On January 1st we celebrated the feast of The Mother of God.
This feast was quite a minor feast in the Old Rite and called The Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was described as being a feast of the Second Class and was celebrated on October 11th.
Certainly the title was somewhat vague.
As It was instituted by Pius XI, the vagueness seems rather odd as he was anything but vague. In fact you could imagine him with the great Cyril of Alexandria at the Council of Ephesus, which defined Our Lady as being not simply the Mother of Christ as Nestorius would have it, but Mother of God. Whatever Cyril was, he was not vague, in fact he was brilliant and combative theologian and poor Nestorius was not.
So it is something of a surprise that the indecisive Paul VI, a man described by Blessed John XXIII as being a bit like Hamlet, should throw caution to the wind, and putting aside his usual timidity, removed the feast of the Circumcision from January Ist and replaced it with the Solemnity of the Mother of God.
He did this quite early on in his Pontificate, and the response from the Church appears to have been less than enthusiastic, for within a few years Our Lady, the Rosary, devotions and the saints were being sidelined all in favour of the new fashion of ecumenism.
Now I remember clearly, many years ago, a very eccentric Capuchin confrere of mine Fr. Terry, saying to me "ecumenism is the wrong word." He was absolutely right. Ecumenism, in the true sense of the word, is the unity of different churches all believing the same theological truths, but often differing in their liturgical and religious practices. Unfortunately it is now used to describe the dialoge between Churches with grossly differing moral and theological beliefs.
However the modernisers in the Church of the 1960's had failed to realize that the one hope for Christian unity and the establishment of the ancient oecumene was to turn to Mary, not simply as the Mother of Christ, not simply as the young girl from Nazareth, or as the doyenne of feminists and liberation theologians, but as the magnificent Mother of God, "our tainted nature's solitary boast" as Newman quoted Wordsworth's wise saying.
I think that unless we see Mary in clouds of glory, as we do in the great painting of the Assumption by Titian or in those wonderful paintings by Murillo where Our Lady is being wafted heavenwards by an army of very juvenile looking angels, we will forget something important in our own lives, namely that as children we idolized and adored our mothers', or hopefully we did. In these depressing days of the single parent families and the unmarried mother with her children and revolving male lovers, the mother is all that the child has; fathers are absent or of little consequence. Most children still will cling to their mothers, even bad mothers. Children would hardly wish to marginalize their mothers as did the enthusiastic modern priests and religious of the 1960's did with Our Lady, for the very simple fact that they cannot do without them.
Christians will only be united when they see Mary appearing to them as in the Song of Songs "Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?" (Song of songs 5: v. 9) or as the Woman clothed in the Sun; "A great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars:" (Aocalypse 12: v.1). For the greater honour that we give to Mary as the Mother of God, the greater honour we will give to women in particular.
It is the sad plight of Western women over the past 50 years that in their understandable desire to have equality with men, they have mistaken this equality as being something that is to do with financial, professional, and clerical parity, but it is far more profound than that, the equality that really exists is the complementary love between a man and woman which makes them into Mothers and Fathers, and which raises them to the level of co-creators with God the Father, Creator of Heaven and Earth. This has nothing to do with achievement, ambition or equal opportunities. It is ultimately about Divine Love, of which human love is but a humble mirror. It is the tragedy of our age that millions of men and women are having sex with each other, and are living in long term relationships with each other, but are not truly in love, as true love springs from God, who ordains that man and woman should procreate within marriage and nowhere else. Admittedly it is only with the coming of Christ that the true nature, or should one say the supernatural quality of marriage was instituted, It is also wonderfully ironic that it is in the virginal marriage of Mary and Joseph that we see the most perfect exemplar of marriage, where Mary conceives Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit and so becomes the Mother of God.
Modern Western Man and Woman will only find peace, freedom, and true fulfilment, when He and She, sophisticate or simpleton kneel with the Shepherds at the manger in Bethlehem, and with the Magi bringing their gifts give their hearts to the Mother of God, as they worship her infant Son, God made Man, Jesus Christ Our Lord.