Today we celebrate the feast day of Mary the Mother of God. Even though it is a description of Mary, it is more about Jesus than about Mary. Are you surprised? The decision to use this title for Mary comes out of the early church, and one of the very first councils of bishops. The issue at hand was the question of who Jesus is: is he God, is he man?
There was a position held by a number of early church leaders that held that Jesus was not God. This heresy was condemned. But it persisted in this particular question. You see, if Mary were only the Mother of Jesus, the identity of Jesus as God can be easily questioned. But to say that Mary is the Mother of God is to say so much more.
Now, one of the objections to using the title Mary Mother of God is even being pushed at us today. The primary objection is that if Mary is mother of God, then she must have been around before God. That would make her more of a supreme being than God. Well, we know that is not true.
So how do we balance the question about who Mary is as mother of God, not just mother of Jesus? We say that Jesus is a divine person, with a divine nature and human nature in union with one another. He is fully human and fully divine. It is part of the mystery of God’s self-revelation. He chose to come among us, as one of us, without removing from himself who he is as God.
St. Paul says it as clearly as any place in Scripture: “Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at, rather he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men…” Jesus set aside the glory that is rightfully his in order to be one of us, that he might save us from sin and death. Because of this, the God – man chose to be born of a woman, Mary, the mother of God.
Too many people have forgotten the necessity of this level of thought. Rather, they try to make it too simple. As a result of making it too simple they end up losing the marvelously compact statement about Jesus, the incarnation, the mystery of God’s revelation, the reality that Mary is the mother of God.
Yes, it does require a bit of thinking. And this is not something that our modern society wants to really do. Our society today seems afraid of digging deeply into difficult philosophical points. They want it easy. And the concept of Mary as mother of God is not easy. The statement is simple, but the theology behind it is not. Mary has to be called the mother of God. This does not mean she comes before God, or she is equal to God. It is a statement about the union of God and man in Jesus.
This title of Mary as mother of God is Mary’s greatest title. Not just because of the honor it gives her, but because of Emmanuel, which means God with us; because of Jesus, whose name means God who saves.
God is indeed with us; he saves us. And he has raised up his mother with the glorious title that only belongs to her: mother of God.