By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM
Responding to a common misconception among separated brethren and ill-informed Catholics:
On the day of the Annunciation and the Incarnation, the Archangel St. Gabriel, “who stands in the presence of God” (Luke 1:19), inspired by the Holy Spirit, said to the Blessed Virgin Mary: “Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High. . . . The Holy One who shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” — Luke 1:30, 35).
Interesting: the title “Holy One” is often used by the Old Testament prophets to refer to Almighty God, i.e.:
“I am the Lord, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King” — Isaiah 43:15.
“I am God and not man, the Holy One present among you” — Osee 11:9
“I have not transgressed the commands of the Holy One” — Job 6:10.
It should also be noted that St. Gabriel was not using the title “Son of God” in the sense that every baptized person is a “son of God” by adoption. There is no need of a miraculous virgin birth for a child to be a son of God by adoption. Baptism suffices. But here the angel is referring to a true and authentic sonship, that is, when a father begets offspring who share in his own nature. In this case, since the Father who begot the Child is a divine Person, the Child is also a divine Person. And the Virgin who conceived that divine Person in her womb is the Mother of that divine Person.
The Incarnation of the Word of God in the sacred womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary was the coming true of Isaiah’s prophecy: “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” — Isaiah 7:14.
In his Gospel, St. Matthew interprets the name Emmanuel as meaning “God with us” (Matt. 1:23), a divine Person living in the womb of His human Mother, then being born and living among us. That divine Person assumed that human nature from her. Thus, the Flesh and the Blood of Jesus were provided by Mary, since He had no human father.
The same Isaiah prophesied that the Son of the Virgin would be both human and divine: “For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us [child, son = human] . . . and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace [Mighty God = divine].”
Notice how Isaiah links together these words: child — son — Mighty God. Notice also how the archangel said to Mary, “Thou shalt call his name Jesus,” and adds three qualifications: “The son of the Most High…The Holy One . . . The Son of God.”
How can a woman be the mother of a divine Person?
A mother is a woman who conceives in her womb the body of her child and later gives birth to that same child. Everyone knows that. Yet she does not create the soul of the child — God creates it. But she bears both the body and the soul of the child in her womb: She bears the whole person.
You would never say to your mother, “You are only the mother of my body, not of my soul, because God created my soul, not you.” That would be most disrespectful to your mother, and, besides, she did not create your body, either — in fact, she created nothing of you! She conceived your body, and God created your soul within your body at conception. She nurtured you and eventually gave birth to you. She is not only the mother of the constitutive natures of that being, that is, a material body and a spiritual soul: She is the mother of your whole person.
This conclusion is most important: A mother is not only the mother of the child’s body and soul, but of the whole child, the person.
Jesus is one of the three divine Persons of the Holy Trinity — He is God. Mary is the Mother of Jesus. Mary is the Mother of one of the three divine Persons of the Holy Trinity. Mary is the Mother of God.
Now, with Jesus, God the Father replaces the natural father in the ordinary course of nature. Jesus’ Mother was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God the Son, descended into her womb and assumed a human nature from her.
At the very moment of conception, God the Father created His human soul.
Therefore, His Mother bore His body, His soul, and His divinity, because there is only one Person in Jesus — a divine Person, whom Isaiah called the Mighty God and the Angel Gabriel called the Holy One.
Mary is not, and could not possibly be, the creator of Jesus, since He is eternal, uncreated. She is His Mother because she bore Him in her womb; she nurtured Him there, and finally gave birth to Him. Any woman who does these things for a child is the mother of that child.
Likewise, Mary is the Mother of the God-Man Jesus Christ, but she did not create divinity as such — that would be an even greater absurdity.
So, since the Mighty God, the Son of the Most High, the Holy One is He who shares in the nature of His Father, it does not take much thinking to put two and two together: Since Jesus is God, Mary is the Mother of Jesus, then Mary is the Mother of God. Not the Mother of the Trinity, but the Mother of one of the divine Persons — God the Son, who is just as God as the other two Persons.
One cannot deny the divine Motherhood without denying the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and of the divinity of Jesus Christ — the two essential foundations of the Christian religion. Those baptized Christians who refuse to call Mary “Mother of God” are — one hopes unwittingly — denying the very foundations of her divine Son’s religion.
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(Raymond de Souza is director of the Evangelization and Apologetics Office of the Winona Diocese, Minn.; an EWTN program host; regional coordinator for Portuguese-speaking countries for Human Life International [HLI]; president of the Sacred Heart Institute, and a member of the Sovereign, Military, and Hospitaller Order of the Knights of Malta. His web site is www.raymonddesouza.com.)