Last year the attendance for the Mass for the Solemnity of the Mother of God was poor so the parish pastor decided to have just one Mass today. Happily the church was packed. Our splendid choir sang, there were seventeen perfectly drilled young male servers. Fr Michael Cassabon–our newly ordained priest was home from Rome for the holidays. He was our principal celebrant with Fr. Newman, Fr Bart (resplendent in blue Maronite vestments) and myself concelebrating. We were also joined in the congregation by Sister Marie Bernadette– the latest of our Nashville Domincan sisters–the fourth come to work in our parish school.
Fr Michael preached a splendid sermon about the origin of the term ‘Mother of God’, named and knocked Nestorianism and pointed out the practical effects of heresy–calling for us to integrate the physical and spiritual in our own lives. It is certainly true that Christological heresy which separates the divine and human natures produces a type of Christian who is religiously pious people and otherworldly, but don’t make any real connections with their spiritual lives and the nitty gritty of the ordinary world.
What also impresses me about the feast of the Mother of God is how necessary it is to continue to be aware of Christological heresies and how they continue to crop up. It is commonplace here in the American south, when discussing the Virgin Mary with Protestants to discover that they actually hold to Nestorianism (even though they do not understand it as such) By the swimming pool one day last summer I was talking to a very nice Presbyterian lady, and when she began asking about our beliefs concerning the Virgin Mary I said, “When you consider what really happened–that God took flesh from the Blessed Virgin–that he had her physical make up–you can see how important she really was.”
The good lady was shocked, “But that is not how it happened!” said she. “Mary was simply the channel through which God came into the world.” In other words, the divine nature and the human nature were not really unified in our Lord. The interesting thing is, this Christological heresy is invariably linked with a Eucharistic heresy. Such people do not believe in the true unity of the divine and human nature in Jesus Christ–neither do they believe in the transformation of the bread and wine into the body, blood soul and divinity of our Lord.
Alas, I am on a theological ramble. What is most glorious about today’s feast is that all the theology was gathered up into a wonderful celebration of the Mass where all the truth of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is gathered up into one great sacrifice of praise.