From the early days of Christianity, the church has given very special honour to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and the greatest of all the saints. Believers have always felt a very close relationship with her, as their spiritual mother. This has led to many feast-days to venerate her. Four of these are particularly important celebrations and are called solemnities. We begin the New Year by celebrating the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God on the 1st of January. This is to acknowledge Mary as truly the mother of God, because she is the mother of Jesus who is God.
This is followed by the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord on 25 March, to commemorate the visit to Mary of the Archangel Gabriel, to announce God’s choice of her to be the mother of his Son. Mary enters fully into this divine plan as she responds to the Archangel with the words, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word”. Then she is told that through the power of the Holy Spirit she is to bear a son who will be called “Son of the Most High” – God as well as man (Luke 1:26-38).
The church celebrates both the beginning and the end of Mary’s life. She teaches that Mary came into this world completely free of original sin, which has been passed on to the rest of humanity, causing a certain darkening of the understanding, a weakening of the will and an inclination to evil. We celebrate this unique privilege on 8 December as the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
She not only came into this world but also departed from it, in a totally unique manner. At the end of her earthly life she was taken body and soul into heaven to join her Son. On 15 August, we celebrate this final phase of Mary’s earthly life as the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven, where she is Queen of all the Angels and Saints.