Called in the Gospels ‘the Mother of Jesus’, Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her Son, as “the mother of my Lord.” In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 495)
The mother of the Messiah has been called many things in the last 2000 years – the Virgin Mary, Our Lady, the Blessed Mother, the Mother of God, ‘Theotokos’ meaning God-bearer or mother of God. The latter name being used by the early Church Fathers.
In 431, the Council of Ephesus met, under Cyril’s leadership, and solemnly proclaimed that Mary is indeed rightly to be honoured as the Theotokos, the Mother of God. It proclaimed that from the moment of His conception, God truly became man. Of course Mary is a creature and could never be the origin of the eternal Trinity, God without beginning or end. But the second person of the blessed Trinity chose to truly become man. He did not just come and borrow a human body and drive it around for a while, ascend back to heaven, and discard it like an old car. No, at the moment of His conception in the womb of Mary, an amazing thing happened. God the Son united Himself with a human nature forever.
The Council of Ephesus, once confirmed by the Pope, became the third ecumenical council of the Catholic Church, and its teaching in this matter is dogma, truth revealed by God which all are bound to accept.
So why does the Roman liturgy celebrate the Octave of Christmas as the Feast of Mary the Mother of God? Because this paradoxical phrase strikes at the very heart of Christmas. The songs we sing and the cards we write extol the babe of Bethlehem as Emmanuel, God-with-us. He is so with us that after Gabriel’s visit to the Virgin of Nazareth, the Divine Word can never again be divided from our humanity.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is the perfect woman — hand-picked and created by God to be His mother. She is the ‘highly favoured one’. She knows the fullness of God’s love and passes this beautiful blessing onto to us. For, she is not only God’s mother, but our mother, too. She is the gentle, concerned mother who watches over us day and night, and cares for our every need. Every pain, every worry, every joy we feel she wants us to share it all with her. The love that God manifests toward her, she shares abundantly with us. The Holy Spirit dwells within her heart, and she is a conduit of love, grace, and tender mercy for us. She also serves as a wonderful model of love to emulate.
Just as Christmas honours Jesus as the Prince of Peace, the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God honours Mary as the Queen of Peace. Like the holy Infant, we are forever safe within her arms.
Mary is worth honouring and emulating because she is the ideal example of perfect obedience to God. Knowing that she could be stoned to death for carrying a baby conceived out of wedlock, she still said ‘yes’ to God: ‘Let it be done to me according to your word’ (Luke 1:38). When she said ‘yes’ to God she demonstrated perfect courage, perfect obedience and perfect faith.
Mary is a pillar of strength. She stands, not faints, at the base of the cross as her son’s life is taken from her. Mary understands human suffering. Her own life was full of suffering: a problem pregnancy, a difficult delivery in a faraway land. Mary bore her suffering with strength, dignity and perfect faith.