Holy Mother of God
Fr. Joseph Levine; January 1, 2021
Readings: Nm 6:22-27; Ps 67:2-3,5-6,8; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21
In 431 AD the Bishops of the Catholic Church met for the 3rd ecumenical council in the city of Ephesus, located in modern day Turkey, a city that is believed to be the place where the Blessed Virgin Mary spent the final years of her life, together with the Apostle John, to whose care the Lord entrusted her before he died on the Cross.
There in Ephesus they solemnly affirmed that the Blessed Virgin Mary was in truth the Mother of God. They did not invent the title, which has already been in use and indeed is found in a well-known and ancient hymn that dates to the 3rd century. (“Sub tuum praesidium”).
Nevertheless, the title had been recently rejected by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius. To put the matter simply, Nestorius taught that in Christ there were two natures, divine and human, and two persons, divine and human, the Son of God and the Son of Mary. Nestorius declared therefore that Mary was the Mother of Christ, but not truly the Mother of God. Nestorius regarded the man, Jesus, as sharing in the title “Son of God” because of his supereminent holiness and intimate union with God.
At Ephesus, Nestorius was opposed by St. Cyril, the Patriarch of Alexandria. St. Cyril rightly held, in conformity with the tradition received from the Apostles, that the one Son of God, the Word who was in the beginning with the Father, is the one who took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and became man, not by any change in his divinity, but by uniting the human nature, body and soul, to himself in the unity of his divine person. As a result, the Virgin Mary is truly the Mother of God, according to his humanity. A mother gives birth to a person. So the Blessed Virgin did not give birth to a human nature, but to a divine person who had a human nature. She is truly the Holy Mother of God, whom we ask to pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.
The Council of Ephesus shows us clearly that the truth about Mary is inseparable from the truth about Jesus Christ. Catholics are typically accused of detracting from the honor due to Jesus because of the honor they give to Mary. The opposite rather is true; just as diminishing the truth about Jesus diminishes the truth about Mary, so also diminishing the truth about Mary diminished the truth about Jesus.
That is also why God fashioned a worthy Mother for himself. The holiness of Mary’s Immaculate Conception bears witness to the holiness of her Son, the source of holiness. The integrity of her virginity, before, during, and after the birth, bears witness to the origin of her Son, who was God, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, before the creation of the world; who was God when he walked on the earth, the Son of the Virgin Mary; and who in the very humanity he took from Mary, is God seated at the right hand of the Father. Likewise, her glorious Assumption into heaven, body and soul, bears witness to the redemptive power of her Son, and also to his resurrection and ascension. So also, her role by which she shared in her Son’s work as Co-Redemptrix at the foot of the Cross and by which she continues serving as all powerful intercessor and Mediatrix of Grace, our Mother in the order of grace, bears witness to the power of Christ’s redemptive work. Truly her soul, always and everywhere, magnifies the Lord, manifesting his mercy, his greatness, and his holiness to men. (cf. Lk 1:46-55)
This is also why consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary is such a good thing. By consecrating ourselves to the Holy Mother of God we renew our baptismal vows in her hands, entrusting ourselves completely to her maternal care, body and soul, all our goods, interior and exterior, and even the value of all our good actions, that she may do with us and all that we have whatever she pleases.
Clearly, giving to her our body and soul and all our goods, we may still use them, but now we must use the life that God has given us, as belonging to Mary, as her special property. We must live as her children, keeping the commandments of God and bearing witness to Jesus. (cf. Rev 12:17) In turn, she gives herself to us. In turn, she opens for us the treasure house of God’s grace and blessing. In turn, she takes care of us and protects us as belonging to herself. What Mary protects will not be lost. Rather, she unites us most surely and perfectly to her Son, Jesus Christ.
If we want to give everything to Mary, let us give her this past year completed that she might obtain for us the forgiveness of sins, fill up was lacking, and make it a worthy offering to God, through Jesus Christ, our Mediator. Let us give to her this year that is now beginning, with all of our hopes and fears, that she might guide us on the right path, faithful to her Son, leading us into eternal life.