Skip to comments.The Day Nestorius Rocked the Church and an Empire
Posted on 12/28/2011 2:08:38 AM PST by markomalley
The mother of the messiah has been called many things in the last 2000 years the Virgin Mary, Our Lady, and the Blessed Mother. But call her the Mother of God and youll see some Christians squirm.
This is nothing new. One day in the early fifth century, a priest preached a stirring sermon in the presence of the patriarch of Constantinople. His subject was the holy mother of Jesus. The preacher continually referred to Mary as the Theotokos meaning God-bearer or mother of God. This was no innovation Christians had invoked Mary under this title for at least two hundred years. Nevertheless, at the close of the sermon, the patriarch ascended the steps of the pulpit to correct the preacher. We should call Mary the Mother of Christ, said Patriarch Nestorius, not the Mother of God. She was the mother of his human nature, not the mother of his divinity.
His comment sparked a riot. And the dispute rocked not only the congregation, but the entire empire. Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt, immediately recognized that Nestorius Marian theology was a symptom of a much deeper problem, a problem with the incarnation itself. For to deny Mary the title Mother of God makes of Jesus a dichotomy, a split personality. It would mean that God had not really embraced our humanity so as to become human. Rather, the humanity of Christ is hermetically sealed off from the divinity, as if Jesus were two persons, as if human nature was so distasteful that God, in Christ, had to keep it at arms distance. It is OK, according to Nestorius, to say that in Jesus, God raised Lazarus, or multiplied the loaves, or walked on water. But it is not OK to say that in Jesus God is born or that God died.
Cyril, aware that this was a challenge to the heart of our faith, demanded that an ecumenical council be called to settle the matter. So in 431, the Council of Ephesus met, under Cyrils leadership, and solemnly proclaimed that Mary is indeed rightly to be honored as the Theotokos, the Mother of God. It proclaimed that from the moment of his conception, God truly became man. Of course Mary is a creature and could never be the origin of the eternal Trinity, God without beginning or end. But the second person of the blessed Trinity chose to truly become man. He did not just come and borrow a human body and drive it around for awhile, ascend back to heaven, and discard it like an old car. No, at the moment of his conception in the womb of Mary, an amazing thing happened. God the Son united himself with a human nature forever. Humanity and divinity were so closely bound together in Jesus, son of Mary, that they could never be separated again. Everything that would be done by the son of Mary would be the act both of God and of man. So indeed it would be right to say that a man raised Lazarus from the dead and commanded the wind and waves. And it would also be right to say that God was born that first Christmas day and that on Good Friday, God died.
The Council of Ephesus, once confirmed by the Pope, became the third ecumenical council of the Catholic Church, and its teaching in this matter is dogma, truth revealed by God which all are bound to accept.
So why does the Roman liturgy celebrate the Octave of Christmas as the Feast of Mary the Mother of God? Because this paradoxical phrase strikes at the very heart of Christmas. The songs we sing and the cards we write extol the babe of Bethlehem as Emmanuel, God-with-us. He is so with us that after Gabriels visit to the Virgin of Nazareth, the Divine Word can never again be divided from our humanity. What God has joined, let no man separate.
1. If anyone does not confess that Emmanuel is God in truth, and therefore that the holy virgin is the mother of God (for she bore in a fleshly way the Word of God become flesh, let him be anathema.
2. If anyone does not confess that the Word from God the Father has been united by hypostasis with the flesh and is one Christ with his own flesh, and is therefore God and man together, let him be anathema.
3. If anyone divides in the one Christ the hypostases after the union, joining them only by a conjunction of dignity or authority or power, and not rather by a coming together in a union by nature, let him be anathema.
4. If anyone distributes between the two persons or hypostases the expressions used either in the gospels or in the apostolic writings, whether they are used by the holy writers of Christ or by him about himself, and ascribes some to him as to a man, thought of separately from the Word from God, and others, as befitting God, to him as to the Word from God the Father, let him be anathema.
5. If anyone dares to say that Christ was a God-bearing man and not rather God in truth, being by nature one Son, even as "the Word became flesh", and is made partaker of blood and flesh precisely like us, let him be anathema.
6. If anyone says that the Word from God the Father was the God or master of Christ, and does not rather confess the same both God and man, the Word having become flesh, according to the scriptures, let him be anathema.
7. If anyone says that as man Jesus was activated by the Word of God and was clothed with the glory of the Only-begotten, as a being separate from him, let him be anathema.
8. If anyone dares to say that the man who was assumed ought to be worshipped and glorified together with the divine Word and be called God along with him, while being separate from him, (for the addition of "with" must always compel us to think in this way), and will not rather worship Emmanuel with one veneration and send up to him one doxology, even as "the Word became flesh", let him be anathema.
9. If anyone says that the one Lord Jesus Christ was glorified by the Spirit, as making use of an alien power that worked through him and as having received from him the power to master unclean spirits and to work divine wonders among people, and does not rather say that it was his own proper Spirit through whom he worked the divine wonders, let him be anathema.
10. The divine scripture says Christ became "the high priest and apostle of our confession"; he offered himself to God the Father in an odour of sweetness for our sake. If anyone, therefore, says that it was not the very Word from God who became our high priest and apostle, when he became flesh and a man like us, but as it were another who was separate from him, in particular a man from a woman, or if anyone says that he offered the sacrifice also for himself and not rather for us alone (for he who knew no sin needed no offering), let him be anathema.
11. If anyone does not confess that the flesh of the Lord is life-giving and belongs to the Word from God the Father, but maintains that it belongs to another besides him, united with him in dignity or as enjoying a mere divine indwelling, and is not rather life-giving, as we said, since it became the flesh belonging to the Word who has power to bring all things to life, let him be anathema.
12. If anyone does not confess that the Word of God suffered in the flesh and was crucified in the flesh and tasted death in the flesh and became the first born of the dead, although as God he is life and life-giving, let him be anathema.
When Elizabeth heard Marys greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?As a wife of a Jewish priest, her only Lord would have been the Lord God of Israel, maker of heaven and earth, the king of the universe.
I love those anathemas!
I always enjoyed that little poke in Nestorius' eye.
The man Christ Jesus is God now, and forever and ever. Amen.
St. Louis de Montfort - The Secret of the Rosary - 17th Rose
Heritics, all of whom are children of the devil and bear the evident marks of reprobation, have a horror of the Hail Mary. They still say the Our Father but not the Hail Mary. They would rather wear a serpent around their necks than say the Rosary.
My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden,
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm:
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich He has sent empty away.
He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy;
As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His posterity forever.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen
Magníficat ánima mea Dóminum,
et exsultávit spíritus meus
in Deo salvatóre meo,
quia respéxit humilitátem
Ecce enim ex hoc beátam
me dicent omnes generatiónes,
quia fecit mihi magna,
qui potens est,
et sanctum nomen eius,
et misericórdia eius in progénies
et progénies timéntibus eum.
Fecit poténtiam in bráchio suo,
dispérsit supérbos mente cordis sui;
depósuit poténtes de sede
et exaltávit húmiles.
Esuriéntes implévit bonis
et dívites dimísit inánes.
Suscépit Ísrael púerum suum,
sicut locútus est ad patres nostros,
Ábraham et sémini eius in sæcula.
Glória Patri et Fílio
et Spirítui Sancto.
Sicut erat in princípio,
et nunc et semper,
et in sæcula sæculórum.
She became the Mother of God, in which work so many and such great good things are bestowed on her as pass man’s understanding. For on this there follows all honor, all blessedness, and her unique place in the whole of mankind, among which she has no equal, namely, that she had a child by the Father in heaven, and such a Child . . . Hence men have crowded all her glory into a single word, calling her the Mother of God . . . None can say of her nor announce to her greater things, even though he had as many tongues as the earth possesses flowers and blades of grass: the sky, stars; and the sea, grains of sand. It needs to be pondered in the heart what it means to be the Mother of God.
(Commentary on the Magnificat, 1521; in Luther’s Works, Pelikan et al, vol. 21, 326)
Irenaeus of Lyons [120-180 AD] Adversus Haereses (Book IV, Chapter 7)
"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]).Read More
Hippolytus [170-236 AD] Appendix
"[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]).Read More
Peter of Alexandria [260-311 AD] The Genuine Acts of Peter "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]).Read More
"We acknowledge the resurrection of the dead, of which Jesus Christ our Lord became the firstling; he bore a body not in appearance but in truth derived from Mary the Mother of God" (Letter to All Non-Egyptian Bishops 12 [A.D. 324]).Read More
Ephraim the Syrian, St [306-373 AD] On the Nativity of Christ in the Flesh
"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]).Read More
Athanasius, St [296-373 AD] Discourse I Against the Arians "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]).Read More
Gregory of Nyssa [325-386 AD] On the Baptism of Christ (Sermon for the Day of Lights)
"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).Read More
Cyril of Jerusalem, St [315-386 AD] Catechetical Lecture 10 "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]).Read More
Gregory of Nyssa [325-386 AD] Against Eunomius (Book X) "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]).Read More
Gregory Nazianzen, St [325-389 AD] Letters (Division I) "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]).Read More
Ambrose of Milan, St [340-397 AD] Concerning Virginity (Book II)
"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]).Read More
Methodius [Unknown] Oration Concerning Simeon and Anna "While the old man [Simeon] was thus exultant, and rejoicing with exceeding great and holy joy, that which had before been spoken of in a figure by the prophet Isaiah, the holy Mother of God now manifestly fulfilled" (Oration on Simeon and Anna 7 [A.D. 305]).Read More
"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" (ibid., 14).Read More
Jerome, St [347-420 AD] To Pammachius Against John of Jerusalem
"Do not marvel at the novelty of the thing, if a Virgin gives birth to God" (Commentaries on Isaiah 3:7:15 [A.D. 409]).Read More
Jerome, St [347-420 AD] Against the Pelagians (Book I) "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]).Read More
John Cassian [360-435 AD] Conference 1
"Now, you heretic, you say (whoever you are who deny that God was born of the Virgin), that Mary, the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, cannot be called the Mother of God, but the Mother only of Christ and not of God-for no one, you say, gives birth to one older than herself. And concerning this utterly stupid argument . . . let us prove by divine testimonies both that Christ is God and that Mary is the Mother of God" (On the Incarnation of Christ Against Nestorius 2:2 [A.D. 429]).Read More
John Cassian [360-435 AD] Conference 24
"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" (ibid., 2:5).Read More
Vincent of Lerins [390-450 AD] Commonitory for the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith "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]).Read More
Thank you for posting. Excellent.
Then you will love the Matins for the Sunday of Orthodoxy in the Byzantine tradition.
To those who deny the existence of God, and assert that the world is self-existing, and that all things in it occur by chance, and not by the providence of God, Anathema!
To those who say that God is not spirit, but flesh; or that He is not just, merciful, wise and all-knowing, and utter similar blasphemies, Anathema!
To those who dare to say that the Son of God and also the Holy Spirit are not one in essence and of equal honor with the Father, and confess that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not one God, Anathema!
To those who foolishly say that the coming of the Son of God into the world in the flesh, and His voluntary passion, death, and resurrection were not necessary for our salvation and the cleansing of sins, Anathema!
To those who reject the grace of redemption preached by the Gospel as the only means of our justification before God, Anathema!
To those who dare to say that the all-pure Virgin Mary was not virgin before giving birth, during birthgiving, and after her child-birth, Anathema!
To those who do not believe that the Holy Spirit inspired the prophets and apostles, and by them taught us the true way to eternal salvation, and confirmed this by miracles, and now dwells in the hearts of all true and faithful Christians, and teaches them in all truth, Anathema!
To those who reject the immortality of the soul, the end of time, the future judgment, and eternal reward for virtue and condemnation for sin, Anathema!
To those who reject all the holy mysteries held by the Church of Christ, Anathema!
To those who reject the Councils of the holy fathers and their traditions, which are agreeable to divine revelation and kept piously by the Orthodox Catholic Church, Anathema!
To those who mock and profane the holy images and relics which the holy Church receives as revelations of God’s work and of those pleasing to Him, to inspire their beholders with piety, and to arouse them to follow these examples; and to those who say that they are idols, Anathema!
To those who dare to say and teach that our Lord Jesus Christ did not descend to earth, but only seemed to; or that He did not descend to the earth and become incarnate only once, but many times, and who likewise deny that the true Wisdom of the Father is His only-begotten Son, Anathema!
To the followers of the occult, spiritualists, wizards, and all who do not believe in the one God, but honor the demons; or who do not humbly give their lives over to God, but strive to learn the future through sorcery, Anathema!
What those who disagree with Mary as the Mother of God will totally ignore is that all of the anathemas are about Christ and not Mary.
Showing again that all Marian doctrine originates in Jesus.
Mary is who and what she is because Jesus is who and what He is.
Evangelicalism arguably is Crypto-Nestorian.
The classical Protestant traditions, however, affirm that Mary is the Mother of God.
John Calvin and Martin Luther both taught that.
True, there was no need to definitively declare Mary as the Immaculate Conception and her Assumption until the attacks against those beliefs came in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The Assumption/Dormition was universally accepted by the apostolic Churches. The Eastern and Oriental Orthodox believe in it.
But the Immaculate Conception is quite another issue. For example, Pope St. Pius V abolished the Feast of the Immaculate Conception when he promulgated his 1570 Missal.
It lacked its own Mass proper and was simply referred to at the Feast of the Conception.
Mary is also the perfect sinless spouse of the Holy Spirit.
Blaspheme her and you blaspheme...
Great article and great post on the anathemas.
And by those disagreements about Mary and our Lord, Jesus Christ, they are sinning against the Holy Spirit — the one sin that cannot be forgiven.
Those are wonderful!
Didn’t realize I needed to read this until I found myself thinking that Nestorius was right. Excellent division of fine points.
Just as Mary said: “My soul doth magnify the Lord . . . .”