Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad; daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.
Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father's house, and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him. The people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts
, the richest of the people.
All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold. In many-colored robes she is led to the king, with her virgin companions following behind her. With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king. In place of your fathers shall be your sons; you will make them princes in all the earth. I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever. (ESV)
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The Mother of God
St. Mary, the Mother of our Lord
15 August 2014
Church politics is an interesting thing to study; in part because the arguments are all the same throughout all of church history. Solomon is right: "There is nothing new under the sun" (Eccl 1:9). The arguments are simply recycled (Recycling is good, right?). So one can know how to respond to challenges to the faith of the church by studying how the ancient church responded to the same challenges centuries ago.
Today's Feast of St. Mary, the Mother of our Lord, causes anxiety among some Lutherans because they presume that there is a blasphemy involved in this feast day: "Why should we be making a fuss about a mere human? How would such a commemoration support the mission of the church to proclaim Christ in all the world? It not only might be a distraction, but might also be a blasphemy; taking the church's eyes from Jesus and directing them to a mere human, like Mary." I have heard an argument something like this from people who are disturbed by the long-established title given by the church to Mary: the "Mother of God."
The irony is that this is exactly the argument of Nestorius used in the fifth century A.D. So truly, these arguments are nothing new. Cyril of Alexandria responded that such arguments are beside the point. You cannot argue against something by citing what might happen if people misunderstand it. Could Mariolatry arise from the use of the title: "Mother of God?" Of course! Although I am not sure, historically speaking, if the Mariolatry which did arise in the Roman church arose from the teaching of the Theotokos (Mother of God). Other influences were probably at work when Mariolatry arose in the western church. In any case, the abuse of something does not invalidate its use (LC 4.59). Furthermore, you must face the exclamation of fruitful Elizabeth in the power of the Spirit: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb" (Lk 1:42)! Because the Lord had overshadowed her, Mary was most blessed among women. In her was broken Satan's power over Eve through the conception of the Life within her. Christians honor Mary because she is the earthly vessel through whom the Lord of Life came among us.
If we speak rightly about Mary being the Mother of God, the outcome will be that we will speak rightly about the One who was born from her as God of God. The blessed apostle says it quite bluntly: "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" (Col 2:9). If He is God who was born of her, then she truly must be called the mother of God. Those who cannot say this will not rightly teach the divinity of her Son. Mary is the mother of God, because Jesus is God.
Cyril of Alexandria
"Nestorius pretends that he is afraid that people might be overcome by reverence for the holy Virgin and that calling her mother of God would necessarily presuppose that there is a mixture and mingling of the persons with each other. He pours forth ugliness upon the doctrines of the church because no one actually thinks this way. He thinks he's rectifying a thing so troubling that he utterly confuses everything regardless of the ideas which pertain to correctness and truth, for he said:
"'If in simple faith you had been putting forward the word "mother of God" (Theotokos), I would not begrudge it to you, on examining the sense of the term. But since I see that you, by pleading that you are honoring the blessed Mary, are maintaining the blasphemy of heretics, I therefore discourage the use of the word, suspecting the danger that is concealed in it. But to speak clearly and more intelligibly to all, it is the aim of the party of Arius and Eunomius and Apollinarius and of all who are like them to bring in the word "mother of God," as though a mingling took place and the two natures not divided, not separated from the lower things of the human nature, and finally they had placed them against the divinity, as though all things were spoken of as one, not in regard to the rank from connection of the natures, but as to nature. For one is Christ, and one Lord; but in respect to Christ, I mean of the Only-begotten Son both Christ and Son are spoken of as one while another as manhood and Godhead.'
"See how Nestorius impiously embellishes with many fabrications the generation according to the flesh of the Only-begotten, how he tries to show that it will take place in no way other than by some infusion or co-mingling of the substance. And this despite the fact that the teachers of the church do not speak in this way. We say that a true concurrence took place whereby the word united to Himself the body [of the flesh] and yet He remained what He was. And paying no attention to this, Nestorius blasphemed by dividing Christ into two persons and hypostases completely divided from each other and attributed to either separately the titles belonging to it. He says one Lord Jesus Christ as though man were connected with God by rank instead of by true union, that is, by nature."
Cyril of Alexandria,
Five Books Against Nestorius, 2
Collect for St. Mary
Almighty God, You chose the virgin Mary to be the mother of Your Only-begotten Son. Grant that we, who are redeemed by His blood, may share with her in the glory of Your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For those who proclaim the good news of peace between God and man through the preaching of the gospel, that they may be upheld in their work by the grace of Christ
For President Barack Obama, that he would be granted wisdom from on high
For Ken Schmidt and all artists, that they would use the gifts that God is giving them to glorify the beauty of holiness that comes from the Lord
Art: Medieval Altarpiece, Strängnäs Domkyrka, Sweden
© Scott R. Murray, 2014