Fr. Rusty's Corner

Turn Four: Thoughts from Your Parish Priest

Mother of God

Mary having the title as “Mother of God” has not always been a given in our Church’s history.  Early on it was greatly debated, for the principle argument against it was Mary did not give birth to the divine.  She is not some kind of deity herself giving birth to a deity, so she cannot in the strict since be called the Mother of God.  How did the doctrine of Mary being the Mother of God develop and what does it mean to us today?

The debate stemmed from the argument that Mary would have only been the mother of the humanity of Christ.  She would have been the mother of Christ, but it would be impossible for her to be the Mother of God.  From our reflection on the Creed, we know that Christ is fully God and fully man.  This can never be divided.  The hypostatic union is complete and undividable.  Once incarnated, Christ would be simultaneously fully human and divine always.  To say that Christ is human in one moment and divine in another moment would be equal to saying that I am a priest at one moment saying Mass but I stop being a priest when I am not praying.  Or a married couple pauses from being married when their spouse leaves a room.  The fullness of who we are is a reality that is true all the time.  Christ is always fully human, so when Mary gave birth to Him, she gave birth to the fullness of who He is - the incarnate Son.  She is not the mother because she is not the origin of divinity.  She is the Mother of God because she gave birth to the fullness of who the Son is.  This earns her the title, Theotokos, which is Greek for “the one who gives birth to God,”  a title defined at the Council of Ephesus in 431 by St. Cyril of Alexandria.

What is the significance of this for us today?  This is theologically interesting, but what does this have to do with my spirituality?  Well, do you have children or grandchildren?  Do you take care of children at any point?  Do you feel overwhelmed with that reality?  Mary would have.  She would have been giving birth to the Messiah, the Son of the Most High, as the angel Gabriel told her.  She would have been overwhelmed with the task of becoming a parent too.  Even more, the task of raising the Son as her son into the man that we know in Scripture.  What could you teach God?  How do you balance the fact he is the one you worship with the reality that he is this vulnerable child needing your care?  How do you keep him humble in the reality that he is the Creator of the universe?  Mary would have asked herself these questions and many more.  Even the same questions all of us would ask as parents, like wondering what is best for my child.  How did she do it?  How did she have the strength to be the Mother of God?  Trust in God’s will and grace.  Trust that God would not have asked her to embark on this task if He did not trust it to her as God trusts parents today with their children.  And grace.  Without grace, any task in this life is too much for us to bear.  With God, all is possible. 

Our belief that Mary is the Mother of God does not remain in the theological.  It hits home to all of us, for in some way or another we are responsible for children, both teaching them the faith and aiding them on their path to salvation. 

- Fr. Rusty Vincent


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