Mary, Mother of God is celebrated on Jan. 1

Published: December 28, 2023

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The Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God is celebrated Jan. 1. "Called in the Gospels 'the mother of Jesus,' Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as 'the mother of my Lord," explains the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding this title for Mary.

"In fact, the one whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father's eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly 'Mother of God (Theotokos) '" (no. 495)

This feast day is normally a separate holy day of obligation to attend Mass, but it falls on a Monday this year so the precept to attend Mass is abrogated.

"Theotokos," comes from the Greek meaning, "God-bearer." This title was approved at the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. when the Church fathers formalized the teaching that the one born of Mary was indeed the Son of God. This was done to combat false teachings about Jesus at the time.

In the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, "Lumen Gentium," the title, "Mother of God" appears 13 times in Chapter VIII, which explains that, "the Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave life to the world, is acknowledged and honored as being truly the mother of God and mother of the redeemer. Redeemed by reason of the merits of her Son and united to him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the mother of the Son of God ... Because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth." (no. 53)

In her truly unique role in God's plan for salvation, "the Catholic Church, taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved mother." At the same time, however, "because she belongs to the offspring of Adam she is one with all those who are to be saved."  (no. 53)

In his 2016 homily on this feast day, Bishop Anthony B. Taylor reflects on Mary's motherhood as a model for all of us. "She listened to God with an open heart when Gabriel came to invite her to risk everything in order to do God's will and bring our Savior into the world and then all the other events of Jesus' nativity and childhood. Our text says 'Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.' It is for that reason that she is not only the mother of the Church, she is also the model for all believers."

To learn more about the Church's teachings on Mary, see the catechism, the Marian glossary from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops or visit the International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton, Ohio.