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After a pro-life conference, I was chatting with a Protestant. He loved the Catholic Church's perennial stance on the right to life, but was strongly opposed to calling Our Lady the "Mother of God."
"For Mary to be the Mother of God, she would have to be God's parent, older than Him, and just as divine as God Himself," he said. "Now, in the Trinity, there are only three Persons — not four. So, how could Mary be the Mother of God, since she is infinitely inferior — and younger — than God?"
"One thing is to believe in the Virgin Birth, which I do," he remarked. "Another is to believe in such a preposterous dogma as the 'Divine Maternity.' Mary is the mother of Jesus, not the 'Mother of God.'"
He closed his argument with this triumphant claim: "I am grateful to the great reformers for having put an end to this unbiblical belief and for bringing out the truth for us Bible-believing Protestant Christians."
I think my interlocutor summarized very well the objection that afflicts the minds of Protestants. Providentially enough, I was researching this precise topic for an apologetics talk.
First of all, I decided to share with him three statements of faith on Our Lady's great title (see later in the article for the sources of these quotes):
I asked the Protestant man a rhetorical question: "Who do you think called Mary by the title of 'Mother of God' for the first time?" It was no medieval pope or council. It happened 33 years before the foundation of the Church. It was the Holy Spirit Himself who first referred to Mary as the Mother of God, through the lips of Elizabeth: "Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and cried out with a loud voice, 'Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb! And how have I deserved that the mother of my Lord should come to me?'" (Luke 1:39–45).
Who is this "Lord" Elizabeth was referring to?
Adonai is the Hebrew word for "My Lord." It literally means "My Lords" in the royal plural. (In English, we often talk about "the royal we." It's the same concept.)
In the version of the Old Testament most used by the Apostles, the Greek Septuagint, the word Kyrios is used — which means "Lord" and refers to God Our Lord, just like the Hebrew term Adonai. Thus, Elizabeth said, "And whence is this to me that the mother of Adonai, the mother of my Kyrios, should come to me?"
The Adonai or Kyrios or Lord of Elizabeth could not have been any adult lord of her time such as the high priest or the Roman governor or even her husband. They were all already born, and Mary was not expecting any of them — as is evident. She was the Mother of a then-unborn Adonai, an unborn Kyrios, an unborn Lord.
The only one Adonai who was going to be born was the Expected One of the nations, The Messiah.
Elizabeth, inspired by the Holy Spirit (who is God and can neither deceive nor be deceived), refers to the unborn Messiah as Adonai, the same word used by Jewish prophets to refer to the Lord God of Hosts. Thus, to the question, "Who was the 'Lord' of St. Elizabeth and the Son of Mary?" The answer is quite simple: God is her Lord, her Adonai, her Kyrios.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth called Mary the Mother of her God, purely and simply. Thus, the Catholic Church could have chosen to say in the Hail Mary prayer, "Holy Mary, mother of my Lord, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen." It means exactly the same thing as "Holy Mary, Mother of God."
Mary conceived and gave birth to a divine Person; therefore, she is the mother of that same divine Person. She is the mother of God the Son, not the mother of the Godhead, the Trinity.
Regarding my interlocutor's affirmation that he was "grateful to the great reformers for having put an end to this unbiblical belief and for bringing out the truth for us Bible-believing Protestant Christians," I had a nice surprise for him.
What he did not know was that the three statements of faith cited at the beginning of the conversation were made by (1) Luther (in The Works of Luther, Weimar, English translation by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Louis, Vol. 7, p. 572); (2) Calvin ("Calvini Opera," Corpus Reformatorum, Braunschweig-Berlin, 1863–1900, vol. 45, pp. 335, 348) and (3) Zwingli (in "Zwingli Opera," Corpus Reformatorum, Berlin, 1905, in Evang. Luc., Op. comp., Vol. 6, I, p. 639).
Section 495 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly 'Mother of God' (Theotokos)." The so-called reformers of yore actually agreed with the Catholic Catechism on this!
Conclusion: Opposition to Mary's title "Mother of God" is thoroughly unscriptural. It is unfortunate that those separated brethren who thrive in opposing everything coming from us "papists" get so carried away in their bigotry that they end up opposing both the Bible they claim to believe in and the founders of Protestantism.