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The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

"When the eighth day came, they gave him the name Jesus"


In one sense we cram a lot of things together in today’s solemnity: whether we succeed or not is open to debate! Today is New Year’s Day, a time to pray for the year to come and hope for God’s blessing. It is the Octave Day of Christmas, when we continue to reflect on the meaning of the child in the manger. It is the day of Jesus’ circumcision, according to the Law of Moses, and the day on which he was given the name that the angel had announced to Mary. And the name of this day tells us that it is given to Mary, mother of Jesus, God-made-man – not in any other aspect of her life (such as the Annunciation, the Assumption or the Immaculate Conception), but celebrated simply as Mother of the Redeemer. Perhaps it is the person of Mary the Mother who can unite all these “themes”: she who trusted in God’s promises received blessings from the Lord; as mother she invites us to look over her shoulder with the shepherds and recognise her child, not just as a wonderful new life, but as the one who (in fulfilment of the Scriptures) is proclaimed as “Jesus” – a name which means “God saves.”


Notes for Readers


First Reading: Numbers 6:22-27

At first glance this has nothing to do with Mary, Mother of God, and the danger is that your listeners, if they are paying attention, may think the same thing! Your first responsibility as reader, therefore, is to be deliberate and confident: this reading is very short – please make sure it isn’t lost in the shuffling as people settle after the Opening Prayer! When everyone is ready, say very deliberately “A reading from the book of Numbers” and then pause. In a way you are about to proclaim a New Year’s Blessing on your congregation! For this reason, emphasise the word “bless…” in the first sentence. Normally we talk about the word “you” in the context of the second reading: today it applies to this. If you can look up to your congregation when saying “May the Lord bless you…” it will help them to hear what Moses is saying! Save some confidence for the last four words – “I will bless them”


Second Reading: Galatians 4:4-7

On one level, this is a very dense little reading: it is about the birth of Christ, the fulfilment of prophecy, Baptism and Confirmation, membership of the Church and salvation. Rather a lot in six lines! A way of understanding it is to ask this question: “What do we mean when we say that Mary is ‘Mother of God’?” This is Saint Paul’s answer to that question.  Since it is very dense, you have to take your time – it’s almost like ticking off points on a list. Don’t try and read each sentence as a sentence – that will just lose the listener. Keep it steady and simple. Remember that the key point in this reading is understanding how the birth of Christ relates to us.