Mary, Mother of God

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on telegram
Share on email

Some Christians struggle with the titles that the Catholic Church has given to Mary. This article seeks to bring understanding about where the Catholic Church is coming from, by explaining what one such title means and its roots in the Bible.

Mary, Mother of God

 Today (Jan.1st), the Catholic Church celebrates the ‘Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God’. This occasion falls on the last day of the ‘octave’ of Christmas and thus underlines that it celebrates an aspect of the mystery of the birth of Christ – Him being both – truly God and truly man.

As the Catholic bishops of Canada have explained, “Mary conceived and gave birth not to a mere man, but to the person of the Son of God. To be sure, she did not conceive and give birth to his infinite divinity. She bore the Son of God in his humanity conceived from her flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit. Recognition and praise of Mary as Mother of God preserves the basic truth about the person and being of Jesus Christ as true God. This title also emphasizes his true humanity because he was truly born of a human mother.” – Jesus Christ, Centre of the Christian Life, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ottawa: Publication Service of CCCB, 1981, p.23.

So, as explained above, this title of Mary & the doctrine behind it actually preserves & proclaims an important truth about Jesus – that He was and is both God and man. As the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’ (CCC) teaches: “What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ. – CCC487

We find the roots of this title of Mary in Luke 1:43, where Luke records these words on the lips of Elizabeth, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” The CCC states, “This title reveals the mysteries of Jesus’ divinity and Mary’s divine maternity” (CCC 449, 495).

Note that every occurrence of the word ‘Lord’ in the immediate (1:45) and surrounding context refers to God (1:28, 32, 38, 46, 58, 68). Mary’s divine motherhood was the first Marian dogma expounded by the Church. The Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431) defined her unique relationship to Christ and honoured her with the title “Mother of God” (Greek: Theotokos). This was reaffirmed in 1964 at Vatican II (Lumen Gentium, 53).

Following are some beautiful prayers from the ‘Evening Prayer’ (Vespers) and ‘Morning Prayer’ (Lauds) of the Catholic Church, which brings out this aspect of the celebration:

“O wonderful exchange!  The Creator of human nature took on a human body and was born of the Virgin.  He became man without having a human father and has bestowed on us his divine nature” (Ant.1, Evening Prayer I & II).

“Today a wonderful mystery is announced: something new has taken place; God has become man; he remained what he was and has become that which he was not; and though the two natures remain distinct, he is one” (Benedictus Antiphon, Morning Prayer).

“Mary gave birth to the king whose name is eternal; she united the joy of a mother with the honour of a virgin; such as this has never happened before nor will it happen again, alleluia” (Ant.3, Morning Prayer).

Explore More

Becoming honest in prayer

Very often when we talk of prayer, we think of polite conversation with God – saying the right words, the right formulas, in a certain tone of voice and so on. But prayer in the Bible is anything, but that. Just read the Book of Psalms for example, which is full of raw emotion expressed to God as prayer. This is because an important aspect of engaging with God from the heart in prayer, is learning to be honest with what’s coming up in our hearts. In today’s Bible reading, we find another example of honesty in prayer and hear how it’s also the place where we can find intimacy with God.

The longings of our heart

We’re all aware from time to time, of the deep longings of our heart – for love, significance, recognition, a sense of worth, belonging, freedom and so on. But what many of us are not aware of, are the ways in which the Bible speaks about this area. And how it’s such a crucial area of our hearts to which we need to pay attention, if we want to develop an intimate relationship with God.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *