|In a lasting vestige of anti-Catholic prejudice, a
concerted effort to discredit the Church is being made today by some non-Catholic
Christians who continue to propagate the falsehood that Catholics worship Mary OR that the
devotion to the Blessed Mother is a continuation of devotion to the various mother
goddesses of the ancient pagan pantheons. These charges can legitimately be called prejudices
because they proceed from a prejudgment (made in advance based on
preconceived ideas about what Catholics believe) and efforts to enlighten and convince
with facts usually fall on deaf ears. However, it is necessary for Catholics to be
forewarned about these on-going polemically, "prayer warfare" and
"prophetic acts" (such as the smashing of a statue on Brazilian TV), so as not
to be scandalized about their Catholic faith by such attacks.
Mother of God
- One such claim is that calling Mary the Mother of God is a manifestation of the apostasy
of Catholicism, which has returned to pagan mother goddess worship. This title, bestowed
by the Council of Ephesus in 431, is seen as proof of Catholic apostasy from the
Gospel. The historical facts underlying the Council do not dissuade those captured by this
prejudice about the Church and its love of Mary, however, they clearly show the Church's
intention to protect the doctrine of Christ's divinity and sacred humanity, the
Incarnation, as well as give the proper due to she who fully cooperated in it by her Fiat
(let it be done).
The fourth and fifth centuries, the first ones of Christian emancipation from
persecution, were centuries of consolidating the truth about God and Christ. The Councils
of Nicea (325) and Constantinople (361) defined the basic teachings of Christianity in the
Creed which goes by their name (and which is obligatory at Sunday Mass), against those who
in one manner or another denied the unity of God, and the Divinity of the Son ("one
in substance with the Father") and of the Holy Spirit ("who proceeds from the
Father and the Son"). It also asserted the true humanity of Christ "born of the
Virgin Mary," thus protecting the Incarnation of the Word, the Word-made-flesh, from
the assault of heretics like Arius. Jesus Christ was indeed the Eternal Son, a Divine
Person, who united in Himself both a Divine and human nature.
- However, some of those who remained in the Church after Nicea-Constantinople sought to
mitigate the full force of these teachings by various equivocations. In 428 Archbishop
Nestorius, the newly elected Patriarch of Constantinople, began to teach that Mary was
indeed the Mother of Christ but was not the Mother of God, a title freely used in the
Church. Although attempting to remain faithful to the Creed, that is professing belief in
Christ's true Divinity and true humanity, Nestorius' writings, however, suggested that in
Christ there was more of a moral unity of two persons, the Word and Jesus. In addition to
the rebellion of the clergy and people, Nestorius had to contend with the attacks of St.
Cyril of Alexandria, who finally submitted both Nestorius' writings and his own defenses
to Pope St. Celestine, who condemned Nestorius as a heretic.
Nestorius was only emboldened, teaching that Jesus was merely the temple of
the Word, and if Mary is the Mother of God she has been made a goddess. His contemptuous
remarks included, "a mother cannot bear a son older than herself." Both the Pope
and Nestorius were desirous of a Council and so one was called in Ephesus in June of 431.
However, Nestorius and his followers did not come, despite several summons, and after
seven sessions to consider the matter the teaching of Nestorius, and some other heretics
such as Pelagius, were condemned. Here is what the Council decreed:
- 111a For we do not say that the nature of the Word was changed and made
flesh, nor yet that it was changed into the whole man (composed) of soul and body but
rather (we say) that the Word, in an ineffable and inconceivable manner, having
hypostatically united to Himself flesh animated by a rational soul, became Man and was
called the Son of Man, not according to the will alone or by the assumption of a person
alone, and that the different natures were brought together in a real union, but that out
of both in one Christ and Son, not because the distinction of natures was destroyed by the
union, but rather because the divine nature and the human nature formed one Lord and
Christ and Son for us, through a marvelous and mystical concurrence in unity. . . . For it
was no ordinary man who was first born of the Holy Virgin and upon whom the Word
afterwards descended; but being united from the womb itself He is said to have undergone
flesh birth, claiming as His own the birth of His own flesh. Thus [the holy Fathers] did
not hesitate to speak of the holy Virgin as the Theotokos (Mother of God). [Denzinger
113 Canon. 1. If anyone does not confess that God is truly
Emmanuel, and that on this account the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God (for according to
the flesh she gave birth to the Word of God become flesh by birth), let him be anathema
(condemned, i.e. excommunicated).
114 Can. 2. If anyone does not confess that the Word of God the Father
was united to a body by hypostasis [union in a single Person] and that one is Christ with
his own body, the same one evidently both God and man, let him be anathema.
115 Can. 3. If anyone in the one Christ divides the
subsistences [divine and human natures] after the union, connecting them by a junction
only according to worth, that is to say absolute sway or power, and not rather by a
joining according to physical union [union in the one Christ], let him be anathema.
116 Can. 4. If anyone portions out to two persons, that is to say
subsistences, the words in the Gospels and the apostolic writings, whether said about
Christ by the saints, or by Him concerning Himself, and attributes some as it to a man
specially understood beside the Word of God, others as befitting God alone, to the Word of
God the Father, let him be anathema.
117 Can. 5. If anyone ventures to say that Christ is a man inspired by
God, and not rather that He is truly God, as a son by nature, as the Word was made flesh
and has shared similarly with us in blood and flesh, let him be anathema.
118 Can. 6. If anyone ventures to say that God or the Lord is the Word
of Christ from God the Father and does not rather confess the same as at once both God and
man, since the Word was made flesh according to the Scriptures, let him be anathema.
119 Can. 7. If anyone says that Jesus as man was assisted by the Word of
God, and that the glory of the Only-begotten was applied as to another existing beside
Him, let him be anathema.
- ... and so on
As can be seen, all of the decisions of this great Council, of which the
title Mother of God was only the pricipitating issue, protect and defend this truth: Jesus
Christ was NOT a mere man on whom the Word descended in some way or to whom the Word was
united but distinct, rather He was the Divine eternal Person of the Word, who in time
assumed a human nature of Mary, but remained the Word, the One Christ, 2nd Person of
the Trinity, uniting in Himself His Divine Nature and His Incarnate Human Nature.
In all, twelve canons defend and put outside Christian faith various
propositions attacking the union of Christ's two natures in His One Divine Person. In a
single brief statement the Council declares that Mary gave birth NOT to a mere man, human
nature, but to a Divine Person who assumed our manhood. She is properly, then, the human
Mother in time of God the Word, and not just the Mother of Christ, a title any good
new ager of our day could accept. By calling Mary the Mother of God, the Catholic Church
establishes herself alone in the West, together with the Orthodox who separated from us in
the 11th century, as doctrinally incapable of renouncing the union of the two natures in
the one Person of the Eternal Word.
Is there a Scriptural Basis?
- The Scriptural basis of the unity of God, the eternity of the Word and the Incarnation
is actually sufficient in itself to arrive at the conclusion that Mary is the Mother of
God. God gave us reason and guided by the Holy Spirit the Church comes to an ever deeper
penetration of the profound depths of Divine Revelation (Jn 16:13), which being the Word
of God cannot be exhausted by a bare-bones literal reading - "if it isn't explicitly
in Scripture then it is revealed." By this logic most prophetic matters
referring to Christ in the Old Testament could be dismissed because they were hidden in
types and presented as shadows. Thus the simple logic of the Church is that if Scripture
reveals that Mary is the Mother of the Word-made-Flesh, and the Word-made-flesh is God,
then Mary is the Mother of God (the Word), not from eternity of course, but
beginning in time and for eternity. To say only that Mary is the Mother
of Jesus or only the Mother of Christ, is to subscribe unwittingly to the
doctrines of heretics who denied the unity of the Christ's Divine and Human Natures.
But is it in Scripture? Yes, in addition to the above way we find that God reveals to
the heart of Elizabeth the truth about the Incarnation, God-made-flesh. When Mary arrives
to assist her in her pregnancy with St. John the Baptist, on seeing the Blessed Mother St.
"blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, how is it that
the Mother of the Lord (mater tou kyrios) comes to me" (Lk 1:42-43).
In both the first half and the second half of this inspired address mother and
child are inseparably united. In the first, Mary and the fruit of her womb, Jesus, are
praised. In the second the unity of their relationship is revealed, as well as the unity
of Christ. Mary is not merely the mother of Jesus the Messiah, somehow conceived, but the
mother of the Lord. The text preserves the Greek, kyrios, although the language
that would have been spoken was Aramaic. Among the Jews the name of God was not spoken,
but a substitution was made to preserve respect. By convention when translating Hebrew and
its sister language Aramaic into Greek, such as in the Greek Old Testament
(Septuagint) used to evangelize Greek-speaking Jews and gentiles, the word
substituted for God's name was Kyrios, which we translate as Lord. This was in lieu of I
AM, Christ's use of which for Himself would later scandalized the Jews. Elizabeth would
never have been so bold, however, instead calling the fruit of Mary's womb, the Lord,
with all the meaning which the Jews attributed to it and which the Catholic Church
continues to understand of the Word-made-flesh in Mary's womb.
Queen of Heaven
- Much is made of the title Queen of Heaven by those who attack Catholicism and Marian
devotion. The allusion is always to the pagan pantheons and to the mother of the gods,
often mother in a very carnal sense of other pagan deities. The Canaanite worship of the
"Queen of Heaven" condemned by the prophets is mentioned, as is the worship of
Diana of the Ephesians, devotion to whom was exceeding popular before the Gospel arrived
among the pagans. It is said that Catholicism at the Council of Ephesus restored
this pagan devotion under the cover of devotion to Mary. The history of that Council given
above shows the absurdity, and the intellectual dishonesty, of that claim! One might as
well claim with respect to Jesus that Christians worship a mere man, since to arrive at
this conclusion the Church's teaching must be ripped from its context and distorted to fit
a preconceived judgement.
What then does it mean for Mary to be the Queen of Heaven? In the Old Testament
monarchy the Queen of the Davidic Kingdom was the Queen Mother. The Kings, for reasons of
state and human weakness, had many wives, none of whom fittingly could be called Queen.
That honor was reserved for the mother of the King, whose authority far surpassed the many
"queens" married to the king. We see this is the role Bathsheba played with
respect to King Solomon and the occasions when the Queen Mother acted as regent on behalf
of juvenile successors to the throne.
The role of the Queen Mother, therefore, is a prophetic type of the Kingdom role of
Mary, just as the role of the Davidic King is a prophetic type of the Kingdom role of
Jesus. Jesus inherited the Kingdom promised to David, who was told that one of his
descendants would rule forever. The angel Gabriel revealed this fact to Mary at her
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He
will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the
throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his
kingdom there will be no end." (Luke 1:31-33)
Aside from the prophetic types present in the Kingdom of Judah, there is also the text
of Psalm 45, which when speaking of the Kingdom of God also speaks of its Queen.
 Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a
right sceptre.  Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy
God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.  All thy garments
smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made
thee glad.  Kings' daughters were among thy honourable women: upon thy right hand did
stand the queen in gold of Ophir.  Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline
thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house;  So shall the king
greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him. (Psalm 45:6-11, KJV)
- That Kingdom ruled by God is the same as the Kingdom ruled eternally by the Son of
David. It is not an earthly kingdom, though it is present on earth in the Church, but a
heavenly kingdom, the Kingdom of God. The Queen of that Kingdom is the Blessed Virgin
Mary, the Mother of the Lord God Jesus Christ.