On New Year's Day was one of my favourite feasts of the Church calendar: that of Mary, mother of God. While the emphasis on Christmas Day is very much on God becoming man - the infinite also becoming finite, the feast of the Theotokos looks at another central aspect of the Christmas paradox.
Instead of descending to earth on a cloud or by means of some other superficial spectacle, God first sought the consent of a girl and then grew and developed inside her in the same way every human does. He joined humanity from the ground floor rather than waltzing in at the peak of its powers as a fully-grown adult. This also means that he has a mum whom he loved, respected, was concerned for and esteemed just like other children and adults relate to their mothers. He also felt her absolute love, care, commitment and devotion, just like children and adults receive from their mothers.
In an intellectual vision in 1949, Chiara Lubich received the following, particularly striking, insight about Mary’s relationship to God:
"As the blue of the sky contains sun and moon and stars, so Mary appeared to me, made by God so great as to contain God Himself in the Word."This image clearly expresses how great a love God has for Mary by making her contain Him as His mother (like the sky contains the sun), which in some sense shows God as being smaller than Mary. Yet, since it is God who made himself small, this self-humbling adds to his magnanimity and greatness and we see a God who is great, but whose greatness includes His making Himself small.
By having Mary be His mother, God leads us to humility by example, which is also what Jesus explicitly called us to: “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” (Matthew 19:30).