The dogma of “Mary Mother of God” has been greatly misunderstood, ranging from non-Catholics to lukewarm Catholics. By saying that Mary is the Mother of God, the Catholic Church is NOT saying that Mary is the source of the divine nature among the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, NOR is she the source of the divine nature of the second Person (Jesus). An analogy would suffice in aiding our understanding of this topic, and this would come up towards the end of this post.
The Bible says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…” (John 1:1) This “Word” the Scriptures tell us was made flesh [in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary] and dwelt among us. (Cf. Jn. 1:14). This very “Word”, the entire Christendom believes to be our Lord Jesus Christ. Now the pure fact arises: “If Jesus Christ is truly God, then Mary is truly the Mother of God”. But millions of others in Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christian communities would not accept this aspect of the faith. The objections to this great dogma of the faith are essentially two:
To say Mary cannot be the Mother of God because Sacred Scripture does not use those explicit words places the Protestants in a very uncomfortable position. They would also have to conclude multiple essential Christian doctrines to be erroneous because they are not found verbatim in the Bible either. Take the Trinity, for example. This doctrine is preeminent among all Christian doctrines—and yet the term “Trinity” is not found in the Bible. Nor are terms like “homoousios” (Greek, “same nature”; Jesus has the “same nature” as his Father) or “hypostatic union” (that is, the union of the nature of man and the nature of God in Christ).
Now, the question the Protestant should ask is: “IS THE CONCEPT OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD REVEALED TO US IN SACRED SCRIPTURE? And we will see that it is. Thus, this first objection is quite easily dismissed. Now, let us journey through the scriptures and see how it explains the concept of MOTHER OF GOD.
In Luke 1:43, we hear Elizabeth clearly: “But why am I so favoured, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” We were told she was inspired by the Holy Spirit to make such pronouncement. She addressed Mary as “the Mother of her Lord (Jesus Christ who is God)”. A careful understanding of that phrase would cast our minds back to the Old Testament antecedent, the conclusion becomes clear. Elizabeth was referring, almost verbatim, to a text from 2 Samuel 6:9 wherein David exclaims concerning the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant: “And David was afraid of the Lord that day; and he said, ‘How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?’” When Elizabeth “exclaimed with a loud cry . . . Why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me” (Luke 1:42-43), Mary was revealed to be the New Testament Ark of the Covenant. Since the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant bore the two tablets of Stones containing the Law, which is the Word of God, Mary the New Testament Ark bore our Lord Jesus Christ in her womb, who is the Eternal Word of God.
The question for us, then, is: WAS THE ARK OF THE COVENANT IN THE OLD TESTAMENT THE ARK OF AN EARTHLY MONARCH OR RULER, OR WAS IT THE ARK OF ALMIGHTY GOD? The answer is obvious; It was the Ark of the Almighty God. This does not mean that it was the Ark that created the Almighty God, however, God was pleased to dwell therein. Now, why didn’t we criticize it that how can a simple Ark bear the Almighty God, since the Bible also says that both the heavens and the earth cannot contain God? In the same way, the more glorious New Testament Ark of the Covenant (Mary) is not an Ark of an earthly ruler, but it is the Ark of God (Jesus Christ, our Lord).
The Catholic Church confesses that Mary is truly the “Mother of God” (Theotokos in Greek: God-bearer) (CCC 495). Mary is the Mother of God precisely because Jesus Christ, her Son, is God. And when Mary gave birth, she did not give birth to nature (man), she gave birth to One, divine Person (who has both the nature of God and the nature of man). To deny this essential truth of the faith, as the Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431) declared, is to cut oneself off from full communion with Christ and his Church. The real problem with denying Mary as Mother of God and affirming Mary to be only the mother of the man Christ Jesus is that in doing so, one invariably either denies the divinity of Christ (as the fourth century Arians did), or one creates two persons with regard to Jesus Christ. Either error results in HERESY as clearly expressed “Patrology”. The Councils of Nicaea (325) and Constantinople (381) dealt decisively with the Arian heresy. The Arian Heresy, rather than teaching the TRUTH that Christ is One divine person with two natures—one human, and one divine— hypostatically unified, or joined together, It teaches that Christ is two persons with a merely moral union, which is WRONG. To support the fact that Christ is one person with two natures, the Bible declares to us: “In HIM the whole fullness of DEITY dwells BODILY” (Col. 2:9). And, “In HIM all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible” (Col. 1:16). Nowhere do we read In THEM; we only read of HIM, the divine Person, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Hence, if one prays to a Jesus who is two persons, one prays to a “Jesus” who does not exist!
The Protestants may raise another objection, saying: “If God is Trinity, and Mary is the Mother of God, would that not mean Mary is the Mother of the Trinity?” No! Actually, it does not apply.
Paragraph 495 of the Catechism is very clear that Mary is the only Mother of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity because neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit is incarnate. Simple enough. But the problem here may be deeper than just a confusion of persons within the Godhead. The error that may come to mind is: “Even if Mary is only the Mother of the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus is just as eternal as the other two divine Persons are… Thus, in order to be His Mother, Mary would have to be equally as eternal.” This is wrong to conceive because it distorts the idea of the Trinity, making it a Quadrinity. Just as the Ark of the Old Covenant was the befitting dwelling place of God, it doesn’t mean that the Ark was as Eternal as God. The root of this “Quadrinity” problem is a false understanding of what is meant by Mary’s true “motherhood” and perhaps a false understanding of what is meant by “motherhood” in general. Let us take a proper look at what motherhood is concerned by a simple analogy:
For example, I’m the son of my mother. But this does not mean she is the source of my immortal soul. God directly and immediately created my soul as He does with every human being (see Eccl. 12:7). However, we cannot conclude then that my mother is merely “the mother of my body.” She is my mother, period! She did not give birth to only a body; she gave birth to a human person who is a body and soul composite, and that person is me. Analogously, though Mary did not provide Jesus with either his divine nature or his immortal human soul, she is still his Mother because she did not give birth to just a body, or a soul, or nature, she gave birth to One Person (Jesus Christ). And that One Person is God.
The conclusion to the whole matter is inescapable: “If Jesus Christ is One, Eternal and Unchangeable Divine Person—God—and Mary is his Mother, then Mary is the Mother of that One, Eternal and Unchangeable God.


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Chinaka Justin Mbaeri

A staunch Roman Catholic and an Apologist of the Christian faith.

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