Herald Journal Columns
Aug. 18, 2003 Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

Mary, mother of God - what does it really mean to the church?

By Rev. Robert Mraz, Holy Family Catholic Church, Silver Lake

Today, as I write this, we celebrate the dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, the oldest church in the west dedicated to Mary dating from 436 A.D.

Its title is officially "Our Lady of the Snows." That is a strange name for a church in Rome. If you are there this time of the year, it is unbearably hot, making Minnesota seem quite pleasant.

It comes from a dream that Pope Sixtus had that he should build a church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary on a hill covered with snow. When he woke up in the morning, he inquired and found that one of the hills did indeed have snow upon it designating the site of now one of the four major basilicas in Rome.

In the confessio or the area below the altar you will find wood from the manger in Bethlehem in a glass case celebrating Mary as the Mother of God.

That is the purpose of the church ­ to celebrate the definition of Mary as the Mother of God defined by the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in the year 431 AD. (Ephesus is where Mary lived with St. John the Apostle.)

The title of Mary the Mother of God was taken for granted from apostolic times until in the 400s there was a Patriarch of Constantinople named Nestorius. He preached that it is wrong to say that Mary is "The Mother of God (Theotokos in Greek ­ God Bearer)" but that she was "Christotokos - Christ Bearer."

After all she is just human, she is not a goddess who preexisted before God and gave birth to God, so therefore she is just the bearer of Christ the man, or the mother of the man Jesus.

The Council condemned Nestorius as a heretic because what his teaching did to who Christ was. It was agreed that Mary is human like the rest of us and that she is not a goddess who preexisted before God and gave birth (existence) to God. We still believe that to this day.

But what matters is, who did Mary carry in her womb and give birth to? Did she just give birth to a man who was adopted by God the Son like God working through a prophet, or was the person in her womb really God the Son Himself ­ human and divine as one person?

Is Jesus two persons or just one? It is heresy to say that Jesus is two persons, he is only one person who gets his humanity from Mary and his divinity from God.

Like if you have a king who marries a commoner and they have a child who is heir to the throne and a future king, is he one person or two?

Can you separate the right half and say it is royal and the left half is not, or is it the top and the bottom half? That is ridiculious it is only one person a royal person. So too Jesus is one person a divine person who is God and man in one person.

Man who can suffer and die ­ God who can rise from the dead and give us eternal life in the home of the King ­ Heaven.

When we honor Mary as the Mother of God, we are saying more about who Jesus is. He is the redeemer ­ the eternal God born in time to take our human nature and unite it to his divinity and be the bridge between Heaven and Earth.

He is Emmanuel ­ "God who dwells with his people" in a human body to aid us in our needs by his power as God, because He is Son of God and Son of Mary.

The child in the womb of Mary, whom she gave birth to, was God, so she is rightly titled "the Mother of God."

As Elizabeth called her "Who am I that 'the Mother of My Lord' should come to me." The "Mother of My Lord" is the title for the queen mother, the mother of the king, in the case the king of heaven who is God.

The Queen Mother presents the king whom she gave birth to ­ to his people as their Lord and King who comes to save them.


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