“Theotokos”: Mary, the Mother of God



Let us…turn to the realization, in point of time, of the unique mission assigned to (Our Blessed Lady) by the Almighty, namely, to be the worthy Mother of the Son of God. (1) In treating this subject we will discuss briefly:


I. The errors in this connection;


II. The official teaching of the Church;


III. The argument from Sacred Scripture;


IV. The teaching of Tradition;


V. The theological explanation of the Catholic dogma;


VI. The objective dignity resulting from it.


I. Errors Concerning the Divine Maternity.


The Docetae, Anabaptists, and other heretics held that Christ was true God, but not a true man; hence, in their opinion, Mary could not be said to have begotten Him. On the contrary, the Ebionites, Arians, Rationalists and others hold that Christ was a true man, but not God; hence, Mary may be called the Mother of Christ, but in no way the Mother of God. The third error is that of the Nestorians, who claim that there were two persons in Christ (one divine and one human), and that Mary gave birth only to the human person; therefore, she cannot be called Mother of God.


II. The Official Teaching of the Church.


The Third General Council of the Church, which met in Ephesus in the year 431, under the presidency of St. Cyril of Alexandria, unhesitatingly approved the latter’s second letter to Nestorius in which the Blessed Virgin is openly proclaimed as Theotokos (i.e. Mother of God). (2) This official action was practically equivalent to a dogmatic definition. It seems now that the famous anathemas of St. Cyril, traditionally associated with the Council of Ephesus, were probably not read on that occasion, but rather at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553. The first one reads: “If any one does not profess that Emmanuel is truly God, and that consequently the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God (Theotokos), inasmuch as she gave birth in the flesh to the Word of God made flesh . . . , let him be anathema.” (3) It is, therefore, an article of our Catholic faith that Mary is really and truly the Mother of God. In 451 the Council of Chalcedon had already inserted the word Theotokosin one of its canons. (4) The nature and basis of the Catholic teaching on this point were authoritatively explained more recently by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Lux veritatis written in 1931 to commemorate the anniversary of the Council of Ephesus. (5)


III. The Argument from Sacred Scripture.


The Bible nowhere uses the expression “Mother of God” It refers to Mary as “the mother of Jesus” and “the mother of the Lord” (6) However, since Christ is true God, it follows that all texts which refer to Mary as His Mother, are so many proofs of her divine Maternity. Thus, the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaias was announced by the Archangel Gabriel in these words: “Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus.” And he added: “Therefore, the Holy one who shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:31). We gather the same truth from the following statement of St. Paul:


“When the fullness of time was come, God sent his son, made of a woman” (Galatians 4:4).


IV. The Teaching of Tradition.


Primitive Christian belief in Mary’s divine Maternity is evidenced in the liturgical prayers used by the faithful, particularly the Apostles’ Creed wherein they professed faith in “Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.” Similarl