Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Heaven
Mother of God
The fourth and fifth centuries, the first ones of Christian
emancipation from persecution, were centuries of consolidating the truth about God and
Christ. The Councils of Nicea (325) and Constantinople (361) defined the basic teachings of
Christianity in the Creed which goes by their name (and which is obligatory at Sunday Mass),
against those who in one manner or another denied the unity of God, and the Divinity of the
Son ("one in substance with the Father") and of the Holy Spirit ("who proceeds from the
Father and the Son"). It also asserted the true humanity of Christ "born of the Virgin
Mary," thus protecting the Incarnation of the Word, the Word-made-flesh, from the assault of
heretics like Arius. Jesus Christ was indeed the Eternal Son, a Divine Person, who united in
Himself both a Divine and human nature.
Nestorius was only emboldened, teaching that Jesus was merely the temple of the Word, and if Mary is the Mother of God she has been made a goddess. His contemptuous remarks included, "a mother cannot bear a son older than herself." Both the Pope and Nestorius were desirous of a Council and so one was called in Ephesus in June of 431. However, Nestorius and his followers did not come, despite several summons, and after seven sessions to consider the matter the teaching of Nestorius, and some other heretics such as Pelagius, were condemned. Here is what the Council decreed:
- 111a For we do not say that the nature of the Word was changed and made flesh, nor yet that it was changed into the whole man (composed) of soul and body but rather (we say) that the Word, in an ineffable and inconceivable manner, having hypostatically united to Himself flesh animated by a rational soul, became Man and was called the Son of Man, not according to the will alone or by the assumption of a person alone, and that the different natures were brought together in a real union, but that out of both in one Christ and Son, not because the distinction of natures was destroyed by the union, but rather because the divine nature and the human nature formed one Lord and Christ and Son for us, through a marvelous and mystical concurrence in unity. . . . For it was no ordinary man who was first born of the Holy Virgin and upon whom the Word afterwards descended; but being united from the womb itself He is said to have undergone flesh birth, claiming as His own the birth of His own flesh. Thus [the holy Fathers] did not hesitate to speak of the holy Virgin as the Theotokos (Mother of God). [Denzinger paragraph 111a]
113 Canon. 1. If anyone does not confess that God is truly Emmanuel, and that on this account the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God (for according to the flesh she gave birth to the Word of God become flesh by birth), let him be anathema (condemned, i.e. excommunicated).
114 Can. 2. If anyone does not confess that the Word of God the Father was united to a body by hypostasis [union in a single Person] and that one is Christ with his own body, the same one evidently both God and man, let him be anathema.
115 Can. 3. If anyone in the one Christ divides the subsistences [divine and human natures] after the union, connecting them by a junction only according to worth, that is to say absolute sway or power, and not rather by a joining according to physical union [union in the one Christ], let him be anathema.
116 Can. 4. If anyone portions out to two persons, that is to say subsistences, the words in the Gospels and the apostolic writings, whether said about Christ by the saints, or by Him concerning Himself, and attributes some as it to a man specially understood beside the Word of God, others as befitting God alone, to the Word of God the Father, let him be anathema.
117 Can. 5. If anyone ventures to say that Christ is a man inspired by God, and not rather that He is truly God, as a son by nature, as the Word was made flesh and has shared similarly with us in blood and flesh, let him be anathema.
118 Can. 6. If anyone ventures to say that God or the Lord is the Word of Christ from God the Father and does not rather confess the same as at once both God and man, since the Word was made flesh according to the Scriptures, let him be anathema.
119 Can. 7. If anyone says that Jesus as man was assisted by the Word of God, and that the glory of the Only-begotten was applied as to another existing beside Him, let him be anathema.
- ... and so on
As can be seen, all of the decisions of this great Council, of which the title Mother of God was only the pricipitating issue, protect and defend this truth: Jesus Christ was NOT a mere man on whom the Word descended in some way or to whom the Word was united but distinct, rather He was the Divine eternal Person of the Word, who in time assumed a human nature of Mary, but remained the Word, the One Christ, 2nd Person of the Trinity, uniting in Himself His Divine Nature and His Incarnate Human Nature.
In all, twelve canons defend and put outside Christian faith various propositions attacking the union of Christ's two natures in His One Divine Person. In a single brief statement the Council declares that Mary gave birth NOT to a mere man, human nature, but to a Divine Person who assumed our manhood. She is properly, then, the human Mother in time of God the Word, and not just the Mother of Christ, a title any good new ager of our day could accept. By calling Mary the Mother of God, the Catholic Church establishes herself alone in the West, together with the Orthodox who separated from us in the 11th century, as doctrinally incapable of renouncing the union of the two natures in the one Person of the Eternal Word.
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