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Friday, 21 September 2012

Mary, the Mother of God


Mary, the Mother of God

In a lasting vestige of anti-Catholic prejudice, a concerted effort to discredit the Church is being made today by some non-Catholic Christians who continue to propagate the falsehood that Catholics worship Mary OR that the devotion to the Blessed Mother is a continuation of devotion to the various mother goddesses of the ancient pagan pantheons. These charges can legitimately be called prejudices because they proceed from a prejudgment (made in advance based on preconceived ideas about what Catholics believe) and efforts to enlighten and convince with facts usually fall on deaf ears. However, it is necessary for Catholics to be forewarned about these on-going polemically, "prayer warfare" and "prophetic acts" (such as the smashing of a statue on Brazilian TV), so as not to be scandalized about their Catholic faith by such attacks....  http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/mother.htm

Since Mary is Jesus’ mother, it must be concluded that she is also the Mother of God:

"If Mary is the mother of Jesus, and if Jesus is God, then Mary is the Mother of God."

There is no way out of this logical syllogism, the valid form of which has been recognized by classical logicians since before the time of Christ. 

Although Mary is the Mother of God, she is not his mother in the sense that she is older than God or the source of her Son’s divinity, for she is neither. Rather, we say that she is the Mother of God in the sense that she carried in her womb a divine person—Jesus Christ, God "in the flesh" (2 John 7, cf. John 1:14)—and in the sense that she contributed the genetic matter to the human form God took in Jesus Christ.

The Nestorian claim that Mary did not give birth to the unified person of Jesus Christ attempts to separate Christ’s human nature from his divine nature, creating two separate and distinct persons—one divine and one human—united in a loose affiliation. It is therefore a Christological heresy, which even the Protestant Reformers recognized.  Both Martin Luther and John Calvin insisted on Mary’s divine maternity.  In fact, it even appears that Nestorius himself may not have believed the heresy named after him.  Further, the "Nestorian" church has now signed a joint declaration on Christology with the Catholic Church and recognizes Mary’s divine maternity, just as other Christians do.

Since denying that Mary is God’s mother implies doubt about Jesus’ divinity, it is clear why Christians (until recent times) have been unanimous in proclaiming Mary as Mother of God. 


From antiquity, Mary has been called "Theotokos", or "God-Bearer" (Mother of God). The word in Greek is "Theotokos". The term was used as part of the popular piety of the early first millennium church. It is used throughout the Eastern Church's Liturgy, both Orthodox and Catholic. It lies at the heart of the Latin Rite's deep Marian piety and devotion. This title was a response to early threats to 'orthodoxy', the preservation of authentic Christian teaching. A pronouncement of an early Church Council, The Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D., insisted "If anyone does not confess that God is truly Emmanuel, and that on this account the holy virgin is the "Theotokos" (for according to the flesh she gave birth to the word of God become flesh by birth) let him be anathema." (The Council of Ephesus, 431 AD)

Rejection of the truth revealed in this beautiful title of Mary has led to a diminution in the understanding and role of Mary, impeding some Christians from grasping a deeper truth concerning the meaning of Mary's life - her Fiat, her "Yes" to God's Will. It is a privation, leading to a reduced understanding of the call to every Christian to live our lives for God as Mary did. It has undermined our mission to bring the world to the new world, recreated in her Son, the Church which is His Body on earth and a seed of the Kingdom which is to come. The Church, of which we are members through baptism, continues His redemptive mission until he returns.
When we fail to receive the gift of Mary as Mother we can also miss the call of every Christian to bear Jesus for the world as she did. It is time to re-examine the deeper implications of the treasure that is found in the life example and message of the little Virgin of Nazareth. This wonderful title, Mary, the Mother of God, "Theotokos", reveals a profound truth not only about Mary, but about each one of us. We are now invited into the very relationship that she had with her Son. We can become "God-bearers" and bring Him to all those whom we encounter in our few short days under the sun.

 
Here is what the Council decreed (Ephesus in June of 431):
111a For we do not say that the nature of the Word was changed and made flesh, nor yet that it was changed into the whole man (composed) of soul and body but rather (we say) that the Word, in an ineffable and inconceivable manner, having hypostatically united to Himself flesh animated by a rational soul, became Man and was called the Son of Man, not according to the will alone or by the assumption of a person alone, and that the different natures were brought together in a real union, but that out of both in one Christ and Son, not because the distinction of natures was destroyed by the union, but rather because the divine nature and the human nature formed one Lord and Christ and Son for us, through a marvelous and mystical concurrence in unity. . . . For it was no ordinary man who was first born of the Holy Virgin and upon whom the Word afterwards descended; but being united from the womb itself He is said to have undergone flesh birth, claiming as His own the birth of His own flesh. Thus [the holy Fathers] did not hesitate to speak of the holy Virgin as the Theotokos (Mother of God). [Denzinger paragraph 111a]
Jesus, St. John the Baptist and Mary the Mother of God

113 Canon. 1. If anyone does not confess that God is truly Emmanuel, and that on this account the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God (for according to the flesh she gave birth to the Word of God become flesh by birth), let him be anathema (condemned, i.e. excommunicated).

114 Can. 2. If anyone does not confess that the Word of God the Father was united to a body by hypostasis [union in a single Person] and that one is Christ with his own body, the same one evidently both God and man, let him be anathema.

115 Can. 3. If anyone in the one Christ divides the subsistences [divine and human natures] after the union, connecting them by a junction only according to worth, that is to say absolute sway or power, and not rather by a joining according to physical union [union in the one Christ], let him be anathema.

116 Can. 4. If anyone portions out to two persons, that is to say subsistences, the words in the Gospels and the apostolic writings, whether said about Christ by the saints, or by Him concerning Himself, and attributes some as it to a man specially understood beside the Word of God, others as befitting God alone, to the Word of God the Father, let him be anathema.

117 Can. 5. If anyone ventures to say that Christ is a man inspired by God, and not rather that He is truly God, as a son by nature, as the Word was made flesh and has shared similarly with us in blood and flesh, let him be anathema.

118 Can. 6. If anyone ventures to say that God or the Lord is the Word of Christ from God the Father and does not rather confess the same as at once both God and man, since the Word was made flesh according to the Scriptures, let him be anathema.

119 Can. 7. If anyone says that Jesus as man was assisted by the Word of God, and that the glory of the Only-begotten was applied as to another existing beside Him, let him be anathema ( "either set apart, banished or denounced").


What do the Saints say... The Church Fathers, of course, agreed, and the following passages witness to their lively recognition of the sacred truth and great gift of divine maternity that was bestowed upon Mary, the humble handmaid of the Lord.

Saint Irenaeus



"The Virgin Mary, 
being obedient to his word, 
received from an angel 
the glad tidings that she would bear God"    Saint Irenaeus












"For Luke, in the inspired Gospel 
narratives, delivers a testimony 
not to Joseph only, 
but also to Mary, 
the Mother of God, and gives this account with reference 
to the very family and house of David" 
(Four Homilies 1 [A.D. 262]).  Saint Gregory the Wonderworker

 "It is our duty to present to God, like sacrifices, all the festivals and hymnal celebrations; and first of all, [the feast of] the Annunciation to the holy Mother of God, to wit, the salutation made to her by the angel, ‘Hail, full of grace!’"   Saint Gregory the Wonderworker




Excerpts for this article taken from