Friday, January 1, 2010

Mother of God

Last week my father joined the ranks of heretics—for about ten minutes. Please don’t tell him I told you!

He was reading the local paper and came across a letter to the editor from a Protestant minister who was responding to a recent article on Mary. The minister was debunking the title “Mother of God.” Mary was the mother of Jesus, he admitted, and Jesus was God, but that doesn’t make her the mother of God, since God can’t have a mother.

Mary, the letter concluded, can only be called the mother of Jesus, not the mother of God. This argument, Dad concluded, made good sense.

“And so it does,” I told him, “Except for the fact that the Church decided the matter once and for all at the Council of Ephesus in 431 by affirming Mary as the Mother of God, as she had been called as early as the year 180.”

“You just signed on for the Nestorian heresy,” I told my father with a grin.

In celebrating Mary as the Mother of God today, we join the Church of the ages in doing two things. The secondary thing is honouring our Blessed Mother. But the primary thing is professing her Son as true God and true Man.

A parishioner is reading a book by Mark Shea, a former Protestant, that reminds us that all four of the Church’s infallible teachings about Mary—her divine Motherhood, her perpetual virginity, her immaculate conception, and her assumption into heaven—“all illuminate or protect something crucial about Jesus and/or us.” [Mark Shea, Mary, Mother of the Son, Volume Two: First Guardian of the Faith, p. 17]

My first pastor told me never to preach more than five minutes on New Year’s Day, and I have followed his rule for more than twenty years. But if you would like to read more of Mark Shea’s detailed treatment of the dogma that Mary is Mother of God, and its many consequences, do check out his website.

For now, we can focus on one simple fact: knowing Mary as truly God’s mother leaves no room for doubting that Jesus is true God and true Man. Knowing Mary as Mother of God means knowing her Son as the Word made Flesh…the central truth of Christmas.
And thus Mary “doesn’t just protect the Son of Man, she protects all of us.” [p. 53]

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