By Larry Peterson
The Third Ecumenical Council held by the Catholic Church took place in Ephesus in 431. The Council was called to refute the teaching being put forth by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius. He held that the Virgin Mary may only be called the Christotokos (Birth Giver of Christ) and not Theotokos (Mother of God).
This teaching was condemned and the Council confirmed that indeed, since it was God who was the Father, Mary was truly the Mother of God. This settled for all time the central mystery of the Catholic faith which is the Incarnation; Jesus Christ is one person with two natures; one divine and one human. This is a mystery we embrace and believe but will never fully understand.
Pope Pius XI, who had a profound devotion to the Blessed Virgin, honored her by creating a new feast day in her honor. In 1931, 1500 years after the Council of Ephesus had proclaimed that Our Blessed Lady was truly the Mother of God; Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast Day of the Divine Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This action not only reaffirmed the Council’s dogmatic proclamation that Mary is Theotokos, it also set October 11 into the Roman calendar as the day the feast was to be celebrated.
Since Vatican II’s changes were put in place the Feast Day of Divine Maternity has become somewhat overshadowed by the dogma of Mary’s “Perpetual Virginity”. But make no mistake, these two dogmatic pronouncements are eternally joined together and they are inseparable. October 11 is still an active feast in the 1962 Roman Missal which is used during the extraordinary celebration of the Mass.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church 495: Mary’s Divine Motherhood;
Called in the Gospels, ‘the mother of Jesus,’ Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, “as the mother of my Lord.” In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly the ‘Mother of God’ (Theotokos).
From the Catechism 496: Mary’s Virginity:
From the first formulations of her faith, the Church has confessed that Jesus was conceived solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, affirming also the corporeal aspect of this event: Jesus was conceived “by the Holy Spirit without human seed”. The Fathers see in the virginal conception the sign that it truly was the Son of God who came in a humanity like our own…
Our Blessed Mother was a young, innocent woman of about 14 years of age when the Angel Gabriel came to her and announced to her what God wanted from her. What could have gone through her young mind as this was asked of her? She must have been so afraid. How could she have had any possible idea that she would be the New Eve who would give birth to the New Adam who, in turn, would save us all?
This mystery of faith is so profound. This young woman, in effect, was chosen by God Himself to be his spouse. Their child would be both God and Man. He would change the world forever.
Mary’s virginal motherhood sealed in perpetuity the truth of the Incarnation. She gave Christ the body He possessed. She gave Him the humanity that was part of Him. And all the time he was God…and she was His Mom. WOW!