Guest Column

Mary, Theotokos

by By Jim Stagg, Special to The Newnan Times-Herald

The mother of Jesus the Christ is the subject of many discussions, some scholarly. 

 It is not because she is unknown. Indeed, the King James edition of the Bible lists more than 40 references to her, including at least two in the Hebrew Testament. 

She is venerated in the Gospel twice, once by the angel Gabriel, and once by her cousin Elizabeth, already pregnant with John the Baptizer.

Many of the traditional views of Mary can be summed up in a recent hymn by Reverend Justin Mulcahy, C.P, (née Paul Cross), published in 1949:

Mary the dawn, Christ the Perfect Day;

Mary the gate, Christ the Heavenly Way!

Mary the root, Christ the Mystic Vine;

Mary the grape, Christ the Sacred Wine!

Mary the wheat, Christ the Living Bread;

Mary the stem, Christ the Rose blood-red!

Mary the font, Christ the Cleansing Flood;

Mary the cup, Christ the Saving Blood!

Mary the temple, Christ the temple’s Lord;

Mary the shrine, Christ the God adored!

Mary the beacon, Christ the Haven’s Rest;

Mary the mirror, Christ the Vision Blest!

Mary the mother, Christ the mother’s Son

By all things blest while endless ages run. Amen.

These verses proclaim a simple truth, that Mary provides a way to Jesus her Son by showing a gateway through which He may be viewed as the true and eternal Son of God.

In the tradition and teaching of the entire Christian Church, Mary is the mother of Jesus. In so being, she is also the mother of God, since Jesus is one Person with two natures, human and divine, which cannot be separated. So both the Eastern and Western Church honor her with the title Theotokos, “birth-giver of God” in Greek.

In many Christian Churches -- Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran throughout the world, Mary is honored by days of remembrance for specific occurrences which are supported by long-held tradition and, in the instances of the Annunciation, the Visitation and the Incarnation, which are spelled out in the Christian Testament of the Bible. One honor specifically given to Mary by the Catholic Church is the title Immaculate Conception, celebrated as a holy day on Dec.8 each year.

It is the simple truism that God, in His foreknowledge of Mary’s acceptance of her role as the mother of Jesus, spared her from stain of Original Sin at her birth. While this has always been held as Tradition in the Eastern and Western Church, the formal announcement of this as Church doctrine was made in 1854 only in the Catholic (Western) Church.

A similar, more recent announcement of doctrine in the Catholic Church, Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, was made in 1950. This is a dogmatic declaration of the tradition of the Eastern and Western Churches which asserts that, at the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, that is, the end of her earthly life, Mary was assumed, body and soul, into Heaven. Although not taught as dogma, this belief is held by many other Christian Churches which value tradition in addition to Biblical references.

There is no grave-site for Mary, instead, simply a monument. A Benedictine monastery, the Abbey of the Dormition, currently occupies the site outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, where Mary is believed to have completed her life on earth.

The Catholic Church has defined four dogmas concerning Mary: that she was born without Original Sin, that she is Theotokos (Mother of God), that she is ever-virgin (Jesus was her only Child), and that she was assumed, body and soul, into Heaven.

As a result of her unique contribution to the world, many Christians pray the Hail Mary, a Bible-based prayer to the Mother of God:

Hail, Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you (Lk 1:28).

Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, (Lk 1:42)

Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

Amen.

Mary’s veneration, from Gabriel and Elizabeth, continues to this day.



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