Skip to comments.Mary, the Mother of God (a defense)
Posted on 01/02/2010 3:07:57 PM PST by NYer
For this reason, sometime 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. "
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, Nestorious 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.
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 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. 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. Nevertheless, as we celebrate Christmas, we must 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." 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."
Incarnation os one of the two foundational miracles of the Catholic Faith (Resurrection is the other). It is in the nature of miracles to be confusing to the unbeliever. If we are to evanglelize the Protestants, and they are in dire need of evangelizaton, some confusion of their minds is unavoidable and further, it is salutary.
I’m going to try to handle this even though I’m only an catechumen in the Orthodox Church.
>>>>>>>>>My immediate reaction to hearing Mary called “Mother of God” is hold on there, God always was, how could he have been preceeded by a mother?
When God decided to condescend to his creation and take flesh, he subjected himself to the experiences of his creation, including, like every human being on earth, having a human mother. It’s takes quite a leap of logic to think that by God having a human mother implies that he is not eternal.
>>>>This is not a name taken from Scripture but arrived at in the fourth century by some teachers within the Catholic Church in Rome.
No it’s not spelled out in black and white, but it is certainly inferred.
As for this: “but arrived at in the fourth century by some teachers within the Catholic Church in Rome.”
Well, this is really a mess. It wasn’t “arrived at” but rather reiterated (they “arrived at” the conclusion that Nestorius, the Archbishop of Constantinople, was a heretic).
It wasn’t a “bunch of teachers” but Bishops within the catholic church, both east and west(it wasn’t just Rome), undertaking something called an ecumenical council, which is what is supposed to be done when there is an issue that commands significant enough attention and challenges the dogma of the faith. (And yes! It’s in the Bible. Reread the Acts of the Apostles.)
>>>>>My point is, why cause the confusion in the first place? Why seem to exalt Mary above Jesus Christ, because that is what our human experience interprets this as saying? A mother comes before a child.
Since I’m Orthodox, I do disagree with the Romans on their view of Mary (Immaculate Conception). But you’ve misstated what their view is. They do not exalt Mary over Jesus, but they do come dangerously close to putting her on equal footing with him.
Where did this nonsense come from? The term Theotokos is Greek, not Latin. Its first known use was probably by Origen in the early 3rd century....He wasn't a Roman. A 3rd century Father who used the term was +Dionysius of Alexandria....Obviously not a Roman. Then in the 4th century we have +Athanasius the Great, +Gregory Nazianzus +John Chrysostomos and Blessed Augustine of Hippo....None of them from Rome. Just who were theses "teachers within the Catholic Church in Rome" who were teaching this?
You know, bb, your Protestantism isn't advanced one bit by unthinking anti-papalism.
Look to your holy icons and see the reverence with which the Orthodox hold Mary so dear. We differ concerning the Immaculate Conception, but otherwise, no.
You know, Kolo...wait, you don't know anything about how I arrived at my thinking, do you? It is hardly "anti-papalism" - how odd a description. I was responding to the OP about the council regarding Nestorian. You may want to go back and follow the thread.
I am sorry you missed my point, but it has nothing to do with being against Roman Catholism. My point is, if you find yourself having to backtrack to try to explain to the "unenlightened" that although Mary is referred to as Mother of God, you don't mean it to imply she is to be worshipped alongside the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, that she did not preceed the Son nor is she sitting on her own special throne right next to them, then why come up with the unscriptural title in the first place?
Finally, I am not trying to "advance my Protestantism". How utterly silly. What I care about the most is the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Yes, sola fide. When a religion that calls itself Christian messes up that simple doctrine, just about everything else they profess should be examined as well. That's how I see it. I am still allowed, right?
A fitting one, if your posts are any guide.
An easier way than our mediator himself, Christ Jesus, who IS the way, truth and life? Why would we need any other? Why should we need another?
Honestly, I don’t understand the problem with the explanation that Mary is mother of God.
Scripture seems to support Jesus being son of Mary, I believe he was specifically described as being born of a virgin somewhere in the Bible.
If one is having trouble grasping that God became man, and was born, it seems just as likely they should have just as much, even more troubles, understanding that God died on the cross for our sins.
Both are only possible if God assumes the full nature of Man.
Can one get to heaven without believing this? Sure. But this is part of the Christian faith in its fullness.
Btw, Theotokos is summed up in the communication of idioms. Which is about translation of one aspect of Jesus to the whole of Jesus.
When I say that I think like a human I say that it is because I am a human. When I say that I eat, and drink it is because I am creature that has those bodily needs. When I suffered and felt pain, it is because I have a body feels these things.
If God felt physical pain on the Cross it is because he has assumed these things as well. If God can be said to have felt pain, because of his humanity, other statements of his humanity can be said of God.
God ate food, God woke up in the morning, and slept in the evening. God is Historical, in that there are witnesses to his life. God had a mother, and a nation of people he was born associated too. Why? Because he assumed his humanity from humans, and thus shared in their nature, even though he is the source of that.
What exactly in your mind makes "us" Protestants (I prefer Christian, if you need a label, but for argument sake...) need evangelizing about? What is our "dire" need? I believe it is Catholics, or any other works-based religion, that need to hear the clear Gospel. That going to heaven when we die is not based upon how good we are but soley by the unmerited grace and favor of a loving God who asks us to accept by faith the free gift of eternal life he offers to us. Is getting us back to Mass more important than this???
Pretty nasty statement, especially when it's a matter of Biblical interpretation. I could throw "faith without works is dead," and all that back at you, but I will not question your Christianity in like manner.
...just about everything else they profess should be examined as well.
Please do examine anything and everything to your hearts content. :-)
If you had ever understood the true nature of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, you would never even think of asking this question.
Beautiful post. Very touching. :-)
Was not spoken to be “nasty”, sorry you took it personally. There are many religions that are under the umbrella of “Christian” that are not preaching the truth of the gospel. And it is not faith AND works.
But i think it is wrong to worship mary.With charity, help FRiend ravenwolf understand what Scripture says about Mary.
The Protestant's most immediate need is to honestly study the Holy Scripture, since this is something they correctly profess to be very important. If they read the Gospel with their heart, they will understand that the belief system imposed on them by Luther, Calvin and their semi-educated pastor, is a lie.
Then they will be better mentally equipped to touch the difficult subjects such as the mystery of the Incarnation, and generally the teachings of the Catholic Church.
I'm afraid, my friend, it is you who needs to grasp the meaning of having the same sacrifice repeated over and over again millions of times without ever realizing that Christ suffered for our sins "once for all" and that there is no more need of a sacrifice. Christ told us to take the bread and wine "as often as you do it in remembrance of me."
Of course I took it personally - you would too if I had said something similar about Protestantism in one of my posts.
I’ve learned many Biblical Principles and how to apply them to my daily life, thanks to Protestantism.
But, doctrinally speaking, it IS faith + works. From just a logical perspective, Eternal Security is a nice thought, but if one does a lot of really bad things, and dies in such a state of soul, and Protestants don’t believe in Purgatory, well, what can I say?
I just don’t see how believing that Mary is the Mother of God demands more faith than believing in Eternal Security.
As long as we’re letting our hair down, I would never be other than a Catholic (or Orthodox Christian) because I am certain regarding the True Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. But, as I’ve said, I’ve learned a lot from the Protestants.
As a Catholic, I do not believe that Christians of other denominations need evangilization for they are already saved (just like us). Maybe a little education is needed though because contrary to what many “protestants” are being told, Catholicism does not teach works to get into heaven, not any more. We are taught Grace from a loving God as well.
Also, a key point on this thread has not been made. We do not worship Mary. We pray to her for intercession for us before the Lord. And though we pray through other saints for their special intercessions, Mary holds a special place in our hearts for what she did for us in that she put her own interests aside, believed in what God wanted and brought our Savior into the world. This gives her that unique relationship to our God our Savior.