We beseech thee, O Lord, pour into our hearts the abundance of thy heavenly grace: That like as the child-bearing of the Blessed Virgin Mary was unto us thy servants the beginning of salvation, so the devout observance of the dedication of her Basilica may avail for the increasing of our peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Collect for the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major
The Council of Ephesus was held in the year of our Lord, 431. The purpose of the Council was to examine the doctrine of Nestorius, who was the Patriarch of Constantinople. Nestorius claimed that Mary, the mother of Jesus, could not be referred to as the Mother of God, but instead must be called the Mother of Christ. The Council condemned the teaching of Nestorius and formally proclaimed that Mary is indeed Θεοτόκος (Theotokos): the God-bearer. (It should be kept in mind that the Church did not simply come up with this idea in a.d. 431. Instead, this was always the understanding of the Church and in light of the heresy of Nestorius, had to be officially defined.)
Shortly after the Council of Ephesus, the Basilica of St. Mary Major was constructed in Rome in honor of the Mother of God. It is the oldest church named in honor of Mary in the West. But that church, and in fact all Catholic churches, are more than just buildings; instead, they are like a mother to us and also like a home.
Through the waters of the baptismal font we are born anew into the Body of Christ. In our baptisms we are made new creatures and incorporated into the one Body of Christ. And if we are part of Christ’s Body then in a very real way Mary is also our Mother. And as such she cares for us just as she cared for her Son. When we are reborn in Baptism she clothes us with the pure white garment worn by all the members of the house. Like all good mothers, she feeds us with the pure milk of Truth that comes to us from our Lord. And it is in the church that we receive the food of life everlasting – the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the church, like in our home, we are protected from that which could harm us. Not only does the church provide a physical structure to protect us from the elements but in it we also receive protection from the evil one. In it, the Faithful are joined together in Holy Matrimony, being the Sacrament that emulates the union of Christ with His Bride, the Church. And when we die we are brought one last time back to the church so that the prayers of the Church may be offered for us.
In all of this, Mary, the Mother of God and our own blessed Mother, watches over us and prays for us, just as she did for her Son. Let us give thanks to God for such an attentive Mother.