Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Dedication of Saint Mary Major

This feast commemorates the oldest Church in the West dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The basilica was erected after the Council of Ephesus (in 431) proclaimed Mary as Mother of God (Theotokos) – God bearer - in response to the heresy of Nestorius. He claimed that Mary is the Mother of Christ (Christotokos) but not the Mother of God (Theotokos). He basically was denying the reality of the Incarnation by making Jesus two different persons. By declaring Mary the Mother of God, the council of Ephesus affirmed the ancient belief of the Church that Jesus Christ is one Person who is both God and man, divine and human. Therefore, Mary could be called the Mother of God --- Theotokos. Soon after this dogma was established, the Basilica was erected in Rome – it became so called “a crib of Rome” --- the first mass for Christmas has been celebrated there.
Today’s feast is also known as Our Lady of the Snows which derives from the ancient legend. The legend goes that one of the wealthy Roman couple, having no children, wanted to donate for some good cause. In their prayer, they asked Mary for inspiration what they should do with the money. Mary answered their petition and confirmed her reply by means of the following miracle. On the fifth of August — a time when it is unbearably hot in the city of Rome — a portion of the Esquiline would be covered with snow during the night. When the got there on August 5, surely enough, the hill was covered with snow. This is where the basilica was built.

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