January 1st, The Feast of Mary the Mother of God
In the modern period, a most foolish philosophical theory came to be accepted by many, and even by many Christians. Gottfried Leibniz, one of those modern philosophers who will continue to be thought of as great until the Final Judgment, is credited for having coined the phrase “the best of all possible worlds.” He argued that the world in which we now live is the best of all possible worlds, a world which could not be better than it now is.
Leibniz’s primary reason for postulating this theory – that this world in which we live is the best of all possible worlds – is to attempt to build a theodicy: The Good God is not responsible for the evil in the world because the world is as good as it could possibly be, not even God could have made it any better or any less evil.
Against Leibniz’s theory, St. Thomas tells us that God could have created the world better than he did – though, of course, any particular nature cannot be better than it is without becoming a different nature; yet God could have created species of higher perfection than he did in fact create. Hence, “God can make something else better than each thing made by him.” (ST I, q.25, a.6) In this manner, the universe could have been better than it is, if God had willed it to be so.
There are three creatures, however, which could not be greater – the humanity of Christ, the beatific vision, and the Blessed Virgin Mary. On today's feast of the Mother of God, we consider this Woman, she than whom no greater creature could have been created. The Blessed Virgin is herself that “best of all possible worlds.”
The Divine Motherhood
St. Thomas tells us, “The humanity of Christ, from the fact that it is united to the Godhead; and created happiness from the fact that it is the fruition of God; and the Blessed Virgin from the fact that she is the mother of God; have all a certain infinite dignity from the infinite good, which is God. And on this account there cannot be anything better than these; just as there cannot be anything better than God.” (ST I, q.25, a.6, ad 4)
The intimate union between this Mother and Child is something than which nothing greater can be thought or created – there is no greater participation in the work of salvation which could be given to the human race than to be true Mother of God.
A reflection on today’s Feast
The Church celebrates today the august prerogative of this divine Maternity which was conferred on a mere creature, and made her the co-operatrix with Jesus in the great work of man’s salvation. Today the children of the Roman Church, must pour forth all the love of our hearts for the Virgin Mother, and rejoice with her in the exceeding happiness she feels at having given birth to her and our Lord. She has the right to call him her Child; and he, God as he is, calls her in strictest truth his Mother.
Let us not be surprised, therefore, at the enthusiasm and profound respect wherewith the Church extols the Blessed Virgin and her prerogatives. Let us on the contrary be convinced that all the praise the Church can give her, and all the devotion she can ever bear towards her, are far below what is due to her as Mother of the Incarnate God. No mortal will ever be able to describe, or even comprehend, how great a glory accrues to her from this sublime dignity. For, as the glory of Mary comes from her being the Mother of God, one would have first to comprehend God himself in order to measure the greatness of her dignity.
The same sublime Mystery overpowers the mind from another point of view: what were the feelings of such a Mother towards such a Son? The Child she holds in her arms and presses to her heart is the Fruit of her virginal womb, and she loves him as her own; she loves him because she is his Mother, and a Mother loves her Child as herself, nay more than herself: but when she thinks upon the infinite majesty of him who has thus given himself to her to be the object of her love and her fond caresses, she trembles in her humility. These two deep-rooted feelings – of a creature that adores, and of a Mother that loves – are in Mary’s heart.
A Mother of God! It is the mystery whose fulfillment the world, without knowing it, was awaiting for four thousand years. It is the work which, in God’s eyes, was incomparably greater than that of the creation of a million new worlds, for such a creation would cost him nothing; he as but to speak, and all whatsoever he wills is made. But that a creature should become Mother of God, he has had not only to suspend the laws of nature by making a Virgin Mother, but also to put himself in a state of dependence upon the happy creature he chose for his Mother. He had to give her rights over himself, and contract the obligation of certain duties toward her. He had to make her his Mother, and himself her Son.
[This reflection is taken from that given by Dom Prosper Gueranger, in The Liturgical Year]
I have written before on why we call Mary Mother of God but not Mother of Divinity.