On the 1st of January each year, the Church sets aside the day for us to reflect on an important truth of our faith: Mary is the mother of God. Having just celebrated Christmas, the Church invites us to consider the depth of what we’ve just experienced. Some of the earliest saints and martyrs referred to Mary as the Theotokos, which is translated as “the God-bearer.” In the fourth and fifth centuries, questions and doubts about Mary’s title began to arise within the Church. In the year 431 AD, The Council of Ephesus valiantly confirmed the truth of Mary’s divine motherhood. The old syllogism goes like this: “If Mary is the mother of Jesus, and if Jesus is God, then Mary is the mother of God.” Therefore, we find that our understanding of Mary’s identity rests solely on the question that Jesus asked Peter long ago: “who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). If we declare that Jesus is really God, then the gravity of Mary’s identity becomes evident.
We might reflect on why God even chose to have a mother. After all, couldn’t the Almighty God have just visited us without asking Mary to go through the immense pains of childbearing? Surely, God could have just appeared on earth one day as a human, angel, or ghost, and simply told us everything that He wanted us to know. Yet, all parents and mentors of children can attest to the fact “teaching” is always more effective than “telling.” Instead of simply telling a child how to cook, make a bed, or swing a golf club, we teach our children how to do these things. Teaching is a combination of show and tell, where we first explain how to do something, but then we say “now watch me do it, and then you try.” In the Old Testament, God tells us how to live virtuous, courageous, and holy lives; in the New Testament, Christ shows us how to do so. In the Lord’s rendition of “now watch me do it, and then you try,” He didn’t hold anything back. He became fully human, which entailed being conceived in a mother’s womb, being carried in that womb for 9 months, being birthed in a natural way, and being nursed as an infant. On this day, we celebrate God’s choosing of Mary to be His mother in a very real and intimate way.
As we honor Mary’s divine motherhood, may we also learn how to be a Theotokos, one who bears God. Let us never be ashamed of bearing the Lord Jesus in our hearts and nursing Christian virtue in our lives.
Written by: Curtis Gross, Seminarian in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati