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Mary: True Mother of God
Catholic Exchange ^ | January 1, 2005

Posted on 01/02/2005 3:39:32 PM PST by NYer


To understand the title "Mother of God," we must first clearly understand Mary's role as mother of our Savior, Jesus Christ. As Catholics, we firmly believe in the incarnation of our Lord: Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:26-38 and Mt 1:18-25).

In This Article...
How He Made His Dwelling Among Us
A Profound Mystery
Mother in the Fullest Sense

How He Made His Dwelling Among Us

Through her, Jesus Christ — second person of the Holy Trinity, one in being (consubstantial) with the Father, and true God from true God — entered this world taking on human flesh and a human soul. Jesus is true God and true man. In His divine person are united both a divine nature and a human nature. Mary did not create the divine person of Jesus, Who existed with the Father and Holy Spirit from all eternity:

In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father's eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly "Mother of God" (Theotokos). (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 495)
As St. John wrote, "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we have seen His glory: The glory of an only Son coming from the Father filled with enduring love" (Jn 1:14).

For this reason, some time in the early history of the Church, our Blessed Mother was given the title "Mother of God." St. John Chrysostom (d. 407), for example, composed in his Eucharistic Prayer for the Mass an anthem in honor of her: "It is truly just to proclaim you blessed, O Mother of God, who are most blessed, all pure and Mother of our God. We magnify you who are more honorable than the Cherubim and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim. You who, without losing your virginity, gave birth to the Word of God. You who are truly the Mother of God."

A Profound Mystery

However, objection to the title "Mother of God" arose in the fifth century due to confusion concerning the mystery of the incarnation. Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople (428-431), incited a major controversy. He stated that Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ, a regular human person, period. To this human person was united the person of the Word of God (the divine Jesus). This union of two persons — the human Christ and the divine Word — was "sublime and unique" but merely accidental. The divine person dwelt in the human person "as in a temple." Following his own reasoning, Nestorius asserted that the human Jesus died on the Cross, not the divine Jesus. As such, Mary is not "Mother of God," but simply "Mother of Christ" — the human Jesus. Sound confusing? It is, but the result is the splitting of Christ into two persons and the denial of the Incarnation.

St. Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria (d. 440) refuted Nestorius, asserting, "It was not that an ordinary man was born first of the Holy Virgin, on whom afterwards the Word descended; what we say is that, being united with the flesh from the womb, [the Word] has undergone birth in the flesh, making the birth in the flesh His own...." This statement affirms the belief asserted in the first paragraph — Mary is truly the mother of God.

On June 22, 431, the Council of Ephesus convened to settle this argument. The Council declared, "If anyone does not confess that the Emmanuel is truly God and therefore that the holy Virgin is the Mother of God (Theotokos) (since she begot according to the flesh the Word of God made flesh), anathema sit." Therefore, the Council officially recognized that Jesus is one divine person, with two natures — human and divine — united in a true union. Second, Ephesus affirmed that our Blessed Mother can rightfully be called the Mother of God: Mary is not Mother of God, the Father, or Mother of God, the Holy Spirit; rather, she is Mother of God, the Son — Jesus Christ, true God from all eternity who entered this world becoming also true man. The Council of Ephesus declared Nestorius a heretic, and the Emperor Theodosius ordered him deposed and exiled. (Interestingly, a small Nestorian Church still exists in Iraq, Iran and Syria.)

The incarnation is indeed a profound mystery. The Church uses very precise — albeit philosophical — language to prevent confusion and error. Since we have just celebrated Christmas and the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, we must continue to ponder this great mystery of how our divine Savior entered this world, taking on our human flesh, to free us from sin. We must also ponder and emulate the great example of our Blessed Mother, who said, "I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to Thy word."

Mother in the Fullest Sense

Let us not forget that Mary is truly "mother": She is not just the physical means by which our Lord entered this world, but she is also in the fullest sense mother. As mother, she always wants to present her Son to others, and to lead others to her divine Son. In the Gospels, she presented Him to the shepherds, the Magi, the Priest Simeon and Anna, and to the wedding party at Cana. She desires to do the same for each of us. When our Lord died on the Cross, standing there were His mother, Mary, and St. John the Apostle; Jesus said to Mary, "Woman, there is your son," entrusting His widowed mother to the care of St. John; and to St. John, "There is your mother" (Jn 19:26-27). Traditionally, we have always held that here Jesus gave Mary as a mother to the Church as a whole and to each of us.

This belief is beautifully illustrated in the message of our Blessed Mother at Guadalupe, when she appeared to St. Juan Diego in 1531. On December 9, she said, "Know for certain, least of my sons, that I am the perfect and perpetual Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus, the true God, through whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near and far, the Master of Heaven and earth. It is my earnest wish that a temple be built here to my honor. Here I will demonstrate, I will manifest, I will give all my love, my compassion, my help and my protection to the people. I am your merciful mother, the merciful mother of all of you who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who seek me, and of those who have confidence in me. Here I will hear their weeping, their sorrow, and will remedy and alleviate all their multiple sufferings, necessities, and misfortunes."

Then on December 12, she said, "Hear and let it penetrate into your heart, my deal little son: let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you. Let nothing alter your heart or your countenance. Also, do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else that you need?" These beautiful messages underscore the role of Mary as Mother of God and our mother.

As we begin our new year, let us look to our Blessed Mother’s example and rely on her prayers. May we turn to her always as our own Mother, pleading, "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen."

Fr. Saunders is pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Potomac Falls and a professor of catechetics and theology at Notre Dame Graduate School in Alexandria. If you enjoy reading Fr. Saunders's work, his new book entitled Straight Answers (400 pages) is available at the Pauline Book and Media Center of Arlington, Virginia (703/549-3806).

TOPICS: Activism; Apologetics; Catholic; Ecumenism; General Discusssion; History; Mainline Protestant; Ministry/Outreach; Orthodox Christian; Prayer; Theology; Worship

1 posted on 01/02/2005 3:39:32 PM PST by NYer
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To: american colleen; Lady In Blue; Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; ...
I recently came across this true story and felt it appropriate to post to this thread.

She will like it now

by Fr. Antonio (A Maronite Priest)
posted on September 10, 2004. 11:00 am

 It was Wednesday June 5, 2002, when I received a call on my pager.
 - Father Antonio, there is a woman who is dying here at the hospital in Ann
 Arbor. Her family is asking for a Catholic priest to come and give her the last
 sacrament. Can you please come?
 Sure. It would be the first experience to anoint someone after 10 months of
 priesthood. My ministry as a priest was more focused on giving Jesus Christ
 to His people through the Eucharist (saying Masses) and the Sacrament of
 Reconciliation (hearing confessions). I was also offering spiritual direction to
 a good number of people.
 I drove 15 minutes from home. I arrived at the hospital and entered the room.
 There was a woman lying in her bed, dying. Her eyes were closed. Her family
 was gathered around her: the husband, the sons & their wives. They were
 comforting each other. I opened the book of prayers and prepared the oil. We
 prayed. I anointed the woman. After the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick,
 I asked the family to pray with me the rosary. I believe that the presence of
 Mary can give great comfort for the woman’s soul.
 The husband approached me as if he was embarrassed. He whispered saying:
 - “Father, my wife never believed in rosaries. She never prayed the rosary. She
   never liked it.”
 - “She will like it now,” I said it, with my Lebanese accent and a Maronite spirit.
 We started praying the rosary. When we reached the 4th sorrowful mystery, the
 woman opened her eyes. The sons approached their mother to see what was
 going on. They were crying, amazed.
 At the end of the Rosary, I asked the sons:
 - “What did you see?”
 - “Her eyes were filled with peace,” one of her sons answered.
 I knew that Mary was present. I knew that she comforted that woman. It didn’t
 matter whether that woman prayed the rosary in her life or not, whether she
 liked it or not. It doesn’t matter for Mary for she is a mother not a judge. Mary,
 who was present under the cross at the moment of Christ’s death, is also present
 at the moment of our death. This is why we pray: Holy Mary, Mother of God,
 pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

2 posted on 01/02/2005 3:47:30 PM PST by NYer ("Blessed be He who by His love has given life to all." - final prayer of St. Charbel)
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Comment #3 Removed by Moderator

To: NYer

Beautiful! Thanks for posting that.

4 posted on 01/02/2005 3:59:24 PM PST by No_Outcome_But_Victory (Today's established church: The stifling coercive theology of P.C. enforced by a secular episcopate.)
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To: NYer

Thank you for posting that! My mom has had two similar experiences. Unfortunately, I've had two aunts pass away in the past year or so. My mom was able to be at the bedside of both of them. She said the rosary daily to them both even though they weren't Catholic. Both responded to my mom (positively)even though neither were able to communicate anymore. I love Mary, our mother!!

5 posted on 01/02/2005 4:01:39 PM PST by samiam1972 (Live simply so that others may simply live!)
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To: NYer

Mary, Mother of Jesus, is someone we can all pray to for help in our daily lives. Mothers intercede. That's what they do.

6 posted on 01/02/2005 4:13:49 PM PST by bitt (Y?)
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To: NYer; narses; Desdemona; Catholicguy; Hermann the Cherusker
Feast of Mary, Mother of God (not a Holy Day of Obligation this year)

MARIAN DEVOTION - Akathist Hymn to the Mother of God

Mother of God

Virgin Mother of God

A Homily on the Dormition of Our Supremely Pure Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary

The Mother of the Son: The Case for Marian Devotion

Mary: True Mother of God

7 posted on 01/02/2005 4:29:24 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: NYer
A title like that will cause YOPIS-followers to go into apoplexy just from seeing it, you know. Tsk-tsk.
8 posted on 01/02/2005 4:59:23 PM PST by FormerLib (Kosova: "land stolen from Serbs and given to terrorist killers in a futile attempt to appease them.")
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To: NYer; american colleen; Lady In Blue; Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding

Great story, NYer. Thanks! The Most Holy Theotokos is always a great source of comfort in the metaphorical foxholes of life, perhaps especially at the end!

9 posted on 01/02/2005 5:56:52 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Nuke the Cube!)
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To: FormerLib

"A title like that will cause YOPIS-followers to go into apoplexy just from seeing it, you know. Tsk-tsk."

Wow. With not a single Prot comment on the thread, you fire the "YOPIS" shot. Nice. Does your comment count as "protestant bashing"? Is "Catholic bashing" therefore now allowed?

10 posted on 01/02/2005 6:54:11 PM PST by armydoc
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To: armydoc; FormerLib
Is "Catholic bashing" therefore now allowed?

FormerLib is Orthodox, not Roman Catholic if I am not mistaken. What is YOPIS?

11 posted on 01/02/2005 7:39:17 PM PST by No_Outcome_But_Victory (Today's established church: The stifling coercive theology of P.C. enforced by a secular episcopate.)
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To: armydoc

"Is "Catholic bashing" therefore now allowed?"

To my formerly protestant, then agnostic, and now Catholic (but always military) mind, I guess that's what freedom of religion means. You're allowed to "bash" other religions verbally, so long as you don't actually interfere with people in the real world.

The very word "tolerance," after all, requires that there's something that we disagree with or even despise, but which we are through an act of will tolerating.

From a Catholic perspective, when Catholic-bashing occurs here on FR, it's generally an opportunity to say, "No, that's not what Catholics believe." For it is true, as Archbishop Sheen said, that "There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church—but there are millions who hate what they mistakenly think the Catholic Church teaches."

What puzzles me is that there are some people who refuse to be persuaded no matter how many times you tell them that they are misinformed as to some Catholic tenet, and no matter how much material you post from Church sources showing what the Catholic tenet actually is. These discussions take the form...

"You Catholics are bad for believing X."
"We don't believe X; we believe Y."
"No, you don't. You believe X."
"Here's documentation that we believe Y."
"No, you don't. You believe X."
"X." cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It's a puzzlement.

I think it's this, more than anything else, that gives Catholics an attitude about protestants. From my childhood and youth as a Protestant, I can remember many sermons ripping Catholic "idolatry," drinking of alcoholic beverages, "the Whore of Babylon," and so on. But I have never heard protestantism torn into like that in a Catholic homily.

Yes, we believe that the Catholic Church posesses the fullness of Revelation, while protestant churches only teach a part of it. But when we get to the "and therefore" part of the syllogism, there is a real difference in attitude between the way Catholics regard protestantism and the way *some* protestants view Catholicism.

Perhaps it is significant that Catholics who convert to a protestant denomination tend to be bitter and angry toward Catholicism, while protestants who convert to
Catholicism tend to look back on their protestant experiences not with bitterness and anger, but as something that, while good, was ultimately insufficient.

It seems to me that "YOPIOS" is pretty mild, especially given the protestant emphasis on sola scriptura, but if you want to take a slap at Catholicism in retribution, I won't mind. Maybe some productive discussion will ensue.

12 posted on 01/02/2005 8:05:45 PM PST by dsc
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To: No_Outcome_But_Victory

Often seen in the form, "YOPIOS," it is an acronym for "your own personal interpretation of scripture."

13 posted on 01/02/2005 8:06:52 PM PST by dsc
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To: armydoc

Actually, I'd expect Proti's to regard threads with "Mother of God" in the title the same way that I treat threads with "Arminian" in the title (Hint: I don't go there).

14 posted on 01/02/2005 8:11:15 PM PST by FormerLib (Kosova: "land stolen from Serbs and given to terrorist killers in a futile attempt to appease them.")
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To: dsc

Excellent post.

15 posted on 01/02/2005 8:13:06 PM PST by AlbionGirl
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To: NYer

Are there any Nestorians on FR?

16 posted on 01/02/2005 9:01:56 PM PST by Holden Magroin
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To: dsc

Ok, thanks!

17 posted on 01/02/2005 9:04:39 PM PST by No_Outcome_But_Victory (Today's established church: The stifling coercive theology of P.C. enforced by a secular episcopate.)
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