Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What we say about Jesus, when we call Mary the "Mother of God"

January 1st, Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God
The doctrines of Mary which the Church believes, teaches, and professes are, in truth, doctrines about Christ. When the Church says “Mary” she is directing us always to Jesus.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the central teaching about our Lady – that she is truly the Mother of God. By insisting that our Lady is not merely the Mother of the Christ, but truly the Mother of God, the Church condemns two heresies concerning the Savior.
The Angelic Thomas speaks
“The Blessed Virgin is truly called the Mother of God. For the only way in which it could be denied that the Blessed Virgin is the Mother of God would be either if the humanity were first subject to conception and birth, before this man were the Son of God, as Photinus said; or if the humanity were not assumed unto unity of the Person or hypostasis of the Word of God, as Nestorius maintained. But both of these are erroneous. Therefore it is heretical to deny that the Blessed Virgin is the Mother of God.”
 - Summa Theologica III, q.35, a.4

Against Adoptionism
Against those who would claim that the Child conceived  in Mary’s womb were not truly God, but that he would only become God at a later time, the Church teaches that Mary is not merely the mother of the Messiah or the mother of one who would become God, but truly the Mother of God himself.
In this, we see condemned every heresy which would claim that our Savior was somehow not fully God from his conception. Those who say that he did not know all things, or that he was imperfect or could be tempted interiorly by sin, or that he was somehow only adopted as the son of God later – all these are condemned.
For, if Mary is called the Mother of God, then this must mean that the Christ Child is truly God. And, if he is God, then he surely knows all things (we speak only of his divine knowledge here, though we could also assert that he knows all things as man likewise), and he surely cannot sin or be interiorly tempted by sin (since God cannot suffer concupiscence).
Thus, those who claim that Jesus came to perfection only in his baptism, or after his resurrection, are sorely mistaken – for he is God from the beginning.
Whenever we ask the question: “Did Jesus know such and such?” We must remember that this “Jesus” of whom we speak is no mere man, but the true God. Thus, the answer is surely “Yes”. For, as God, he most certainly knew and knows all things absolutely.
Nor can any claim that this divinity was “limited” or “set aside” when our Lord came to earth – for it is the true God of whom Mary is Mother, and God cannot be limited.
Against Nestorianism
On the other hand, some will speak as though our Savior “left his divinity” with the Father. These persons suppose that it was a man who walked on earth, while the divinity remained in heaven.
However, if Mary is the Mother not merely of the Christ, but even of God, we know that the person to whom Mary gave birth must indeed be God himself.  As there is only one “Jesus” and only one “Son of God”, so too we must insist that the Child born of Mary is truly and wholly God.
Because Mary is Mother of God, the Jesus of Nazareth who walked upon the earth must truly be God himself. In this respect, any who would seek to divide the humanity and the divinity of Christ in such a way as to make his humanity a separate person or a separate subject from his divinity (as though we could mentally consider only the human nature apart from the divine person) are confounded by the dogma that Mary is the true Mother of God.
Thus, the foundational Marian doctrine serves to place our Lady as the great mediatrix who directs us always to her Divine Son.

Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us!


Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Bravo, Father. Far too many Catholics (Prelates, Priests, and Pew Dwellers) speak of Jesus as though He had taken on a fallen human nature.

But, what is even worse, is that I have heard Priests say that Jesus became sin and died on the Cross but if that is so, how could sin be an acceptable Sacrifice to God?

I know this gets into a whole another ball of wax and I am hoping you could help us sort all of this out as we draw closer to His Passion in addressing such as whether His death on the Cross was an act of propitiation or expiation etc

Michael said said...

Father Erlenbush,

Could you clarify the teaching that "Jesus could not be tempted"?

What are we to take from His time with Satan in the desert? Was it in His humanity that He was tempted?

Thank you!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Well, he could be tempted, but not interiorly ...
See this article -- you may find it helpful.

Hope that helps! +

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this discussion - even if there are some apparent contradictions to Phil. 2:6-10.

Unknown said...

Help me understand. If Christ, God the Son was begotten of the Father before all time, and is of the same substance as the Father, isn't it somewhat misleading to publically refer to the virgin Mary as "Mother of God?" Though more cumbersome, isn't "Mary the mother of God incarnate on earth" a more theologically sound statement? Thanks for your response.

Charles said...

This is what Jesus was while on earth:

St Bridget of Sweden’s Rev:
Chapter 3

“I am your God and Lord, whom you worship and honor. I am the one who upholds
heaven and earth with my power; they are not upheld by any pillars or anything else. I am the one who is handled and offered up each day on the altar under the appearance of bread as true God and true man. I am the same one who has chosen you. Honor my Father! Love me! Obey my Spirit! Honor my Mother as your Lady! Honor all my saints! Keep the true faith which you shall learn by him who experienced within himself the battle of the two spirits - the spirit of falsehood and the spirit of truth - and with my help won. Maintain true humility. What is true humility if not to behave as one really is, and to give praise to God for the good things he has given us?

Anonymous said...

Father, care to comment on the modern practice of circumcision for a Catholic in light of the Council of Florence? Seems appropriate for the feast...

Anonymous said...

Since Christ grew in wisdom as scripture states how could you say he could know all things as a man (in his humanity)??

Unknown said...

The Apostle Paul sums it up best in Philippians 2:6-8:
"Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,"
becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Anonymous said...

Scripture says that Jesus became sin and died for us. I've always found this difficult to understand, but it's there and we need to accept it.

Anonymous said...

While I delight in affirming that Mary is Theotokos in that she is Mother of the Incarnate Person of God the Son Who fully Enhypostatizes the Divine Ousia, I wonder about the possible inexactness: the uninformed might assume it meant she was Mother of the Father and the Holy Spirit as well, as God is One, the Trinity Ever Blessed.

How has this been addressed historically?


Unknown said...

David, er Anonymous :) your question is more succinctly posed than my original question. I am in full agreement that she bore God incarnate as man here on earth. The phrase "Mother of God" implies "eternal being." Only the triune Godhead shares that state of existance. Mary, could only provide the human DNA while the Holy Spirit provided the "Diety" of the dual nature of the man, the Christ, the "Word of God." This is a difficult subject to consider, but logical, rational clarity of what we know to be true must form the basis of subsequent, secondary theological positions.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Mr. Koupal


Unknown said...

Fr. Erlenbush, I was sincerely hoping you would respond to my heart felt question?

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Mr. Koupal. I believe that in his post Father explained what it is you are asking of him.

Anonymous said...

** I wish you'd publish this too Fr Ryan, but maybe not.

-- Continued
Further Ronald Conte runs a website and blog in which he takes pokes at prominent figures in Catholic media. There is hardly a name from within EWTN or Catholic Answers and others in the Catholic media that the author has not taken a poke at either in correcting, criticizing, condemning, defaming or labeling either their teaching(heresy) or them a heretic. If they are a high-flier in Catholic media, chances are Ron Conte has taken a swipe.

This list which reads as a 'WHO'S WHO OF CATHOLICISM' includes:
Fr Vincent Serpa(EWTN/Catholic Answers), Fr Robert Barron(founder Word on Fire, produced 'Catholicism' series that ran on TV/PBS, Seminary Director), Fr. Ryan Erlenbush (NewTheologicalMovement Blog), Dr Mark Miravalle(prominent Mariologist ), Dr. Scott Hahn(Franciscan University Stuebenville), Michael Voris(ChurchMilitant.tv), Colin Donovan(EWTN/Catholic Answers), Dr Jeff Mirus( founder of CatholicCulture website, Catholic World News), Jimmy Akin(Catholic Answers), Mark Mallet, Dr.Peter Kreeft(Boston Univ.), Jason Evert(Catholic Answers) and Mother Angelica(founder of EWTN) and more.
Now to be sure some of the criticism is founded and is simply correction but much more is wrong-headed and consists of criticizing, condemning, defaming or labeling ...heresy or heretic. Much more destructive also, in that he has set his sights predominantly on the people of the 'New Catholic Evangelization' over and above the other problem areas and groups both within and outside the Church. There is no other group other than the 'New Catholic Evangelization' that the author spends sooo much of his time, criticism and vitriol against. I think the following two quotes put the author Ron Conte into perspective, all his own words.


Unknown said...

Spartacus, unfortunately the post asserts a presupposition that the title "Mother of God" is a forgone conclusion based on the historical/heretical issues of the era the title was coined. That is not my question. Knowing the history of the controversies that led to the title being granted posthumously to the Virgin Mary shouldn't, and doesn't prohibit the faithful from asking valid questions outside the presumptions of tradition. It is valid to say that God who has existed in a triune form before time has no "mother." The term "mother" speaks of a beginning. God has no beginning, therefore doesn't it stand to reason God has no mother? I don't mean to be argumentive, I do mean to speak consistantly about all aspects of His existance relative to all He has revealed to us.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I thank you for the information, but I'd rather not publish the comments as it could lead people to look into a website which I consider to be damaging to the faith ... since the particular "theologian" you mention (and whom you rightly criticize) is practically unknown, I don't want to give him any recognition on this blog.

Peace and blessings.
Oremus pro invicem! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

He is God without Mother and Man without Father ... in this you are quite correct!

However, remember that Mary cannot be the mother merely of the human nature ... natures do not have mothers, people have mothers ... thus, Mary must be the mother of the person, Jesus who is truly the Son of God and God himself.

Hence, we say that she is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of God, but not the Mother of the Divinity (because she is not the mother of the divine essence) nor the Mother of God the Father.

I wrote an article on this subject once, you may find it helpful.

Peace! +

Unknown said...

Thanks Fr. Erlenbush. You give an excellent explanation in "God without Mother and Man without Father." This description of the virgin's role in God's plan for man's redemption is a satisfactory viewpoint that puts the incarnation of God as Man in perfect perspective. God bless!

Anonymous said...


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