A New Year brings in new hopes. This celebration of Mary, Mother of God (Theotokos) brings in a revolutionary new dimension to our faith. It proclaims that a human being has the capacity to bear the divine.
This is a very ancient feast day of the Church. It reflects the fact that Mary is first among the saints. ‘Theotokos’ is a Greek word that means ‘the one who gives birth to the one who is God’. It was a devotional title that had been given to Mary perhaps as early as the year 250, and certainly by 330. In the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches this feast is particularly important. It is celebrated in a multitude of hymns and icons
In the year 431 the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus formalized this devotion and declared that Mary is properly called Theotokos. The Council did this both to settle divisions in the Church about the humanity and divinity of Jesus and to affirm the extraordinary role of Mary.
This teaching does not mean that Mary is the mother of the Eternal God. Rather, the Council was trying to protect two complementary truths. First, by clarifying the Gospel accounts that Mary gave birth to Jesus, the Council was affirming that Jesus was fully human. Secondly, in calling Mary Theotokos, the Council was affirming that Jesus was fully divine.
Usually, and quite correctly, we think of the Incarnation as the divine becoming human in God’s act of infinite self-giving love. But Mary acts too: she says ‘Yes’ to God. She cooperates with God. She bears the divine.
What Mary has done, we too can do: with God’s grace we can carry the infinite love of God within our own lives. Let this be our New Year’s resolution.