Mary is the Mother of God. A Protestant remarked to a Catholic—“How can Mary be the Mother of God? She brought Jesus into the world in his humanity.” That is just the point. Mary was privileged to bring Jesus into the world who was the Son of God, the Logos, who became the Savior. Mary also gave her flesh to Jesus who became man. He is known from all time to be divine but at that moment of the Annunciation now human. Mary did not give Jesus his divinity because He was already divine. The January 1 feast of Mary, the Mother of God, is fitting to the celebration of the Christmas story. Mary is not God. This is not what it means for her to have this honor to be the Mother of God. God always was. Mary did not give birth to God. But she is the Mother of God because she gave birth to the human Jesus who already is God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
The trap of Fundamentalists and many other Protestants is that they have the mentality that the Catholic Church erred in making this pronouncement about Mary. They have a mindset bent upon the writings of the Protestant Reformers regarding this doctrine. In all reality, this doctrine goes back to the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. There is nothing logically untrue about Mary as Mother of God. Mary, like any other woman, would as mother contribute to the formation of Jesus’ humanity. But this was not done by a human man, but by God Himself, the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary is the Mother of God. It would be senseless to say anything different. Jesus always brings to mind the Mother of God and vice versa. Those who do not agree say that Mary carried only the human person of Christ in her womb, which is a heresy back from the 5th century. It is called Nestorianism, which states that Jesus exists as two persons, the man Jesus and the divine Son of God, rather than a unified person. Women do not give birth to human natures, but they do give birth to persons. Mary gave birth to one person who had two natures, divine and human, and therefore, she is the Mother of God. Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ who was a divine person, God. The human nature and the divine nature of Jesus Christ cannot be separated.
God is one. God is three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And Mary is related to each person. Mary is the Daughter of God the Father. Mary is the Mother of God the Son, Jesus. Mary is also the Spouse of the Holy Spirit. But only the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity has both a divine and a human nature. The human nature of Jesus is a result of the power of the Holy Spirit. The analogy of human persons who are not immaculate like Mary, and who do not conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit can be made. Her cousin Elizabeth was daughter of another person but also mother of John the Baptist. Not only can Elizabeth as a person be spoken of as daughter of another person but she can be referred to as mother of another person, John the Baptist. And further, Elizabeth is spouse to another person, Zachariah. God made all of these human beings, just as he created man in the very beginning.
But God did not create God in the sense that human beings are born. God always was. He is the Alpha and the Omega. At no point in time did God not exist. Wow!!! God the Father made it possible for his Son Jesus to be born by the power of God Himself, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Only when it is thought of in this way is the mystery better understood. But what makes Blessed Mary related to God as Daughter, Mother, and Spouse is the fact that she is the Immaculate Conception, conceived free of original sin and with the plentitude of divine grace.
Mary is Daughter, Mother, and Spouse of three distinct Persons of God who is One. Mary did have a human mother and a human father. But Jesus did not have a human father. The Father of Jesus was divine. Mary was also a daughter of a divine person with both divine and human natures. Mary had no other children. Jesus is only a divine person who also became a human being with no loss of divinity, who has a divine and a human nature. Mary had a human spouse, Joseph, but he was like her a virgin in their married state. Jesus had no human spouse either for he never did marry.
As the Nicene Creed declares—God the Father has the role of being Creator. Jesus Christ is the begotten Son of the Father. Christ is Savior. Christ was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and was born of the Virgin Mary. Truly, as God and Man, He suffered under Pontus Pilate. He was crucified, died, and was buried. And he arose from the dead. The Holy Spirit proceeds from both God the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is Sanctifier. The Creed, established by the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., declares that each Person of God is divine, just as Jesus is Incarnate. This is what we believe. The Catholic Church put its stamp of approval on it. And above all, we believe that there is One God. What a mystery, which someday in heaven will be comprehended completely!
How the Nestorian Heresy Began
The Trinity is a mystery as well as the Incarnation. In the fifth century, Bishop Nestorius of Constantinople declared that Mary gave birth to a regular human person, Jesus Christ to whom was united the person of the Word of God. The Word of God, according to this false teacher, dwelt within another person, Christ. In reality, he was saying that Jesus was two persons with the divine person of Jesus dwelling in his human person. Nestorius also said that the human Jesus died on the cross. For Nestorius, the divine person did not suffer death. As a result, he concluded that Mary is not the Mother of God, but the Mother of the human Jesus only. So Nestorius was denying not only the divinity of Jesus, but also the Incarnation.
The Council of Ephesus in 431
St. Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria was the lead representative of the Church at this council, which was going to settle the debate once and for all. Mary stood out triumphantly as the Theotokos (God-bearer) or Mother of God since she begot the Word of God which was made flesh. This official meeting of the Church in Ephesus acknowledged that Jesus is one person with two natures, human and divine, true God and true man. It would be ludicrous to say that Mary is Mother of God, the Father or Mother of God the Holy Spirit. The Council of Ephesus affirmed that Mary was Mother of God, the Son, Jesus Christ. That is the understanding of Mary as Mother of God. Nestorius was a confirmed heretic. Emperor Theodosius commanded that he be sent into exile.
Church Fathers’ Writings about Mother of God
John Cassian stated—“Now you heretic, you say (whoever you are who deny that God was born of the Virgin, that Mary, the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, cannot be called the Mother of God, but the Mother only of Christ and not of God—for no one, you say, gives birth to one older than herself.” He proclaimed that Mary was indeed the Mother of God and that people should not think otherwise for “she who bore God is the Mother of God.”
Vincent of Lerins declared that Nestorius was a disease in bringing “in of a sudden two persons, with unheard-of wickedness would have two sons of God, two Christs,–one, God, the other, man; one begotten of his Father, the other, born of his mother…”
Nestorius erroneously wanted Mary to be called the Mother of Christ and not the Mother of God. Ephesus taught that since Mary bore the divine Christ, God, in her womb, she is the Mother of God. Cyril of Alexandria stated that “for if our Lord Jesus Christ is God, how should the holy Virgin who bore him not be the Mother of God. He came forth man from a woman, not casting off his existence as God…taking to himself flesh remaining what he was…not as if the nature of the Word or his divinity had its beginning from the holy Virgin, but because of her was born that holy body with a rational soul, to which the Word, being personally united, is said to be born according to the flesh.”
Theodore of Mopsuestia explained: “When, therefore, they ask, ‘Is Mary mother of man or Mother of God?’ we answer, ‘Both!’ The one by the very nature of what was done and the other by relation.”
St. Jerome affirmed: “Do not marvel at the novelty of the thing, if a Virgin gives birth to God”.
Athanasius said—“The Word begotten of the Father from on high, inexpressibly, inexplicably, incomprehensibly, and eternally, is he that is born in time here below of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.” Ephraim the Syrian and many others wrote about the Mother of God in this same way.
The Mother of God is the Mother of the Church. Mary, the Mother of God gave birth to the whole person of God, Christ with a divine and a human nature. Nestorius, as well as other moderns who deny this dogma, fall into a trap of separating Christ into two persons and thus endanger their prayer life and thinking by denying the Incarnation. Mary is also Mother of the Church because Christ cried from the Cross, “Behold your mother.” With tender loving care, as any mother would do who cherishes her child, the Mother of God cares for her Son who is God. In line with this she desires that all humankind come to know Him, do his will, obey his Commandments and those of the Church, worship Him properly with knowledge that He is God and that she is Mother of God to help us obtain heaven too. What good mother would not want this for her children? She is the New Eve, bearing the Savior of the world who “crushes the head of the serpent (devil).” What the Church throughout time declares as true is done for our good! “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
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