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Thoughts from the
Early Church
Solemnity of Mary,
the Holy Mother of God
January 1, 2021

Commentary by John Chrysostom
The shepherds found Mary and Joseph and the child.

May we all receive the benefit of having recourse to the holy Virgin and Mother of God. Those of you who are now virgins should be devoted to the mother of the Lord, because it is she who procures for you this fair and incorruptible possession.

Truly great is the wonder of the Virgin.

What can ever be found greater than all that exists? She alone has appeared wider than earth and heaven. Who is holier than she? She is unsurpassed by our ancestors, by the prophets, apostles, or martyrs, by the patriarchs or the Fathers, by the angels, thrones, dominions, seraphim or cherubim, or by any other created thing visible or invisible. She is a servant and the Mother of God, a virgin and a mother

And let no one be doubtful and ask how she can be a servant and the Mother of God, or how she can be a virgin and a mother. Accept with faith and do not doubt teachings that have been examined and approved by the Fathers.

Do you desire to know how far the Virgin surpasses the powers of heaven?
Instead, stand in awe and believe without question, or rather, without being inquisitive. If your beliefs correspond to your own ideas, perceive your danger. But if you believe the word that is preached, it is no longer you who must render an account but the bishop.

Believe what we say about the Virgin, then, and do not hesitate to confess her to be both servant and Mother of God, both virgin and mother. She is a servant as the creature of him who was born of her; she is the Mother of God inasmuch as of her God was born in human flesh. She is a virgin because she did not conceive from the seed of man; she is a mother because she gave birth and became the mother of him who before all eternity was begotten of the Father.

She is therefore the mother of the Lord of angels and our mother; from her the Son of God received the human body in which he consented to be crucified. Do you desire to know how far the Virgin surpasses the powers of heaven? Give me your attention then. They veil their faces as they hover in fear and trembling, but she offers the human race to God, and through her we receive the forgiveness of our sins. She bore him whom the angels glorified when they came with reverence to be present at his birth. Glory to God in the highest, they sang, and peace to his people on earth.

Rejoice then, mother and heaven, maiden and cloud, virgin and throne, the boast and foundation of our Church. Plead earnestly for us that through you we may obtain mercy on the Day of Judgment and attain the good things reserved for those who love God, through the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory, power, and honor now and for ever and for all eternity. Amen

Homily attributed to John Chrysostom:
Orientalia Christiana Periodica, 32, 1966

John Chrysostom (c. 347-407) was born at Antioch and studied under Diodore of Tarsus, the leader of the Antiochene school of theology. After a period of great austerity as a hermit, he returned to Antioch where he was ordained deacon in 381 and priest in 386.

From 386 to 397 it was his duty to preach in the principal church of the city, and his best homilies, which earned him the title “Chrysostomos” or “the golden-mouthed,” were preached at this time.

In 397 Chrysostom became patriarch of Constantinople, where his efforts to reform the court, clergy, and people led to his exile in 404 and finally to his death from the hardships imposed on him. Chrysostom stressed the divinity of Christ against the Arians and his full humanity against the Apollinarians, but he had no speculative bent.

He was above all a pastor of souls, and was one of the most attractive personalities of the early Church.

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Edith Barnecut, OSB, a consultant for the International Committee for English in the Liturgy, was responsible for the final version of many of the readings in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Journey with the Fathers
Commentaries on the Sunday Gospels
- Year B, pp. 22-23.
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