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Dec 31, 2014

Why Do We Call Mary “Mother of God?”

David Kilby

The Solemnity of the Mother of God is a reminder that Christ’s birth was only the beginning of the great story of Christmas, a story filled with mysteries that call the people of God to believe so that they may understand.

Bartolomé_Esteban_Perez_Murillo_023The Council of Ephesus, held in A.D. 431 confirmed the dogma on the Mother of God, stating:

“The One whom [Mary] conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly ‘Mother of God.’”

The second half of the Hail Mary, beginning with the address, “Holy Mary, Mother of God,” can trace its roots back to this council.

But the dogma has its roots in Scripture. It is founded on the mystical union between Christ and his Church and Mary, the mother of the Church.

When the angel Gabriel greeted Mary, she pondered what kind of greeting “Hail, full of grace” may be, and in fact great saints and Church Fathers have been pondering the mystery of the Incarnation ever since. I’d like to revisit the part of the Nicene Creed that describes Jesus to highlight his divine nature:

“We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father. Through him all things were made.”

This theology comes right from the beginning of the Gospel of John, when the beloved disciple writes, “The Word was with God, and the Word was God … without him nothing was made that has been made.”

This Word becoming flesh was the miracle that was great enough to amaze even the archangel Gabriel. In the study, “Mary: A Biblical Walk with the Blessed Mother,” Dr. Edward Sri reflects that Gabriel had been loving and praising the almighty, all-loving, and all-powerful infinite God since the beginning of time. But then one day God calls Gabriel to go down to “this little obscure village of Nazareth, to this tiny woman, a creature named Mary, and announce to her that the almighty God that he has been adoring and praising is about to become a little baby in her womb.”

Reflecting on Mary’s role in salvation, Sri also traces the parallels between John 19 and Revelation 12. In Revelation 12, the Apostle John refers to a woman who is mother of both the Messiah and of Christians.

Revelation 12 reads, “She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne” (Rev. 12:5).

Then, in Rev 12:17, the dragon, known to be Satan, seeks to wage war against, “the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus.”

Many theologians refer to these witnesses as the mystical body of Christ. When seen in that light, Christ’s last words to Mary and John make perfect sense.

John 19:26-27 states, “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son. Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’”

John was the only apostle at the Cross. The rest had abandoned Jesus, so Jesus was in a very real way calling his mother the mother of the Church at the time. With all of these Scripture passages shining light upon the great role Mary plays in the story of salvation, if we believe that Christ is God then it is only fitting to say Mary is the Mother of God.

You May Also Like…

Feast Day: Queenship of Mary
What Does Mary’s Assumption Have To Do with Us?
Why Pray to Mary and the Saints?
Mary: A Biblical Walk with the Blessed Mother


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  • During the homily at Mass yesterday, the priest brought up a question I’m sure we’ve all heard countless times: Why do we ask Mary to pray for us? Why don’t we take our prayers directly to Jesus?

    I was reminded of the time when a family member asked me the same question. I replied, “Why do you ask me to pray for you? Why don’t you pray to Jesus directly?” She said to me, “Because your prayers are more powerful than mine”. I told her, “If you think MY prayers are powerful, just think how much more powerful are the prayers of Mary, the mother of Jesus!”

    Jesus said to John at the cross, “Behold your mother”. Well, that’s the message to US, to ALL His loyal disciples throughout the ages who stand beside Him…

  • My preference has always been to pray to Jesus…my friend’s preference is to pray through Mary to Jesus….some pray to the Father, some through the Holy Spirit…I don’t feel that it is an issue…it is all going to where it needs to go to…and if one is more comfortable with the Mother it is okay; to the Son-okay, etc.

  • because my mother said, “Ask your Father” and my dad said “Ask your Mother”…
    and because my dad was distant – even living in the same house he so often failed to pick up on my needs for privacy (my women’s things confused him, but he didn’t think about me when he took me in to the store, and asked very loudly, “Now, do you know where the pads/tampons are?”
    and my mother was one I trusted to ask dad could I go to the dance, and say it so he would know I wasn’t going to be dancing with anyone he didn’t approve of, nor drink, or anything else – mom would know how to answer those tongue-tying questions for me…
    my dad would always would always shout, “Did you say ‘she could go to ___’?” when my sisters and brothers were wildly jealous and I had striven to keep my going something quiet to spare us all from their recriminations…
    and this: when I take my problems to God, He has every one else to think of, too – maybe even the people I would be hurting because of my personal request to God… for instance, my brother was in jail at the same time as my son-in-law… I could, and did, ask God for their release, and as well for the ones they’d hurt the feelings and the physical well-being of, for them… while my prayers to Mother Mary takes my request that my fellows be released from jail, cleans it up so God would gently release them from the jails they were in, and gently treat my brother’s girlfriend and my daughter to ease their pain and forgive me for asking that their detractors be freed…
    I believe Mary will clean up everything I ask her to ask God for, in such a way as to actually get those things that matter to me, without giving up those things that matter to God…

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