Mary, Mother of God
The early Church struggled for how to address Mary in her most stupendous act, being the mother of the Lord’s Anointed, Jesus, Who is God. It took the pressure of heretics and deviators from The Gospel Truth for the Church Fathers to announce that Mary had the fitting title of “Mother of God.” This entitlement to Mary was made more to exalt Jesus than to lift up Mary. They wanted it clear that the teaching of the True Church is how Jesus is Divine. He is God, as the Word Incarnate– and therefore, Mary did mother a divine person through her flesh, Who is called God. Mary a creature was given the purpose to bring in the Word made Flesh. God fashioned her to do so, and she lived a total fiat (yes) to that calling.
God came into humanity through Mary, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, but also to be flesh of flesh by her, whom He had made. God thus became flesh. This part that Mary played, to agree to bring the Word into flesh (her own), made it possible for Jesus to be True God and True Man. The Word pre-existed (John 1:1-4 ) so God’s Son was Eternal in being with the Father. Yet our Faith celebrates that The Word also came into time and flesh (John 1:12-14) and the Word was now man. He used Mary in quite an amazing and startling entrance, as her baby. The Annunciation Feast (March 25) and the Nativity Feast with its related Epiphany Feast celebrates God the Son’ s arrival into humanity.
A title was needed to show Mary’s elevated part, her necessary part, her specialness– in this cooperation with the Biggest Event in history. When people wanted to just call Mary as “the Mother of Jesus,” it came to be recognized that this title could be mistakenly applied so that her role was too reduced. How so? She had a child that was not only human, but also divine. She gave birth more to a male child named Jesus. Her child was God, arrived in a divine nature ( which God included in His Person in Jesus) and on the eighth day of his presence here He was named “Savior”–meaning, “God saves” the name told by an angel, to define Him.
As the Church came out of the early persecution period from the Romans, she now held councils to define the Faith. The Scripture Canon was chosen, the Creeds were written, traditions were made clear, and beliefs were sharply defined. Mary’s title of Theo-tokos became important. This God-bearer woman, forecast in Hebrew Scriptures and hopes, was mother of the Deliverer (Isaiah 7:14) even as a virgin that conceived. She would far surpass the great women and mothers of the Hebrew Faith story, like Hannah, Sarah, Rebecca, Nitzevet (David’s mother) or Jochebed (Moses’ mother). She was the fulfillment of the dreams of all of the above.
The Very Lord’s Anointed, THE Christ Child, came into flesh, Mary’s flesh, and He arrived as God/human– two natures in one. The Church needed to clearly teach that Jesus did not later to become divine, or semi-divine, nor did He have only a prophet’s status nor was he just a holy man who never was deity nor was a man who had divinity added on along the way in life. The Church settled these doctrine matters and they heralded Mary as “Mother of God” because Jesus, her Son, is the eternal Son, God’s member of the Holy Trinity, to join into our human race with us. Mary’s title of Mother of God is all about this deep effort to honor truly her Son.
Elizabeth “gets this” true knowledge, when in the Holy Spirit, she greets Mary in the Visitation (Luke 1) and addresses her as “the mother of My Lord.”
In the early heresies versus the Church, like Gnosticism, their leaders objected to Mary having a Child Who would be God in her, claiming it was not possible, since, they said, that “all matter is evil,” an idea borrowed from certain Greek philosophers. The gnostics contradicted Genesis 1:31, “God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good.” They also denied the doctrine of the Incarnation, claiming that Christ only appeared to be a man. Since matter is evil, they conjectured, his humanity was merely an illusion. (See the work of Church Councils of Nicaea, Ephesus, Constantinople)
There are many non-Catholic Christian opinions today that, also, like the early objectors, cannot fathom Mary as a woman God made who was good. They also cannot fathom the connection of Jesus and her, in how God provided for His Son’s necessary pure birth in this way through a woman. Yet, without the Mother of God, Mary (mothering into human nature by her womb, God the Son)– God would not claim the avenue that He did of bringing a spotless, sin-free Savior, fellow human, while Lamb of God offering for us that would be divinely worthy. It is a true God/ true man plan in Jesus. We pray that in our Creed every Sunday as Catholics. Yet many separated Christians do not, and it has a lot to do with the hang-ups they have, of a theological challenge that Catholics have accepted in their Faith. We must love Jesus as He is. We must love His mother as He made her to be, for Him, and for our sake. Mary is not to be dismissed.
God once made an Eve from the side of Adam, and both started in innocent life in the Garden of Eden. Could not Mary come forth from the side of Christ, in the Genesis plan, to be the innocent virgin to bear a Son? Could not God choose when to introduce her and to bring forth His own coming into the world as man? Of course, and so we have the top image of Mary as “Mother of God” and we start the calendar with it. Isaiah 7:14 John 1:29-34 Genesis 1, Revelation 12.
End of Mother of God lesson
This Jan. 7th, the RCIA class is on Mary. We’ll be looking at other titles of her, as well as Marian devotions. If you want , then you may read on of 3 other related titles of Mary, in compliment to get being Mother of God.
Three Other Images of Mary with less description than Mother of God
Mary, Ark of the Covenant:
The Old Testament ark of the Covenant was a true icon of the sacred. It was a picture of the purity and holiness God fittingly demands of those objects and/or persons most closely associated with himself and the plan of salvation. Because it would contain the very presence of God symbolized by three types of the coming Messiah—the manna, the Ten Commandments, and Aaron’s staff—it had to be most pure and untouched by sinful man (see II Sam. 6:1-9; Exodus 25:10ff; Numbers 4:15; Heb. 9:4).
In the New Testament, the new and true Ark would not be an inanimate object, but a person—the Blessed Mother. How much more pure would the new and true Ark be when we consider the old ark was a mere “shadow” in relation to it (see Heb. 10:1)? This image of Mary as the Ark of the Covenant is an indicator that Mary would fittingly be free from all contagion of sin in order for her to be a worthy vessel to bear God in her womb. And most importantly, just as the Old Covenant ark was pristine from the moment it was constructed with explicit divine instructions in Exodus 25, so would Mary be most pure from the moment of her conception. God, in a sense, prepared his own dwelling place in both the Old and New Testaments.
Mary, the “New Eve” of the New Covenant:
It is important for us to recall, as I mentioned briefly above, that New Covenant fulfillments are always more glorious and more perfect than their Old Testament types, which are “but a shadow of the good things to come” in the New Covenant (Heb. 10:1). With this New Testament truth in mind, let us consider the New Testament revelation of Mary to be the antitype of Eve, or the “New Eve.” After the fall of Adam and Eve in Gen. 3, God promised the advent of another “woman” in Gen. 3:15, or a “New Eve” who would oppose Lucifer, and whose “seed” would crush his head. This “woman” and “her seed” would reverse the curse, so to speak, that the original “man” and “woman” had brought upon humanity through their disobedience.
It is most significant here to note “Adam” and “Eve” are revealed simply as “the man” and “the woman” before the woman’s name was changed to “Eve” (Heb.—Mother of the living) after the fall (See Gen. 2:21ff). When we then look at the New Covenant, Jesus is explicitly referred to as the “last Adam,” or the “New Adam” in I Cor. 15:45. And Jesus himself indicates Mary to be the prophetic “woman” or “New Eve” of Gen. 3:15 when he refers to his mother as “woman” in John 2:5 and 19:26. Moreover, St. John refers to Mary as “woman” eight times in Rev. 12. As the first Eve brought death to all of her children through disobedience and heeding the words of the ancient Serpent, the devil, the “New Eve” of Revelation 12 brings life and salvation to all of her children through her obedience. The same “serpent” who deceived the original woman of Genesis is revealed, in Revelation 12, to fail in his attempt to overcome this New Woman. The New Eve overcomes the serpent and as a result, “The serpent is angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God, and bear testimony to Jesus” (Rev. 12:17).
If Mary is the New Eve, and New Testament fulfillments are always more glorious than their Old Testament antecedents, it would be unthinkable for Mary to be conceived in sin. If she were, she would be inferior to Eve who was created in a perfect state, free from all sin.
Mary, the Beginning of the New Creation:
Jeremiah 31:22 presents another fascinating prophecy concerning the coming of the “New Woman” and the New Covenant. In the midst of this well-known chapter famous for its prophecy concerning the coming of the New Covenant (see Jeremiah 31:31, which is quoted in Heb. 8:8), we read: “For the Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth. A WOMAN SHALL COMPASS A MAN” (DRV). St. Jerome, in the fourth century, comments on this text:
“Can a bride forget her jewels, or a virgin her girdle” (Jer. 2:32) Always in this very prophecy it is said that a great miracle occurred involving this woman: The woman will surround the man and the virgin’s womb will contain the parent of all.
In the first covenant, the man “compassed” or “encompassed” the woman. The woman came from the rib of the man. In the New Covenant, “the New Man,” or “New Adam”—Jesus—would come from the womb of “the Woman”—or “New Eve.” It is Mary that would “compass” Jesus.
Many fathers of the Church, in agreement with St. Jerome, will see from this and other biblical texts Mary as the “new earth” or “new land” out of which God would form the “New Adam.” Consider St. Jerome’s Tractus de Psalmo 66 and 96 (these are commentaries on the Psalms). When considering Psalm 66, St. Jerome sees Jesus and Mary in both the “flower and the Lily” of Song of Solomon 2:1 and the “fruits of the earth” from Psalm 66 (67):6:
Do you want to know what this fruit is? It is the virgin from the Virgin, the Lord from the handmaid, God from a human creature, the Son from a mother, the fruit from the earth.
St. Jerome here refers to Mary as “the earth.” He says something similar in his commentary on Psalm 96. He speaks of the promised land to David as being Mary:
The land of David is holy Mary, Mother of the Lord, “who was born of David’s seed according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3). What was promised to David was fulfilled in Mary’s virginity and birth, where a virgin is born from a Virgin.
Mary is the new earth out of which would be formed the New Adam. Just as God formed the first Adam from a pristine earth untouched by the curse of original sin, so God would bring the “New Adam” from a “New Land” or “New Earth” that would also most fittingly be pristine and untouched by sin. The first creation began without sin, so the New Creation would begin without sin as well. The first Eve would fall from grace; the New Eve would not.