Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

December 28, 2007

The New Year: The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God


A few years ago a new specialty gift hit the marketplace around Christmastime. What looked like a clock actually didn’t keep time in the traditional way. Rather, what you were supposed to do was enter your age (in year, months, and days), your gender, and the area of the world where you lived. Turned on, the “clock” then programmed your life expectancy (for example, seventy-seven years, eight months, and two days) and began a systematic countdown to zero, the end of your life.

Would you like a product that told you that you have 32,587, 200 minutes left to live?

Really, our lives are not certain and can’t be calculated that way. Though we can and should plan for tomorrow, none of us is absolutely sure of what tomorrow will bring. We never really know what to expect.

Mary must have lived like that. She was a very young person when she gave birth to Jesus. The events of the preceding months must have seemed like a whirlwind to her: first an engagement, then a surprise pregnancy with the news that her child would be God’s Chosen One, then child-birth in a strange place miles away from her own village.

As the Scriptures tell us, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). New Year’s Day is a holy day dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God.

In the fifth century, Nestorius claimed that there were two persons in Christ—one divine, the other human. Along with this heresy, Nestorius said that Mary was mother of only the human person Jesus, not the mother of the divine person. The Council of Chalcedon clarified what the Church believed: Jesus is one person with two natures, human and divine. And Mary is truly the Mother of God.

What a dramatic turn life took for the young Jewish girl from Nazareth. In accepting what God wanted of her, Mary received the most esteemed title any human being could hope to attain: Mother of God.

As you begin this year, what surprises does God have in store for you? What surprises does God have in store for your students? And, if you or they are presented with challenges, will you accept them or wallow in fear at the thought of trying something new? Be open to possibilities as Mary was. Life rarely flows in a completely orderly fashion without some zigzagging along the way. Take time to reflect on the events in your life with all your heart. Do more than simply count down the days and minutes. Live your life for today as God intends.

Lesson Ideas
• Examine three occasions in Scripture where Mary reflected on the events taking place in her life and the life of her Son: Luke 2:19, 2:33, and 2:51. Lead a silent reflection where they students can meditate on the events of the day.
• Read highlights of the Pope’s message to the world given on January 1. such as this message from 2006.
• Investigate some other titles for Mary and their meanings: e.g., Queen of Heaven, New Eve, Virgin of Virgins, Mirror of Justice.

Discussion Questions
1. What is one devotion you or someone you know practices to honor Mary?
2. If someone could tell you the exact day and hour you will die, would you want to know? How would you live your life differently if you knew when you were going to die?
3. Life often zigzags away from the plans we have made for ourselves. Tell about a time that something unexpected happened to you and how you handled it.

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