1. Introduction

As we reflect on the theological truths of Mary's divine maternity and her virginity, we are, in fact,  imitating Mary. Luke has recounts that the angels appeared to the shepherds, giving them the good news that a Child was born in a manger Who was their Savior, Messiah, and Lord. (Luke 2:11, 15) Luke informs us that the shepherds came to the manger and that they "made known the message they had been told about this child." (Luke 2:17) Luke then relates that "Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart." (Luke2:19) What are "these things," except the wonderful events that she has been a part of, the conception and birth of the Savior, Lord, and, Messiah, as well as the words communicated to her and to others regarding this birth?

In prayer and in theological reflection, we also ponder "these things," the wonderful words and events that occurred when the Word became flesh. We "ponder" as Mary did, realizing that we are in the presence of a mystery which in many ways is beyond our fathoming, yet this is not a totally unfathomable mystery because it is the mystery of God's revealing Himself in the Person of His only Son and thus a mystery in which God's desires that we come to ever deeper levels of understanding.

As Catholics, we believe that we are never alone, but we are always part of a larger family, worldwide family, and a family that spans the centuries. Thus, our reflection on these truths must be rooted in the Scriptures. While the New Testament foundation for the dogmas of Mary's motherhood and virginity have already been treated, we cannot fathom the maternity and virginity of Mary without continually returning to the New Testament. The Letter  from the Congregation for Catholic Education of March 25, 1988, reminds us: "The study of sacred Scripture...must be the soul of Mariology."1  This is especially true for our reflections on these mysteries that are founded on the data given in the New Testament.

We look especially to the early reflections on these mysteries in the Fathers of the Church, recognizing their proximity to the earliest traditions and realizing that many insights of contemporary theologians are the fruits of seeds sown in Patristic reflections. The unanimous consensus of the Fathers carries a special significance (DS 1507, 3007). We look to the reflections of our sisters and brothers in the faith through the centuries and especially in our own times, in the study of theology but also as faith in these truths has been celebrated in the liturgy.

Since our subject is the Marian dogmas, we give particular attention to the formulations of the Councils and the Magisterium. As the document of the International Theological Commission, "On the Interpretations of Dogma," has stated: "Within the Church it belongs to bishops, since they are in apostolic succession (Lumen Gentium, 19), to interpret the tradition of faith authentically. (Dei Verbum, 10) In communion with the bishop of Rome, who is obliged to serve unity in a special way, they may define dogmas collegially and interpret them authentically. This may be done both by the whole body of bishops together with the pope and also by the pope, the head of the college of bishops, by himself (Lumen Gentium, 25).2

As we discuss these mysteries and call upon the reflections of the Church's theologians, each one of us must recall that we too must take an active role in this process. Each one of us must ask, "What does this truth mean? How does this truth relate to the other truths of the faith? What does this truth contribute to the essential message of salvation in Jesus? These truths are not wall paper that is meant to decorate the background. These truths are maps that indicate to each one of us how we must go. The significance of Mary's virginity and maternity is not limited to the historical fact of the conception and birth of Jesus at a certain point in history. These truths have a significance for us today, and we can only find it by repeatedly pursuing that significance.

The International Theological Commission calls our attention to the central truth of Revelation: "The truth of revelation, as witnessed by Holy Scripture, is God's historical fidelity truth (emeth); ultimately it is the self-communication of the Father, through Jesus Christ, to the present in the Holy Spirit."3 The document also reminds us that the teachings of the faith must be weighed in respect to the revelation given in Jesus: "That coherence results from the center of unity in the tradition and its manifold forms.  He is the criterion of distinction and interpretation. From this center Scripture and tradition as well as individual traditions in their changing expressions must be seen and interpreted."4

Are the Marian dogmas a diversion from the center? Many non-Catholics and some Catholics believe that this is so. The Church believes that reflection upon Mary leads to a better understanding of Jesus. Thus, Lumen Gentium affirms: "Devoutly meditating on her and contemplating her in the light of the Word made man, the Church reverently penetrates more deeply into the great mystery of the Incarnation."5 We come to a deeper appreciation of the Incarnation by exploring it through the experience of the one person who was most deeply affected by it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reiterates this principle: "What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines, in turn, its faith in Christ."6

2) Unity of Virginity and Maternity (Scripture)

For greater clarity, we will often examine Mary's virginity and her maternity separately. In fact, virginity and motherhood are entwined in virginal motherhood in Mary. Even Mary's lifelong virginity which was lived out long after the birth and also after the death of Jesus is intimately related to her vocation as mother of the Incarnate Word.

What does it mean that Mary was a virgin and a mother? Matthew and Luke are aware that they are relating what is indescribable. Luke informs us of Mary's call and her response, as well as the birth of the Child yet communicates the truth without saying too much.

Matthew, who recounts Jesus' birth from Joseph's experience, does not offer us any insights as to what the experience of virginal childbirth and child-rearing was for the virgin-mother. We simply learn from Joseph's inner struggles that he is not the human father as we come to understand that this Child has been conceived through the Holy Spirit. (Mt 1:20)

Luke and Matthew communicate the inconceivable, a virgin gives birth, and then do not return to the fact for the rest of their Gospels, other than Luke 3:23. Nor does Luke include the Virgin Birth in the kerygma found in the book of Acts. John, who assures us the Word was with God in the beginning and was God (John 1:1), does not touch upon the role played by the woman he identifies as the "Mother of Jesus" (John 2:3) in the process by which the Word became flesh. (John 1:14)

We want to know more. Suppose someone were to tell us that  as he or she was stopped at a red light several trees walked across the street. And if the person then went on to say that the light turned green and proceeded to tell us about the rest of his or her day, we would say, "Did you say several trees walked across the street? Could you go back to that?"

Matthew and Luke tell us that a virgin gave birth to the Messiah and then they proceed on with the story of salvation. We would like them to back up a bit. We feel that we have been given a taste of a great mystery but want more. Matthew and Luke take off their shoes and approach the incomprehensible mystery solely with reverence and silence. We can appreciate their reverent delicacy of the Gospels, when we compare their accounts of Jesus' virginal birth with the overly explicit account found in the Protoevangelium of James.

But why, we may ask, do Matthew and Luke inform us of the fact of Mary's virgin birth? What is their purpose? Our authors are not communicating incidental information to us. Mary's virginal maternity pertains to Who Jesus is and what His mission is. His conception and birth from a virgin forcefully manifests that the mission of this Child is rooted in Who this Child is.

In Matthew's Gospel, the angel tells Joseph that "He will save the people from their sins." (Mt 1:21) We are also told that "His name will be Emmanuel," that is, God is with us. (Mt 1: 23) In Jesus, God is present with His people and is reconciling His people. When Jesus will say, "Your sins are forgiven you," (Mt 9:2), He will not be promising a future forgiveness as the prophets might but rather He will be efficaciously giving forgiveness through an authority rooted in Who He is.

In Luke's Gospel, Mary is told that the Child will be called the Son of the Most High (Lk 1:32) and that the Spirit will overshadow her. (Lk 1:35) This Child's being is the result of the Spirit's over-shadowing. Three titles applied to God by Mary in the Magnificat are applied to Jesus in other passages of the first two chapters of Luke. Mary calls God "Lord," xov Kupiov (1:46), and "my Savior," aooxfipi u.ou (1:47), and says that His name is "holy" dyiov. (1:49) These three expressions are also applied to Jesus: dyiov (l:35), Kupiov (1:43) and atoxrip (2:11).

Elizabeth greets Mary as "Mother of my Lord," even as the Child is still in the womb indicating that Jesus does not become Lord. He is Lord from the start. Jesus inaugurates the Kingdom of God by His very presence because of Who He is.

When the religious leaders of the people take offense at the authority Jesus assumed over their religious practices "but I say to you" (Mt 19: 8) and even over the Sabbath (Mt 12:12), they were accurately surmising that the issue was accepting Who Jesus is not just His various teachings. Ultimately, the question, "Who do you say I am?" remains the  decisive theological question. Everything else follows upon that.

3) Patristic Reflections on Virginity and Maternity

As the Patristic foundations for Marian dogma have already been explored, we will note the assumption of these authors that Mary's virginal birth-giving actually happened. If, as some authors suggest, Matthew and Luke were using a literary form in presenting Jesus as being born of a virgin, then the key to understanding that metaphor quickly disappeared with the sacred authors and their first readers. We must not overlook the indications of belief in the truth of the virginal motherhood in the writings of the early Church and must also note that no early Christian authors assert that Jesus had a natural conception and a human father.

The first stage was simply to assert that Mary really was a mother to Jesus in a physical sense. The Gnostics, who considered material things to be opposed to the spiritual, could not accept the fact that Jesus had a physical body and therefore Mary could not have been a real mother. One sub-group of Gnostics, the Docetists, whose name comes from the Greek word "to seem," explicitly asserted that Jesus only seemed to have a body, only seemed to be born, and only seemed to suffer, yet, even in opposing the Gnostics, the early Fathers did not downplay Jesus' birth from a virgin, although the idea of a virgin birth might lend itself to the arguments of the Gnostics. For our early authors, Jesus' birth from a virgin indicated His divine origin even as His birth from Mary indicated His human origin. Ascertaining the right balance in understanding the two natures of Jesus was the project of the first centuries of Christianity. As we will see, Mary was often a help in giving the needed clarity.

In their efforts against the Gnostic teachings, the early Fathers emphasize the reality of Jesus' birth from Mary as an assurance that He truly had a body and truly was human. Ignatius of Antioch (d. 110-115) very clearly asserts the reality of Jesus' birth from Mary: "You are fully persuaded concerning our Lord, that He is in truth of the family of David, according to the flesh, Son of God by the will and power of God, truly born of a virgin" (Smyrneans 1.1). Ignatius, in his letter to the Trallians, specifies that Jesus was born, ate and drank: "Be deaf, when anyone speaks to you, apart from Jesus Christ, of David's lineage, and who is born of Mary, who was truly born and ate and drank" (Trallians 9.1). Writing to the Ephesians, Ignatius makes the distinction between Jesus' nature that comes from the Father and His nature that comes from Mary: "There is only one physician, both of the flesh and of spirit, born and unborn, God in man, true life in death, sprung from Mary and from God; because of the former He suffers; because of the latter He is impassable, Jesus Christ our Lord." (Ephesians 7.2)

The early apologist Aristides of Athens (d. c. 145) also attests both to Jesus' nature as the Son of God as well as to the reality of Jesus' human birth: "He is confessed as the Son of the highest God, descending from heaven through the Holy Spirit; and of a virgin, He took flesh..."7

Justin (d. c. 165) addresses the heretical belief that the Father and the Son were the same, but also asserts that the Son is God but also man by His human birth: "For they who affirm that the Son is the Father, are proved neither to have become acquainted with the Father, nor to know that the Father of the universe had a Son, who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God... having become Man by a virgin, according to the counsel of the Father, for the salvation of those who believe in Him."8

According to Irenaeus' (d. c. 200) theory of recapitulation, Christ would have to assume the same nature as Adam in order to heal the nature weakened in Adam. Irenaeus explains that this was a real body made of Mary:

Why then, did not God again take dust, but wrought so that the formation should be made of Mary? It was that there might not be another formation called into being, nor any other which should be saved, but that the very same formation should be summed up, (in Christ as had existed in Adam), the analogy having been preserved. Those, therefore, who allege that He took nothing from the Virgin do greatly err (since) in order that they might cast away the inheritance of the flesh, they also reject the analogy.9

Tertullian (d. after 200) attests to the faith of the Church in North Africa that Jesus truly was born of Mary: "You say that he was born through a virgin not of a. virgin, and in the womb, not of a. womb, because the angel in the dream said to Joseph, 'That which is born in her (not of her) is of the Holy Ghost.' But the fact is, if he had meant 'of her,' he must have said 'in her1'; for that which was of her was also in her."10

Clement of Alexandria (d. c. 215) affirms the reality of Jesus' divine nature as well as the reality of His human birth: "The Son of God -- of Him Who made the universe -- assumed flesh, and was conceived in the virgin's womb (as His material body was produced)..."11

The belief in the Virgin Birth is present in the early creedal formulas, the articulated canons of beliefs. The "Apostles' Creed," which was so named because of a tradition that its origin was rooted in apostolic times, is apparently the developed text of the profession of faith in the Roman Baptismal Rite.  It seems to have taken form towards the close of the second century and to have been standardized by the fourth century.  St. Hippolytus (d. 235), in his Apostolic Traditions, written between 215 and 217, asserts that one of the questions in the Roman Baptismal rite was: "Do you believe in Christ Jesus, the Son of God who was born by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary?"12  Rufinus (d. 404), in his commentary on this Creed, says that it was used in Rome and Jerusalem and is not much different from the one to which he is accustomed.  He furnishes us the text of the Creed, which states of Jesus, "Qui natus est de Spiritu sancto ex Maria virgine."13

On this basis, we can affirm that by the beginning of the fifth century, but very likely, by the beginning of the third century, this early creed, which was accepted as having an authority by such fathers as Rufinus and Ambrose, made explicit the belief in the roles of both the Holy Spirit and Mary. The fact that Mary is plainly called "virgin" in this early creedal statement indicates that the Church considered this fact important enough to be professed by new Christians at Baptism. We may ask why this particular fact was given its position in the creed. Its importance would seem to be that the formula succinctly maintains both Jesus' divine and His real human origins.

One factor that served as a catalyst to the Church in establishing its rule of faith was the experience of heterodox teaching within the Church. In the first centuries, the truth of Jesus' divine and human origin was professed, but the subtleties of Jesus' relationship to the Father and the distinctions between His divine and human natures were not definitively articulated. When heresies gave clarity where clarity should not have been by emphasizing one aspect of the truth to the expense of others, the Church strove to preserve the truth which was often rooted in paradox.

This can be seen in the Council of Nicaea, where 318 bishops responded to the call of Constantine to clarify the relationship of Christ to the Father in response to Arius' teaching that Jesus was a semi-divine creature. As a result of their sessions, held between June 19 and July 25, 325, at the imperial palace at Nicaea, the bishops composed a creed that would especially clarify Jesus' divine origin. In reference to the Incarnation, this original Creed did not make mention of Mary but only Jesus, of Whom it says "incarnatus est et homo factus est."14

A second Council met at Constantinople in 381 to further refine the understanding of the relationships of the members of the Trinity, especially with reference to the Holy Spirit. The Acts of this Council are no longer extant although there are references to the Council. Among the additions were the words, "of the Holy "Spirit and of the Virgin Mary," so that the Creed asserted: "et incarnatus est de Spiritu sancto ex Maria virgine, et homo factus est."15 It is not clear whether the additions to the Creed were a deliberate attempt by this Council to further clarify the profession of faith. It is possible that various forms of the Nicene Creed had been in existence and one of these was attributed to this Council. We know that this Creed had Conciliar approval in that it was affirmed at the Council of Chalcedon (451).

This expanded formula, Et incarnatus est de Spiritu sancto ex Maria Virgine, summarizes the two- fold truth about the Incarnation. Jesus is made incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit. The words ex Maria Virgine assure us that Jesus truly is a human being, even if His origin is unlike that of any other person. Gnostics, such as Valentinus, taught that Jesus assumed a heavenly body that passed through Mary as water through an aqueduct. The Church, by contrast, asserted Jesus' heavenly origin but also the reality of His humanity.

Even today, we acknowledge the important ramifications of this formula by the fact that when the Creed is recited at Mass, the members of the congregation bow their heads at these words, and on Christmas and on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, they genuflect.

4) Theotokos : Mary as Mother of God

Since the next Council, Ephesus (431), focused on the Divine Maternity, in this section, we will try to follow that theme, recognizing that existentially, Mary's maternity is intimately bound with her virginity. The earliest Fathers made reference to Mary in order to show Jesus' humanity. By the time of the Council of Ephesus, Mary was invoked to show Jesus' divinity. We will not explore the historical development of the controversy between Cyril and Nestorius in any depth, except to consider the theological ramifications that were evoked by the word, Θεοτόκον.

Θεοτόκον is generally understood to mean "God-bearer" but it can also mean "Birth-Giver of God," "God-bearing Mother," or the "Bringer-forth-of-God."16  Jaroslav Pelikan, in his work, Mary Through the Centuries, asserts that this title was not a pagan idea carried over into Christianity: "The history does not in any direct way corroborate the facile modern theories about the 'mother goddesses' of Graeco-Roman paganism and their supposed significance for the development of Christian Mariology. For the term Theotokos was apparently an original Christian creation that arose in the language of Christian devotion to her as the mother of the divine Savior and that eventually received its theological justification from the church's clarification of what was implied by the orthodox witness to him."17

Pelikan maintains that it was not only the Conciliar definitions but the liturgical and devotional life of the Church that advanced the Church's understanding of Mary: "But for the development of the doctrine of Mary that, according to Athanasius, was implied in the decrees of Nicaea, the lead had been taken by the devotional and liturgical development of the Church, which in its ascription of the title Theotokos to the Virgin Mary had anticipated the formal Conciliar promulgation of the doctrine by more than a century."18

A possible indication of this truth may be found in the first certain reference to the use of the word Theotokos. Alexander, bishop of Alexandria (d. 328), writing against Arianism between 319 and 324, describes Jesus, as "having taken in truth and not in appearance a body from the Theotokos, Mary."19 Alexander does not explain his use of the term, Theotokos, which suggests that the name was already in use, possibly in the liturgy and in popular devotion.

One rather unusual reference to the spread of the expression, Theotokos, does indicate that the term was more widespread than we might suspect from the preserved documents. The Emperor Julian, in his attack on Christianity around 361, entitled Against the Galilaeans, asks: "But why do you not cease to call Mary the Θεοτόκον...?"20

We find this term in writings of two Cappadocian Fathers who had been influential in refining the Church's understanding of the relationships of the members of the Trinity. St. Basil (d. 379) states: "I believe in one God the Father Almighty; God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost; I adore and worship one God, the Three. I confess to the economy of the Son in the flesh and that the holy Mary, who gave birth to Him according to the flesh, was Mother of God (Theotokos)."21

Gregory Nazianzen (d. 390) uses the expression Theotokos in an effort to bring out Jesus' divinity:

If anyone does not believe that Holy Mary is the Theotokos, he is severed from the Godhead. If anyone should assert that He passed through the Virgin as through a channel, and was not at once divinely and humanly formed in her (divinely, because without the intervention of a man; humanly, because in accordance with the laws of gestation), he is in like manner godless. If any assert that the Manhood was formed and afterward was clothed with the Godhead, he too is to be condemned....If any introduce the notion of two Sons, one of God the Father, the other of the Mother, and discredits the Unity and the Identity, may he lose his part in the adoption promised to those who believe aright. For God and Man are two natures, as also soul and body are, but there are, not two Sons or two Gods.22

This term became especially significant during the struggle that led to the Council of Ephesus. Nestorius (d. ca. 451), the patriarch of Constantinople, took offense at a homily that Proclus preached in the cathedral, sometime between 428 and 429, in which Mary was called the Theotokos. Nestorius attempted to distinguish between Jesus' human and divine natures, insisting that the better title for Mary was Christotokos, since Mary was the mother of Jesus' human nature, not His divine nature.

We cannot be certain how Nestorius understood the interplay between the two natures, since most of the Nestorian writings have been destroyed, and since our understanding of Nestorius comes down to us through those who opposed him. Certainly, coming from the Antiochene school, he was wary of blending the two natures. In the fourth and fifth centuries, there were two great centers of Christian teaching, Antioch and Alexandria. Luigi Gambero observes: "These opposing schools were engaged in a struggle rendered even more difficult by mutual misunderstandings and the ambiguous theological vocabulary of the time. Both parties were pursuing legitimate objectives. The school of Alexandria stressed the unity of the subject Christ; the Antiochenes emphasized the differences between divinity and humanity."23

Was Nestorius' purpose in rejecting the title Theotokos an attempt to distinguish between Jesus' two natures or did he actually not accept the unity in Jesus' person? Nestorius had been a disciple of Theodore of Mopsuestia, who had been a disciple of Diodorus of Tarsus. These bishops seemed to say that the Word dwelt in the man Christ as in a temple so there was a distinction between the Word and the humanity in whom the Word dwelt. What Nestorius could not see is that Mary was the mother of the person, Jesus, who had two natures.

A theological principle that Nestorius did not appreciate was the communicatio idiomatum, the "communication of idioms." He did not consider it to be appropriate theological language about Jesus. By means of the communicatio idiomatum, what is true of one nature of Jesus is applied to the other, as in saying that "God wept at the tomb of Lazarus" or "A carpenter raised a man from the dead." Of course, such language requires a definite understanding of what is being said and what is not being said. While weeping applies to Jesus' human nature and raising the dead applies to His divine nature, He is one person. Aloys Grillmeier points out that clarification of such usages was needed in the period just before the Council of Ephesus: "We must note that it was at just this point that the discussion of the so-called communicatio idiomatum in Christ began in earnest.
 

The time had come to give a theological criticism and vindication of a way of speaking which had hitherto been merely traditional and had been employed since the Apostolic age without further thought."24 The Council did not explicitly affirm the title by itself. In its first session, the bishops present approved Cyril's second letter to Nestorius as the orthodox formula. That letter states: "For in the first place no common man was born of the holy Virgin; then the Word thus descended upon him; but being united from the womb itself he is said to have endured a generation in the flesh in order to appropriate the producing of his own body. Thus (the holy Fathers) did not hesitate to speak of the holy Virgin as the Mother of God.'25


There are twelve anathemas which Cyril and the Synod of Alexandria had appended to the letter when it was sent to Nestorius in 430. The first of these is the statement: "If anyone does not confess that God is truly Emmanuel, and that on this account the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God (Θεοτόκον), for according to the flesh she gave birth to the Word of God by birth, let him be anathema."26 While this formula is associated with Cyril's letter it was not part of the letter which the Council affirmed but has been accepted as orthodox. In his letter, Cyril explained the true doctrine by means of Mary, saying: "The Fathers did not hesitate to call the blessed Virgin the Theotokos and this was certainly not because of the nature of the Word or the divinity had its origin in her but because it was from her that the sacred body was born, endowed with a rational soul to which the Word is united to the point of forming one only person."27


The Church's belief about the two natures of Christ as they are joined in one person of Christ found concrete expression in the term, Θεοτόκος;. It is very significant that the clarification of the true doctrine of the oneness of Jesus' person was made manifest through a truth about Mary. As Thomas Aquinas has noted in his Commentary on the Sentences, "the humanity of Christ and the maternity of the Virgin are so interrelated that he who has erred about the one must be in error about the other."28

The attention given to Mary by the controversy and by the Council of Ephesus approved the title, Θεοτόκος; played a major role in the spread of devotion to Mary both in the East and in the West where the name, Mater Dei, "Mother of God" became the equivalent for the Greek word. Raniero Cantalamessa O.F.M. comments on the correspondence between the Latin and Greek expressions: "The title 'Mother of God' (Dei Genitrix), used by the Latin Church, places more emphasis on the first of these moments, on the moment of the conception; whereas the title Theotokos, used by the Greek Church, places greater emphasis on the second stage of giving birth..."29


An interesting side of this controversy is that while Cyril was principally responsible for the approbation of the title, Θεοτόκος;, he followed Origen in believing that Mary wavered in her faith at the cross. The Latin Fathers, especially Augustine, demonstrated that Mary's interior being corresponded in faith to the great dignity of her maternity.


Twenty years later, in 451, the fourth Ecumenical Council, Chalcedon, reaffirmed the decisions of Ephesus, describing Jesus in this way: "Following therefore the holy Fathers, we unanimously teach that the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, is one and the same, the same perfect in divinity, the same perfect in humanity, true God and true man...born of the Father before all time as to His divinity, born in recent times, for us and our salvation, from the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, (Θεοτόκον), as to His humanity."31


Pope John II, in a letter in 534 to the Senate of Constantinople, responds to the question whether Mary can be called "Mother of God." He responds, "The glorious and holy Mary, ever a virgin, is in a real and true sense Mother of God."32


The Second Council of Constantinople (553) again confirmed the teaching of Ephesus, stating: "If anyone call the holy and glorious Mary, ever Virgin, Mother of God in an inaccurate way, or only relatively, as if a mere man was born from her and not the divine Word incarnate...or call her mother of man, that is of Christ, as if Christ were not God; and does not confess her as really and truly mother of God, since the divine Word was born of the Father before time and in recent times was incarnate and born of her, and that the Holy Council of Chalcedon so confessed her, anathema sit."33


The third Council of Constantinople (680-681), addressing the Monothelites, asserts of Jesus "before ages, indeed, begotten of the Father, according to Godhead, in the last days, however, the same for us and our salvation of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, properly and truly the Mother of God according to humanity."34


Paul IV reasserted this teaching in the sixteenth century.35 On December 25, 1931, the fifteenth centenary of the Council of Ephesus, Pius XI addressed Mary's maternity in his encyclical Lux Veritatis, stating.   "If the son of the Blessed Virgin Mary is God, certainly she who bore Him should rightly and deservedly be called Mother of God. if the person of Jesus Christ is one and divine, surely Mary is not only mother of Christ, but should be called Deipara, Theotokos."36


5) Mary’s Maternity in the Fathers of the Church

As the Church attempted to articulate more clearly its beliefs on the nature of Christ in the face of Gnosticism, Arianism and Nestorianism, the Church came to a clearer understanding of Mary.

The Gnostics, who considered material things to be opposed to the spiritual, could not accept the fact that Jesus had a physical body. The Docetists, whose name comes from the Greek word "to seem," were a sub-group of Gnostics who held that Jesus only seemed to have a body, seemed to be born, and seemed to suffer.

In their efforts against the Gnostic teachings, early Fathers emphasize the reality of Jesus' birth from Mary as an assurance that He truly had a body and truly was a human. Ignatius of Antioch (d. 110-115) very clearly asserts the reality of Jesus' birth from Mary. "You are fully persuaded concerning our Lord, that He is in truth of the family of David, according to the flesh, Son of God by the will and power of God, truly born of a virgin" (Smyrneans 1.1). In his letter to the Trallians, he writes: "Be deaf, when anyone speaks to you, apart from Jesus Christ, of David's lineage, and who is born of Mary, who was truly born and ate and drank." (Trallians 9.1) And again,
writing to the Ephesians, he points out: "There is only one physician, both of the flesh and of spirit, born and unborn, God in man, true life in death, sprung from Mary and from God; because of the former He suffers; because of the latter He is impassable, Jesus Christ our Lord." (Ephesians 7.2)

Aristides of Athens, an apologist who died about 145, also attests to the reality of Jesus' human birth: "He is confessed as the Son of the highest God, descending from heaven through the Holy Spirit; and of a virgin, He took flesh..."

Justin (d. c.165) describes Jesus as the eternal Son of the Father: "For they who affirm that the Son is the Father, are proved neither to have become acquainted with the Father, nor to know that the Father of the universe had a Son, who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God... having become Man by a virgin, according to the counsel of the Father, for the salvation of those who believe in Him."37

Irenaeus (d. c. 200) addressing the Gnostics, emphasizes the reality of Jesus' flesh taken from Mary:

Why then, did not God again take dust, but wrought so that the formation should be made of Mary? It was that there might not be another formation called into being, nor any other which should be saved, but that the very same formation should be summed up, (in Christ as had existed in Adam), the analogy having been preserved. Those, therefore, who allege that he took nothing from the Virgin do greatly err (since), in order that they might cast away the inheritance of the flesh, they also reject the analogy.38

The Roman Creed, which was used in the third century, also affirms Jesus' birth from Mary: "I believe in God, the Father almighty, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary."

Tertullian (d. after 200) attests to the fact that Jesus truly was born of Mary: "You say that he was born through a virgin not of a virgin, and in the womb, not of a womb, because the angel in the dream said to Joseph, 'That which is born in her (not of her) is of the Holy Ghost.' But the fact is, if he had meant "of her," he must have said "in her;" for that which was of her was also in her."39

Clement of Alexandria (d. c. 215) affirms the reality of Jesus' divine nature and the reality of His human birth: "The Son of God -- of Him Who made the universe -- assumed flesh, and was conceived in the virgin's womb (as His material body was produced)..."40

The Council of Nicea was convened by Constantine and met at the imperial palace in Nicea between June 19 and July 25, 325. The Council was called to deal with the teachings of Arius (d. 336), a priest of Alexandria, who taught that Jesus was the perfect creature of God through whom God had created all other creatures. The original Creed formulated at the council did not mention Mary but did affirm the divinity of her Son, as having one being with the Father. The First Council of Constantinople, which met in 381, added to the Nicene Creed the words, "of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary."

While the reality of Jesus' birth from Mary was attested to earlier, in the fourth century we see the use of the expression Theotokos, which technically means, "God-bearer." Pelikan, in his book, Development of Christian Doctrine, asserts that this was not a pagan idea carried over into Christianity: "The term Theotokos is apparently a Christian creation that arose in the language of Christian devotion to her as the mother of the divine Savior and eventually received its theological justification from the Church's clarification of what was implied by the orthodox witness to him."41

Socrates (d. after 450) in his History of the Church states; "The ancients did not hesitate to call Mary the Theotokos... .Origen in the first book of his Commentary on the Letter of Paul to the Romans explains the reason she is called Theotokos at length."42  The first certain reference to the use of the word Theotokos is found in the letter of Alexander, bishop of Alexandria (d. 328), against Arianism written between 319 and 324, in which he states that "Our Lord Jesus Christ, having taken in truth and not in appearance a body from the Theotokos, Mary."43 The manner in which Alexander makes use of the word Theotokos suggests that the word was already in use, possibly in the Liturgy.

His successor to the see of Alexandria, Athanasius, also uses the term Theotokos in a number of his writings. Athanasius was the outstanding defender of the divinity of Christ against the Arians. In his First Discourse Against the Arians, Athanasius professes his belief in the divinity of Christ:

Even before He became man, He was worshipped by the angels and the whole creation in virtue of being proper to the Father...For as Christ died and was exalted as man, so, as man, is he said to take what, as God, He ever had, that even such a grant of grace might reach us. For the Word was not impaired in receiving a body, that he should seek to receive a grace, but rather He deified that which He put on, and more than that 'gave' it graciously to the race of man. For as He was ever worshipped as being the Word and existing in the form of God, so being what He ever was, though become man and called Jesus, He nonetheless has the whole creation under foot, and bending their knees to Him in this Name, and confessing that the Word's becoming flesh, and undergoing death in the flesh, has not happened against the glory of His Godhead, but 'to the glory of God the Father'...For whereas the powers in heaven, both Angels and Archangels, were ever worshipping the Lord, as they are now worshipping Him in the Name of Jesus, this is our grace and high exaltation that even when He became man, the Son of God is worshipped...."44

The notion of the Theotokos serves Athanasius' purpose in bringing out the fact that Jesus was divine in His origin. Athanasius writes, "As Gabriel confessed in the case of Zacharias, and also in the case of Mary bearer of God (Theotokou)...."45 And also, "For us he took flesh of a Virgin, Mary bearer of God (Theotokou)."46 Pelikan attests to the role of both Athanasius and the liturgy in developing the understanding of Mary: "But for the development of the doctrine of Mary that, according to Athanasius, was implied in the decrees of Nicea, the lead had been taken by the devotional and liturgical development of the Church, which in its ascription of the title Theotokos to the Virgin Mary had anticipated the formal conciliar promulgation of the doctrine by more than a century. "47

One rather unusual reference to the spread of the expression, Theotokos is found in the Emperor Julian's attack on Christianity around 361, entitled, Against the Galilaeans. In this work, Julian asks: "But why do you not cease to call Mary the Θεοτόκον...?"48

St. Basil (d. 379) states: "I believe in one God the Father Almighty; God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost; I adore and worship one God, the Three. I confess to the economy of the Son in the flesh and that the holy Mary, who gave birth to Him according to the flesh, was Mother of God (Theotokos)."49

Gregory Nazianzen (d. 390) uses the expression Theotokos in an effort to bring out Jesus' divinity:

If anyone does not believe that Holy Mary is the Theotokos, he is severed from the Godhead. If anyone should assert that He passed through the Virgin as through a channel, and was not at once divinely and humanly formed in her (divinely, because without the intervention of a man; humanly, because in accordance with the laws of gestation), he is in like manner godless. If any assert that the Manhood was formed and afterward was clothed with the Godhead, he too is to be condemned." If any introduce the notion of two Sons, one of God the Father, the other of the Mother, and discredits the Unity and the Identity, may he lose his part in the adoption promised to those who believe aright. For God and Man are two natures, as also soul and body are; but there are not two Sons or two Gods.50

In the fourth and fifth centuries, there were two great centers of Christian teaching, Antioch and Alexandria. Luigi Gambero observes: "These opposing schools were engaged in a struggle rendered even more difficult by mutual misunderstandings and the ambiguous theological vocabulary of the time. Both parties were pursuing legitimate objectives. The school of Alexandria stressed the unity of the subject Christ; the Antiochenes emphasized the differences between divinity and humanity."51

Nestorius (d. ca. 451) was the patriarch of Constantinople and had been trained in the school of Antioch. Between 428 and 429, in the presence of Nestorius in the cathedral at Constantinople, Proclus preached a homily in honor of Mary in which he employed the word Theotokos. Nestorius attempted to distinguish between Jesus' human and divine natures, arguing that the better title for Mary was Christotokos, since Mary was the mother of Jesus' human nature not His divine nature.

Since most of the Nestorian writings have been destroyed, and since our understanding of Nestorius comes down to us through those who opposed him, it is often difficult to decipher exactly what Nestorius was asserting. Was his purpose in rejecting the title Theotokos an attempt to distinguish between Jesus' two natures or did he actually not accept the unity in Jesus' person? It seems clear that he did not appreciate the communicatio idiomatum, the "communication of idioms," as appropriate theological language about Jesus. By means of the communicatio idiomatum, what is true of one nature of Jesus is applied to the other, as in saying that "God wept at the tomb of Lazarus" or "A carpenter raised a man from the dead." Of course, such language requires a definite understanding of what is being said and what is not being said. Aloys Grillmeier points out that such a clarification was needed in the period just before the Council of Ephesus: "We must note that it was at just this point that the discussion of the so called communicatio idiomatum in Christ began in earnest. The time had come to give a theological criticism and vindication of a way of speaking which had hitherto been merely traditional and had been employed since the Apostolic age without further thought."52

What Nestorius could not see is that Mary was the mother of the person, Jesus, who had two natures. Cyril, the patriarch of Alexandria, began a correspondence with Nestorius and took up the cause with great vigor. It is possible that Cyril was influenced by rivalry between the two important sees.

In a letter to his priests, deacons and monks, Cyril reports:

I am disturbed beyond measure because I heard that certain troublesome rumors have reached you, and that certain men go about destroying your simple faith, making close inquiries, and saying that it is necessary to specify whether or not the Holy Virgin Mary is to be called the Mother of God (Theotokos)....1 am amazed if some should question at all whether the Holy Virgin should be called the Mother of God. For if our Lord Jesus Christ is God, how is the Holy Virgin who bore him not the mother of God?53

In the same letter, he maintains: "The Holy Virgin alone...is considered and called both mother of Christ and Mother of God. For she has borne, not a mere man, as we are, but rather the Word of God the Father made flesh. "54

In a letter to Succensus, bishop of Diocaesarea, Cyril tries to give an explanation of Nestorius' failure to comprehend the unity of the two natures:

Nestorius became the disciple of this Disidore, and then with mind darkened by his books he pretends to confess one Christ, Son and Lord, but he himself also divides the one into two, saying that the undivided man was connected to God the Word by the same nature, by the same honor, and by dignity. And so he separates the sayings made about Christ in the evangelical and apostolic proclamations and says that some ought to be attributed to the man, obviously the statements proper to the humanity, and others alone are suited to God the Word, obviously those proper to divinity. And since in many places he divides and successively regards the one begotten from the Holy Virgin as man separately, and likewise separate and successively the Son, the Word of God the Father, for this reason he says that the Holy Virgin is not the Mother of God but rather the mother of a man. But we are not disposed to hold these as true, but we were taught according to the divine Scripture and the holy fathers and we confess that one Son and Christ and Lord, that is, the Word of God the Father, was begotten of him before the ages in a divinely fitting and ineffable manner and that in recent ages of time the same Son was begotten for us according to the flesh from the Holy Virgin, and since she gave birth to God made man and made flesh, for this reason we also call her the Mother of God. Therefore there is one Son, 'one Lord Jesus Christ' both before his Incarnation and after his Incarnation.55

In his letter to Valerian, bishop of Iconium in Lycaonia, Asia Minor, Cyril asserts: "This likeness in every way he would properly have and, above all other similarities, his birth from a woman, which in us is considered proper to human nature and is like us, but in the only-begotten it is perceived as going beyond this, for God was made flesh. Accordingly the holy Virgin is called Theotokos. "56

In his letter to Nestorius, Cyril insist on the use of the expression Theotokos:

And since the Holy Virgin brought forth as man God united to flesh according to the hupostasis, we say that she is the Mother of God, not because the nature of the Word had a beginning of existence from the flesh, for 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,' and He is the creator of the ages, co-eternal with the Father, and creator of all things. As we have stated before, having united the human to himself according to the hupostasis, He even endured birth in the flesh from the womb. He did not require because of His own nature as God a birth in time and in the last stages of the world....If anyone does not confess that the Emmanuel is God in truth, and because of this does not confess that the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God (for she bore according to the flesh the Word of God made flesh), let him be anathema. If anyone does not confess that the Word of God the Father was united to flesh substantially, and that there is one Christ with His own flesh and that He manifestly is God, the same one as is man, let him be anathema.57

At the Council, Cyril delivered a homily in praise of Mary:

I see here a joyful company of Christian men met together in ready response to the call of Mary, the holy and ever-virgin Mother of God. The great grief that weighed upon me is changed into joy by your presence, venerable Fathers....Therefore, holy and incomprehensible Trinity, we salute you at whose summons we have come together to this church of Mary, the Mother of God. Mary, Mother of God, we salute you. Precious vessel, worthy of the whole world's reverence, you are an ever shining light, the crown of virginity, the symbol of orthodoxy, an indestructible temple, the place that held him whom no place can contain, mother and virgin. Because of you the holy gospels could say: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."

We salute you, for in your holy womb, He, who is beyond all limitation, was confined. Because of you the holy Trinity is glorified and adored; the cross is called precious and is venerated throughout the world; the heavens exult; the angels and archangels make merry; demons are put to flight; the devil, that tempter, is thrust down from heaven; the fallen race of man is taken up on high; all creatures possessed by the madness of idolatry have attained knowledge of the truth; believers receive holy baptism; the oil of gladness is poured out; the Church is established throughout the world; pagans are brought to repentance.

What more is there to say? Because of you the light of the only-begotten Son of God has shone upon those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death; prophets pronounced the word of God; the apostles preached salvation to the gentiles; the dead are raised to life, and kings rule by the power of the Holy Trinity. Who can put Mary's high honor into words? She is both mother and virgin. I am overwhelmed by the wonder of this miracle. Of course no one could be prevented from living in the house he had built for himself, yet who would invite mockery by asking his own servant to become his mother? Behold then the joy of the whole universe! Let the union of God and man in the Son of the Virgin Mary fill us with awe and adoration. Let us fear and worship the undivided Trinity as we sing the praise of the ever-virgin Mary, the holy temple of God, and of God Himself, her Son and spotless Bridegroom. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.58

6) Mary's Maternity in St. Thomas

In III, 35, 3, Thomas discusses whether Mary can be called Christ's Mother with regard to his temporal birth. He raises objections that Mary did not cooperate actively in begetting Christ, but rather supplied the matter for his being, and that the begetting was miraculous. He concludes that Mary is Christ's mother because Christ was formed from her blood. Mary's role was natural as she carried Jesus for a length of time but the Holy Spirit's role was supernatural.

In III, 35, 4, Thomas raises the question: "Whether the Blessed Virgin should be called the Mother of God?" He begins with the objection that the term is not scriptural as is the "mother of Christ" or of "the Child," (Mt. 1:18). Secondly that "Christ is called God in respect of His Divine Nature. But the Divine Nature did not first originate from the Virgin." Thirdly, that the word "God" is predicated in common of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and Mary is not the Mother of the Trinity.

He then points out: "In the chapters of Cyril, approved in the Council of Ephesus (P. 1, Cap. xxvi), we read: 'If anyone confess not that the Emmanuel is truly God, and that for this reason the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God, since she begot of her flesh the Word of God made flesh, let him be anathema.'"

Thomas responds to these questions:

I answer that, As stated above (16, 1), every word that signifies a nature in the concrete can stand for any hypostasis of that nature. Now, since the union of the Incarnation took place in the hypostasis, as above stated (2, 3), it is manifest that this word "God" can stand for the hypostasis, having a human and a Divine nature. Therefore whatever belongs to the Divine and to the human nature can be attributed to that Person: both when a word is employed to stand for it, signifying the Divine Nature, and when a word is used signifying the human nature. Now, conception and birth are attributed to the person and hypostasis in respect of that nature in which it is conceived and born. Since, therefore, the human nature was taken by the Divine Person in the very beginning of the conception, as stated above (33, 3), it follows that it can be truly said that God was conceived and born of the Virgin. Now from this is a woman called a man's mother, that she conceived him and gave birth to him. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is truly called the Mother of God. For the only way in which it could be denied that the Blessed Virgin is the Mother of God would be either if the humanity were first subject to conception and birth, before this man were the Son of God, as Photinus said; or if the humanity were not assumed unto unity of the Person or hypostasis of the Word of God, as Nestorius maintained. But both of these are erroneous. Therefore it is heretical to deny that the Blessed Virgin is the Mother of God.

In his reply to the first objection, Thomas answers: "This was an argument of Nestorius, and it is solved by saying that, although we do not find it said expressly in Scripture that the Blessed Virgin is the Mother of God, yet we do find it expressly said in Scripture that "Jesus Christ is true God," as may be seen 1 John. 5:20, and that the Blessed Virgin is the "Mother of Jesus Christ," which is clearly expressed in Mt. 1:18. Therefore, from the words of Scripture it follows of necessity that she is the Mother of God."

Furthermore, he comments: "Again, it is written (Rm. 9:5) that Christ is of the Jews "according to the flesh, who is over all things, God blessed for ever." But He is not of the Jews except through the Blessed Virgin. Therefore He who is "above all things, God blessed for ever," is truly born of the Blessed Virgin as of His Mother."

In reply to the second objection, Thomas answers:

This was an argument of Nestorius. But Cyril, in a letter against Nestorius answers it thus: 'Just as when a man's soul is born with its body, they are considered as one being: and if anyone wishes to say that the mother of the flesh is not the mother of the soul, he says too much. Something like this may be perceived in the generation of Christ. For the Word of God was born of the substance of God the Father: but because He took flesh, we must of necessity confess that in the flesh He was born of a woman.' Consequently we must say that the Blessed Virgin is called the Mother of God, not as though she were the Mother of the Godhead, but because she is the mother, according to His human nature, of the Person who has both the divine and the human nature."

Replying to the third objection, he notes: "Although the name 'God' is common to the three Persons, yet sometimes it stands for the Person of the Father alone, sometimes only for the Person of the Son or of the Holy Ghost, as stated above (16, 1; I, 39, 4). So that when we say, 'The Blessed Virgin is the Mother of God,' this word 'God' stands only for the incarnate Person of the Son."

7) Theological Discussion of the Divine Maternity Within the Last Century

Can the language of dogmas or dogmas themselves be flawed?

Kari Borresen, a Norwegian Catholic theologian, has been critical of the expression Mater Dei. She observes that ©eoxoKoq (God-bearer) and the Latin equivalents, Dei Genetrix (the one who gives birth to God) and Deipara (parere means to give birth) emphasize the physical act of giving birth with the emphasis on the One who is borne or given birth to. The expressions Mater Dei and "Divine Maternity" seem to Borresen to place more emphasis on Mary than the early councils had intended.59

Borresen points out that the term Mater Dei appeared in the liturgy in the sixth century and then was introduced into theology by St. Ildelaphonsus of Toledo in the seventh century. Dei Genetrix was used more frequently even when it was used interchangeably by the scholastics. The councils have used the terms Dei Genetrix and Deipara. The first council to depart from this practice and use Mater Dei was Vatican II in the document, Lumen Gentium.60 In general, Borresen is critical of the androcentrism of the councils themselves, seen in the male/active female/passive assumptions of its language. She provides the interesting information that it was only in 1827, that Karl Ernst von Baer "discovered the mammalian ovule, demonstrating the equal roles of both parents. She questions whether the terms Mater Dei and "Divine Maternity" are adequate to express what the early councils intended, given the present understanding of conception.61

Borresen believes that, if present understandings are applied to the traditional language, Mary would be divinized. She notes that instead of the adage that the child is like the mother, in this case, the mother becomes like the Son, implying that Mary is considered to be more like her Son than she is like other humans, basking in His divine qualities.62 Borresen concludes: "When the androcentric assumptions that underlie them have broken down, it will become impossible to use the traditional terms for Mary or the Church. Theotokos or mater ecclesia will no longer have connotations of female dependence and so will not be applicable, since to use them in a post-patriarchal society would raise the status of the human to an extent that is irreconcilable with the primacy of the divine."63

It is my understanding of Borresen that, given contemporary understandings of conception, to say that Mary is "Mother of God" in a real sense puts her on an equal status with God, which Borresen asserts we cannot do. Borresen raises a number of questions including whether doctrinal statements made at a particular time can be flawed because of mistaken assumptions on the part of those making the judgment.

We need to ask how we identify what is essential in the Church's proclamation of truths. As Catholics, we assume that the Holy Spirit has been guiding the Church even when working through vessels that are earthen. We also need to ask ourselves to what extent we allow ourselves to be judged by the dogmas and to what extent we judge the dogmas.

The dogma should not be a dead relic from times past; rather it should become fruitful in the life of the Church. For this reason a dogma should not be seen only in its negative, limit-setting sense, but should also be understood in its positive truth-revealing sense. Such a contemporary interpretation of dogmas must take into account two, at first sight, contradictory principles: the abiding validity of the truth and the actuality of the truth. Thus neither should the tradition be given up or betrayed, nor under the guise of fidelity should what is but a petrified tradition be passed on. It is important therefore that hope for the present and the future come from memory of the tradition. A statement can only be ultimately meaningful in the present to the extent that it is true.

Without doubt the permanent and valid content of the dogmas is to be distinguished from the way in which they are formulated. In any age the mystery of Christ surpasses the possibilities of formulation and thus eludes any final systematization....Nevertheless, no clear-cut separation can be made between the content and form of the statement, The symbolic system of language is not mere external apparel, but to a certain extent the incarnation of a truth....Of its nature, that proclamation takes concrete form by way of articulation and thus as a real symbolic expression of the content of faith, contains and makes present what it designates. Therefore the images and concepts (employed by that proclamation) are not arbitrarily interchangeable.64

Is the maternity the basic principle of Mariology?

One question that has appeared in various forms at different times concerns the relationship between Mary's holiness and her maternity. Jesus' response to the woman who praised His mother's womb and breasts, that rather those who hear the word of God and keep it are blessed would suggest that Mary's role as disciple was the more important than her role as mother. Augustine's words seem to support this priority: "The blessed Mary certainly did the Father's will, and so it was for her a greater thing to have been Christ's disciple than to have been His mother, and she was more blessed in her discipleship than in her motherhood...She kept God's truth in her mind, a nobler thing than carrying His body in her womb."65 In recent years, Mary's role as a disciple has been highlighted and her maternity has been somewhat accepted but not reflected upon.

On the other hand, Pius IX, in the Bull Ineffabilis Deus, defining the Immaculate Conception, asserts that Mary's maternity was predestined: "From the very beginning, and before time began, the Eternal Father chose and prepared for His only-begotten Son, a Mother in whom the Son of God would become incarnate and from whom, in the blessed fullness of time, He would be born into this world."66  If Mary's maternity was predestined, then it would seem to follow that everything else flows from that.

Cyril Vollert, S.J., in his study, "Fundamental Principle of Mariology," acknowledged that there did not exist a consensus and that even papal documents had not asserted one. Nevertheless, from his research, he concluded: "Thus from the basic truth that Mary is the Mother of God, everything else follows....The divine maternity is the basis of Mary's relationship to Christ; hence, it is the basis of her relationship to the work of Christ, to the Whole Christ, to all theology and Christianity. Therefore it is the fundamental principle of Mariology."67

Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., makes a theological argument that Mary's maternity was a greater dignity than her grace by analogy with Christ: "Just as in Jesus the dignity of Son of God, or Word made flesh, surpasses that of the plenitude of created grace, charity, and glory, which He received in His sacred soul as a result of the hypostatic union of two natures in Him by the Incarnation, so also in Mary the dignity of Mother of God surpasses that of the plenitude of grace and charity, and even that of the plenitude of glory which she received through her unique predestination to the divine maternity."68

We can see Garrigou-Lagrange's concern, that the spiritual graces and gifts which were given to Mary would not seem to outweigh in importance the graces and gifts given in the person of Jesus to the world through her, yet there is a certain awkwardness in weighing heavenly mysteries with human scales. One of the difficulties with speaking of "divine Maternity" is that we seem to be emphasizing more ontology or a state of being rather than the existential being the Mother of Jesus. Discussions of Mary's maternity before the Second Vatican Council were often more speculative whereas those after the Council tend to be more existential.

Raniero Cantalamessa illustrates how Mary's maternity and spirituality were in accord:

Mary's physical or 'real' maternity, because of the exceptional and unique relationship it created between her and Jesus and between her and the whole Trinity, was and will remain from an objective point of view the greatest honor and a privilege that cannot be equaled, but this is precisely because it finds a subjective counterpart in Mary's humble faith. It was certainly a unique privilege for Eve to be the 'mother of all the living,' but because she lacked faith it was of no avail to her, and instead of being blessed, she became unfortunate.69

Maternity as discipleship

Other theologians, however, have also emphasized the maternity. Edward Schillebeeckx points out the centrality of the notion of Mary as Mother after Ephesus: "Before the Nestorian heresy, which denied Mary's divine motherhood, the Church Fathers tended to regard Mary principally as the 'new Eve' and as the 'prototype of the Church. It was not until the Council of Ephesus that her motherhood came to be regarded explicitly as the central mystery of Mary."70

Schillebeeckx takes the position that Mary's maternal relationship with Jesus is the basis of all the Marian teachings: "The concrete reality, expressed in utter simplicity by the bare scriptural fact "Mary, the mother of Jesus," comprises the entire dogma of Mary. All the other definitions of faith concerning Mary merely serve to develop or set out in greater detail what is contained in this infinitely rich concrete motherhood."71

However, Mary's motherhood does not need to be separated from her discipleship, as though the two aspects were separate or even opposed. In fact, Schillebeeckx observes that Mary's discipleship was lived out in her maternity: "The essential core of the Marian mystery is that she conceived in faith (fide concepit), that her motherhood was one to which she freely committed herself in faith."72

If discipleship means receiving Jesus as our Redeemer, Mary's maternity was an act of welcoming her own redemption:

It is Mary's concrete motherhood which constitutes the fundamental principle of the entire mystery of Mary. Her concrete motherhood with regard to Christ, the redeeming God-man, freely accepted in faith -- her fully committed divine motherhood -- this is both the key to a full understanding of the Marian mystery and the basic Mariological principle, which is concretely identical with Mary's objectively and subjectively unique state of being redeemed.73

According to Schillebeeckx, Mary's motherhood is joined to her personal or subjective redemption, in what he describes as "active conception in the bodily sense and active receptivity in the spiritual sense."74 Mary allowed Jesus the Redeemer to give Himself to her in bodily and spiritual receptivity. This reception of the Redeemer spiritually must be made by every single person being redeemed by personal cooperation with God in faith, hope and charity, as well as acceptance of Jesus, God and Man. Jesus comes objectively in the reception of the sacraments which must be received with living faith (perfidem et sar amenta fidei).

Schillebeeckx asserts: "Similarly, Mary was redeemed by her faith, here externally represented in her bodily reception of the primordial sacrament -- the conception of Christ himself. This can be put in another way, namely that Mary was redeemed by her faithful reception, embodied in bodily conception or motherhood."75

I believe that Schillebeeckx has opened up the dogma of Mary's maternity in such a way that we can see Mary as a model for our own reception of Jesus in the sacraments and in our encounters in faith, by which we proceed in our own subjective redemption.

Schillebeeckx points out that Mary's maternity was more than the act of giving Jesus birth. Motherhood is a process by which the mother nurtures the child's growth and development, especially in the child's youth but the action between mother and child continues through their lives. The faith and love which Mary gave to her maternal relationship with Christ was not restricted to the physical bearing of Him or giving birth to Him. Schillebeeckx speaks of Mary's motherhood as "a progressive reality."76 Frequently, we relate Mary's maternity to the events between the Annunciation and Christmas. In fact, motherhood is a life-long relationship with a child.

Motherhood in faith

Karl Rahner also asserts that Mary's maternity is more than a mere physical relationship to Christ. Jesus is a gift from God to her as He is to us. She gave Him the ability to be a member of the human race and ultimately its Savior. Thus, because of the hypostatic union of the Son of God with the human nature, she is truly the 'mother of the Lord' (Lk 1:43), Mother of God (Council of Ephesus A.D. 431). Her motherhood is not just a biological event nor her personal history, but a motherhood effected by faith, (Lk 1:43; 2:27 ff.), "a true partnership with God's action for mankind."77 Mary's motherhood occurs by God's grace, and through her motherhood, she accepts grace for the world.78

Rahner emphasizes that the Incarnation alters our relationship to God because now God is with us, in our flesh and nature, God and Man in one Person, even today in our Sacraments. Rahner asserts: "That is why Mariology is not merely a piece of the private life-story of Jesus of Nazareth, of no real ultimate significance for our salvation, but an affirmation of faith itself concerning a reality of the faith, without which there is no salvation."79

Rahner asserts that the truth contained in the words 'born of the virgin Mary,' articulating a truth believed from the time of the apostles, and defined at Ephesus is essential to Christianity: "There can indeed be no question of genuine Christianity, truly believing in the coming of God himself in human flesh, if this oldest of the articles of faith concerning Mary is no longer held firm, or if an attempt is made shamefacedly to disregard it. It is clear that only very little can be said here about this mystery of the faith, which really implies the whole substance of Christian belief."80

Rahner stresses that the greater God's gift is, the more it depends upon Him, yet the more it is our own. Mary's consent to open the world to God's mercy was her own act. By her consent the Word of God was made flesh: "The divine motherhood of the blessed Virgin is therefore God's grace alone, and her own act, inseparably. It is not simply a physical motherhood -- as an act of faith personally made -- it belongs intrinsically to the history of redemption, it gives Mary a real relationship to us, for we are living in the history of redemption which she has decisively influenced."81

Ramifications of the Motherhood of Mary for our times

Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., has observed that Mary's Motherhood still serves us in obtaining the proper understanding of Jesus: "Thus, the title 'Mother of God' is also a bulwark of defense against both the ideologization of Jesus, which would make of him an idea or a personage more than a true person, and the division of humanity and divinity in him, which would put our salvation at risk. It was Mary who anchored God to earth and humanity; it was Mary who, by her divine and very human maternity made God the Emmanuel, God among us, for all time. She made Christ our brother."82

Cantalamessa observes that the present problems are more difficult than in the past because people no longer argue about Christ's natures but settle into no faith at all. Cantalamessa asserts that Mary's motherhood reveals the nature of God:

God silently entered the womb of a woman. It is really the case to say that this is credible precisely because it is crazy; it is certain precisely because it is impossible....The God who became flesh in a woman's womb is the same God who comes to us in the heart of the matter, in the Eucharist. It is a unique economy and a unique style. St. Irenaeus was right in saying that he who doesn't comprehend God's birth of Mary cannot comprehend the Eucharist either. (Cf. Against Heresies, V,2,3) All of this proclaims better than any words could that the Christian God is grace and that this grace is received by gift and not by conquest.83

Another author has observed: "When we reflect on Mary, the Mother of God, we realize that Christianity is not an ideology or a philosophical system or a legend, but our personal adherence to the reality of the Incarnation. To put it more simply, Christianity is for us, as for Mary, a life with Jesus the Son of God."84

The Church imitates Mary in bringing forth Christ

St. Gregory of Nyssa (d. 394) speaks of Christ being born in us as He was in Mary: "The child born within us is Jesus, and in each one who receives Him, He grows in diverse ways 'in wisdom and age and grace.' In diverse ways in each one according to the degree of grace in each, and according as each is ready to receive Him, He comes as a small child, as a growing boy, or as a mature man."85

Ambrose compares Mary with those who turn to Christ: "When the soul then begins to turn to Christ, she is addressed as 'Mary,' that is, she receives the name of the woman who bore Christ in her womb: for she has become a soul who in a spiritual sense gives birth to Christ."86 Ambrose also raises the possibility that the soul will not continue on in its faithfulness: "Not all have brought to birth, not all are perfect, not all are 'Mary': for even though they have conceived Christ by the Holy Ghost, they have not brought Him to birth. There are those who thrust out the Word of God, as it were miscarrying. See to it therefore that you do the will of the Father, so that you may be the mother of Christ."87

Augustine (d. 430) develops the relationship between Mary and the Church:

The Virgin Mary is both holy and blessed, and yet the Church is greater than she. Mary is a part of the Church, a member of the Church, a holy, an eminent -- the most eminent -- member, but still only a member of the entire body. The body undoubtedly is greater than she, one of its members. This body has the Lord for its head, and head and body together make up the whole Christ. In other words, our head is divine;  our head is God. Now beloved, give me your whole attention, for you also are members of Christ; you also are the body of Christ. Consider how you yourselves can be among those of whom the Lord said: Here are My mother and My brothers. Do you wonder how you can be the mother of Christ? He Himself said: Whoever hears and fulfills the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and My sister and My mother. As for our being the brothers and sisters of Christ, we can understand this because, although, there is only one inheritance and Christ is the only Son, His mercy would not allow Him to remain alone. It was His wish that we too should be heirs of the Father, and co-heirs with Himself. Now having said that all of you are brothers of Christ, shall I not dare to call you His mother? Much less would I dare to deny His own words. Tell me how Mary became the mother of Christ, if it was not by giving birth to the members of Christ? You, to whom I am speaking are the members of Christ. Of whom were you born? 'Of mother Church,' I hear the reply of your hearts. You became sons of this mother at your baptism, you came to birth as members of Christ. Now you in your turn must draw to the font of baptism as many as you possibly can. You became sons when you were born there yourselves, and now by bringing others to birth in the same way, you have it in your power to become the mothers of Christ.88

Augustine shows that the members of the Church conceive Christ by believing in imitation of Mary: "The blessed Mary herself conceived by believing that one whom she bore by believing....Mary believed, and what she believed came about in her. Let us too believe, so that we too may benefit from what came about."89

Augustine asserts that in some way Mary has brought birth to all the members of Christ's body:

Mary corporally gave birth to the head of this body; the Church spiritually gives birth to the members of that head...But she is clearly the spiritual Mother of His members, which we are; because she cooperated by her charity, that the faithful might be born into the Church; and these are the members of the same head... For the faithful, whether married, or virgins consecrated to God, who are of holy living, and charity, and faith unfeigned, are, because they do the will of the Father, spiritually mothers of Christ.90

St. Leo the Great (d. 461) emphasizes the relationship of Mary and the Church with regard to baptism: "And each one is a partaker of this spiritual origin in regeneration; and to every one when he is reborn, the water of baptism is like the Virgin's womb; for the same Holy Spirit fills the font, Who filled the virgin, that the sin, which that sacred conception overthrew, may be taken away by this mystic washing."91

According to Gregory the Great (d. 604), there is a special relationship between Mary and preachers: "He is above all the mother of Christ, who preaches the truth; for he gives birth to our Lord, who brings Him into the hearts of his hearers; and he is the mother of Christ, who through his word inspires a love of our Lord in the spirit of his neighbor."92

St. Isidore of Seville (d. 636) succinctly makes the comparison between Mary and the Church: "Mary stands for the Church. For the Church is espoused to Christ, and as a virgin conceives us and brings us to birth as virgin."93

The Cistercian abbot, Isaac of Stella (d. c. 1178) draws a famous comparison between Mary, the Church and the soul:

Christ is one, and one alone: head and body. He is one: Son of the one Father in heaven, son of the one Mother on earth: two sonships, but one son. The head and members are more than one, yet one son: so Mary and the Church are two, yet one single mother, two virgins and yet one. Each is a mother, each is virgin. Both conceived by the same Spirit, without human seed. Both bore to God the Father a child unblemished. The one, without sin, gave birth to Christ's body, the other restored His body through the power of the remission of sins. Both are the Mother of Christ, but neither can bring Him to birth without the other. Thus it is that in the inspired scriptures, what is said in the widest sense of the Virgin Mother the Church, is said in a special sense of the Virgin Mary. And what is spoken of the Virgin Mother Mary in a personal way, can rightly be applied in a general way to the Virgin Mother the Church. But every faithful soul is in a sense the bride of the Word of God, the Mother of Christ, his daughter and his sister, virgin yet a mother. And moreover whatever is said of God's eternal wisdom itself, can be applied in a wide sense to the Church, in a narrower sense to Mary, and in a particular way to every faithful soul.94

The Divine Maternity in the Documents of Vatican II

The eighth chapter of Lumen Gentium makes use of the words Mater Dei, Dei Genitrix, and Deipara twelve times. These are translated into English as "Mother of God." The first reference is to "the glorious ever Virgin Mary, Mother of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ," drawing upon the language of the Roman Canon. (First Eucharistic Prayer)95  The Council asserts that, as "truly the Mother of God and of the Redeemer... she is endowed with the supreme role and dignity of being the Mother of God's Son."96

The Council recalls Patristic praises of Mary, "the usage prevailed according to which they called the Mother of God completely holy and immune from all stain of sin, as though fashioned and formed by the Holy Spirit into a new creature"97 They recount that "the Mother of God joyfully showed to the shepherds and Magi her firstborn Son."98  The Fathers of the Council echo Pius IX in asserting that Mary was "eternally predestined as Mother of God in union with the incarnation of the divine Word."99   Reference is made to the "the gift and role of the divine motherhood which unites her to her Son the Redeemer."100    The thought of St. Ambrose is recalled in affirming that "the Mother of God is type of the Church."101  Her special place in the Church is noted: "as the most holy Mother of God who was involved in the mysteries of Christ, and thus she is rightly honored by the Church with a special cult."102  

The Council makes mention of the devotion to her, recalling "the various forms of devotion toward the Mother of God. . .that, while the Mother is being honored, the Son. . .is rightly known, loved, and glorified, and his commandments observed."103  The Council recalls the "singular dignity of the Mother of God,"104 and hopes that by faith, "we are led to recognize the excellence of the Mother of God."105  In speaking of the Eastern Christians, the Council refers to Mary as "the ever-Virgin Godbearer."106 As the chapter concludes, the Council fathers ask for prayers to be made to "the Mother of God."107

The Decree on the  Liturgy states, "In celebrating this annual cycle of Christ's mysteries, holy Church honors with special love, the Blessed Mother of God, who is joined by an inseparable bond to the saving work of her Son."108  The document on the renewal of religious life also refers to the "Mother of God:" "with the prayerful aid of that most loving Virgin Mary, God's Mother."109

The Decree on Ecumenism makes reference to Mary and to Ephesus: "In this liturgical worship, the Christians of the East pay high tribute, in very beautiful hymns, to Mary ever-Virgin, whom the Ecumenical Synod of Ephesus solemnly proclaimed to be God's holy Mother so that, in accordance with the Scriptures, Christ may be truly and properly acknowledged as Son of God and Son of Man."110

 Mary's Maternity in the Liturgy

For Catholics, one of the prayers most frequently said makes reference to this mystery, as we pray, "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners."  Practices that recall the Nativity, such as the Christmas crib, bring home the reality of the Divine Maternity.  Such devotions as the rosary recall in meditation this great mystery.

Devotion to and liturgical celebration of Mary were gradual developments in the first centuries of the Church. Athanasius makes two references to a "commemoration and office of Mary": "For if the Logos is of one essence with the body, that renders superfluous the commemoration and office of Mary."111  And elsewhere, "If that were so, the commemoration of Mary would be superfluous."112 Pelikan is of the opinion that these reference may be to a feast of Mary: "There is some evidence to support the existence of a festival called the (uvr/VT)) of Mary and celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas, but the evidence does not go back quite as far as Athanasius. Nevertheless, both that evidence and his language seem to make it plausible that such a commemoration of Mary was being kept already during his time and that his argument was based on it."113

The resistance of the Christians in Ephesus to the rejection of the title Theotokos by their bishop, Nestorius, may indicate that there was more devotion to Mary than is recorded. However, clearly the official use of the title of Theotokos by the Council of Ephesus gave real impetus to Marian piety. Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B., points out that this devotion to Mary is rooted in a truth about Jesus: "This rapid flowering of Marian piety is not tied to a proclamation about her, but to a statement about Christ. Possibly this joining of son and mother, a relationship not always honored in subsequent history, was the signal for a Christologically-oriented liturgical cult of Mary. The Christological triumph of Ephesus was enough to give impetus to a pronounced Marian cult."114

After the Council of Ephesus, Sixtus III (432-440) completed the Marian basilica in Rome, now known as St. Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore). It is unclear at what point the words, "gloriosae semper virginis Mariae, genetricis Dei et Domini nostri Jesus Christi," "the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Lord Jesus Christ" were introduced into the Roman Canon (First Eucharistic Prayer). McDonnell suggests that Mary's name was first introduced during the pontificate of Pope Leo (440-461), although the reference to her as Theotokos may be from the sixth century. It is also possible that the Greek-sounding title may be a contribution of one of the Greek popes in the seventh century. The manner in which Mary is honored shows the special reverence with which she is regarded.115

In the seventh century, a generic feast in honor of Mary, Natale Sanctae Mariae, was celebrated on January 1. This was composed of elements from the Mass for Virgins but the feast disappeared as the West adopted new feasts from the East.116  John Allyn Melloh, S.M., observes that the name of the feast changed from Natale sanctae Maria to Octave Day, to Circumcision, to Octave Day, "Despite the nomenclature shifts, January 1 never lost its Marian character."117 In the seventh century also, texts with Marian significance, Luke 1:26-38 (Annunciation) and Luke 1:39-47 (Visitation) are found in the Ember Day liturgies."118

Mention of Mary in the Christmas liturgies can be found in the Leonine Sacramentary of the seventh century and the Gelasian of the mid-eighth century, although the Gregorian Sacramentary does not include Mary in the Christmas Masses, except in an appendix where two alternate prayers may be found. The reason for this may be the evident presence of Mary in the Advent liturgies. Advent, with its emphasis on Jesus' two natures, which seems to have arisen as part of the East's response to Nestorianism, was accepted in the West in the second half of the sixth century.119

In the revision of the liturgy, which was effective January 1, 1970, the first day of January was again celebrated as a feast in honor of Mary's maternity. Pope Paul VI, in his encyclical, Marialis Cultus of February 2, 1974, explains:

In the revised ordering of the Christmas season it seems to Us that the attention of all should be directed toward the restored Solemnity of Mary, the holy Mother of God. This celebration, assigned to January 1 in conformity with the ancient liturgy of the city of Rome, is meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in this mystery of salvation. It is meant also to exalt the singular dignity which this mystery brings to the "holy Mother ... through whom we were found worthy ... to receive the Author of life.120

James Dunlop Crichton comments on the feast:

From the title of this feast of St. Mary it can be seen that this is the great western celebration of Mary, Theotokos, the Mother of God. This is its essential meaning as is indicated by its very position in the Calendar. It is the feast of the Mother who brought forth the redeemer of the world and, as such, she is seen to be more closely associated with him than any other human being and her relationship with him is the root and source of all her dignity, honor and grace. It is also the oldest feast of St. Mary in the calendar of the church of the Roman rite, appearing as it does in the seventh-century Gregorian Sacramentary. 121

 The Opening Prayer for the Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God comes from the seventh century Gregorian Sacramentary. John Allyn Melloh, S.M., notes: "It expresses seventh-century Roman faith not only in the virginal maternity of Mary, but also in the power of the one who welcomed Christ."122  The literal translation of the Latin reads; "through the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary you have given the treasure of eternal salvation to the human race; grant that we may know her to intercede for us, her through whom we have merited to receive the author of life, Your Son."123  The English version in the liturgy is different: "May we always profit by the prayers of the Virgin Mother Mary, for You bring us life and salvation through Jesus Christ her Son." Melloh comments, "By eliminating the rich, image-laden phrases of the original text, there is a reduction of the surplus of meaning that the text can carry."124

The Prayer over the Gifts was recently composed. It reads: "We celebrate at this season the beginning of our salvation. On this feast of Mary, the Mother of God, we ask that our salvation will be brought to its fulfillment." An important element is the reference to salvation being an on-going process. Interestingly, there is no reference to the gifts at this point in the Liturgy.

The Prayer after Communion is a new prayer with phrases from a ninth-century text for St. Agnes. "We proclaim the virgin Mary to be mother of Christ and the mother of the Church; may our communion with her Son bring us to salvation."

Fr. Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P., July 19, 2002


  The Congregation for Catholic Education, "The Virgin Mary in Intellectual and Spiritual Formation," (March 25, 1988), in Marian Studies, XXXIX (1988), 216.
2   The International Theological Commission, "On the Interpretation of Dogmas," (October, 1989), in Origins XX (May 17, 1990), 11-12.
3     Ibid.,
5.
4   Ibid., 11.
5    Lumen Gentium, 65.
6   Catechism of the Catholic Church, (second Edition), 487 (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 122.
7   Aristides of Athens, Apology, 15, 1, quoted by J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (New York: Harper & Row, 1960), 145.
8   Justin, The First Apology, lxiii, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. I, ed. A. Cleveland Coxe (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 184.
9  Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III, xxi, 10 - xxii, 1, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. I, ed. A. Cleveland Coxe (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 454.
10  Tertullian, On the Flesh of Christ," xx, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. Ill, ed. A. Cleveland Coxe (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 538.
11 
Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, VI, xv, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. II, ed. A. Cleveland Coxe (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 509.

12  Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition, 14.
13 Rufinus, PL 21: 348-349.
14 DS 125, Heinrich Denzinger, Symbols et Définitions de la Foi Catholique, ed. Peter Hunermann & Joseph Hoffman (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1997), 40.
15 DS 150, Ibid, 57.
16 Agnes Cunningham, The Significance of Mary (Chicago: Thomas More Press, 1988), 43.        
17 Jaroslav Pelikan, Mary Through the Centuries (New Haven: Yale, 1996), 57-58.
18  Jaroslav Pelikan, Development of Christian Doctrine (New Haven: Yale, 1969), 113.
19 Alexander of Alexandria, "Letter to Alexander of Thessalonica"; PG 18, 568.
20  Julian, Against the Galilaeans, trans. Wilmer Cave Wright, Works of Emperor Julian, Loeb Classical Library, III (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1953), 399.
21  St. Basil, "Letter CCCLX," in The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, vol. VIII (second), ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1983), 326.
 22 Gregory Nazianzen, Letter CI, to Cledonius Against Apollinarius, in The Nicene and PostNicene Fathers,vol. VII, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1983), 439.
23  Luigi Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church, trans. Thomas Buffer (San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 1999), 233.
24  Aloys Grillmeier, S. J., Christ in the Chrisian Tradition: From the Apostolic Age to Chalcedon
(451),trans.J.S. Bowden (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1965), 357.
25  The Council of Ephesus, in The Sources of Christian Dogma, trans. Roy J. Deferrari (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1957),  49. DS 251.
26  Cyril of Alexandria, "Anathemas of the Chapter of Cyril," Ibid., 50. DS 252.
27  Cyril of Alexandria, "Letter II to Nestorius"; PG 77, 448, as quoted by Cantalamessa, 64.
28   "...humanitas Christi et maternitas Virginis adeo sibi connexa sunt, ut qui circa unum erraverit,oporteat etiam circa aliud errare." Commentarium in quattuor libros Sentiarum Magistri Petri Lombardi,III, dist. 4, q. 2. a.2.
29   Raniero Cantalamessa, Mary, Mirror of the Church, trans. Frances Lonergan Villa (Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 1992), 57.
30  Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke, XII, 25-27; PG 74, 661 f.
31   The Council of cedon, in The Teaching of the Catholic Faith as Contained in herDocuments, Josef Neuner, S.J. & Heinrich Roos, S.J., ed. Karl Rahner, S.J. (Staten Island: Alba House, 1967),  153-154. DS 301.
32  Pope John II, Ibid., 155. DS 401.
33   Second Council of Constantinople, Ibid. 157-158. DS, 427
  
34  Third Council of Constantinople, in The Sources of Christian Dogma, Deferrari, 114. DS, 555.
35  DS, 1880.
36  Pius XI, Lux Vehtatis, in the Benedictine monks of Solesmes,
Our Lady, Papal Teachings,  trans. Daughters of St. Paul (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1961), 214.
37  Justin, The First Apology, lxiii, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. I, ed. A. Cleveland Coxe (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 184.
38  Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III, xxi, 10 - xxii, 1, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. I, ed. A. Cleveland Coxe (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 454.
39  Tertullian, On the Flesh of Christ," xx, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. Ill, ed. A. Cleveland Coxe (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 538.
40  Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, VI, xv, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. II, ed. A.Cleveland Coxe (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 509.
41
  Jaroslav Pelikan, Jaroslav Pelikan, Development of Chrisian Doctrine (Yale: New Haven, 1069), 106.
 42  Socrates, History of the Church, VII, 32; PG 67, 812. 
 43  Alexander of Alexandria, "Letter to Alexander of Thessalonica"; PG 18, 568.
 44 Athanasius, "First Discourse Against the Arians," 42, in The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, vol. IV, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans,1980), 330-331.
45  Athanasius, "Third Discourse Against the Arians," 14, in The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, vol. IV, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1980), 401.
 46  Athanasius, "Third Discourse Against the Arians," 29, in The Nicene and Post Nicene, f  Fathers, vol. IV, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1980), 409.
47
Jaroslav Pelikan, Development of Christian Doctrine (Yale: New Haven, 1069), 113.
 48  Julian, Against the Galilaeans, trans. Wilmer Cave Wright, Loeb Classical Library: Works of Emperor Julian, III (Cambridge, Ma: Harvard, 1953), 399.
 49 St. Basil, "Letter CCCLX" in The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, vol. VIII (second), ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1983), 326.
50   Gregory Nazianzen, "Letter CI, to Cledonius Against Apollinarius," in The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, vol. VII, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1983), 439.

51   Luigi Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church, trans. Thomas Buffer (San Francisco,Ignatius Press, 1999), 233.
52   Aloys Grillmeier, S.J., Christ in the Chrisian Tradition: From the Apostolic Age to
Chalcedon (451), trans. J.S. Bowden (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1965), 357.

53   Cyril, "Letter I," in St. Cyril of Alexandria, Letters 1-50, trans. John I. McEnerney (Washington: Catholic University Press, 1985), 14-15.

54  Cyril, "Letter I," in St. Cyril of Alexandria, Letters 1-50, trans. John I. McEnerney (Washington: Catholic University Press, 1985), 20.
55   Cyril, "Letter 45, to Succensus," in St. Cyril of Alexandria, Letters 1-50,
McEnerney (Washington: Catholic University Press, 1985), 191.
56    Cyril, "Letter 50, to Valerian," in St. Cyril of Alexandria, Letters 1-50, trans. John I. McEnerney (Washington: Catholic University Press, 1985), 214.
57
Cyril, "Letter 17, to Nestorius," in St. Cyril of Alexandria, Letters 1-50, trans. John I. McEnerney (Washington: Catholic University Press, 1985), 89-90.
58  Cyril of Alexandria, "A Homily delivered at the Council of Ephesus" in
The Liturgy of the Hours, IV (New York: Catholic Book Company, 1975), 1271-2..
59  Kari Borresen, "Mary in Catholic Theology," in Mary and the Churches, ed. Hans Kung & Jurgen Moltmann (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1983), 49.
60  Ibid.,
6
1  Ibid., 50.
62
  Ibid.
63
  Ibid., 55.
64
  "On the Interpretation of Dogmas," Origins XX, 12-13.
65    St. Augustine, "Sermo 25" in The Liturgy of the Hours, IV (New York: Catholic Book Publishing,
1975), 1573.
66
  Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus (December 8, 1854), in Our Lady, 61.
67  Cyril Vollert, S.J., "Fundamental Principle of Mariology," in Mariology, vol. 2, ed. Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M. (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing,
1957), 87.
 68   Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., The Mother of the Saviour and Our Interior Life, trans. Bernard J. Kelly, C.S.Sp (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1954),21.
69   Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., Mary, Mirror of the Church, 61.
70   Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P., Mary, Mother of the Redemption (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1964)102.
71
  Ibid., 114.
72  Ibid., 108-109.
73
   Ibid., 106.
74   Ibid., 71.
75   Ibid., 71
7
6  Ibid., 114.
77   Karl Rahner, Mary Mother of the Lord (London: Catholic Book Club, 1963), 12.
78
  Ibid.
79    Ibid., 25-26.
80   Ibid., 54.
81   Ibid., 60-61.
82   Cantalamessa, Mary Mirror of the Church, 64.
83    Ibid, 65.
84   Jean Laurenceau, O.P., Speak to Us of Mary, trans. Matthew J. O'Connell (Chicago: Franciscan
Herald Press, 1987), 88-89.
85
  Gregory of Nyssa, Commentary on the Canticle 4 (PG 44, 828), in H. Rahner, Our Lady and The Church, 74.
86 Ambrose, 4, 20 (PL 16, 271), in H. Rahner, Our Lady and The Church, 75.
87 Ambrose, Commentary on Luke, X, 24-25 (PL 15, 1810), 75.
88   Augustine. "Sermo 25," PL 46, 937-938, in The Liturgy of the Hours, IV (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1975), 1573-1574.
89
  Augustine, "Sermon 215" The Works of St. Augustine, III, 6, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., ed. John E. Rotelle, O.S.A. (New  Rocelle, NY: New  City Press, 1992), 162.br>
90   Augustine, "De sancta Virginitate," nn. 3-6, quoted by Buby, Mary of Galilee, III, 187.
91
  Leo, "Sermon XXIV," III, in The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, (Second Series), vol. XII,
92
  Gregory the Great, "Homily 3 on the Gospels" (PL 76, 1086), in H. Rahner, Our Lady and the Church, 17-78.
93  Isidore of Seville, "Allegoriae 139" (PL 83, 117), in H. Rahner, Our Lady and the Church,  46.
94  Issac of Stella, "Sermo 51 on the Assumption," (PL 194, 1863), in Hugo Rahner, S.J., Our Lady and The Church, trans. Sebastian Bullough, O.P. (New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 1961), ix-x.
95   Lumen Gentium,52.
96   Ibid., 53.
97   Ibid,, 56.
98  Ibid., 57.
99  Ibid., 61.
100 Ibid., 63.
101 Ibid,. 63.
102 Ibid.,66.
103  Ibid., 66.
104  Ibid., 67.
105 Ibid., 67.
106 Ibid.,69.
107 Ibid., 69.
108  Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 103.
109  Vatican II, Perfectae Caritatis, 25.
110   Vatican II, On Ecumenism, 15.
111   Athanasius, Epistle to Epicetus; PG 26: 1056-1057.7.
112  Athanasius, Epistle to Maximus the Philosopher, 3; PG 26:1088.
113   Pelikan, Mary Through the Centuries, 61.
114   Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B., "The Marian Liturgical Tradition," The One Mediator, The Saints, and Mary, ed. H. George Anderson, J. Francis Stafford, Joseph A. Burgess (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1992), 179-180.
115    Ibid., 180.
116
 Ibid.
117  John Allyn Melloh, S.M., "Mary in Advent/Christmas: Liturgical References," in
Marian Studies, XLI (1990), 74.
118
  McDonnell, "The Marian Liturgical Tradition," 180.
119
Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B., "The Marian Liturgical Tradition," The One Mediator, The Saints, and Mary, ed. H. George Anderson, J. Francis Stafford, Joseph A. Burgess (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1992), 180-181.
120
 Paul VI, Marialis Cultus, 6.
121   James Dunlop Crichton, Our Lady in the Liturgy (Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 1997),
 122  Melloh, in 'Advent/Christmas'. 74.
123  Ibid.
124  Ibid., 75.

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