Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The celebration on this day throughout the Western church of a feast in honour of the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, was enjoined by Pope Pius XI in the encyclical "Lux veritatis", published on December 25, 1931, in view of the fifteenth centenary of the Council of Ephesus.
In the third lesson of the second nocturn of the office of the new feast mention is made of the arch in the basilica of St. Mary Major, which Pope St. Sixtus III (432-440) decorated with mosaics shortly after the council, and which has been restored in modern times by the care of Pius XI himself. This, we are taught, remains as a stricking monument of the proclamation of our Lady's incomparable honour as Mother of God. But in the institution of the present festival, the pope, as his encyclical explains, had also other objects in view.
"One thing in particular", he says, "and that indeed one of great importance, we specially desire that all should pray for, under the auspices of our heavenly Queen. That is, that she, who is loved and venerated with such ardent piety by the separated Christians of the East, would not suffer them to wander and be unhappily led further away from the unity of the Church, and therefore from her Son, whose vicar on earth We are. May they return to the common Father, whose judgement all the fathers of the synod of Ephesus most dutifully received, and whom they all saluted with concordant acclamations as the guardian of the faith; may they all return to Us, who have indeed a fatherly affection for them all, and who gladly make our own those most loving words which Cyril used, when he earnestly exhorted Nestorius that 'the peace of the churches may be preserved, and that the bond of love and of concord among the priests of God may remain indissoluble'."
The text of the encyclical, Lux veritatis, is printed in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, vol. xxiii (1931), pp. 493-517. Celebrations in honour of the motherhood of the Blessed Virgin were observed locally in many countries long before the present century, but there was no general usage and the dates selected for this commemoration differ widely. The earliest records of such a feast seem to be connected with Portugal and with the Portuguese overseas dominions. It was conceded to Portugal in 1751, but rapidly spread to other countries, e.g. to Venice and to Poland. See F. G. Holweck, Calendarium festorum Dei et Dei Matris (1925), pp. 368. 148. etc.
Butler's Lives of The Saints, Herbert J. Thurston, S.J. and Donald Attwater
Nihil Obstat: PATRICIVS MORRIS, S.T.D., L.S.S., CENSOR DEPVTATVS.
Imprimatur: E. MORROGH BERNARD, VICARIVS GENERALIS
WESTMONASTERII: DIE XXIII FEBRVARII MCMLIII