Going back to the first several centuries of the Christian faith, during the era of Christological doctrinal development, the greek term theotokos (Literally ‘God-Bearer’) became a hot-button issue, a source of much controversy in a time with little clear dogmatic clarification. The term, although ostensibly a Marian title, is primarily a Christological statement. If Mary is the mother of Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus is the Incarnate Word of God, then Mary should rightfully be called “Mother of God.”
It was in the year 431 CE at the Council of Ephesus that the term theotokos was decreed. Fundamentally, it is a statement that asserts Christ’s human and divine nature, that — as the Good News according to John asserts in its prologue — the Word became Flesh. This originally anti-Nestorian term has become the first feast of the (Gregorian, not liturgical) calendar year. Today is the day, generally a Holy Day of Obligation in the United States, when the Church — the Body of Christ — pauses to remember, yet again, the coming of God into our world as one like us.
Not to take anything away from Mary, for her Fiat is indeed a model of our role in responding to God’s call in salvation history, this Solemnity is most properly about the Incarnation. It is no wonder that this day falls within the octave of Christmas.
[A brief aside: I’m writing this while sitting at a McDonald’s restaurant (only place open on New Years Day while I travel) and I noticed that this is one of the few locations that has continued to play Christmas/Advent music after the 25th. Oddly enough it was at this icon of North American consumerism that I found a Christmas Octave respite.]
Like the other feasts during this period after Christmas through the Baptism of the Lord (Holy Family, Mary Mother of God, Holy Innocents, Epiphany, etc.) this is a time to reflect on what God has done for us in the Incarnation and what God continues to do for us in effect. Likewise, it is our opportunity to reflect on how we can, like Mary and Joseph, respond to God’s call to continually bring Christ into the world through our words and actions. I think it is also wholly appropriate that the Christmas season bridges each and every calendar year. We end and begin our year with the birth of Christ.
It indeed continues to be a celebration of Christmas. May the Christ Child continue to bless you and your family, while you work to bring Him to birth again and again in our World.
Happy New Year!