Mary, Mother of God

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God 


The Blessed Virgin Mary is the mother of Jesus Christ, the mother of God.

Fundamentalists are sometimes horrified when the Virgin Mary is referred to as the Mother of God. However, their reaction often rests upon a misapprehension of not only what this particular title of Mary signifies but also who Jesus was, and what their own theological forebears, the Protestant Reformers, had to say regarding this doctrine.

A woman is a man’s mother either if she carried him in her womb or if she was the woman contributing half of his genetic matter or both. Mary was the mother of Jesus in both of these senses; because she not only carried Jesus in her womb but also supplied all of the genetic matter for his human body, since it was through her—not Joseph—that Jesus "was descended from David according to the flesh" (Rom. 1:3).

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.

To avoid this conclusion, Fundamentalists often assert that Mary did not carry God in her womb, but only carried Christ’s human nature. This assertion reinvents a heresy from the fifth century known as Nestorianism, which runs aground on the fact that a mother does not merely carry the human nature of her child in her womb. Rather, she carries the person of her child. Women do not give birth to human natures; they give birth to persons. Mary thus carried and gave birth to the person of Jesus Christ, and the person she gave birth to was God.

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 church he founded 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.  

Reflections: 

Living Our Lives as Beloved Sons or Daughters of Our Heavenly Father

When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman … so that we might receive adoption (Galatians 4:4-5).

Our mothers usually know what’s best for us—and that’s espe­cially true of our mother Mary. So on a day when we celebrate her feast day and make New Year’s res­olutions, let’s ask Mary what she would want us to do. What is one transforming truth that Mary would want us to carry with us throughout this new year?

Perhaps she would echo Paul’s words from today’s second reading: Through baptism we have become sons and daughters of God. Most of us have already heard this truth, but does it sustain us in our daily lives? Has it become one of the central guiding principles of our lives? To answer that question, it may help to explore what it means to be a child of our heavenly Father.

First and foremost, being chil­dren of God means that we aren’t orphans, left alone in the world to fend for ourselves. No, God loves and treasures us more than we can ever comprehend. He has called us his own, and he will never forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

Second, being a child of God means that we carry the “fam­ily name.” This is our identity. Not only does it define who we are, it also tells us what we can become as we learn to cooperate with God’s grace. It even tells us that we can come to bear a resemblance to our heavenly Father because we are sharing in his very nature (2 Peter 1:4)!

So while you’re formulating your New Year’s resolutions today, ask Mary to guide you. Each day of this coming year, make it a point to remind yourself of who you are, where you came from, and where you are going. Live as the son or daughter that you are. It will make your Mother very happy!

“Mary, pray for me throughout this year so that I can walk in the dignity that your Son has won for me!”


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