Today we complete the octave of Christmas. So, it is certainly true that we are continuing to celebrate the incarnation, the birth of the Son of God. When Jesus becomes human he takes on every aspect of our existence. Today we even hear that he was circumcised and named on the 8th day.
On this 8th day of the Octave of Christmas, we also remember and venerate Mary, the Mother of God. As we do so, the Church gives us the story of the shepherds, who are certainly images for us. We hear that they went in search of Jesus. But, I find it quite interesting how the writer of the gospel puts it, Matthew says: they searched for Jesus, and they found Mary and Joseph… and the Child Jesus. I think this paints a beautiful picture of Marian devotion for us. We should all be searching for Jesus. If we find Mary, we will find Jesus. Devotion to the Mother of God is not something secondary or optional. Christ the Lord gave Mary to us as our Mother, she, in turn, always leads us to her Son. Authentic Marian devotion, then, has to be a part of our lives.
As I said, though, this devotion should be authentic. There can certainly be abuses and excesses in Marian devotion. How do we keep our devotion authentic? Let me give you 4 principles which come from Paul VI's exhortation Marialis Cultus. Authentic Marian devotion should be Christological, Scriptural, Liturgical (or ecclesial), and Sensitive.
First, Marian devotion should be Christological. Our relationship with Mary should always lead us closer to Christ. One sign of troublesome Marian devotion is devotion that never mentions Jesus. It is certainly true that Mary is our advocate and guide. It is certainly true that Mary is our Mother and that she watches over us. But, Mary is our mother because she is the Mother of Christ. She is our advocate, because she is in communion with her Divine Son. Our devotion and prayers to Mary should always refer to Christ. The great Iconographers get this correct when the depict Mary and Jesus, Mary is always pointing to Christ.
Second, our devotion should be Scriptural. In the stories of the Bible we find a wealth of matter for our contemplation. A great way to grow closer to Christ with the help of Mary is to contemplate her stories. Put yourself there when she said yes to the Angel. Ask her what it was like to hold the infant Christ in her arms. The Church has recognized many apparitions of our Lady through the years, Fatima, Guadalupe, etc. But, these apparitions of Mary should never take the place of the Gospels. If you want to find Jesus by having a relationship with Christ, read and contemplate the gospels with Mary.
Third, devotion to our Lady should be Liturgical and ecclesial. By this I mean that you will find many varying ideas about Mary. Be careful! We should be careful if we are always looking for secret and private revelations or apparitions of Mary. Some of these are no doubt authentic. But, the only way to guarantee authentic devotion is to stick to those things approved by the Church. This is why it is so important to celebrate the Marian feast days with so much vigor. Today is a solemnity of the Mother of God, which is why we have gathered here to worship God, which is certainly authentic devotion.
Lastly, our Marian devotion should be sensitive. On the one hand this means that we should not purposely drive away non-Catholics by our devotion to Mary. However, on the other hand, what an amazing gift we can give to a non-Catholic Christian! Try to find sensitive ways to share with others your devotion to the Mother of God.
By authentic devotion to the Mother of God we, like the shepherds, find the person of Jesus. Mary wants nothing more than to show us her son. In a special way, as we celebrate this Mass, we ask Mary to help our faith, to help us grow closer to her son who is Christ and Emmanuel: Hail Mary…