Skip to comments.The Early Church Fathers on The Mother of God - Catholic/Orthodox Caucus
Posted on 02/17/2007 4:17:16 PM PST by NYer
The Early Church Fathers had no problem referring to Mary as the Mother of God. They saw it as a natural consequence of the Incarnation.
The Virgin Mary, being obedient to his word, received from an angel the glad tidings that she would bear God (Against Heresies, 5:19:1 [A.D. 189]).
[T]o all generations they [the prophets] have pictured forth the grandest subjects for contemplation and for action. Thus, too, they preached of the advent of God in the flesh to the world, his advent by the spotless and God-bearing (theotokos) Mary in the way of birth and growth, and the manner of his life and conversation with men, and his manifestation by baptism, and the new birth that was to be to all men, and the regeneration by the laver [of baptism] (Discourse on the End of the World 1 [A.D. 217]).
Gregory the Wonderworker
For Luke, in the inspired Gospel narratives, delivers a testimony not to Joseph only, but also to Mary, the Mother of God, and gives this account with reference to the very family and house of David (Four Homilies 1 [A.D. 262]).
It is our duty to present to God, like sacrifices, all the festivals and hymnal celebrations; and first of all, [the feast of] the Annunciation to the holy Mother of God, to wit, the salutation made to her by the angel, "Hail, full of grace!" (ibid., 2).
Peter of Alexandria
They came to the church of the most blessed Mother of God, and ever-virgin Mary, which, as we began to say, he had constructed in the western quarter, in a suburb, for a cemetery of the martyrs (The Genuine Acts of Peter of Alexandria [A.D. 305]).
Hail to you forever, you virgin Mother of God, our unceasing joy, for unto you do I again return. . . . Hail, you fount of the Sons love for man. . . . Wherefore, we pray you, the most excellent among women, who boast in the confidence of your maternal honors, that you would unceasingly keep us in remembrance. O holy Mother of God, remember us, I say, who make our boast in you, and who in august hymns celebrate your memory, which will ever live, and never fade away (Oration on Simeon and Anna 7 [A.D. 305]).
Cyril of Jerusalem
The Father bears witness from heaven to his Son. The Holy Spirit bears witness, coming down bodily in the form of a dove. The archangel Gabriel bears witness, bringing the good tidings to Mary. The Virgin Mother of God bears witness (Catechetical Lectures 10:19 [A.D. 350]).
Ephraim the Syrian
Though still a virgin she carried a child in her womb, and the handmaid and work of his wisdom became the Mother of God (Songs of Praise 1:20 [A.D. 351]).
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 (The Incarnation of the Word of God 8 [A.D. 365]).
Epiphanius of Salamis
Being perfect at the side of the Father and incarnate among us, not in appearance but in truth, he [the Son] reshaped man to perfection in himself from Mary the Mother of God through the Holy Spirit (The Man Well-Anchored 75 [A.D. 374]).
Ambrose of Milan
The first thing which kindles ardor in learning is the greatness of the teacher. What is greater than the Mother of God? What more glorious than she whom Glory Itself chose? (The Virgins 2:2 [A.D. 377]).
Gregory of Nazianz
If anyone does not agree that holy Mary is Mother of God, he is at odds with the Godhead (Letter to Cledonius the Priest 101 [A.D. 382]).
As to how a virgin became the Mother of God, he [Rufinus] has full knowledge; as to how he himself was born, he knows nothing (Against Rufinus 2:10 [A.D. 401]).
Theodore of Mopsuestia
"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" (The Incarnation 15 [A.D. 405]).
Cyril of Alexandria
I have been amazed that some are utterly in doubt as to whether or not the holy Virgin is able to be called the Mother of God. For if our Lord Jesus Christ is God, how should the holy Virgin who bore him not be the Mother of God? (Letter to the Monks of Egypt 1 [A.D. 427]).
You cannot then help admitting that the grace comes from God. It is God, then, who has given it. But it has been given by our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore the Lord Jesus Christ is God. But if he is God, as he certainly is, then she who bore God is the Mother of God (On the Incarnation of Christ Against Nestorius 2:2 [A.D. 429]).
Council of Ephesus
We confess, then, our Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, perfect God and perfect man, of a rational soul and a body, begotten before all ages from the Father in his Godhead, the same in the last days, for us and for our salvation, born of Mary the Virgin according to his humanity, one and the same consubstantial with the Father in Godhead and consubstantial with us in humanity, for a union of two natures took place. Therefore we confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord. According to this understanding of the unconfused union, we confess the holy Virgin to be the Mother of God because God the Word took flesh and became man and from his very conception united to himself the temple he took from her (Formula of Union [A.D. 431]).
Vincent of Lerins
Nestorius, whose disease is of an opposite kind, while pretending that he holds two distinct substances in Christ, brings in of a sudden two persons, and 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. For which reason he maintains that Saint Mary ought to be called, not the Mother of God, but the Mother of Christ (The Notebooks 12 [A.D. 434]).
In keeping with guidelines posted by the Religion Moderator, we are posting this thread (and future ones) a series on the Early Church Fathers, as a Catholic/Orthodox Caucus. Protestants are welcome to post comments but restraint from attacks, would be appreciated. This thread is posted to inform, support and defend the historic orgins of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
Gen. 3:15 - we see from the very beginning that God gives Mary a unique role in salvation history. God says "I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed." This refers to Jesus (the "emnity") and Mary (the "woman"). The phrase "her seed" (spermatos) is not seen elsewhere in Scripture.
Gen 3:15 / Rev. 12:1 - the Scriptures begin and end with the woman battling satan. This points to the power of the woman with the seed and teaches us that Jesus and Mary are the new Adam and the new Eve.
John 2:4, 19:26 - Jesus calls Mary "woman" as she is called in Gen. 3:15. Just as Eve was the mother of the old creation, Mary is the mother of the new creation. This woman's seed will crush the serpent's skull.
Isaiah 7:14; Matt. 1:23 - a virgin (the Greek word used is "parthenos") will bear a Son named Emmanuel, which means "God is with us." John 1:14 - God in flesh dwelt among us. Mary is the Virgin Mother of God.
Matt. 2:11 - Luke emphasizes Jesus is with Mary His Mother, and the magi fall down before both of them, worshiping Jesus.
Luke 1:35 - the child will be called holy, the Son of God. Mary is the Mother of the Son of God, or the Mother of God (the "Theotokos").
Luke 1:28 - "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you." These are the words spoken by God and delivered to us by the angel Gabriel (who is a messenger of God). Thus, when Catholics recite this verse while praying the Rosary, they are uttering the words of God.
Luke 1:28 - also, the phrase "full of grace" is translated from the Greek word "kecharitomene." This is a unique title given to Mary, and suggests a perfection of grace from a past event. Mary is not just "highly favored." She has been perfected in grace by God. "Full of grace" is only used to describe one other person - Jesus Christ in John 1:14.
Luke 1:38 - Mary's fiat is "let it be done to me according to thy word." Mary is the perfect model of faith in God, and is worthy of our veneration.
Luke 1:42 - "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus." The phrase "blessed are you among women" really means "you are most blessed of all women." A circumlocution is used because there is no superlative in the Greek language. Note also that Elizabeth praises Mary first, and then Jesus. This is hyperdulia (but not latria which is worship owed to God alone). We too can go through Mary to praise Jesus. Finally, Catholics repeat these divinely inspired words of Elizabeth in the Rosary.
Luke 1:43 - Elizabeth's use of "Mother of my Lord" (in Hebrew, Elizabeth used "Adonai" which means Lord God) is the equivalent of "Holy Mary, Mother of God" which Catholics pray in the Rosary. The formula is simple: Jesus is a divine person, and this person is God. Mary is Jesus' Mother, so Mary is the mother of God (Mary is not just the Mother of Jesus' human nature - mothers are mothers of persons, not natures).
Luke 1:44 - Mary's voice causes John the Baptist to leap for joy in Elizabeth's womb. Luke is teaching us that Mary is our powerful intercessor.
Luke 1:46 - Mary claims that her soul magnifies the Lord. This is a bold statement from a young Jewish girl from Nazareth. Her statement is a strong testimony to her uniqueness. Mary, as our Mother and intercessor, also magnifies our prayers.
Luke 1:48 - Mary prophesies that all generations shall call her blessed, as Catholics do in the "Hail Mary" prayer. What Protestant churches have existed in all generations (none), and how many of them call Mary blessed with special prayers and devotions?
Gal. 4:4 - God sent His Son, born of a woman, to redeem us. Mary is the woman with the redeemer. By calling Mary co-redemptrix, we are simply calling Mary "the woman with the redeemer." This is because "co" is from the Latin word "cum" which means "with." Therefore, "co-redemptrix" means "woman with the redeemer." Mary had a unique but subordinate role to Jesus in salvation.
Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2 - the word "saints" (in Hebrew "qaddiysh") means "holy" ones. So Mary is called Holy, the greatest Saint of all.
Luke 2:35 - Simeon prophesies that a sword would also pierce Mary's soul. Mary thus plays a very important role in our redemption. While Jesus' suffering was all that we needed for redemption, God desired Mary to participate on a subordinate level in her Son's suffering, just as he allows us to participate through our own sufferings.
Luke 2:19,51 - Mary kept in mind all these things as she pondered them in her heart. Catholics remember this by devoting themselves to Mary's Immaculate Heart and all the treasures and wisdom and knowledge contained therein.
1. The quality of being an enemy; hostile or unfriendly disposition.
2. A state or feeling of opposition, hostility, hatred or animosity.
* 1611: King James Version of the Bible (Authorized Version), Genesis 3:15
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
Synonyms: hostility, antagonism, animosity, rancor, antipathy, animus
Gabriel cannot speak for himself? Other angels do so here and there in Scripture.
"A circumlocution is used because there is no superlative in the Greek language."
There most certainly is! Where did this quote come from?
NYer: "Thus, when Catholics recite this verse while praying the Rosary, they are uttering the words of God."
E: "Gabriel cannot speak for himself? Other angels do so here and there in Scripture."
I must say, NYer, I have never, ever heard this interpretation of the words of the Arkangel Gabriel. Once again, where does this quote come from? To attribute these words of the angel to God Himself is just the sort of odd religious enthusiasm which leads to the whole "co-redemptrix" heretical talk current among certain Latin fringe groups.
This is a caucus thread. If you don't know what that entails, look at the Religion Moderator's profile.
It is sufficient to say that caucus/devotional threads aren't merely for the purposes stated above.
Read post #3.
**I must say, NYer, I have never, ever heard this interpretation of the words of the Arkangel Gabriel**
It's a new one on me too!
Ark of the Old Covenant was held in the holy of holies and untouched by human hands.
Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. And she too was untouched by human hands -- so to speak since Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit.
"And the word was made flesh."
"Hail Mary full of grace." Luke