Pastoral Letter On the weekend of The 31st December 2022 and 1st January 2023, The Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,

‘Hail, Holy Mother who gave birth to the King, who rules heaven and earth forever.’

These words are the entry antiphon for today’s Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, and it is with this ancient greeting that the Church salutes Mary and the beginning of another year.

During the Christmas season we celebrate our belief that in her, the eternal Son of the Father took our very flesh. We are reminded of this in the second preface for Christmas: ‘For on the feast of this awe-filled mystery, though invisible in his own divine nature, he has appeared visibly in ours, and begotten before all time, he has begun to exist in time.”

Reflecting on this awe-filled mystery in a homily for today’s Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, St John Paul 11 opens up the mystery for us with these simple remarks:

If Jesus is life, Mary is the Mother of Life.
If Jesus is hope, Mary is the Mother of Hope
If Jesus is peace, Mary is the mother of Peace, Mother of the Prince of Peace.

At the threshold of another year, once again we hear much talk about New Year Resolutions. Perhaps you are thinking of making some yourself. More often than not our resolutions tend to centre around something practical like a new health regime after all the feasting at Christmas.

In contrast, the Church invites us to reflect on Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the hope that she might intercede for us and that we might learn anew from her how best to walk in the footsteps of her son. He is our full blessing because it is through him the Father has blessed our world and our history once and for all. Through him, the world has become the place where God dwells and our history, the history of salvation.

Today is the 56th World Day of Prayer for Peace. Each year this prayer intention is placed under the watchful and motherly gaze of Mary. Prayers for peace have rarely been more needed. This year has been overshadowed by the war in Ukraine and it still casts its shadow today. The media has brought the destruction, the human suffering, the mindless loss of life there, into our home for all to see. In his message for today, Pope Francis reflects on the war in Ukraine and its effects in these words:

“At the very moment when we dared to hope that the darkest hours of the Covid 19 pandemic were over, a terrible new disaster befell humanity. We witnessed the onslaught of another scourge: another war, to some extent like that of Covid 19, but driven by culpable human decisions. The war in Ukraine is reaping innocent victims and spreading insecurity, not only in those directly affected, but in a widespread and indiscriminate way for everyone……. Clearly this is not the post Covid era we had hope for or expected.”

However, what has happened in Ukraine and continues to happen there and around the world must not diminish our hopes that life can and will be different. This light and hope comes to us from the Christ child born in Bethlehem who brings with him the secret of true peace.

May the message of Christ, the Prince of Peace, be engraved on the hearts of all believers and unbelievers and be the inspiration and guide for all this coming year.

Mary, Holy Mother of God and Queen of Peace,
Pray for us.

+ Ralph Heskett CSsR
Bishop of Hallam