Master Catechist: Mary the Mother of God

The month of May is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Her highest title, “Mary, The Mother of God”, Theotokos, highlights the fact that Christ is God and truly was born of Mary as a man: in this way his unity as true God and true man is preserved. This title has met with much turmoil over the centuries: the Nestorian heresy of the fourth century, the establishment of Islam in the seventh century, and the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century. Fr. Hardon explains the Pope’s decision to institute a new feast in 1970 dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God.

 —Michael Mohr

 In 1970, Pope Paul VI instituted January 1 as the feast of Mary, Mother of God. This was to replace the feast of Our Lord’s Circumcision, and place the Latin Rite in accord with the Eastern tradition of the Catholic Church. It would also supplant the former feast of the Maternity of Mary on October 11.

The Holy Father gave five reasons for instituting the new feast. Each reason tells us what we believe when we profess our faith in Mary’s Divine Maternity, and how this mystery should affect our daily lives.

Mary’s role in the Mystery of Salvation. She was chosen from all eternity to become the Mother of God. Mary was invited by the angel at the Annunciation to become the Mother of the Most High. She gave her fiat on which depended the future redemption of the human race.

Through Mary We Received the Author of Life. It is not rhetoric but reality, that the Son of Mary is twice over the Author of life. He is the origin of human life as its Creator, since “All things were made through Him, and without Him was made nothing that has been made” (Jn. 1:3). But Mary’s Son is also the Author of our supernatural life. Except for His conception and birth of Mary, the human race would not have been redeemed from sin.

Adoration of Mary’s Son, the Newborn Prince of Peace. The first commandment of the decalogue prescribes the worship of the one true God. We believe that the Child whom Mary brought into the world is God Incarnate. That is why during His public ministry, Jesus did not hesitate to say that “I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10:30).

It is not a casual afterthought to think of Christ as Prince (or Source) of Peace. The experience of God’s friendship is our deepest source of peace. But except for the mercy of Mary’s Son, we would not be reconciled with God and so could not know the peace of soul that only a forgiven sinner can have.

Meditate on the Angel’s Message at Bethlehem. How did Pope Paul VI associate Mary with the good news of great joy announced by the angel on Christmas morning? He explained that Mary is both the cause and the model of our joy because she is the Mother of God.

She is the cause of our joy because she gave us Jesus Christ. He is at once the God who alone can eternally satisfy the desires of our heart and the God-man whose death assures us of happiness already on earth-provided we “draw waters with joy out of the Savior’s fountains” (Is. 12:3), which are the sacraments He instituted.

Mary is also the model of our joy. In her Magnificat, she declared “my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Lk. 1:47). That must also be our norm for rejoicing: not in ourselves, not in doing our own will, but in God and doing His will.

Implore Mary for Peace in the World. The closing purpose for instituting the feast of Mary, Mother of God, touches on the heart of the Divine Maternity.

The death casualties in the wars since 1900 are greater than in all the previous centuries put together since the origin of man. If peace within nations and peace between nations is to be restored, they must be reconverted to the Christ whom they had abandoned. To do this, they must be re-convinced that God became man, and was born of the Virgin Mary in order to deliver man from the slavery of sin.

There is more here than meets the eye, and far more than can be said in this short article on Mary, the Mother of God.