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Mary Most Holy, Mother of God, Theotokos

Solemnity - New Year's Day, 1st January
The title 'Theotokos' (Mother of God) was officially attributed to Mary at the Council of Ephesus in 431. In 1967 St Paul VI declared that this day would also be the World Day of Peace.

Pope Francis' words on this feast day in: 2019, 2018, 2017, Jubilee of Mercy 2016, 2015 & 2014
Papa Benedict XVI's words at the New Year in: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 & 2006
St John Paul II's words at the New Year in: 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, Jubilee 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1993, 1992, 1991, 1990, 1989, 1988, 1987, 1986, 1985, 1984, 1983, 1982, 1981, 1980 & 1979

3 2us by Monsignor Leo Maasburg       

"The World Day of Peace is about God who works together with us to change the state of the fallen world into the state of the redeemed world of paradise. Mother Teresa in her 80s was asked by a journalist "What have you changed in the world?" She answered "I never wanted to change the world. I only wanted to be a drop of fresh water in which God's love could be reflected into the world." .. I hope that we will be the same - to be little drops of clean water through which the love of God can, unhindered, be let through into the world. And that love of God is done by faith, by prayer, by fasting and by almsgiving. In this way our love for God and for our brothers and sisters will grow, and through that the light of God will start shining into the world."

Mary's Divine Motherhood      
Catechesis by Pope Benedict XVI
General Audience, Wednesday 2 January 2008 - in Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear brothers and sisters,
A very ancient formula of blessing, reported in the Book of Numbers, recites: "May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord make his face shine upon you and be favourable to you. May the Lord turn his face towards you and grant you peace" (Nm 6, 24-26). It is with these words that the liturgy gave us to hear again yesterday, the first day of the year, that I would like to warmly greet you all, here present, and those who during these festive Christmas days have sent me attestations of affectionate spiritual closeness.

Yesterday we celebrated the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. "Mother of God", Theotokos, is the title officially attributed to Mary in the fifth century, more exactly at the Council of Ephesus in 431, but which had already been affirmed in the devotion of the Christian people from the third century, in the context of that period's heated discussions about the person of Christ. With this title, it was underlined that Christ is God and that He is really born, as a man, of Mary: thus was his unity as true God and true man preserved. In truth, although the debate seemed to relate to Mary, it essentially concerned the Son. Wanting to safeguard the full humanity of Jesus, certain Fathers suggested a more attenuated term: instead of the title of Theotokos, they proposed that of Christotokos, "Mother of Christ"; rightly however this was seen as a threat to the doctrine of the full unity of the divinity with the humanity of Christ. Thus, after long discussion, as I have said, at the Council of Ephesus in 431 it was solemnly confirmed, on the one hand, the unity of the two natures, the divine and the human, in the Person of the Son of God (cf DS, 250) and, on the other (hand), the legitimacy of the attribution to the Virgin of the title Theotokos, Mother of God (ibid, 251).

After this Council a true explosion of Marian devotion was recorded and numerous churches dedicated to the Mother of God were built. Among these the Basilica of St Mary Major here in Rome stands out. The doctrine concerning Mary, Mother of God, found further confirmation at the Council of Chalcedon (451), during which Christ was declared "true God and true man ... born for us and for our salvation of Mary, Virgin and Mother of God, in his humanity" (DS, 301). As is known, the Second Vatican Council collected together, in the eighth chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, the doctrine on Mary, reaffirming her divine motherhood. The chapter is entitled "The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the mystery of Christ and of the Church".

The qualification of Mother of God, so profoundly linked to the feasts of Christmas, is therefore the fundamental title with which the community of believers honours, we could say since always, the Holy Virgin. It expresses well the mission of Mary in the history of salvation. All the other titles attributed to Our Lady find their foundation in her vocation to be the Mother of the Redeemer, the human creature elected by God to realise the plan of salvation, centered on the great mystery of the incarnation of the divine Verb. In these festive days we have stopped to contemplate in the crib the representation of the Nativity. At the centre of this scene we find the Virgin Mother who offers the Baby Jesus to the contemplation of all those who come to adore the Saviour: the shepherds, the poor people of Bethlehem, the Magi come from the East. Later, on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which we celebrate on 2nd February, it will be the elderly Simeon and the prophetess Anna who will receive the little Child from the hands of his Mother and adore him. The devotion of the Christian people has always considered the birth of Jesus and the divine motherhood of Mary as two aspects of the same mystery of the incarnation of the divine Verb and so has never considered the Nativity as a thing of the past. We are "contemporaries" of the shepherds, of the Magi, of Simeon and Anna, and as we go with them we are full of joy, because God wanted to be the God with us and He has a mother, who is our mother.

From the title "Mother of God" derive then all the other titles with which the Church honours Our Lady, but this is the fundamental one. Let us think of the privilege of the Immaculate Conception, that is to say that she was exempt from sin from her conception: Mary was preserved from every stain of sin because she was to be the Mother of the Redeemer. The same applies to the title the Assumption: she who had brought forth the Saviour could not be subject to the corruption deriving from original sin. And we know that all these privileges were not granted so as to distance Mary from us but, on the contrary, to render her close; indeed, by being totally with God, this Woman is very close to us and helps us as mother and as sister. The unique and unrepeatable place that Mary has in the community of believers also derives from this her fundamental vocation of being the Mother of the Redeemer. Precisely as such, Mary is also the Mother of the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church. Rightly, therefore, during the Second Vatican Council, on 21 November 1964, Paul VI solemnly attributed to Mary the title "Mother of the Church".

Precisely because she is Mother of the Church, the Virgin is also the Mother of each of us, who are members of the mystical Body of Christ. From the Cross Jesus entrusted his Mother to each of his disciples and, at the same time, entrusted each of his disciples to the love of his Mother. The Evangelist John concludes his brief and evocative account with the words: "And from that moment on, the disciple took her into his home" (Jn 19, 27). This is the translation of the Greek text "εiς tά íδια" ("èis tà ìdia"), he welcomed her into his own reality, into his own being. Thus she became part of his life and the two lives penetrated each other; and this acceptance of her (εiς tά íδια) into his own life is the testament of the Lord. At the supreme moment of the accomplishment of his messianic mission, Jesus thus leaves his own Mother, the Virgin Mary as precious inheritance to each of his disciples.

Dear brothers and sisters, in these first days of the year, we are invited to consider attentively the importance of Mary's presence in the life of the Church and in our personal existence. Let us entrust ourselves to her so that she may guide our steps in this new period of time that the Lord gives us to live, and so that she may help us to be authentic friends of her Son and thus also courageous artisans of his Kingdom in the world, a Kingdom of light and of truth. Happy New Year to you all! This is the wish that I desire to address to you present here and to your loved ones at this first general audience of 2008. May the new year, begun under the sign of the Virgin Mary, make us feel her maternal presence
more vividly so that, sustained and comforted by the Virgin's protection, we may with renewed eyes contemplate the face of her Son Jesus and walk with greater eagerness along the ways of good.

Once again, Happy New Year to you all."


"Je salue tous les pèlerins francophones. Que Marie nous fasse ressentir plus vivement sa présence maternelle; ainsi soutenus et réconfortés par elle, nous pourrons contempler avec un regard neuf le visage de son Fils Jésus et cheminer avec plus d’empressement dans la voie du bien. Bonne Année à tous!

I greet the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from Ireland and the United States. I especially greet the various pilgrimages of priests and seminarians, and the many student groups in our midst. I also thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. May the New Year bring God’s richest blessings to you and your families!

Ein herzliches Willkommen zu dieser ersten Generalaudienz im neuen Jahr sage ich allen deutschsprachigen Pilgern und Besuchern. Besonders grüße ich natürlich die Alumnen und die Leitung des Priesterseminars St. Wolfgang in Regensburg und den Mainzer Domchor. Herzlichen Dank für den Gesang, wir hören uns ja dann nochmal an Dreikönig. Die Liturgie der Kirche eröffnet das Kalenderjahr mit dem biblischen Segenswort, das uns allen gilt: "Der Herr segne dich und behüte dich. Der Herr lasse sein Angesicht über dich leuchten und sei dir gnädig. Der Herr wende sein Angesicht dir zu und schenke dir Heil" (Num 6, 24-26). Allen ein gesegnetes neues Jahr!

Saludo a los peregrinos venidos España y Latinoamérica. Confiémonos a la Virgen María, para que nos conduzca a su Hijo Jesucristo y nos haga valientes constructores de su Reino en este mundo. ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

Witam obecnych tu Polaków. Na początku roku do każdego i każdej z was kieruję biblijne życzenie: „Niech cię Pan błogosławi i strzeże. Niech Pan rozpromieni oblicze swe nad tobą, niech cię obdarzy swą łaską. Niech zwróci ku tobie oblicze swoje i niech cię obdarzy pokojem”. Zanieście to pozdrowienie Waszym najbliższym. Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus!

* * *

A tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana presenti a questa prima Udienza Generale del 2008 porgo un affettuoso augurio di serenità e di bene per il nuovo anno.

Uno speciale saluto rivolgo alla Comunità dei Legionari di Cristo, che provengono da diversi Paesi, in particolare ai sacerdoti novelli e ai rappresentanti di "Regnum Christi". Carissimi, il mistero dell'Incarnazione che celebriamo in questo tempo liturgico vi illumini nel cammino della fedeltà a Cristo. Sull'esempio di Maria, sappiate custodire, meditare e seguire il Verbo che a Betlemme si è fatto carne, e diffondere con entusiasmo il suo messaggio di salvezza.

Saluto, infine, i giovani, i malati e gli sposi novelli. A voi, cari giovani, auguro di saper considerare ogni giorno come un dono di Dio, da accogliere con riconoscenza e da vivere con rettitudine. A voi, cari malati, il nuovo anno porti consolazione nel corpo e nello spirito. E voi, cari sposi novelli, ponetevi alla scuola della Santa Famiglia di Nazareth, per imparare a realizzare un'autentica comunione di vita e d'amore."

Catechesis by Pope St John Paul II on Motherhood
General Audience, Wednesday 10 January 1979 - in English, French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. The Christmas period has drawn to an end. The feast of the Epiphany has passed too. But the meditations of our Wednesday meetings will still refer to the fundamental content of the truths which the Christmas period puts before our eyes every year. They appear in a particular depth. It takes time to look at them with the open eyes of the spirit, which has the right and the need to meditate on the truth, to contemplate its whole simplicity and depth.

During the octave of Christmas, the Church turns the eyes of our spirit towards the mystery of Motherhood. The last day of the octave, which is also the first day of the new year, is the feast of the Motherhood of the Mother of God. In this way stress is laid on "the place of the Mother, the maternal "dimension" in the whole mystery of the birth of God.

2. This Mother bears the name of Mary. The Church venerates her in a special way. The cult it renders to her (cult of hyperdulia) surpasses the cult of all other saints. It venerates her precisely in this way because she was the Mother; because she was elected to be the Mother of the Son of God; because she gave that Son, who is the Eternal Word, his "body" in time, she gave him "humanity" at a moment of history. The Church inserts this particular veneration of the Mother of God in the whole cycle of the liturgical year, during which the moment of the human conception of the Son of God is stressed, discreetly but also very solemnly, by means of the feast of the Annunciation, celebrated on 25 March nine months before Christmas. It can be said that during this whole period, from 25 March to 25 December, the Church walks with Mary who, like every mother, waits for the moment of the birth: Christmas Day. And at the same time during this period Mary "walks" with the Church.

Her maternal waiting is inscribed discreetly in the life of the Church every year. All that happened between Nazareth, Ain Karin, and Bethlehem, is the subject of the liturgy of the life of the Church, of prayer — especially the prayer of the rosary and of contemplation. A particular feast dedicated to the "Virgo Paritura", the feast of "the Virgin's maternal waiting" which used to be celebrated on 18 December, has now disappeared from the liturgical year.

3. Inserting in this way the Mystery of "the Virgin's maternal waiting" in the rhythm of its liturgy, the Church — against the background of the Mystery of those months which unite the moment of birth with the moment of conception — meditates on the whole spiritual dimension of the motherhood of the Mother of God.

This "spiritual" (quoad spiritum) motherhood began at the same time as the physical (quoad corpus) motherhood. At the moment of the annunciation, Mary had the following conversation with the announcing angel: "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" (Lk 1, 34); answer: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God" (Lk 1, 35). Her spiritual motherhood (quoad spiritum) started at the same time as her physical motherhood (quoad corpus). Thus this motherhood filled the nine months of waiting for the moment of the birth, like the thirty years spent between Bethlehem, Egypt and Nazareth, as well as the later years during which Jesus, after leaving his home in Nazareth, taught the Gospel of the Kingdom, the years that ended with the events of Calvary and the Cross. There the "spiritual" motherhood reached its key-moment, in a certain sense. "When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" (Jn 19, 26).

Thus he bound her, his own Mother, in a new way, to man: to man, to whom he transmitted the Gospel. He bound her to every man. He bound her to the Church on the day of its historic birth, the day of Pentecost. From that day the whole Church has her as Mother. And all men have her as Mother. They understand the words spoken from the Cross as addressed to each of them. The Mother of all men. Spiritual motherhood knows no limits. It extends in time and in space. It reaches so many human hearts. It reaches whole nations. Motherhood is a favourite subject, and perhaps the most frequent one, of the creativity of the human spirit. It is an element which constitutes the inner life of so many men. It is the keystone of human culture. Motherhood: a great, splendid, fundamental human reality, from the beginning called with its own name by the Creator. Accepted again in the Mystery of the Birth of God in time. Contained in it, in this Mystery. Inseparably united with it.

4. In the first days of my ministry in the Roman See of St Peter, I had the pleasure of meeting a man who has become particularly close to me from that first meeting. Allow me not to pronounce here the name of this person whose authority in the life of the Italian nation is so great, and to whose words I too listened on the last day of the year with attention united with gratitude. They were simple, deep and full of concern for the good of man, of the country, of the whole of mankind, and of youth in particular. My distinguished interlocutor will forgive me if, though not saying his name, I take the liberty of referring in some way to the words that I heard from him during that first meeting. These words concerned mothers: his mother. After so many years of life, experience, political and social struggles, he remembered his mother as the one to whom he owed, together with life, everything that constitutes the beginning and structure of the history of his spirit. I listened to these words with sincere emotion. I stored them in my memory and I will never forget them. They were for me a kind of announcement and at the same time a kind of appeal.

I am not speaking here of my mother, because I lost her too early; but I know that I owe her the same things as my distinguished interlocutor expressed so simply. For this reason I take the liberty of referring to what I heard from him.

5. And I am speaking of this today so as to carry out what I announced a week ago. Then I said that we must be close to every expectant mother; that we must surround with particular assistance motherhood and the great event connected with it, conception and the birth of man, which is always at the basis of human education. Education rests on trust in the woman who gave life. This confidence can never be exposed to danger. At Christmas time the Church puts before the eyes of our spirit the Motherhood of Mary, and it does so on the first day of the new year. It does so also to highlight the dignity of every mother, to define and recall the significance of motherhood, not only in the life of every man, but also in the whole of human culture. Motherhood is woman's vocation. It is an eternal vocation, and it is also a contemporary vocation. "The Mother who understands everything and embraces each of us with her heart": these are words of a song, sung by young people in Poland, which come into my mind at this moment. The song goes on to announce that today the world is particularly "hungry and thirsty" for that motherhood, which is woman's vocation "physically" and "spiritually", as it is Mary's.

Everything must be done in order that the dignity of this splendid vocation may not be broken in the inner life of the new generations; in order that the authority of the woman-mother may not be diminished in the family, social and public life, and in the whole of our civilization; in all our contemporary legislations, in the organization of work, in publications, in the culture of everyday life, in education and in study: in every field of life.

This is a fundamental criterion.

We must do everything in order that woman may merit love and veneration. We must do everything in order that children, the family and society may see in her that dignity that Christ saw.

Mater genetrix, spes nostra!"

A vari gruppi

"Rivolgo un cordiale saluto ai dirigenti degli enti aggregati alla “Riunione delle Opere per l’aiuto alle Chiese Orientali”, convenuti a Roma in questi giorni per organizzare e dare sempre più pratica attuazione ai piani d’intervento e di assistenza a favore delle comunità cristiane dipendenti dalla Sacra Congregazione per le Chiese Orientali. Il Papa, carissimi, sa con quale sensibilità e generosa dedizione adempite questo incarico missionario, rispettosi e garanti al tempo stesso del principio di priorità che ha l’annuncio e la diffusione del messaggio evangelico, in modo che la vostra azione, silenziosa e benefica, mentre rende omaggio a quella del missionario, ne facilita lo sviluppo e la rende strumento di promozione umana e cristiana. Accompagno con sentimenti di viva riconoscenza e con voti di serena prosperità la Benedizione Apostolica, che estendo a quanti con voi hanno merito nello svolgimento di tale nobile compito.

Un saluto speciale ai fedeli della Parrocchia romana di Santa Maria Ausiliatrice in via Tuscolana, come pure alle Volontarie del Movimento dei Focolari, riunite a Roma per il loro annuale congresso sul tema: “La presenza di Gesù nel fratello”.

A questi due gruppi particolarmente numerosi, come pure a tutti i vari gruppi che partecipano a questo incontro, esprimo di cuore il mio grazie per la visita, il mio incoraggiamento nel loro impegno di vita cristiana e i miei voti di ogni bene per l’anno da poco iniziato."

Agli ammalati

"Ma desidero riservare una speciale parola, anche se brevissima, agli infermi e a coloro che sono in ansia per le precarie condizioni di salute. Nel ringraziarvi della vostra visita, carissime sorelle e fratelli, vi esorto a guardare nella vostra sofferenza, con rinnovata fede e amore, il Crocifisso. Vi accompagni il mio augurio di ogni conforto avvalorato dalla Benedizione Apostolica, che estendo a tutti i vostri cari."

Agli sposi novelli

"Infine, non posso dimenticare gli sposi novelli, ai quali rivolgo di cuore il mio benvenuto. La liturgia che segue il tempo natalizio presenta alla nostra riflessione la vita nascosta a Nazaret dalla Santa Famiglia e, in particolar modo, la Madonna che medita in cuor suo le parole riguardanti Gesù (cf. Lc 2,19.51). Ecco, carissimi figli, il segreto per progredire nella vostra unione e nel vostro vicendevole affetto. Riandare sempre col pensiero alla grazia del sacramento, da voi stessi celebrato, che ha fatto presente Gesù nelle vostre anime con i suoi insegnamenti, e cioè con le sue parole di vita eterna. Meditando quelle parole, troverete incoraggiamento e sostegno per la vostra vita.Di cuore vi benedico."

At the close of the General Audience in the Paul VI Hall, John Paul II remembered the great architect, Pier Luigi Nervi.

"Yesterday the architect Pier Luigi Nervi died in Rome at the age of 87. It was he who planned and brought to realization this Audience Hall whose architectural lines reveal an elegance and daring, a harmony and functionality. As you know, his constructions in reinforced concrete—in which the most advanced technique is transformed into expressions of true art—have made him known throughout the whole world.

In remembering with gratitude this outstanding artist, who has contributed in a masterly fashion to the planning of dwelling places ever more worthy of man, we offer a special prayer of suffrage that God may welcome his soul into the eternal habitation of heaven."