On Tuesday, we begin the new year by honoring Mary as the Mother of God. And it is only fitting to begin this and every year by celebrating Mary, the new Eve, who began the new age of grace with her most pure life and complete openness to the will of God. This celebration is a helpful occasion to discuss what we mean by saying Mary is the Mother of God and the implications of this teaching.
In 431, the Council of Ephesus definitively proclaimed that is the Mother of God. Just before that time, the Patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople denied that Mary should be called the Mother of God; rather he said that Mary should only be called the Mother of Jesus the Christ. For he believed that the divine Son of God and the human Jesus Christ were two completely separate people, with the human Jesus fully open to the Son, but not truly united at the core. And so he maintained that the divine Son of God was not truly born upon earth, nor lived and earthy life, nor died upon Calvary nor rose from the dead, nor is with us in the Holy Eucharist. In response, under Pope Celestine I and the Emperor Theodosus II, the Church called a great Council at Ephesus, the city where Mary lived with John the Apostle at the end of her life. Led by the great theologian St. Cyril of Alexandria, the Council declared, with the Pope’s approval, that it is a matter of Catholic faith that one person, the Son of God has both the divine nature of the Trinity in eternity and the human nature of Jesus Christ beginning at the Incarnation. Thus, the divine Son of God, through His human nature, was born, lived, died, rose again, and is with us until the end of time. And thus also the Church affirmed that the divine Son of God truly had and has for all time Mary as His mother.
And because we are, by adoption brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, Mary is also our mother. Likewise, because the Church is the body of Christ, Mary is rightfully called mother of the family of God that is the Church. As with all families, there will be shortcomings, disagreements and struggles. But, as with all families, our mother Mary gathers us together for joyful prayer and good works, especially at the holy Mass. And one day she will gather all the faithful from every time and place to the city of her Son, the heavenly Jerusalem, and we hope on that day to say with Mary forever, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Luke 1:46-47.