Sunday, December 26, 2021

Mary the God-Bearer

*see image note
On this Second Day of Christmas, I’d like to share a #SundayInspiration post regarding Mary, the mother of Jesus. In some circles, she’s referred to as the ‘Mother of God.’ This is an unfortunate translation of a perfectly good word to describe her: the God-bearer.

Mary, of course, is not the ‘mother’ of God (as if she’s above God), but she is the bearer of God – pointing to her role as the earthly mother of God incarnate, Jesus Christ. This is a universal truth for Christians, but especially in the Eastern Orthodox Church where the term God-bearer is used quite often.

The term is from the Greek, Theotokos, and it’s not really an exaltation of Mary at all. Rather it’s a defense of orthodox (small o) Christology. The context here is a theological controversy from about the year AD 430.

There was a suggestion that the word Theotokos (already in wide-use within the church to describe Mary) be replaced with Christotokos, which means Christ-bearer. The thought was that this more accurately described Mary’s role – she gave birth to the Messiah (the Hebrew word for Christ).

Well, that’s true. But the real point is that Mary bore God the Son, not just the Messiah (or Christ, which merely means anointed one). You see, the anointed one could simply be a human. But Jesus was not simply human. He was the God-Man.

So Mary is rightly called the God-bearer. She was blessed and highly favored by God for this role, but she was still simply a human being, a sinner like all of us, who went on to be a mother of at least six more children with Joseph, her husband.

We praise God for Mary’s willing and humble heart. But she’s called blessed not because she gave birth to God’s Son, but because she obeyed the Word of God. Like Jesus said in Luke 11.27-28, when a woman called out to him, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you,” Jesus replied: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

Our call? To hear the word of God, like Mary, and obey it. This means following first and foremost the Word of God made flesh, Emmanuel / God With Us, Jesus the Son of God (or God-Man).

By the way, in a related note, here’s a very good summary from Desiring God website of the various Church councils that clarified and explained the apostolic acknowledgment that Jesus was the God-Man, the divine Son of God. And why, even today, the world celebrates his birthday!

Have a blessed Christmas season these remaining 11 days. Blessed because we seek to hear and obey the word of God, just as Mary, the God-bearer, did.

(* Image note: Our Lady of Perpetual Help Icon. Image by WikiImages from Pixabay.)

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