Mother of God, Mother of the Church

January 1, 2024

Some fundamentalist Christians become offended when Catholics refer to the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Mother of God.   But it’s not a complicated teaching.  If (a) Mary is the mother of Jesus, and (b) if Jesus is God, then, therefore, (c) Mary is the Mother of God.  There is no escaping the logic here.

However, saying Mary is the Mother of God, does not mean that she is older than God or the source of her Son’s divinity.  Rather, Mary is the Mother of God in the sense that she carried in her womb the divine person of Jesus Christ, and that her body provided the genetic material for His body.

Although most Christians understand Jesus Christ as both fully God and fully human, the term Mother of God must be understood through its origins. Orthodox Christians and Catholics call Mary Theotokos (“the one who gives birth to God”) because the Council of Ephesus affirmed that title over the title Christotokos (“the one who gives birth to Christ”).  In truth, the significance of Theotokos lies more in what it says about Jesus than any declaration about Mary. Within the orthodox doctrinal teaching on the economy of salvation, Mary’s identity, role, and status as Theotokos is acknowledged as indispensable, and is for this reason formally defined as official dogma. The only other Mariological teaching defined in this way is Mary’s perpetual virginity.  Both of these teachings have a bearing on the identity of Jesus Christ.