The Most Important Thing About Mary

Catholics love Mary. It is one of the things that make us distinct. We celebrate her with rich devotions, profess our faith in beautiful Marian doctrines, and glory in her powerful intercession. But in our faith and devotion one article stands above all else – that Mary is the Mother of God. She gave birth to Jesus, the God-man. Marian dogma is perhaps the most misunderstood part of our Catholic faith. To grasp Mary’s divine maternity is the best way to understand and explain the whole mystery of Mary.

theotokos

Mary has been revered under the title Mother of God (Greek theotokos) for a very long time. We find the title in the prayers of the Church in Alexandria in the 250s. The theology underlying this title is even more ancient. Scripture clearly affirms the both divinity of Jesus and his birth of the Virgin Mary. Mary’s role in the incarnation is affirmed in the most ancient creeds of the Church. The title – Mother of God – was finally affirmed as dogma at the Council of Ephesus in 431. The whole mystery of redemption is tied up in that title.

The title “Mother of God” or theotokos is, above all, a confession about the true nature of Christ. In the fifth century, the Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius, denied that Mary could be truly “The Mother of God.” He confessed that she was “Mother of Christ,” but did not see how we can credit her with divine maternity. But the Council of Ephesus (and later, the Council of Chalcedon, 451) understood that our redemption is essentially connected to Mary’s divine maternity. In Christ, the divine and the human are truly joined. “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things.” (Colossians 1:19-20)

Because Jesus is both God and Man, St. Paul likened him to a New Adam (Romans 5; 1 Corinthians 15). In him the human race is restored. What we lost in Adam, we regain in Christ: namely, a share in the divine nature. (2 Peter 1:4) Furthermore, the parallel with Adam led the Church fathers to consider Mary’s role in this equation. If Jesus is the New Adam, they confessed, then surely Mary is the New Eve. At the annunciation, she said “Yes” to God, whereas Eve said, “No.”

Mary’s role as The New Eve is also connected to her virginal conception. The first Eve was physically the mother of the human race. But Mary’s role was to bring forth, in Christ, those born “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13) Also, unlike the first Eve, the New Eve was totally consecrated to the will of God. (“Be it done to me according to thy word!”) Thus, her perpetual virginity is a sign of that total consecration. This is the more excellent way of discipleship that both Jesus and Saint Paul commend (Matthew 19; 1 Corinthians 7).

Because Mary is the Mother of the God-Man, she is also the Mother of the Church. In a mystical sense, Christ’s body is the Church. (Colossians 1:24). What we say of one, we can say (in a mystical way) of the other. When Saul of Tarsus was persecuting the Church, Christ said to him, “Why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4) For this reason, we can truly celebrate Mary as our Mother.

When we contemplate the divine maternity of Mary, we are led to consider the incredible dignity of her position. Only one person in the entire history of the human race can claim to be the Mother of God. In view of this dignity, in view of her role as the second Eve, as mother of the Church, as the maternal progenitor of a new race of spiritual men, and the most perfect exemplar of that race – it is more than fitting that Mary participate in our redemption in the most eminent way. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb. The Blessed Virgin was sanctified from the very moment of her conception. Hence, we confess her Immaculate Conception.

January 1 is the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. As you might suppose, it is my favorite Marian feast. Many years ago, I was struggling with the decision to become a Catholic. Like many non-Catholics, the Marian dogmas were initially a stumbling block to me. But as I began to contemplate Mary’s divine maternity – something which Protestants have also traditionally confessed – I realized the incredible dignity of the Blessed Virgin. Moreover, I began to see how the Marian dogmas fit together with the Church’s doctrine of salvation. In the end, the Blessed Virgin became not an obstacle to my Catholic faith, but a delightful motive. I, too, wanted her as my mother. Happy Feast Day!

10 thoughts on “The Most Important Thing About Mary

  1. Reply
    Paul Mugerwa - January 3, 2014

    Thank you Dr. Anders for your religious ministry. I enjoy your apologetics programs on the radio and I learn a lot. God bless.

  2. Reply
    Jerry - January 3, 2014

    Can you show me clearly from Scripture the immaculate conception? Also why do you believe that it is nessasary for her to be without sin. Is she like the rest of us , descendants of Adam, therefore born in sin like the rest of us? (psalm 51) Romans 3:23 “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” that includes Mary.

    1. Reply
      David Anders - January 3, 2014

      Hi Jerry,

      What significance do you attach to Scripture for the articulation of Christian dogma? The reason I ask is that historic Christianity up to the Protestant Reformation has always understood that the Christian revelation is transmitted to posterity in accordance with Christ’s commission to the 11 in Matthew 28: “Go therefore into all nations making disciples, teaching everything I have commanded you, baptizing in the Name of F, S, and HS, and I will be with you to the end of the age.” Christ entrusted the task to authoritative persons, not to books. The texts of Scripture are part of the deposit of faith, and one means of its transmission – but not the only means and not the final interpretive authority.

      Thus, what I can show you is that the Church Christ founded – in reading the texts of Scripture in light of Sacred tradition – understands Mary to be both sinless and immaculately conceived.

      What if I were to ask you, “Can you show me – from the book of Genesis alone – that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead?” You would probably find the question absurd. “Of course not,’ you would say, “a proper articulation of the Christian religion requires all the data of revelation. Not just one book.”

      Ditto the Marian dogmas.

      Thanks for writing,

      David

      1. Reply
        Jerry - January 4, 2014

        Hi David, so what text of Scripture in light of tradition shows the immaculate conception? also you didn’t explain the clear teaching of Scripture (Romans 3:23) that “all have sinned” this includes Mary. I believe Mary was a wonderful godly woman who truly loved The Lord, but she like the rest of us was born in sin and needed a Savior to redeem her. As for your question concerning Jesus rising from the dead in the book of Genesis alone, I would use not just one book but Scripture as a whole .

        1. Reply
          David Anders - January 10, 2014

          Hi Jerry,

          See my latest blog post (“Can you show me in Scripture?”) for my response.

          -David

  3. Reply
    judith - January 4, 2014

    I love listening to your open line. I learned new things about my my faith as catholic. God bless you and your ministry. your answer to all those questions inspire me to listen more. I love EWTN.

    1. Reply
      David Anders - January 10, 2014

      Thanks Judith!

  4. Reply
    Sharon - January 5, 2014

    I watched Journey Home tonight with Marcus Grogi and viewed your interview. I have to say what an amazing God we have that he carried You right in the palm of His hand! I sometimes view the dogma of Mary and the thoughts and ideas of people who may not understand the catholic faith in a more simplistic way.

    I always viewed it in more of an elementary way. Here on earth, we live a physical life, we have a mother and a father! So why in heavens named, would we not have a spiritual father and spiritual mother? Simplistic terms, however, in a broader sense in which the way your wrote here in your blog, gives a more revelent/biblical definition to Our Lady.

    Blessings and in awe of your life that has been touched in an amazing way,
    Sharon

    1. Reply
      David Anders - January 10, 2014

      Thanks Sharon!

  5. Reply
    Suzanna Moore Sandoval - June 1, 2016

    Last week, you mentioned that Mary was the only human connected to all three of the Trinity.
    Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, Carried Christ in her body, and……
    I was driving, and couldn’t pull over to write down your answer, which I found profound.
    Would you please provide them again?
    Thank you.

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