Pope Benedict Reflects...

At the first general audience of 2008, held on 2nd January in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 7,000 people, Pope Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis to the Virgin Mary's title of Mother of God, the solemnity of which falls on this day.

The Holy Father recalled that Theotokos or 'Mother of God' was 'the title officially attributed to Mary in the fifth century, at the Council of Ephesus of 431.' On that occasion, solemn confirmation was given, 'on the one hand, to the unity of the two natures (the divine and the human) in the person of the Son of God and, on the other, to the legitimacy of attributing to the Virgin the title of Theotokos against those who, 'in an attempt to safeguard the full humanity of Jesus,' suggested she be called Christotokos or 'Mother of Christ,' the which represented 'a threat to the doctrine of the full unity of divinity and humanity in Christ.'

Following the Council of Ephesus, 'Marian devotion underwent an enormous expansion, and many churches dedicated to the Mother of God were built. Outstanding among them was St Mary Major here in Rome.

'The doctrine concerning Mary, Mother of God, was again confirmed at the Council of Chalcedon in 451,' the Holy Father added, 'and Vatican Council II included it in the eighth chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium.'

'All the other titles attributed to the Virgin Mary have their foundation in her vocation as Mother of the Redeemer,' he said: the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, and Mother of the Mystical Body of Christ which is the Church. 'It was right, then, that on 21 November 1964, during Vatican Council II, Paul VI solemnly attributed to Mary the title of 'Mother of the Church.'

Benedict XVI continued: 'Precisely because she is the Mother of the Church, the Virgin is also mother to each of us, who are members of the Mystical Body of Christ. ... At the culminating moment of His messianic mission, Jesus left each of His disciples, as a precious legacy, His own mother the Virgin Mary.'

'In these first days of the year, we are invited to give attentive consideration to the importance of Mary's presence in the life of the Church and in our own lives. Let us entrust ourselves to Her that she may guide our steps in this new period of time the Lord has given us to live, and help us to be true friends of her Son and courageous architects of His Kingdom in the world, a Kingdom of light and truth.'