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Mary, the Mother of God

Gospel, First Reading & Psalm


Second Reading


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GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

And then finally, because this is a solemnity, the second reading, the reading from St. Paul, is thematically chosen. It goes with the theme of the day, and in this case

it is a very special text from Galatians 4:47. This is Pauls sole mention of the Virgin Mary. Paul never talks about Mary, never names Mary in person, but he does mention her as mother on one key occasion, and that is in Galatians 4 when he writes these words. It says:

But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba! Father!So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir.

So you’ll see there a very fleeting reference to Mary, but it is important. “God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Gal 4:4). If you look at that verse you will see right there, the mystery both of Jesus’ divinity and of his humanity. On the one hand, Jesus is the eternal Son of God sent by God from heaven to come and take on a mortal human nature, human flesh; but at the same time, because he is born of woman, he really is also the son of man. He’s the son of woman, and not just any woman, he is the son of Mary. That truth was actually the truth of the fullness of the incarnation, that the Jesus is fully human and fully divine. That he is the eternal Son of the Father and he is truly the son of Mary. Those truths together were what had to be fought over in the early centuries the Church, which ultimately led to the Church having a Council, called the Council of Ephesus. At the Council of Ephesus in 431, the Church defined and confessed the truth that Mary is not just “mother of the Christ,” as some people were saying—who were denying the fullness of Jesus’ humanity or denying that Mary could be the mother of the Son, of the divine Son of God. The Church says no. Mary is not just the mother of the Messiah, she is the Mother of God. And so at the Council of Ephesus, the Church defined that term and called Mary, Theotokos. It is tricky to translate in English. Theos—we get the word Theology—means God and tokos—from the Greek word tiktó—means “to bear” or “to give birth.” So literally you can translate this term as the “God-bearer,” Mary is the God-bearer, or as we usually translate it in English, she’s the Mother of God. In that way, by calling Mary the Mother of God, the Church safeguarded the fact that Christ was divine from the moment of his conception. In other words, he wasn’t made divine when he was resurrected, he wasn’t made divine when he ascended, he wasn’t made divine when he was adopted. He was God from his conception and he was born fully human and fully divine. That’s what we are celebrating on this great feast of Mary, the Mother of God.

You’ll see this in the Gospels—it’s important to point out—because sometimes there will be Christians who object to calling Mary the Mother of God. I have met a number of non-Catholic Christians in my life who say you should not call Mary the Mother of God, and they will give different reasons for it. Sometimes people think that when Catholics call Mary Mother of God, they think that we are saying that she’s greater than God, or that she is somehow divine. We are not saying that. Mary is a creature and calling her Mother of God is certainly not in any way saying that she’s greater than God. Other Christians will say that when we say Mary is the Mother of God, we mean she’s the mother of the Trinity, or that we are implying that she’s the mother of the Trinity, which would make her, in a sense, pre-existent to God himself. That is not what we are saying either. The Church has never said that Mary is the mother of the Father. The Church never said that Mary is the mother of the Holy Spirit. Mary is only the mother of the second person of the Trinity and that second person of the Trinity is the Son of God and that Son of God became fully man in the incarnation. So that when Mary bore Christ, she didn’t just become the mother of his body, she became the mother of a person, and that person is a divine person, the eternal Son of the Father.

So the Catechism actually gives two points in favor of this that we might reflect on in closing. First, when we use the language of “Mother of God,” it’s actually coming from Scripture, it is rooted in Scripture, because in Luke 1:43—as I already mentioned—inspired by the Holy Spirit, when Elizabeth hears Mary’s greeting, she calls her “mother of my Lord.” And the Greek word there Kyrios, in the Old Testament over 1000 times, is used to refer to God. And in the Gospel of Luke you can make a very strong case that again the word Kyrios here is specifically referencing the Lord of Israel, the Lord of the universe, who has now become man. So when we call Mary, Mother of God, we’re in a sense taking the language of Elizabeth and just adapting it slightly to make clear that it is the God of the universe who has become man in Christ. The other thing is that the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes this clear in paragraph 495. It says that when we confess Mary as Mother of God, what we are saying is this, that Mary is the mother of the “eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity” and that that second person of the Trinity is “truly her Son according to the flesh.”2 So he is fully human and fully divine. And as you will see, if you study the teachings about Mary in the Church and feast days like this, they always function this way. Anytime the Church says something about Mary, the reason she says it about Mary is in order to shed light on some truth about Christ or to protect some truth about Christ that is in danger of being distorted. And in this case the danger was that some Christians were denying the fullness of Jesus’ humanity and the fullness of his divinity, and so the Church confesses Mary as Mother of God in order to safeguard the mystery of the incarnation. And that is what we are really celebrating on the day of Mary, the Holy Mother of God.


SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

The second reading for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, during the Octave of Christmas, comes to us from St. Paul’s famous letter to the Galatians. And it’s the only time in all of Paul’s letters where he ever mentions Mary, where he ever mentions the mother of Jesus. So you can…it’s pretty obvious why the Church chooses this passage for today. But what does it mean? Let’s read through it together, and we’ll try to unpack it, because it’s one of these classic Pauline texts that’s very brief, but it’s dense. It’s rich. It’s got a lot going on in a short amount of text. So in Galatians 4:4-7…this is the one time Paul mentions Mary in all of his letters, and this is what he says:

But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir.

Okay. So obviously since today’s the feast of Mary as mother of God, Theotokos (God bearer), the verse we want to home in on is that first one there:

..when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman… (Galatians 4:4a-c)

Now, what does Paul mean when he says this? Well, on the one hand you could say, well, he’s just giving you a kind of account of the mystery of the Incarnation. God sends His Son to Earth, and He’s born of a woman, and He’s born under the law so that He can redeem those under the law—in other words, to bring about the redemption of Jerusalem, the long awaited hope of Israel, the salvation of Israel and the nations. And that’s absolutely true, but one of the things that readers since ancient times have noticed here is that the way Paul formulates his description of the birth of Jesus is a little...it’s a little peculiar. So for one thing, notice, he says that God sent His Son.

So on the one hand, that could mean that God just sends the Son on a mission—in other words, like he sends John the Baptist or he sends Isaiah or one of the prophets to bring His message to the world. On the other hand though, many interpreters have seen in this an implication of the Son’s preexistence—in other words, that the Son takes human form in a way that’s different than all other human beings. So all other human beings are created directly and immediately by God—you could say they’re conceived in the womb. Especially from a biblical world view, humans don’t exist in Heaven and then are sent to the Earth, right? Humans are conceived and they’re born in this world and of this world.

But Jesus is different, and you’ll see Paul himself actually does say as much elsewhere in his famous hymn in the letter to the Philippians. So if you look at Philippians 2 just for a second…in Philippians 2:5, the famous parallel with this is in his verses where he says this:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.

So notice, in Philippians, Paul says that Christ Jesus was first in the form of God, but then He emptied Himself, and He took the form of a servant and was born in the likeness of men. So you have there Paul’s description of the mystery of the Incarnation—that the Son exists in the form of God before He exists in the form of a human being.

So when you take that information from Philippians and you look back at Galatians, what Paul is saying there is not just in Galatians that Jesus is sent like, say, St. John the Baptist is sent or one of the prophets is sent...but that God sends His preexistent Son to be born of a woman in the mystery of Christmas, in the mystery of the Incarnation.

Now, if you have any doubts about that, the second part of the phrase is key there. What it says:

...God sent forth his Son, born of woman… (Galatians 4:3b-c)

...that should immediately strike you as somewhat redundant. Notice that when Paul says “born of a woman”—you can’t see this in the English very easily, but in the Greek it’s really clear. He doesn’t use the word for childbirth, like delivery. So whenever you want to say a woman bore a child or she gave birth to a child, the Greek verb is tiktō. It literally means “to give birth” or “to bear.” But the verb that Paul uses here is ginomai, and it means to be begotten, to come forth of a woman.

So the emphasis here—a case can be made—is really on the conception of Jesus, of His being begotten of a woman. And that actually would be unique, because all human beings are begotten, not just of a woman, but of a man and a woman. Just think of Genesis 2...a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and the two become one flesh. Or in Genesis 4...Adam knew his wife Eve, and she bore a son. She bears Cain.

So some interpreters—although this is a debated point—actually see in Paul’s language here, his seemingly redundant, somewhat strange phrase “born” or “begotten of a woman,” an implicit allusion to the virginal conception. So this is one of those passages—if that’s what Paul’s saying—it would provide yet one more witness to the miraculous nature of Jesus’ coming into the world.

Because sometimes skeptics, for example, about the virginal conception will say, “Well, if Jesus was born of a virgin, why is it only mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke? Why don’t we read about it anywhere else in the New Testament?” And sometimes people will respond by saying, “Well, actually we do read about it elsewhere in the New Testament.” Paul refers to it here in Galatians 4.

Now, it’s true he doesn’t explicitly say that, just like he doesn’t explicitly give the name of Mary and he doesn’t use Mary’s name. He doesn’t explicitly talk about the virginal conception. But if Paul is describing Jesus’ being begotten of woman in this kind of unique way, it’s reasonable to conclude that he’s here alluding to the fact that when God sends His Son, He is born of a woman. He is begotten by a woman in a unique way...

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Gospel, First Reading & Psalm


Second Reading


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***Subscribe or Login for Full Access.***

GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

And then finally, because this is a solemnity, the second reading, the reading from St. Paul, is thematically chosen. It goes with the theme of the day, and in this case

it is a very special text from Galatians 4:47. This is Pauls sole mention of the Virgin Mary. Paul never talks about Mary, never names Mary in person, but he does mention her as mother on one key occasion, and that is in Galatians 4 when he writes these words. It says:

But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba! Father!So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir.

So you’ll see there a very fleeting reference to Mary, but it is important. “God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Gal 4:4). If you look at that verse you will see right there, the mystery both of Jesus’ divinity and of his humanity. On the one hand, Jesus is the eternal Son of God sent by God from heaven to come and take on a mortal human nature, human flesh; but at the same time, because he is born of woman, he really is also the son of man. He’s the son of woman, and not just any woman, he is the son of Mary. That truth was actually the truth of the fullness of the incarnation, that the Jesus is fully human and fully divine. That he is the eternal Son of the Father and he is truly the son of Mary. Those truths together were what had to be fought over in the early centuries the Church, which ultimately led to the Church having a Council, called the Council of Ephesus. At the Council of Ephesus in 431, the Church defined and confessed the truth that Mary is not just “mother of the Christ,” as some people were saying—who were denying the fullness of Jesus’ humanity or denying that Mary could be the mother of the Son, of the divine Son of God. The Church says no. Mary is not just the mother of the Messiah, she is the Mother of God. And so at the Council of Ephesus, the Church defined that term and called Mary, Theotokos. It is tricky to translate in English. Theos—we get the word Theology—means God and tokos—from the Greek word tiktó—means “to bear” or “to give birth.” So literally you can translate this term as the “God-bearer,” Mary is the God-bearer, or as we usually translate it in English, she’s the Mother of God. In that way, by calling Mary the Mother of God, the Church safeguarded the fact that Christ was divine from the moment of his conception. In other words, he wasn’t made divine when he was resurrected, he wasn’t made divine when he ascended, he wasn’t made divine when he was adopted. He was God from his conception and he was born fully human and fully divine. That’s what we are celebrating on this great feast of Mary, the Mother of God.

You’ll see this in the Gospels—it’s important to point out—because sometimes there will be Christians who object to calling Mary the Mother of God. I have met a number of non-Catholic Christians in my life who say you should not call Mary the Mother of God, and they will give different reasons for it. Sometimes people think that when Catholics call Mary Mother of God, they think that we are saying that she’s greater than God, or that she is somehow divine. We are not saying that. Mary is a creature and calling her Mother of God is certainly not in any way saying that she’s greater than God. Other Christians will say that when we say Mary is the Mother of God, we mean she’s the mother of the Trinity, or that we are implying that she’s the mother of the Trinity, which would make her, in a sense, pre-existent to God himself. That is not what we are saying either. The Church has never said that Mary is the mother of the Father. The Church never said that Mary is the mother of the Holy Spirit. Mary is only the mother of the second person of the Trinity and that second person of the Trinity is the Son of God and that Son of God became fully man in the incarnation. So that when Mary bore Christ, she didn’t just become the mother of his body, she became the mother of a person, and that person is a divine person, the eternal Son of the Father.

So the Catechism actually gives two points in favor of this that we might reflect on in closing. First, when we use the language of “Mother of God,” it’s actually coming from Scripture, it is rooted in Scripture, because in Luke 1:43—as I already mentioned—inspired by the Holy Spirit, when Elizabeth hears Mary’s greeting, she calls her “mother of my Lord.” And the Greek word there Kyrios, in the Old Testament over 1000 times, is used to refer to God. And in the Gospel of Luke you can make a very strong case that again the word Kyrios here is specifically referencing the Lord of Israel, the Lord of the universe, who has now become man. So when we call Mary, Mother of God, we’re in a sense taking the language of Elizabeth and just adapting it slightly to make clear that it is the God of the universe who has become man in Christ. The other thing is that the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes this clear in paragraph 495. It says that when we confess Mary as Mother of God, what we are saying is this, that Mary is the mother of the “eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity” and that that second person of the Trinity is “truly her Son according to the flesh.”2 So he is fully human and fully divine. And as you will see, if you study the teachings about Mary in the Church and feast days like this, they always function this way. Anytime the Church says something about Mary, the reason she says it about Mary is in order to shed light on some truth about Christ or to protect some truth about Christ that is in danger of being distorted. And in this case the danger was that some Christians were denying the fullness of Jesus’ humanity and the fullness of his divinity, and so the Church confesses Mary as Mother of God in order to safeguard the mystery of the incarnation. And that is what we are really celebrating on the day of Mary, the Holy Mother of God.


SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

The second reading for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, during the Octave of Christmas, comes to us from St. Paul’s famous letter to the Galatians. And it’s the only time in all of Paul’s letters where he ever mentions Mary, where he ever mentions the mother of Jesus. So you can…it’s pretty obvious why the Church chooses this passage for today. But what does it mean? Let’s read through it together, and we’ll try to unpack it, because it’s one of these classic Pauline texts that’s very brief, but it’s dense. It’s rich. It’s got a lot going on in a short amount of text. So in Galatians 4:4-7…this is the one time Paul mentions Mary in all of his letters, and this is what he says:

But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir.

Okay. So obviously since today’s the feast of Mary as mother of God, Theotokos (God bearer), the verse we want to home in on is that first one there:

..when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman… (Galatians 4:4a-c)

Now, what does Paul mean when he says this? Well, on the one hand you could say, well, he’s just giving you a kind of account of the mystery of the Incarnation. God sends His Son to Earth, and He’s born of a woman, and He’s born under the law so that He can redeem those under the law—in other words, to bring about the redemption of Jerusalem, the long awaited hope of Israel, the salvation of Israel and the nations. And that’s absolutely true, but one of the things that readers since ancient times have noticed here is that the way Paul formulates his description of the birth of Jesus is a little...it’s a little peculiar. So for one thing, notice, he says that God sent His Son.

So on the one hand, that could mean that God just sends the Son on a mission—in other words, like he sends John the Baptist or he sends Isaiah or one of the prophets to bring His message to the world. On the other hand though, many interpreters have seen in this an implication of the Son’s preexistence—in other words, that the Son takes human form in a way that’s different than all other human beings. So all other human beings are created directly and immediately by God—you could say they’re conceived in the womb. Especially from a biblical world view, humans don’t exist in Heaven and then are sent to the Earth, right? Humans are conceived and they’re born in this world and of this world.

But Jesus is different, and you’ll see Paul himself actually does say as much elsewhere in his famous hymn in the letter to the Philippians. So if you look at Philippians 2 just for a second…in Philippians 2:5, the famous parallel with this is in his verses where he says this:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.

So notice, in Philippians, Paul says that Christ Jesus was first in the form of God, but then He emptied Himself, and He took the form of a servant and was born in the likeness of men. So you have there Paul’s description of the mystery of the Incarnation—that the Son exists in the form of God before He exists in the form of a human being.

So when you take that information from Philippians and you look back at Galatians, what Paul is saying there is not just in Galatians that Jesus is sent like, say, St. John the Baptist is sent or one of the prophets is sent...but that God sends His preexistent Son to be born of a woman in the mystery of Christmas, in the mystery of the Incarnation.

Now, if you have any doubts about that, the second part of the phrase is key there. What it says:

...God sent forth his Son, born of woman… (Galatians 4:3b-c)

...that should immediately strike you as somewhat redundant. Notice that when Paul says “born of a woman”—you can’t see this in the English very easily, but in the Greek it’s really clear. He doesn’t use the word for childbirth, like delivery. So whenever you want to say a woman bore a child or she gave birth to a child, the Greek verb is tiktō. It literally means “to give birth” or “to bear.” But the verb that Paul uses here is ginomai, and it means to be begotten, to come forth of a woman.

So the emphasis here—a case can be made—is really on the conception of Jesus, of His being begotten of a woman. And that actually would be unique, because all human beings are begotten, not just of a woman, but of a man and a woman. Just think of Genesis 2...a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and the two become one flesh. Or in Genesis 4...Adam knew his wife Eve, and she bore a son. She bears Cain.

So some interpreters—although this is a debated point—actually see in Paul’s language here, his seemingly redundant, somewhat strange phrase “born” or “begotten of a woman,” an implicit allusion to the virginal conception. So this is one of those passages—if that’s what Paul’s saying—it would provide yet one more witness to the miraculous nature of Jesus’ coming into the world.

Because sometimes skeptics, for example, about the virginal conception will say, “Well, if Jesus was born of a virgin, why is it only mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke? Why don’t we read about it anywhere else in the New Testament?” And sometimes people will respond by saying, “Well, actually we do read about it elsewhere in the New Testament.” Paul refers to it here in Galatians 4.

Now, it’s true he doesn’t explicitly say that, just like he doesn’t explicitly give the name of Mary and he doesn’t use Mary’s name. He doesn’t explicitly talk about the virginal conception. But if Paul is describing Jesus’ being begotten of woman in this kind of unique way, it’s reasonable to conclude that he’s here alluding to the fact that when God sends His Son, He is born of a woman. He is begotten by a woman in a unique way...

For full access subscribe here >

 



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