Catholic Q&A

In the "Hail Mary" that Catholics love to recite, I have a question about the words, “Holy Mary, Mother of God.” In the Bible, why is the Blessed Virgin the Mother of Heaven when God the Father is the Lord of Heaven?

This has been a controversial question for over 1500 years, and it started as a debate as to who Jesus Christ was. “Mother of God” is a special term with a historical context. These words presuppose the belief that Jesus is the mediator of God Himself, that He is the Son of God, and that He is the incarnate Logos.

In the letter to the Galatians 4:4, it is written, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” As stated here, the fact that Jesus was born of a woman is a vivid expression of the fact that the Divine Logos received the same humanity that we have. Hence, during the profession of faith in ancient times, the words “born of the Virgin Mary” were uttered, in order to accentuate the real humanity and historicity of Jesus Christ, along with the words “suffered under Pontius Pilate.” By this means, we express the fact that the weakness of the flesh of Jesus is our salvation in the flesh, and that God’s glorification of Jesus is the promise of God’s life to us who are flesh.

At the Council of Ephesus of 431, it was affirmed that the expression “Mother of God,” which was then seen as debatable, was correct. However, a closer scrutiny of the history of the doctrine reveals that even if there were precious truths of faith cited in it, yet, as to whether the expression was always correctly grasped by people or not, was an issue open to question. Regardless however of what the facts may be, today when we use the expression “Mother of God,” what arises in our mind is not a goddess of polytheism. Rather, we recall the fact that God’s plan of salvation was realized through Mary’s free acceptance of it, and we praise Mary for having listened to and accepted the word of God.

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