There are many titles by which Mary is known, but there is none greater than Mother of God. While many of Mary’s titles are devotional, the title Mother of God is a clear theological statement about her son Jesus. It is also a statement about us, her sisters and her brothers, and how deeply we are intertwined in the mystery of the Incarnation.
The term Theotokos meaning God bearer was a title used for Mary from early on in the Eastern Church. It was the council of Ephesus that declared it a doctrine in the year 461.
The issue arose out of a dispute about the full divinity and humanity of Jesus. If Jesus is the true incarnation, the enfleshment of the divine One, then Mary, is truly the mother of that enfleshed divine One. Jesus had her DNA. Her blood flowed through his veins. His genetic makeup was inherited from her. His early nourishment was from her, and we can say his early nurturing was also in large part from that Mother. For Mary could look at her Son Jesus, as any mother can look at her child, and truly say, “This is my body, this is my blood.” The claim never was that Mary birthed God, but that she truly was the Mother of the incarnated Divine One.
We know that in any family if one member receives an honor, it gives the whole family a boost. Well, there is something greater than a boost to our humanity in this mystery of the Incarnation. Mary is the one who mothers the incarnated Divine One. Mary is one of us humans. She is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. Through our common humanity with her we are all incorporated into the incarnational event. We are lifted up to the status of partnering with the divine in human form. We are all graced and dignified by the divine presence in our very own humanity. The mission of Mary becomes our mission – to enflesh the divine in our time and in our place. This is how Jesus recognized those who do that as mother, sister, brother.
It is no wonder that throughout the centuries devotion to this woman named Mary has always been strong. She has been seen as part of our salvation and redemption. She has been regarded as our advocate, the one so many of the faithful turn to with their needs. And why not? For in this blended divine human family to which we belong, she is kin. She is Mother.
On this World Day of Peace, let us plead with her, Queen of Peace, Mother of God, for peace for her broken children in all corners of this earth.
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP