The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God
Dear brothers and sisters,
As today we commemorate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, we ought to remember that Our Lady was, mostly, a mother like any other. “At the beginning of a new year, we are invited, as it were, to attend her school, the school of the faithful disciple in the Lord, in order to learn from her to accept in faith and prayer the salvation God desires to pout out upon those who trust in his merciful love.”
As all mothers do, the Mother of God experienced great joy at the Birth of her Son. And, as all mothers do, she worried about his future. Mary knew, as every mother knows, that
Every child born into the world – every tiny, innocent, adorable little baby – however loved, however cared for, will grow up to face some kind of sorrow, and the inevitability of death. Of course no one wants to think about such things, especially when they look at a newborn baby; but pretending otherwise, not wanting to think otherwise, doesn’t make it any less true.
Mary must have contemplated her Son’s future, especially after hearing the words of Simeon, which we heard this past Sunday: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted” (Luke 2:35). What did Simeon mean?
During these days of Christmas, we do all that we can to keep everything joyful and cheery, especially in these days, and thinking about Mary’s sorrow, even with her joy, does not seem something we should be doing.
Our images of Christmas joy, both secular and sacred, are all childlike wonder and picture-perfect families gathered round the tree. And this is nice, of course, for those who have children or happy families, but for those who don’t – those who have lost children or parents or others dear to them, those who face loneliness or exclusion, those who want but don’t have children, family, or home – it can be intensely painful. Not everyone can choose not to think about grief at Christmas; many people will find it intrudes upon them, whether they wish it or not.
The medievals, who often approached the world with greater honesty than we do, recognized this, and even knew it to be true of the Virgin Mother of God.
We see this understanding in many medieval carols, in which, of course, we also find great mirth and gladness. The Franciscan friar, John of Grimestone, recorded many of these carols for us in the fourteenth century. One of these carols contains what are presented as deeply moving thoughts Mary sings in a lullaby to the Christ Child:
Lullay, lullay, little boy, king of all things!
When I think of thy sad state, I hardly wish to sing;
But I may lament for sorrow, if love be in my heart,
For such pains as thou shalt suffer were never none so sharp.
Lullay, lullay, little child, no wonder that thou cry;
Thy body will grow pale and white, and then it shall grow dry.
Here already Mary is contemplating the death of her Son for us upon the Cross; she knows that her Son was born that man no more may die. She has a deep sorrow for him in her heart because, as she says, she always has a deep love for him in her heart; love and sorrow often go together, even at Christmas.
Our Lady ends her mournful lullaby with this profound insight: “Lullay, lullay, little child, softly sleep and fast; / in sorrow endeth every love but thine, at the last.” Mary knows that while every other love will end, the love of her Holy Infant will endure; his love will never end. This is why she willingly her endured seven sorrows out of love for him and remained with him to the end (cf. Luke 2:35).
Years later, from his Cross, “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son’ (John 19:26)! That beloved disciple stood in for each of us, for we are all his beloved disciples if we remain near to him and to the Mother of God. What is more, in that moment, Jesus entrusted us to his mother. Mary, the Mother of God and our mother, will look after us, her children, with the same maternal love and care with which she looked after Jesus, if we remain near to her.
As we enter into this new solar year with both concern and hope, let us entrust ourselves anew to the maternal care of our Mother. May she show us the Face of her Son, teach us to listen to him, and ask her Son to bless us with his peace. Amen.
 Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 1 January 2006.
 Eleanor Parker, “‘Lullay, little child, rest thee a throwe,’” A Clerk of Oxford, 28 December 2014. Available at https://aclerkofoxford.blogspot.com/2014/12/lullay-little-child-rest-thee-throwe.html. Accessed 27 December 2020.