Posts Tagged ‘Theotokos’

St. Mary MajorToday is the optional memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, which I think gives me a good opportunity to talk about the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God.

Many people object to this title.  After all, if God is God, then He doesn’t need a “begetter,” right?  And given the eternity of God, wouldn’t Mary have to have been begetting Him from all eternity?

Obviously, this scenario is preposterous.  And yet in 431 it was decreed at the Council of Ephesus that Mary was indeed the “Theotokos” (Greek for “God-bearer”), much to the delight of the faithful (it is said that the city was lit with the fires of celebration after the pronouncement was made).

Let’s put this whole issue in context…

The Council of Ephesus came in response to the claims of Nestorius, Archbishop of Constantinople, who held, contrary to traditional orthodoxy, that the man Christ Jesus was not God in the flesh; rather, the Eternal Son of God became specially united with the man Jesus of Nazareth, so that wherever the latter went he made the Son uniquely present to everyone he met.

Against Nestorius, the Council affirmed that Jesus of Nazareth was none other than the Son of God made flesh; that two natures, divine and human, dwelt perfectly in Him.  Although His personhood is in His divine identity as the Son, Jesus Christ was — and is eternally — one Person, fully God and fully human (because of the human nature He united with His divinity).

It is for this reason that the Virgin Mary was officially acknowledged as the Mother of God.

There are some who reject this, pointing out that Mary was the mother of Jesus’ human nature only, not His divine nature.


But mothers are not the mothers of natures, are they?  They are the mothers of persons.  Think of your own mother — she has a special relationship with you and with each of your siblings (if you have any) as unique human beings, not just with your “human natures.”

Just so, Mary was the mother of the Person of Jesus Christ.  At the risk of being redundant, I will say again that Jesus was and is, in His divinity and humanity, one Person.

Therefore, Mary is truly the Mother of God.

In and through Christ, she is also the mother of the Church…but that is a topic for another post.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment if you have anything to say (provided there is civility, of course).

Images from Wikipedia

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Virgin MaryWe Catholics consider the May the “Month of Mary.”  Just as Mother Earth opens up her welcoming arms with the springtime, Mother Mary opens her motherly arms to the faithful and to the world (not that she doesn’t do that always, but we recognize her in a  special way in May).

I want to take this opportunity to explain, as far as my limited expertise will allow, why we Catholics venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary.

First of all, the word “venerate” is key.  Contrary to accusations from some, we do not worship her.

Nevertheless, as the Mother of God, Mary does have a unique place in salvation history and in the Church.

Here is the first of some rudimentary points I intend to share:

1. Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant

Ark of the Covenant

Just as the old Ark of the Covenant carried the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed, the tablets of the Old Covenant, Mary carried within herself the Divine Messiah in Whose blood the New and Eternal Covenant would be forged.

Does the Bible support this view of Mary?  Well, consider Mary’s visitation to her cousin Elizabeth shortly after the Annunciation:

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. (Luke 1: 41-44) (italics mine)

This hearkens back to King David’s dance before the Ark of the Covenant when it was brought into Jerusalem:

When it was reported to King David that the LORD had blessed the family of Obed-edom and all that belonged to him, David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the City of David amid festivities. As soon as the bearers of the ark of the LORD had advanced six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. Then David, girt with a linen apron, came dancing before the LORD with abandon…” (2 Samuel 6:12-14) (italics mine)

Like I said, this is only my first post on Mother Mary.  But even now, I hope readers can see that the honor we give to Mary does not amount to worship.  We venerate Mary in a similar way to that in which the ancient Jews — strict monotheists — would have venerated the Ark of the Covenant, and for essentially the same reason.

Photos from Wikipedia

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