What’s in a name?
Homily for “January 1st, 2008 - Mary, Mother of God”
One day when our son Chris was about 5 years old, Audrey and I went shopping for groceries at a large store in Edmonton. As we moved along we each took turns holding his hand because he didn’t want to ride in the shopping cart.
Somehow, in all the shuffling, he became separated from us. Maybe I thought Audrey had him or vice versa. Anyhow, at one point we heard this loud cry from the next aisle – “Audrey, Audrey, Audrey”. So Audrey took off like a shot and found Chris standing there still shouting “Audrey”.
She went and picked him up and gave him a big hug to calm him – but once he had settled down she admonished him. She looked him square in the eye and said “I am your mother – to you my name is mommy – not Audrey”. He looked back at her and said “I know that. But this place is full of mommies.”
Today the church celebrates the solemnity of “Mary, Mother of God”.
When Catholics say that Mary is the Mother of God, we are not saying that Mary is the Mother of God the Father, or the Mother of God the Holy Spirit.
But rather we are saying that she is the real human Mother of God the Son, Jesus Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity.
How can this be? Well, let me use an example. When you and I were born do you think that our mothers gave us an immortal human soul? No, they didn’t. Your Mom and your Dad gave you your body, but from the moment of conception God alone created your immortal human soul.
Yet, when your mother gave birth to you, she gave birth to all of you, an entire human person. Composed of body, blood and soul. She is the mother of all of you as a person.
In the same way, Mary did not give Jesus His Divine Nature, nor is she the source of His immortal Human Soul.
However, just as your mother did not give birth to a human body but rather to a human person, so also Mary carried in her womb an entire and complete divine person. This entire and complete divine person came forth and was born on Christmas Day. This person is Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God, the second person of the Blessed Trinity.
Sound confusing? Well it can be unless you stop to think about it.
Even though she is not the source of His Divinity nor is Mary the source of His immortal human soul, Mary did give Jesus His humanity - His body and blood. Then, she gave birth to the whole person - body, blood, soul and divinity - namely Jesus Christ and so therefore Mary is rightly called the Mother of God.
Listen to what Martin Luther had to say about Mary –
“In this work whereby she was made the Mother of God, so many and such good things were given her that no one can grasp them…. Not only was Mary the mother of Him who is born in Bethlehem, but of Him who, before the world, was entirely born of the Father, from a Mother in time at the same time man and God”.
And John Calvin had this to say “It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of His Son, granted her the highest honour…. Elizabeth calls Mary , Mother of the Lord, because the unity of the person in the two natures of Christ was such that she could have said that the mortal man engendered in the womb of Mary was at the same time the eternal God.”
And Ulrich Zwingli “I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the Gospel, as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact virgin.
The title of Mary Mother of God is the greatest of all Marian titles and from it all other titles flow. The Immaculate Conception, the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, Her Perpetual Virginity, Mother of the Church and Mother of the Mystical Body of Christ.
Because she is the Mother of God, Mary was preserved from all sin – immaculately conceived to be a worthy vessel to receive God in her womb.
Because she is the Mother of God and immaculately conceived - she was fittingly assumed bodily into Heaven.
Because she is the Mother of God and spouse of the Holy Spirit, she would remain a perpetual virgin.
Because she is the Mother of God, Mary is also called the Mother of the Church.
The only way that Christians can call themselves brothers and sisters of Christ is by way of adoption. In other words, Jesus is, was, and will always be the Eternal Son of the Father. All Christians are children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ by adoption.
If Christians are brothers and sisters in Christ by adoption, then by adoption, they also inherit the same mother. Mary is mother of Christ by nature, and therefore she is the Mother of Christians by adoption.
Because she is the Mother of God, Mary is also called the Mother of the Church because she’s the Mother of Christ and according to St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1Cor 12:12-27, His letter to the Romans (12:4-4) and to the Colossians (1:18) the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. So the Mother of Christ then is also the Mother of His Mystical body.
All of these titles flow from that first and greatest title - Theotokos (God Bearer), Mother of God.
And so we rightly pray:
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Deacon Bernard Ouellette