One of the many feasts and devotions soft-pedaled or dropped altogether from the Liturgical Calendar by the post-Vatican II Church, in its zeal to make Catholics act less Catholic, was the feast we “Trads” still celebrate today, that of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is one of the newer of the Marian feast days, having been established in 1931 by Pope Pius XI to commemorate the 1500th (yes, fifteen hundredth) anniversary of the Council of Ephesus, which infallibly proclaimed Mary the “Theotokos”, or “God-Bearer.” The following excerpt from the Acts of Pius XI is included in the readings for Matins on today’s date in the traditional Divine Office, under the 1960 Rubrics.
In the year 1931, amid the applause of the whole Catholic world, solemn rites were celebrated to mark the completion of the fifteen centuries which had elapsed since the Council of Ephesus, moving against the Nestorian heresy, had acclaimed the blessed Virgin Mary, of whom Jesus was born, as Mother of God. This acclamation had been made by the Fathers of the Church under the leadership of Pope Celestine. Pius XI, as Supreme Pontiff, wished to commemorate the notable event and to give lasting proof of his devotion to Mary. Now there had existed for many years in Rome a grand memorial to the proclamation of Ephesus, the triumphal arch in the basilica of Saint Mary Major on the Esquiline Hill. This monument had already been adorned by a previous pontiff, Sixtus III, with mosaics of marvelous workmanship, now falling to pieces from the decay of the passing ages. Pius XI, therefore, out of his own munificence, caused these to be restored most exquisitely and with them the transept of the basilica. In an Encyclical Letter Pius set forth also the true history of the Council of Ephesus, and expounded fervently and at great length the doctrine of the prerogatives of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother of God. He did this that the doctrine of this lofty mystery might sink more deeply into the hearts of the faithful. In it he set forth Mary, the Mother of God, blessed among women, and the most holy Family of Nazareth as the exemplars to be followed above all others, as models of the dignity and holiness of chaste wedlock, as patterns of the holy education to be given youth. Finally that no liturgical detail be lacking, he decreed that the feast of the Divine Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary be celebrated annually on the 11th day of October by the universal Church with a proper Mass and Office under the rite of a double of the second class.
A further reflection is presented as the final reading for Matins, from St. Bernard the Abbott:
O happy Mary, lowly and virgin; and wondrous virginity, which motherhood destroyed not, but exalted; and wondrous lowliness, which the fruitful virginity took not away, but ennobled; and wondrous motherhood, which was both virgin and lowly. Which of them is not wondrous? which of them is not unexampled? and which of them doth not stand alone? The wonder would be if thou wert not puzzled at which to wonder most? motherhood in a virgin, or virginity in a mother; a motherhood so exalted, or lowliness in such exaltation. But indeed more marvelous than any one of these things is the combination of them all, and without all comparison, it is more excellent and more blessed to have received them all, than to have received any one of them alone. What wonder is it that God, of whom we see and read, that He is wonderful in his holy places, should have shown himself wonderful in his Mother? O ye that be married, honor this incorruption in corruptible flesh; O holy maidens, gaze in wonder at motherhood in a maid; O, all mankind, take pattern by the lowliness of the Mother of God.
In this time of great sadness and crisis in the Church, let us turn ever more faithfully to our Blessed Mother to ask for her intercession with her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, for his blessings and protection from all evil and heresy.
Laudamus Te, Jesus Christus!