I tell my students not to think of the Incarnation as though God the Father contributed some kind of divine Y chromosome and Mary contributed the human X chromosome, making Jesus both human and divine. This would make Jesus something of a half-breed and more like Hercules than the biblical savior. In a handout, I try to correct this misconception with the following statement: “The supernatural infinite ground and infinite horizon of transcendentality became intrinsically identified with Jesus of Nazareth from the moment of conception.” (Note to self: Must change Christology handout.)
This solemnity of Mary the Mother of God draws us to important truths of the mystery of our faith without torturously trying to explain them. Calling Mary “Mother of God” reflects our belief that Jesus was not merely adopted by God and raised up to some kind of divine status. Rather, Mary’s son had a fully divine nature from the beginning. And even with two natures, Jesus Christ is a singular being, with Mary as his mother.
If all this is challenging for us to imagine, think about what it meant for the Blessed Mother. Luke’s Gospel takes us to the stable. Neighboring shepherds had come to see the newborn Messiah and Lord, whom the angel had announced. Luke tells us that they reported all that had been revealed about this child. This would then include a massive heavenly choir singing God’s praises. Luke tells us, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
The Gospel reading then reports that on the eighth day the child was circumcised. This is important. Jesus’ circumcision takes us to the second reading, in which Paul tells us that he was “born under the law, to ransom those under the law.” Paul teaches in Galatians that the law was a blessing from God, one that trained in holiness. But the law worked like a holding pattern until the savior would come to bring life in the Spirit. Paul teaches here that it is this Spirit dwelling within our hearts that proclaims our new relationship with God: “Abba, Father!”
Finally, Luke tells us that they named the child Jesus, the name Gabriel had given Mary at the Annunciation. The name Jesus (Yeshua) means “God saves.” This is no small matter. In the Bible, names are potent. They often reflect a person’s identity. Obviously that is the case here. It is heady stuff to call your child by a name that means “God saves,” as Gabriel had commanded.
Mary keeps and reflects all this in her heart. The mystery of the Incarnation and her role as mother of the Savior are not something she analyzes or philosophizes about. Rather, as Luke says, she enters the mystery contemplatively. We should follow suit in meditating on this mystery and what it can mean for us.
I would like to offer two reflections in particular. The first is how marvelous it is that this cosmic event, one that made heavenly hosts praise God, occurred through poor pilgrims in a stable in a small town. It leads me to think of the many ways extraordinary grace happens in the ordinariness of life. I see the Spirit of the risen Christ revealed all the time—by Rosemarie, for example, who directs a homeless shelter called Listening House. She deeply loves the guests there, even the drunks, even the ones who swear at her. How does she do that? And in radiating that love, she helps the down-and-out to glimpse a reflection of their own lovability. What a gift! And that miracle happens every day.
We might also reflect on Mary’s role as mother to us. We received her as our mother from the crucified Lord in the person of the beloved disciple: “Behold your mother” (Jn 19:27). We receive Mary as our mother to the degree we know Christ as our Lord and brother. We receive her when we realize that her maternal love is working right now on our behalf so that the kingdom of her son and savior might be fulfilled in us. There is much to reflect on in our hearts.