Today a new year begins and the Christmas Octave concludes with the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. We begin the new year celebrating the generosity and fiat of Mary that made her the Mother of God. In the early Church a group of heretics called the Arians claimed that Mary was not the Mother of God because Jesus was not God. This feast celebrates both the divinity of Christ and what that implies for Mary’s maternity.
When the shepherds in today’s Gospel told Mary that angels had spoken to them, she surely remembered that fateful day nine months earlier when she conceived of the Holy Spirit after the visit of Gabriel. Again in this moment the heavenly choirs can’t contain themselves at the birth of the Savior. Jesus in his public ministry would tell his listeners that the angels in Heaven rejoice more over a repentant sinner that over scores of holy people. Here they celebrate the salvation at hand for everyone, and share the news with people pretty low down on the social scale: shepherds were marginalized in the culture of the time, which is why they usually kept to themselves. That didn’t matter to them now; they found the Holy Family and shared the good news with “All who heard it.”
Mary, in contrast, takes in the incredible mysteries of God that are unfolding in silence and contemplation. We can only imagine how she described these events years later to the first Christians, perhaps to Luke the evangelist himself, so that they would be narrated for future Christians. As this new year is beginning we remember this moment of salvation history as a beginning of a new phase of Mary’s relationship with God. Inspired by her example let’s strive to begin this new year as a year of a deeper love for Christ; in that way it will truly become a happy new year.