It’s no coincidence that we begin every year with the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God.
Along with her Immaculate Conception, Our Lady’s Divine Maternity is one of the two fundamental truths about Mary. Everything else we believe about her revolves around these two teachings.
But interestingly, the consensus of most theologians is that Mary’s identity as Mother of God is her greatest title…even “greater” than her Immaculate Conception.
(If you want to dig more into the Immaculate Conception, I did two shows – Episodes 23 and Episode 24 – on that.)
St. Thomas Aquinas basically says that while Jesus was predestined to become the Incarnate God-man who walked around on earth and is now glorified in heaven, Mary was predestined to be the Mother of God.
She was always meant to be the Theotokos (God-bearer).
Now we’re obviously getting into some murky waters when we start throwing around words like predestination. It’s above my pay grade to try and sufficiently explain all it’s ins-and-outs.
I’m not saying there is no free will involved in our salvation or in salvation history in general. That would be more or a Calvinist position.
Suffice it to say that St. Thomas Aquinas indicates that there would be no need for Mary to be the Mother of God if the Fall hadn’t happened. God allowed Original Sin to happen because of the great good He could bring out of it.
As St. Paul says in Romans 5:20 – “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”
Mary was predestined to be the Mother of God because God knew the Fall would happen. Jesus was going to have to become like us (except for sin) to repair Original Sin – so God gave him a mother.
Her divine motherhood is totally a gift. It is not through any merit of her own. It’s a free gift from God.
Why is this important?
Because being the Mother of God is what gives Our Lady an infinite dignity. It gives her a place higher than any other creature ever created!
It’s why we honor her the way we do. Think about this…she is Mother of God!
It’s her greatest title.
Realize that as amazing a mystery as it is, the Immaculate Conception does not demand divine maternity (i.e. that Mary be Mother of God). But divine maternity does demand the Immaculate Conception.
She had to be made worthy to be the Mother of God, which is what God created her to be.
Remember that Mary is intimately united to the person of Jesus Christ who is the God-man. She isn’t just related to the man, but the God-man.
She gave birth to the person of Christ, not just his human nature. And his person is both human and divine.
So Mary is directly related to the hypostatic union – which is what we call the union of Christ’s humanity and divinity.
And remember, our salvation consists of passing through the sacred humanity of Christ and on into his divinity. The sacraments join us to his Mystical Body and give us the grace to start the process of deification.
That’s why St. Peter says we become partakers of the divine nature of God. (2 Peter 1:4)
That’s what sanctifying grace does for us. It’s our path to heaven.
That’s why Jesus wedded humanity to his divinity. He is our bridge to divinity. He is our bridge to heaven.
And Mary gave him to us.
She’s not special just because she was immaculately conceived and has no sin. Yes, that’s an awesome thing and Mary’s declaration at Lourdes that she is the Immaculate Conception and thus intimately united to the Holy Spirit is declaration that needs a lot more unpacking.
But she was immaculately conceived because of her destiny to become the Mother of God.
That is her highest title.
And because she is so intimately related to the God-man through the power of the Holy Spirit, she is superior even to all the angels.
It is because of her divine maternity that we give her the special veneration called hyper-dulia.
Remember that we give adoration – latria in Latin – to God alone. He is God. Only he receives worship and adoration.
Because of her divine maternity, Mary receives a special kind of veneration called hyperdulia. All the rest of the saints receive veneration called dulia.
And an interesting side note to all of this is that traditionally Protestants have accepted the Church council at which all of this was defined.
While most Evangelicals would have no idea what you’re talking about if you brought it up over coffee, Protestants accept the first seven ecumenical councils starting with the Council of Nicea in 325AD and ending with the Second Council of Nicea in 787. The third ecumenical council was Ephesus in 431AD.
And it was a huge one for Mary.
In fact, Mary’s title and identity as Mother of God was defined at the Council of Ephesus in 431AD.
That council condemned a heretic named Nestorius – the Patriarch of Constantinople – who was claiming that Mary could be the Mother of Christ, but not the Theotokos – the Mother of God.
Nestorius was actually attacking Christ in all of this, not Mary directly.
He didn’t believe what we proclaim in the Creed every week in Sunday Mass – that Christ is consubstantial with the Father. He didn’t think that humanity and divinity could be joined.
In other words, Nestorius made a distinction between the humanity and divinity of Christ. He believed that anything human was necessarily corrupted by original sin.
That’s why he incorrectly believed Mary could be the Mother of Christ the man, but not the Mother of the God-man.
His teaching was condemned.
And in order to safeguard the truth of the fact that Jesus Christ is one divine person with two natures – one human and one divine – the council declared Mary to be Theotokos – the God-bearer…the Mother of God.
What does this mean to us practically?
Basically, that we should turn to her every day. That as the Mother of God she is the one who brings our needs to Jesus. Her role is to mother us into the family of God.
Put simply, she is our conduit to divinity.
So pray your rosaries. Say your litanies. Talk to your Mother.
She’s obviously not greater than the Father, Son or Holy Spirit. But they have given her a special role to help us get into the family of God.
P.S. I’m heading back to Italy! Join me in March 2019 for an amazing pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi, Orvieto, LaVerna, and much, much more!
Check it out here!