The Oldest Most Important Marian Feast in Christian Tradition
The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God "THE THEOTOKOS." (January 1)
Mary's divine motherhood was proclaimed at the Council of Ephesus in 431.
Various names are used to describe Mary's role as mother of Jesus. She is called "Mother of God" which translates the more accurately stated greek term "Theotokos" or "Birthgiver of God."

The Council of Ephesus (431) attributed to Mary the title, Mother of God. This needs to be read against the Council's declaration that in Christ there are two natures, one divine and one human, but only one person. Indeed, according to the Council the holy virgin is the Mother of God since she begot according to the flesh the Word of God made flesh. This decision was further explained by the Council of Chalcedon (451) which says with regard to Mary's divine motherhood:
"...begotten from the Father before the ages as regards his godhead, and in the last days, the same, because of us and because of our salvation begotten from the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, as regards his manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten..."
Mary's Divine Motherhood was not the object of an independent or exclusive dogmatic declaration. The statement is embedded in texts defining the person and natures of Jesus Christ. Thus, the dogma of Divine Motherhood becomes an integral part of the christological dogma. This does not diminish its definitive and binding character. The dogma of Divine Motherhood is generally accepted by all Christian denominations.
The Oldest Most Important Marian Feast in Christian Tradition
The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. (January 1)
This feast, closely connected to the feast of Christmas, is the most important and oldest of the major feasts of Mary. It is based on the source of her privileges: her motherhood. Jesus Christ, God's Son " born of a woman," (Galatians 4,4) came to deliver us from sin and make us children of God. He is also Mary's Son, and she, his mother, helps bring his blessings to the world. She is
"truly the Mother of God and of the Redeemer...not merely passively engaged by God, but freely cooperating in the work of our salvation through faith and obedience." (Lumen Gentium,53,56)
Mary was not simply a passive instrument in God's hands; rather she discovered and accepted new dimensions to her motherhood as her life unfolded. Scripture indicates signs of her new unfolding motherhood.
At the marriage feast in Cana in Galilee, where Jesus worked his first miracle, Mary is "the Mother of Jesus" who manifests
" a new kind of motherhood according to the spirit and not just according to the flesh, that is to say Mary's solicitude for human beings, her coming to them in the wide variety of their wants and needs. At Cana in Galilee there is shown only one concrete aspect of human need, apparently a small one and of little importance ("They have no wine"). But it has a symbolic value, this coming to the aid of human beings means, at the same time, bringing those needs within the radius of Christ's messianic mission and salvific power." (Pope John Paul 11, Redemptoris Mater 21)

Mary's care for humanity and its needs would not limited to her earthly life; it lasts "without interruption until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect. (Lumen Gentium, 62)
Whether in her own lifetime or from her place in heaven, Mary's solicitude for human beings looks, above all, to making known the messianic power of her Son. At Cana in Galilee she told the servers at table, "Do what he tells you." (John 2,5) In all her care for others, she points out Jesus to them.
Throughout her life, then, Mary was a follower of her Son. At the foot of the cross, her motherhood reached a new maturity when Mary experienced her Son's redeeming love for the world. Her spirit was touched and refined by the mystery of his death and resurrection.
From his cross, Jesus, seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, said to Mary, "Woman, behold your son."(John 19,25-27)
"The words uttered by Jesus signify that the motherhood of her who bore Christ finds a 'new' continuation in the Church and through the Church, symbolized and represented by John. " (Redemptoris Mater, 24)
Before Pentecost, awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus, the disciples "continued with one mind in prayer with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren."(Acts 1,14) "Thus Mary who is present in the mystery of Christ as Mother becomes- by the will of the Son and the power of the Holy Spirit- present in the mystery of the Church. In the Church too she continues to be a maternal presence, as is shown by the words spoken from the cross:'Woman, behold your son.' 'Behold, your mother.' "

Readings for the feast
The principal reading for the feast, from St. Luke's gospel, describes the shepherds coming to Bethlehem where they
"found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in a manger." (Luke 2,16-21)
Mother and son are found together. She presents her Son to them. In fact, she will always point to him. As a pilgrim of faith, she "treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart"; at the same time, she invites other pilgrims to treasure and reflect on the mystery of Jesus Christ.
Along with the Byzantine and Syrian churches, which celebrate the feast of the Mother of God (Theotokos) on December 26, the Roman church celebrates this primary feast close to the feast of the Birth of Jesus Christ. For "only in the mystery of Christ is her mystery made clear." (Redemptoris Mater)

photo:Authentic antique, 18th century, Russian icon, The Three Handed Mother of God, " Божья Матерь троеручница". The Icon is traditionally finely hand painted in tempera on a gessoed wood panel with two inserted slats on the top and bottom.
The virgin, holding the Divine Child, is depicted waist-length, with the third hand, added, by St.John of Damascus, who, while praying at the icon of the Mother of God, had his cut off hand healed. The healed hand is presented on the icon as the third hand of the Mother of God. On the right side the icon is inscribed in Cyrillic: "Троеручница."

The history of the Icon of the Three-handed Theotokos is closely connected with the life of John of Damascus, who put a lot of effort into defending icons during the time of the iconoclasm. In order to get rid of such a dangerous defender he was belied, and as a punishment for alleged treason, he was subjected to the cutting off of his right hand. For the whole night John of Damascus fervently prayed before the icon of the Theotokos for the healing of his hand, with which, he had ardently defended holy icons in his letters. His plea was heard and his hand healed. As a token of gratitude he attached a silver right hand to the icon of the Theotokos, before which, he had been praying.
The icon is known for its miraculous healings
icon 2 An old Orthodox icon of Jesus and Most Holy Theotokos
icon 3 The oldest and most important image of Our Lady in Rome, legend has it that it was one of the many icons painted by St. Luke, though historians date its original composition to the 5th century.
icon 4 This image can be found at St. Catherine’s Monastery near Mt. Sinai and is dated to the 6th century. Around Mary and Jesus are St. Theodor of Amasea, St. George, and two angels. Notice also the hand at the top of the image (God the Father?).

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