Mary the Mother of God (?) An explanation

On January 1, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Father Kristopher Fuchs, the pastor of the Parish of St. Mary’s in Victoria, Texas, said a homily (sermon) that so beautifully explained this mystery, I begged him for a copy to place on my blog. Although he was reluctant, he finally conceded to my request. Thank you, Father Kristopher.

Father Kristopher Fuchs’ homily, January 1, 2020

Contrary to the radio stations and department stores, we are still in the Christmas Season. In fact, today is the octave of Christmas. Christmas is so important, that we celebrate this day for eight days, plus continue the season of Christmas through the Baptism of Our Lord. So, to keep you in the Christmas spirit, I’d like to tell you a little story about Ol’ Saint Nick, that is, the original St. Nicholas who lived in the early 300s.

            Back when St. Nicholas lived, Christianity was just coming out of an era of persecution. Previous time in the early Church had been taken up almost completely by the fight for survival. Now that that fight had been won, the Church found herself examining in a closer way what it was that she believed, and the first serious questions were about who is Jesus Christ. The first major conflict came when Arius, a monk, proposed that Jesus was not God, at least not in the same sense that the Father is God. According to Arius, Christ was a created being, greater than man, but less than God. This caused a great division in the Church as people stated to encounter these thoughts and respond to them. We might not realize how serious this was taken! These disputes were not restricted to scholars, but were discussed by everyone. One writer of the period, Gregory of Nazianzen, said that if you went to the baker, he would not tell you the price of bread, but would “argue that the Father is greater than the Son.” There were even riots over this issue. Eventually, an ecumenical Council of bishops had to be held in order to resolve the dispute, and this is where the bishop, St. Nicholas, comes in.

            During the Council of Nicaea, Arius was allowed to state his position. As he vigorously made his argument, the bishop, Nicholas, became more and more agitated. Finally, he could no longer bear that the essentials of who Jesus is was being attacked. The outraged Nicholas got up, crossed the room, and struck Arius in the face! I guess Jolly Ol’ St. Nick had a little temper! Nicholas was then stripped of his bishop’s clothes and then put in jail for this offense. He was ashamed and prayed for forgiveness, although he did not waver in his belief that Arius was wrong. During the night, Jesus and Mary his Mother, appeared, asking, “Why are you in jail?” “Because of my love for you,” Nicholas replied. Jesus then gave the Book of the Gospels to Nicholas, and Mary gave him a bishop’s stole, so Nicholas would again be dressed as a bishop. Nicholas was released from the prison and reinstated as bishop after he was miraculously found in the prison cell dressed as a bishop once again. The Council of Nicaea affirmed the orthodox position that St. Nicholas and others held, that is, that Jesus is both human and divine. That, Jesus is, in fact, God. As a result of this Council, we get the phrase of the creed we profess every Sunday about who is Jesus. He is the second person of the Trinity. He is God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial, (or of the same substance) of the Father. He is not lesser than the Father. He is the same God. This is a very basic doctrine—that Jesus Christ is God—but is one that the Church has had to continually defend. It is at the heart of what we celebrate this Christmas season: that God first became man as a little child.

            Today, in particular, we celebrate Mary as “the Mother of God,” which goes hand in hand with our belief that Jesus Christ is God. A little over a hundred years after the Council of Nicaea, there was the Council of Ephesus which settled a dispute over this title of Mary as “the Mother of God.” See, there was this bishop, named Nestorius, who wanted to use the title: Christotokos (or Christ-Bearer), for Mary, but not the title: Theotokos (or God-Bearer). This statement is more about the understanding of who Jesus is than anything else. If Jesus is God, and Mary gave birth to and is the Mother of Jesus, then she gave birth to and is the Mother of God. The Council of Ephesus affirmed, yes, Mary is the Theotokos, the God-Bearer, the Mother of God. Because of our understanding of who Jesus is, we can say God was born in a manger in Bethlehem. God grew up in the little town of Nazareth, God worked as a carpenter, God carried a cross to Calvary, and on that cross, God gave us, the whole Church, His Mother when He said, “Behold, your mother” [John 19:27].

            How serious we should take everything Jesus said and did, for He is God. If we just see Him as a very important person in world events, or perhaps a really nice guy, or just a messenger from God, then we’ve missed the point.

            Are we as passionate in our understanding of who Jesus is as St. Nicholas was? Do we care that the Church has logically explained and passed down the faith of who Jesus is? Do we treasure Sacred Scripture which reveals Jesus to us? Or do we slip into the modern errors of making Jesus into someone who He is not? No one knows who Jesus is more do than Mary, His mother. She always leads us to her Son. Let us honor her, which in turn, honors her Son. “Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”