January 01: Solemnity of Mary Mother of God

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God!

Last night we went to the Vigil Mass for this Holy Day, and while the cantors began singing Hail Mary, Gentle Woman, I couldn’t help but think how very fitting it was that we were at a Vigil to celebrate Mary’s motherhood just one week after celebrating the Christmas Vigil.   It’s just the gift that keeps on giving.

Mary is known in the tradition of the faith as the Theotokos which literally translates to “God bearer,” making her the Mother of God.  Similarly, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The Virgin Mary is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the Redeemer.” (CCC 963)

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As Catholics, we honor and revere our blessed Mother and count her as incredibly special…but why do we refer to her as the “Mother of God”?  Some people are greatly shocked that we honor her with this title, but I think this stems from a misunderstanding of the teaching.

So, where does the title “Mother of God” come from and what does it mean?

This teaching is both essential to the faith (especially to our salvation), and to understanding who Jesus was.  The reality of Mary as Mother of God surrounds and protects the mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus, who is God made flesh.

Let’s break it down a bit:

What makes a woman someone’s biological mother? Two things: Carrying the child within her womb, and contributing to the baby’s genetic makeup.  So, to say that Mary is the Mother of God is to acknowledge the fact that she carried the baby Jesus within her womb and contributed to his human nature.  Scripture clearly reveals this in Luke 1:26-38 and Galatians 4:4. Now of course Mary’s motherhood also extends in other deep ways, but this title first and foremost references her role in carrying, birthing, and raising our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Acknowledging Mary’s motherhood of Jesus is important because it tells us that he is one person with two natures.  If we denied that Mary is the Mother of God and said that she is merely the Mother of his human biological nature, then we would end up dividing Jesus’ person hood in two, and this is impossible; Jesus’ human nature is inseparable from his divine nature.  Jesus is one person, God, with the First and Third members of the Holy Trinity, the Father and the Holy Spirit and to separate the two would be to separate his very person.  God created Mary specially for being the Mother of Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, who has two natures: one human and one divine (this is the “hypostatic union”).   

Now, this is not to say that Mary gave Jesus his divine nature or person hood.  Jesus is fully divine–fully God–simply because he IS God, the Word made flesh.  What Mary did give Jesus was a nature identical to her own: an immaculate human nature. 

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She gave birth to a Son who was truly God, making her the Mother of the God.  

The denial of Mary as Mother of God also greatly complicates and damages our salvation.  If Jesus was separated into two persons then which died on the cross for us:the human or the divine?  If it was the divine alone, we’d be saying that God himself could be put to death (which clearly doesn’t work).  If it was the human alone, then our redemption is compromised because no mere human death could bring about salvation for all of mankind.untitled

As mentioned above, Sacred Scripture supports that Mary is the Mother of God.  Sacred Tradition is also especially rich with quotes from many early fathers of the faith.  Here are a few:

  •  “The Virgin Mary, being obedient to his word, received from an angel the glad tidings that she would bear God” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5:19:1 [A.D. 189]).
  • “We acknowledge the resurrection of the dead, of which Jesus Christ our Lord became the firstling; he bore a body not in appearance but in truth derived from Mary the Mother of God” (Peter of Alexandria, Letter to All Non-Egyptian Bishops 12 [A.D. 324]).
  • “The Word begotten of the Father from on high, inexpressibly, inexplicably, incomprehensibly, and eternally, is he that is born in time here below of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God” (Athanasius, The Incarnation of the Word of God 8 [A.D. 365]).

And even the father of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, had something to say about it:

  • “She is rightly called not only the mother of the man, the human nature of Jesus, but also the Mother of God.   It is certain that Mary is the Mother of the real and true God.  Men have crowded all her glory into a single phrase: the Mother of God.  No one can say anything greater about her though he had as many tongues as there are leaves on trees.” (Martin Luther, Commentary on the Magnificat)

Amen?

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This reality is honestly so very beautiful.  God, in his infinite Wisdom, brought the Woman Mary into his life in a very special and familial way.  She was the one who would be there with him, loving him in a perfect motherly way, at every significant moment in his incarnate life.

It just goes to show us that our God is truly a God of love…a God for the family.

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Seven Quick Takes: More on Advent, The Domestic Church, and Family Activities before Christmas

Linking up with Kelly for the first time in a really long time for 7 Quick Takes Friday!

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Advent so far has been wonderful.  I think the concerted effort to be more aware of what this season is all about is paying off, because I find myself a bit more at peace during this hectic time of the year than I normally am.

The week of the 5th kick-started the craziness of the season for me and my family.  We hosted two parties in one week at our house, and have since celebrated three feast days (Saint Nicholas, Mary’s Immaculate Conception, and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe).

I have always wanted to be more mindful of the Feast Days in the Church, and seeing the beautiful and thoughtful things that other Catholic moms put together for their families has always left me feeling a bit #inadequate.  Sometimes the pressure to be the “perfect” mom is ridiculous–especially the perfect “Catholic” mom– and I love what Simcha had to say about her family’s celebration of the Immaculate Conception. (“Pant, pant”…just get their butts to Mass.)

The biggest thing I took from her article was that we don’t have to put together these elaborate things for our family for them to get the most out of these special days.  We just need to put our focus on what really matters, and we need to continue striving to share the faith with our kids in the best ways we know how.

So we’ve begun doing that and it has been awesome, and really alleviated the silly guilt that comes from being so very un-pinterest worthy most of the time.

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This new outlook on building our domestic church came just in time, because in the craziness of hosting people at our house on the 5th, I completely forgot to weave together the narrative of Saint Nick’s legendary stories to Eli and stick carrots and other such things in his stinky little shoes before Saint Nicholas’ Feast Day the next day .  I did buy coins and carrots and had a whole thing planned out, but completely forgot in the rush of all things. #Momfail

But I rolled with it. Who really cares?  I mean, I may not be Martha-friggin-Stewart, but that’s okay.  And let’s be honest, Eli (and certainly Lucia) didn’t even notice.

I decided to nix the whole plan and just work with what we normally do every night, which is sit together as a family and eat dinner.  I parked our ol’ Santa Claus “Saint Nick” down with us for dinner,

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gave Eli a few details about his life (Lucy nodded along, too), said a quick prayer in honor of him, ate dinner, and afterwards celebrated by eating chocolate coins and drinking eggnog by our tree. It was wonderful and simple and I think Eli got the general jist of what is really so special about the jolly old man, Santa Claus.  It’s not so much about getting the presents and toys he brings as it is about the character of the real man (a saint) who existed; a man who lived for the Lord, and loved and gave without reserve.

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We also celebrated with our friends this Advent season, on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The group gathered together and came up with this great idea to make tilmas (an idea one of the girls got from Catholic Icing), eat cookies, watch a movie about Juan Diego’s vision of Mary, and carry red roses up to Mary in honor of this day.   It was so fun and I am so glad that my kids are making friends in the Church.

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One of the parties I hosted was for Joey’s 30th Birthday!  It is becoming kind of a tradition to have a Christmas party at our house for him every year, and I think this 3rd year was our best.

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We changed the entertainment up this year (from our usual white elephant game) by playing the seran wrap game, and it was such a hit!  Highly suggest it for your family parties—except instead of candy we purchased a bunch of small gifts (chotchkies and stuff) for people to win.  Funny enough though, most of the grown men were vying for the big league chew packets of gum.

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A friend gifted me the Blessed is She Advent journal this year and I am absolutely loving it!  It is probably a bit late to buy the journal for this Advent, but you can also buy it and download a digital copy of it if you are interested!

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This year I wanted to make something that I could gift to people, and I settled on these caramel candies.  I was super nervous about making these because my history with baking is not the greatest, so I only assumed candy-making would be worse.  With only a minor hiccup (a big caramel spill, because my pan wasn’t big enough) I came out unscathed and they came out delicious!  Be happy I don’t have pictures of the process, though, because it wasn’t very pretty.  The recipe I followed was super easy, albeit a tad time consuming (took me an hour and a half to make).  Try making them for Christmas! They don’t disappoint!

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Eli had his very first Christmas program yesterday.  It was priceless.  I especially love how he pretty much “watermelon-coconuted” the whole thing, and clapped for himself at the end.  At-a-boy, you little cutie. At-a-boy.

That’s it for me this week! Hope you have a wonderful week, and if you are traveling for Christmas–safe travels!!!

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Solemnity of Joseph

Happy Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

I really wanted to make it to mass today for the solemnity of St. Joseph, but I didn’t realize that masses are not celebrated after 8:30am on the weekdays in Kansas City!  I thought surely there would be, but nada.  (My fault for not planning ahead.)
So, instead we will do the mass readings here at home to celebrate.
And why celebrate??
Because Joseph was AWESOME! St. Joseph is one of our great models of religious fidelity, for he was a man who “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.”
If we go back to the time of Mary and Joseph and examine what we find in the Gospels readings, we come across something that could’ve become similar to what we find in today’s novellas.  Here we have a young girl (~14) and man who are betrothed.  The young girl comes to the man and explains that she is with child, and the man, (most likely angry and surely hurt) decides to divorce the young woman, leaving her alone and pregnant (Mt 1:16-24). How scandalous!
Now, what seems to be the makings for a great television story, turns out to be the makings of one of the greatest stories ever told. 
In order to understand more clearly how St. Joseph was feeling when Mary told him she was with child, we first need to go back and understand some of the Jewish customs.  When reading or hearing the word “betrothal”, one might be inclined to compare it to our modern day engagements.  However, Jewish custom was a bit different than this.  In the Jewish faith, there were 2 stages to the marriage process: the betrothal stage, and the period where the two would come together.  This is important to distinguish and understand because in the betrothal stage, man and woman exchanged vows, making the union both legal and covenantal.  Though the two were not living together, the man and woman were legally and covenantally married.   Another key thing to understand about this stage is that the two would not have consummated the marriage at this point.  It is in the later stage when the two would come together, live with one another, and have a consummated marriage. 
In understanding this, we can see that Mary’s news would have been all the more confusing and hurtful to Joseph.  As far as he understood, Mary was not merely unfaithful to an engagement period, but rather had committed adultery.  Moreover, they had made a covenantal bond together, and Mary’s pregnancy was an indicator that she had turned completely turned her back on him.  They were bound to one another but had not yet consummated their marriage, and yet Mary was with child?  How can this be?
If this were a story that we were hearing or watching unfold today, we would probably see Joseph publicly shaming Mary—enacting sweet revenge on his unfaithful spouse.  But again, this is not an ordinary story and we know that Joseph decided to quietly divorce her.  Though he found Mary’s pregnancy to be an unacceptable thing, he still did not want to “expose her to shame”. 
If we stopped the story right there, we could already walk away seeing that, clearly, Joseph was a good and righteous man.  Here we find a young man, faithfully committed to his wife, who finds out she is bearing a child that he knows for sure is not his, yet he doesn’t lash out in anger.  He doesn’t bring her to the forefront of gossip, slander, and possibly even stoning.  Rather, he chose to quietly break the bond to save her from shame.  In doing so he would have had to swallow a lot of pride, ultimately being forgiving enough to let her walk away unscathed.
This would be a good story in and of itself, but the story does not end here.  We read in Scripture that while he intended to quietly divorce Mary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
I don’t know about you, but if I were to have this dream I think I might wake up and rationalize and decide for myself the best thing to do, because dreams are just dreams, right? Yet, here we have Joseph who, upon waking up, “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took his wife into his home.”  He did not take a day to ponder what this meant.  He did not try to rationalize away the message that was brought to him in his sleep by following the lead of his feelings instead.  Rather, he quickly and obediently followed the will of the Lord.  Though he may not have fully understood what it meant that this child would “save people from their sins” or that “through the Holy Spirit” this child was conceived, he chose to submit to the Lord’s plan and have faith.
What an incredible man.  For him to have felt unjustly treated, angered and hurt by the one person he was committed to for life, he so easily put aside his own feelings and was obedient and faithful to what the Lord told him.  He didn’t do this begrudgingly, but rather we see that Joseph actually heard the Lord, believed that Mary had conceived through the Spirit, and from this point on lived out his life as a faithful leader of his family.  He took care of Mary, and he made sure that she was always safe.  He ensured that his son met all the Jewish religious customs at the necessary time, and he lived as a great example, being a holy and righteous man. 
Recently I was listening to one of Jason Evert’s talks, and he spoke about St. Joseph.  After hearing what he had to say, the image of St. Joseph in my mind was further transformed, and it added to my understanding of how cool he was. 
Jason spoke of how everyone’s idea of Jesus’ foster father is usually a frail, white haired old man who obediently, prudently, and righteously followed wherever he was called (see picture above).  While Joseph’s righteousness was surely a remarkable trait, the idea that he was a “frail old man” couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Jason describes the badassery of Joseph (the one the Church refers to as both the “Terror of Demons”, and the “Guardian of the Virgin”) pointing out that the long walk Joseph takes his family on (from Nazareth to Bethlehem to Egypt to Nazareth) would have been about 600 miles long; a walk no frail old man could endure.  He also points out that he was not some old rosey cheeked man, but rather a “man’s man”.  He explained that God would not have put a 70 year old man in charge of guarding a teenage virgin and baby, but rather a “tekton”.  “Tekton” was the ancient Greek term for Joseph’s craft; he was not merely a carpenter who sanded out tables, but rather a construction worker, lumberjack, and a carpenter all rolled into one! Tektons would carry wooden beams through the streets, and knock down trees with their own bare hands and ax.  They would build houses with their hands and work with masonry and stone.  They were manlymen. 
[Jesus was also a tekton, and Jason points out how his practice of carrying wooden beams would have prepared him for his walk to Calvary.]
He was a strong man, a leader, a man’s man.  He was a righteous man, and a faithful husband.  These are all the things that make St. Joseph so cool and so worthy of being emulated.  He too was just a man, but he was a man who put the Lord first, and followed wherever the Lord called him, trying his best to live an upright life.
Take a minute today in thanksgiving for his faithfulness and obedience.  Be thankful that our men have a strong example to follow as they lead their families in the faith, as husbands and fathers. 
And also, watch this video and proceed in having an awesome and “happy” day!

 

God Bless!
Lauren