Mother of God
On this the Octave Day of Christmas we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. How often we Christians use that title and with such ease. It slips of the tongue or greets us on the page so innocently and disarmingly. We use it so often, in the rosary or at at Mass, that we can simply overlook how profound and shocking a statement it is. Indeed, to some of other faiths it would simply be blasphemous to announce that God, the eternal and uncreated, could ever lower Himself to be born of, and cared for by, one of His creatures.
In the first few centuries of the life of the Church many Christians also found it a difficult statement to accept. Even if one accepts Mary as the mother of Jesus, isn’t it a bit much to go around proclaiming a humble women to be the ‘Mother of God’? Are we not in danger of proclaiming a creature the originator of the Godhead? This title, a western derivation of the Greek theotokos, or God-bearer, was first formerly adopted at the Council of Ephesus in 431. It was used here as a way to assert the divinity of Christ against those who would emphasise a disunity between Christ’s human and divine natures. The Council sought to show that Jesus was both fully divine and fully human; one person, two natures; fully God and fully man. As such it follows that what can be predicated of Jesus Christ can be predicated of God also. So it was that this highest title of honour was formerly affirmed in the Church. The Church says; the one whom Mary bore is God, not that Mary is the origin of the Holy Trinity.
We should still be shocked by this wonderful title; not to the point of disbelief, scepticism or mistrust, but in the sense of being in awe of the statement. The title can tell us much about Mary and much about her Son. It should remind us of how powerful an event the Incarnation really is and what an example of all that is faithful and holy Mary is. The courageous and humble fiat that Mary proclaimed enabled the Incarnation to occur and she became unique as ‘Mother of God’. No other human would or could be as close to God as Mary is to her Son; but in this closeness we are reminded that it is Mary that enabled the Word to take flesh that He might share in our humanity and we in His divinity. We too can share in that bond between Mother and Child; we can share in His divinity because He, through Mary, was clothed in our humanity.
Amidst the excitement and anticipation of the beginning of a New Year we should take time to ponder these truths and to ask how we, with the help of God’s grace, might share a greater closeness in the mystery we proclaim and at which Mary is at the heart.