Dedication of St. Mary Major (ii)

Friends in the Lord, Jesus Christ has two natures: Divine nature and human nature – he is Truly God, and truly Man – yet he is one Divine Person. In this, Jesus unites heaven and earth, he joins our human life to God’s life, he is the perfect ‘ladder’ to heaven. But in the 4th century, an error in the understanding of Christ was taught, primarily by a man named Nestorius: He would say that Mary is the Mother of the human nature of Christ only, as if Jesus were two persons in one, a Divine Person and a Human Person. But this idea is totally against the teaching that Our Lord is One Divine Person, who unites in himself divinity and humanity. Jesus is One, Divine Person, with two natures.
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To address the heresy, the Church called the great Council of Ephesus in 431, and said, ‘Jesus is One Person in two natures. He is not a split personality. And to illustrate this perfectly, the Council taught that Mary is the Mother of God. Mary cannot give birth to a ‘nature,’ no. It is true, that Christ existed from all eternity according to his Divinity; but the Child born to Mary is a Person and so we say that Mary is the Mother of God, and this shows the unity of the Person of Jesus Christ.
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In honor of this great teaching, Pope Sixtus had built in Rome the church which is today called St. Mary Major. Today’s liturgy recalls the dedication of St. Mary Major, and this basilica is considered to be the most important church of Our Lady in the West.
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If you go to Rome, after St. Peter’s, this is the Church that must be visited. As Ms. June Hager explains, ‘In the course of 16 centuries all the arts have joined together to glorify this basilica as the house of the Virgin Mary on earth. It is a jewel box of treasures of every age. Classical marble columns divide the nave and side aisles. Byzantine mosaics glitter with gold in the apse, while colored mosaics from an earlier period wind their way high above the architrave. It all underlines one constant theme— the pre-eminence of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.’
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At the end of the 4th century a replica of the Bethlehem nativity was placed there; for this reason the Church is also called “St. Mary of the Crib.” To those who live in Rome, this church really IS Bethlehem, and the first Papal Mass of Christmas is always offered there.
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Because Christ has united perfectly in himself humanity and Divinity, into one Person, we too become the spiritual offspring of Mary; and so she is the Mother of God and also the Mother of us!

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