virgin’s maternal connection with her Son and with His Bride, the Catholic Church, from the beginning of her mission when Mary was gathered around the Apostles and disciples after Jesus’ Ascension (Acts 1: 14). She became, as it were, a mother to the infant Church awaiting the promise of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13).
The Blessed Virgin has not ceased being a mother to the Church even after two thousand years. God has included within her direct vocation that she fulfilled as the mother to Jesus to include also being our spiritual mother. Children, as we know, learn an incredible amount of things about life from their mothers. So it is in the supernatural life. The Blessed Virgin remains our model. Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, said it so well on 1 January 2006:
The first day of the year is placed under the sign of a woman, Mary. The Evangelist Luke describes her as the silent Virgin who listens constantly to the eternal Word, who lives in the Word of God. Mary treasures in her heart the words that come from God and, piecing them together as in a mosaic, learns to understand them.
Let us too, at her school, learn to become attentive and docile disciples of the Lord. With her motherly help, let us commit ourselves to working enthusiastically in the “workshop” of peace, following Christ, the Prince of Peace.
After the example of the Blessed Virgin, may we let ourselves be guided always and only by Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever! (Heb. 13: 8).
Our whole spiritual life is lived in a real way within Mary’s “workshop,” as it were. We are being schooled by her daily, whether we are aware of it or not. Her daily attention to our needs and our prayers will be revealed to us one day, but for now, we rely on the assurance of our faith that daily recourse to Mary is the sure and safest path to eternal union with her Son, Jesus.
Normally, mothers look upon their children and see hope for the future, and today, many people place great hope in the beginning of a new year simply because it’s the first day of January. Christians, too, have great hope and look upon Mary as the Queen of Hope. Christians look to their mother for hope which, for us, is something very specific and not some nebulous idea that “things will somehow get better sometime in the future.” Catholics view hope as something far more substantive.
Our Lady is the Queen of Hope because she is the one who is responsible for bringing man’s salvation and true happiness into the flesh. All of human history since the Fall of Adam and Eve had been looking toward restoration with God and salvation. Salvation is true hope for the ultimate tomorrow: eternal life with the God who created and sustains us daily. The Blessed Virgin’s “fiat” to the Archangel Gabriel gave her full cooperation to God’s plan to come down from heaven and take on a human nature so that Jesus’ perfect sacrifice in His flesh would heal the wounds of original and actual sin. Mary’s “yes” fulfilled all of Israel’s waiting for centuries! The Incarnation would forever change history.
One person can, indeed, make the ultimate difference in a choice to follow God. Mary’s life is the pattern upon which we look to see how our own life is meant to unfold. As Mary relied and trusted on God to provide all that was good for her—even in the midst of trials and difficulties in her own life—so we rely on God to provide for us. As we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
The virtue of hope responds to the aspirations to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity (no. 1818).
For Catholics, hope is not an abstract idea or a slick political slogan. Hope is the Person of Jesus Christ Himself. Mary understood Him so well, and that is why she spends her Queenship in heaven pointing us daily to her Son. He is the expectation and fulfillment of all of our desires. He keeps us going forward toward our eternal homeland to live with Him forever along with His mother and all the angels and saints.
Hope, then, is trust in God lived out daily in concrete actions. May we make St. Teresa of Avila’s words our own especially as we begin 2017:
Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end (Exclamaciones del alma a Dios, 15:3 as quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1821).
May you have a most blessed and holy New Year!
Fr. Shawn William Cutler