Monday, July 17, 2006

FAQ Sheet-Mary, Mother of Jesus

The following is a collection of questions asked about Mary, the Catholic teachings about Mary, and misconceptions about both. This is not meant to be an exhaustive theological treatise on any particular issue, but merely a simple and 'on the surface' look at issues that have arisen in dialogues with non-Catholics.

1. Where does the title 'Mother of God' come from?
The title 'Mother of God' comes from her son, Jesus of Nazareth, being God incarnate. If Jesus is God, and Mary is his mother, then Mary is the Mother of God. This title was officially defined (though the dogma was in place from the beginning) at the Council of Ephesus in 431 when the only Christian Church on Earth confirmed its long held dogma that Jesus was one person with two natures and, in truth,God. His natures were both full and complete in the one person, Jesus. This reaffirmation addressed the Nestorian heresy that Jesus was two persons (human and divine) and that only his divine nature was God. The natural result of declaring Jesus, a distinct person, God is that the mother of that divine person becomes 'Theotokos', or the God-bearer. In short, if Jesus is God, then His mom is 'Mother of God'.

2. But Mary was only mother of Jesus' human nature, not his divine nature, right?
The Church has always taught that Jesus is not schizo. He is a person, not a milkshake made up of natures. Jesus' divine and human natures are inseparably united, distinct, and fully present in the person of Jesus. He was true god and true man, so to separate these natures would create two Jesuses. The Church teaches that Mary is not the 'origin' of Christ's divinity but is the Mother of the person, Jesus.

3. Making Mary the mother of Jesus' divine nature makes her divine and that's idolatry.
When my son Luke was born, I had no participation in the origin of his soul. My wife and I, however, participated with God to provide him his physical traits and human nature. But I don't summon him by saying, 'Luke, my human son, bring your human nature to the dinner table, it's time to eat.' I'm his dad--father of the person, Luke. So by defining Jesus as one person who is God, Mary becomes, by default, the Mother of God. No divinity is assigned to her. She died before the Council of Ephesus so all who attended knew she was not divine. Understand that the title 'Mother of God' defines certain things about Jesus, not Mary. It's not assigning her any characteristics that she didn't already have by mothering the incarnate God.

4. Where is she called 'Mother of God' in the Bible?
Check out Luke 1:43:
And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

This is St. Elizabeth speaking under the power of the Holy Spirit so her credibility is impeccable, I'd say. Who was 'Lord' in the Jewish faith? The First Commandment says 'I am the Lord, Your God'. God=Lord, Jesus=God, Mary=Mother of Jesus, Mary=Mother of God.

You can also check out John 2:1:
And the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there.

Notice that John doesn't call Mary 'the earthly mother of Jesus' human nature'. She is Jesus' mother, plain and simple. So who is Jesus? Oh, he's God incarnate--one person containing two natures. The only way Mary is not Mother of God is if Jesus is not God, simply put.

5. Wow, a whole TWO verses. Face it, Mary's an afterthought in Scripture.
All one has to do is run a search of Scripture to find out exactly how many times she's mentioned. I'll grant that it's relatively few when compared to other people and events but let's use this logic and apply it to the whole of Scripture. Being 'born again' is mentioned only 3 times in Scripture yet Christians place in the forefront of their evangelism. Trinity is not mentioned even once in Scripture and yet it is the fundamental way we know God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Having a 'personal relationship with Jesus' is not mentioned once, for your information.

6. OK, I get the point. But Mary's just a peripheral character in Scripture so why do you place such emphasis on her?
The Catholic Church doesn't rely on Scripture alone for its fundamental doctrines because all that Jesus and the Apostles taught isn't just in Scripture but in the oral teachings of both( 2 Thes. 2:15) and mentioned directly in Scripture. Still, when Mary appears in Scripture, she's depicted in the most important events of Jesus' ministry. She's a present and active participant at the Annunciation (let it be done according to your word), and at the Incarnation/Virgin Birth. She is present and an actual impetus/catalyst to Jesus' first miracle and the beginning of his public ministry (do what he tells you) and is at the foot of the cross where Jesus gives her to the Apostle John (behold, your mother...behold, your son). She's at prayer with the Apostles after the Ascension(tongues of fire rested upon them) and at Pentecost. One of my favorite points about Mary is that, in some ways, she prefers to be discovered rather than announced--kinda like her Son.

7. But Mary clearly makes a mistake and is rebuked by Jesus at the Wedding at Cana. This has serious effects on her sinlessness and her status to Jesus, right?
I see no mistake by Mary. Mary says 'They have no wine' and the Gospel of John tells us she was right, not mistaken! Further, Mary did not say 'I want you to make some wine, NOW!'. She didn't proclaim Jesus' hour and command him to go perform a miracle. She simply states a fact: they have no wine. So either BOTH Mary and the Gospel are wrong, or Mary does not err in this statement.

8. But Jesus corrects her in public when he says 'What to me and to you, woman? My hour has not yet come.'
The only way to see a 'correction' here is to look for it. When Mary said 'they have no wine', did Jesus say, 'Wrong! There IS wine!'? Instead, he replied, 'What to me and to you, woman?' Why would a son that had the gall to rebuke him mom in public (thereby violating the 4th commandment) do it by asking 'what to me AND TO YOU'? Here, Christ is indicating that Mary's thoughts matter, otherwise, he'd have just said, 'What is this to me?'
Check out Luke 8:28:

"When he [the man possessed by demons] saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him, and said with a loud voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beseech you, do not torment me.’"

First, is this a rebuke? No. Would Christ really allow himself to be rebuked by a demon? No. This phrase can be used to express a sort of surprise, not as a rebuke.

Second, in Jewish culture, it would be unheard of for a son to rebuke his mother in public. Hebrews says that Christ followed the commandments perfectly, including the 4th commandment of honoring your mother and father.

9. Her mistake was in assuming that she could tell Jesus when to begin his public ministry and he corrects her.How does Mary respond to Christ's rebuke? Does she take it as a correction? Hardly. Does she apologize and go sit down? No. Do the apostles discuss how mistaken Mary was about the amount of wine on hand and how Jesus told his own mother off? Nope. If Mary committed a mistake and Jesus called her out, their subsequent actions just don't make any sense. Mary tells the servants to 'Do whatever he tells you'. She does not say 'Jesus will make wine for you NOW' but, instead says 'Do whatever he tells you'. The only way this could be a mistake would be if she somewhow said 'Do NOT do whatever he tells you.' For his part, Christ doesn't tell the servants 'Let's cut the cake first.' or 'When's the bride tossing the garter?'. He gives them firm instructions and turns water into wine--not exactly a correction of Mary here.

In short, Mary's statement is factual, not a mistake. Christ's reply is not a correction. Mary's instructions to the servants are proper. Christ takes the statement Mary has made into account and performs the miracle.

More To Come...


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