On Mary, being the Mother of God

The idea of God having a mother is a relatively novel concept to me. Before joining the Church, my fundamentalist beliefs limited the realm of familial possibility to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And, of course, we are all God’s children in the spiritual sense but that was it. I guess the first and second person of the Trinity, the Father and the Son, might give way to the ability of God’s nature to be communicated to another. God having a mother is different; especially when His mother is a human. When we speak about the nature of God being communicated in such a way we err on the side of Greek mythology and that’s where we begin to lose people. Some might look at Jesus and compare him to the demigods that we’ve read about in school or in Marvel comic books. The truth about Jesus and his human family, more specifically: Jesus’ human mother, is a bit more involved than what we might think. The salvific plan of God took on a whole new meaning when God became man and the implications for us are quite significant.

When I was still a protestant, the ‘Mary’ issue was something I attempted to tackle and put to rest early on. I had a few well-informed Catholic friends who, at least from my perspective, worshiped this woman; a feeble form of idolatry hiding in plain sight within the walls of the Church. The Catholic Church has developed extensive doctrine on Mary based upon what has been revealed by God, to the Church. Several doctrines such as Mary’s Immaculate Conception and her assumption, body and soul, into heaven troubled me. How could one human become that great of a participant in God’s divine plan? Bear in mind, I was very familiar (and comfortable) with the miraculous occurrences recorded in Scripture. However, my view of Moses, Elijah and the like extended no further than ‘Ok, these guys are mere humble servants of God… cool.’ My issue was that Mary, another humble servant, had been elevated so greatly in the Catholic Church. After all, the only ‘miracle’ that could be attributed to Mary was that, in her obedience, she gave birth to Jesus and was charged with looking after him. End of story. Statues and shrines had been erected in honor of this woman. It wasn’t right and the situation needed to be rectified.

Having a view of Mary that reduces her life’s vocation and motherhood to something she was ‘expected to do’ because she was just doing God’s will like we are all expected to do is quite insulting. However, it is not insulting in the way you would initially expect. I am not saying that Mary is a God and to rob her of these statues and shrines is an insult to her divinity. She isn’t a God but she is a mother to the fullest extent of the title. Mary is no less a mother to Christ than my mother is to me or your mother to you. Mary gave birth to Jesus which means the entirety of Jesus’ human nature came from Mary. The doctrine of the hypostatic union tells us that Jesus was not part-God and part-man but that he was 100% of both God and man. We know where Christ’s divinity came from but do we realize that the entirety of His flesh came from His mother? Do we realize that the nails that pierced the hand of Jesus essentially pierced the hands of Mary? In this regard, because of the hypostatic union, Mary was actually Jesus’ mother more so than my mother ever could be to me or yours to you. Each of us are a combination of our parents, roughly 50% of each (I’m not entirely sure how the biology lines up here…). Once we acknowledge this reality we must come to know Mary as Jesus’ mother. What else could we acknowledge Jesus as, other than God?

Called in the Gospels “the mother of Jesus”, Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as “the mother of my Lord”. In fact, the One whom she 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” (Theotokos). – CCC 495

If Mary is the Mother of God then she automatically becomes a big deal to all Christians. Mary is a big deal not only because of who her son is but because of who she is. God chose Mary. God chose Mary before He created the heavens and the earth. Mary’s life and purpose had been ordained by God in such a way that all generations would call her blessed. (cf. Luke 1:48) Because nothing of Jesus’s human nature comes from anyone other than Mary, Mary would have been necessarily preserved from the stain of original sin. That’s another teaching for another post but it is critical towards our understanding, appreciation, and veneration of Christ’s mother. What’s more is that Mary’s motherhood as it relates to God coming as man makes her our mother as well. Think about it, if we are now all children of the Father because of the Son then we must also acknowledge that we are Children of the Mother because of her son. The Catholic Church acknowledges her Apostolic origins and Scripture tells us that from the cross Mary was entrusted to the care of John, the beloved apostle. Jesus looked to John and said ‘Behold your mother…’ (cf. John 19:26-27 ) and in that moment Jesus offered Mary not only as the mother of John and the apostles but to the entirety of their successors. Mary became the mother of all the Church.

Since the Virgin Mary’s role in the mystery of Christ and the Spirit has been treated, it is fitting now to consider her place in the mystery of the Church. “The Virgin Mary . . . is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer. . . . She is ‘clearly the mother of the members of Christ’ . . . since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head.” “Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church.” – CCC 963

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