In these times of difficulties – from the disastrous direction this country is taking, to disastrous circumstances in one’s personal life, to the small irritants in everyday life – it is good to recall instruction of St. Jean-Marie Vianney in yesterday’s Office of Readings:
“This is the glorious duty of man: to pray and to love. If you pray and love, that is where a man’s happiness lies. … My little children, your hearts are small, but prayer stretches them and makes them capable of loving God.”
Mary, who exemplifies par excellence a loving, faithful response to God is the subject of today’s Office of Readings for the Dedication of St. Mary Major, built after the Council of Ephesus, the first church in the West dedicated to Mary.
In today’s EWTN Mass, Fr. Mitch related the rise of the controversy about Jesus’ human and divine nature and the Arian heresy that arose. In the Council of Ephesus in 431, from the defense of Jesus’ human nature came the doctrine of Mary, Mother of God – Theotokos (God-bearer) in the East. The technical term is hypostatic union (union of both human and divine nature) and Fr. Mitch reminded the congregation that a mother is a mother of a person, not of a nature.
Fr. Mitch said that the people of Ephesus spontaneously formed a joyous torchlit procession on the news of the doctrine, devotion to Mary being very prevalent in the early centuries. Today’s Office of Readings is taken “from a homily delivered at the Council of Ephesus by Saint Cyril of Alexandria, bishop:”
“I see here a joyful company of Christian men met together in ready response to the call of mary, the holy and ever-virgin Mother of God. … Mary, Mother of God, we salute you. … Because of you the lifht of the only-begotten Son of God has shone upon those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death…”
Fr. Mitch said there were many churches in the East dedicated to Mary, but none in Rome. That changed after the Council of Ephesus. Pope Sixtus III had a basilica built dedicated to Mary, the church of St. Mary Major. As always, the dedication of a church building is meant to honor the person for whom the church is named, in this case, the doctrine of Theotokos, God-bearer, Mary, Mother of God and that Jesus is true God and true man (Catechism 464 to 469).