Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Feast of the Divine Maternity

October 11th

Mater Dei, my kitchen Madonna - on loan from my brother, Greg.

The Feast of the Maternity of Mary, which had been a feast day in Portugal since 1751, was extended to the whole Church by Pope Pius XI in 1931 to commemorate the 1500th anniversary of the Council of Ephesus.  It was at this council that the Church defended the doctrine of the Divine Motherhood of Mary against the Nestorian heresy, which denied the two natures of Christ, thus negating Our Lady's title, Mother of God.

A Catholic mother's thoughts on the Mother of Mothers...

There always seems to me to be a beautiful poetry in the Church's wisdom in the placing of feast days.  At Christmas time, we remember the maternity of Mary in such a beautiful solemn way, combining the awesome truth of her motherhood within the joyful picture of the entire Holy Family. Under the still starry skies of winter we see the tender magnificence of Mary's place in eternity; she is both a humble mother nursing her cherished Child in a lowly stable and the Queen of Heaven, Mediatrix of all Grace, Mother of the King of the universe.  When we think of Mary in the Christmas picture, she happily fades into the background behind the glory of her newborn Son. As it should be; as she wants it to be.

But here we are in October, a little more than two months before Christmas.  The world aglow with autumn color and surrounded by the fruits of harvest, we get a chance to contemplate Mary, herself, in a sort of prequel to the story of the Nativity.  How perfectly timed can you get?  Be sure there are no accidents in the universe!

Not only is this feast the perfect reminder that Advent is just around the corner, but it's also impeccably placed, in my opinion, for the morale of mothers. About this time in October we've settled into our new school year routine; the novelty has worn off for the children and the hard work of perserverence in their studies has begun in earnest.  Our mothering skills, in light of this challenge and looking forward to the bustle of the upcoming holiday seasons, are at a premium now.  Bless their little hearts (winkwink), the children can wear down our joy in motherhood sometimes, but  meditation on the Mother of mothers is the perfect antidote to discouragement, stress, weariness or enui.  At any time.  But right now, summer behind us and winter bearing down, it's a breath of brisk air to remember the fruit of Mary's womb, Jesus and to be reminded of the very fact of her motherhood. 

It's a consoling lesson to remember that Mary, who was conceived without sin, who is full of grace, spent her days with many of the same daily routines we know today -- the greatest difference being that the dear Little Boy she nurtured and  kept house for was God-Made-Man.  It's an awesome thought to contemplate.  Still, Mary sewed and and cleaned  and laundered and cooked and budgeted just like we do -- and neither received (in her time here) nor wanted acclaim for her humble work.  She preferred to save every moment of duty and sacrifice into her endless storehouse of grace. So she received no praise except Heaven's silent love and in her heart she anticipated the sword prophesied by Simeon.  But the Queen of Heaven smiled as she swept the floor clean for her sweet Child, the Saviour of our world, to play upon.  And He smiled up at her as His Heart spoke to her heart about you and me.  And how we would remember her as we do our duty for our families -- for Him. 

And now she reigns in Heaven ready to put her gentle hand beside ours as we go about our daily tasks.  Mary, the Queen of the Universe.  The Mother of God.  Our mother.

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