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Monday, January 02, 2006

Mary, Mother of God

January 1 celebrates the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Now this title makes many Christians uncomfortable, including some Catholics. This was also true in 5th century, as Dr. Marcelino D'Ambrosio relates in this piece at Catholic Exchange. But as the article explains, objection to this title reveals a deep inconsistency: to say that Mary is mother of the human nature only is to say that Christ did not have full humanity as well as divinity. Such a thought gives the false notion that Christ had two incompatible natures, when the whole premise of the Incarnation is the compatibility of God and man, revealed in God become man in Christ's Incarnation, as well as in man become divine in our redemption. When we call Mary the Mother of God, it is true that we are rather proud of Mary's role, but not because of some mistaken notion of superiority, but because of what we know about her blessedness, and in her blessedness, ours. She stands as the archetypical Christian faithful, blessed to hear of the gospel's invitation, blssed to accept in humility by the grace of faith, and blessed to bear within us the fulfillment of God's promises to those who hear and believe. In the second reading, St. Paul assures us that we are adopted sons and heirs. This is not presumption. It is Christ who assures us of this. Neither is the title, "Mother of God" a presumption, because this is also assured by Christ, who chose to be born of this particular woman, whom the Scriptures refer to as his mother, whom Christ assures us is blessed for hearing and observing the word of God, whom the Holy Spirit, speaking through St. Elizabeth, asserts is mother of the Lord, and is blessed for believing in the promises of God. January 1 is the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Let us celebrate, for in his great love and mercy, God was willing to come down and share our humanity, to be one of us, born of woman, to live, suffer and die as man, so that man could be one with him. Alleluia!


L P Cruz said...


No real argument with the title "mother of God" because the term's accent is Jesus who is God Man, that title exalts Jesus rather than Mary.

Our bone will be how RCs play through that title 'mother of God' in exalting Mary.

Jeff Tan said...

Hi Lito, I have to admit that some people do seem to go into excesses in Marian devotion, but that's as it seems to me. Remember that story about the woman who touched the cloak of the Lord and her bleeding illness got better with the Lord's blessings? That's the kind of faith that some Marian devotees have, and, frankly, if I were a priest back in the Philippines faced with a parishioner with such a faith, I wouldn't presume to stop her. Not unless she starts asking for sacraments in the name of Mary rather than in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then she'd need straightening out. Otherwise, faith is a gift from God, and it is personal. Unless the parishioner exhibits heterodox or heretical notions, e.g., Collyridianism.

BTW I assume you object to excessively exalting Mary, not in exalting her, per se. After all, there's enough in Scriptures to exalt Mary as it is, e.g., the angel Gabriel and St. Elizabeth addressing Mary. In her own prophecy, she speaks of generations who will call her blessed. And of course, the very choice of Mary as the mother of God, not just in being the channel for the Incarnation, not just in giving the Lord his human DNA, but most of all in being entrusted with the care and raising up of our Lord from infant to man.

But you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned the title as exalting Jesus rather than Mary, because that is what every honor or glory we give to Mary is about. Being God's creature and daugther, any compliment we give her is a compliment to God, just as any admiration we have for the physical universe is an admiration of God's power and designs. We cannot, of course, exalt her *above* her God and Creator, for that would be idolatry. The Church does not make Mary out to be at par to God. Not even close. The core of Catholic theology and sacramental life has Christ at the core. The Eucharist is about Christ's sacrifice on the cross, not Mary's. And that sacrament, which is the central worship of the Church, is about communion with the body and blood of Jesus Christ, not Mary's. Examine all the other six sacraments and again, they are all from Christ -- as it should be.

When we marvel at Mary's Immaculate Conception, we marvel at the gracious God who saves her at the moment of conception. When we marvel at her glorious assumption, we marvel at God's unveiled promise of resurrection to all who die in his friendship. When we marvel at Mary's role as gracious advocate, we marvel at God's plan for his family, a family of sons and daughters who are advocates for one another, and at God's mercy and generosity in heeding the prayers of his children for one another. And I've said this before: when we meditate at the angelus those mysteries of the Incarnation, we meditate upon the Incarnation coming to fruition in us: God invites us (as he does Mary, unto whom the angel declares his divine plan), we must humbly surrender (as Mary says, "behold the handmaid of the Lord!") and our faithful God will make us fruitful (as the angelus says "and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.").

Do not be alarmed at the exaltation of Mary. God has already outdone the Catholics in that regard.

L P Cruz said...

Dear Jeff,

The one that is most of concern is the devotion and prayer to Mary. This assumes Jesus is not for the sinner. To me this obscures the Gospel.