The maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, traditionally celebrated on October 11, was well established in the early Church and yields an authentic understanding of Christ's divine personhood.
In his 1954 encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam, Pope Pius XII urged Christians to have recourse to the Mother of God in overcoming the flood of evils assailing the modern world. "[N]ever has that hope wavered, which they placed in the Mother of the Divine King, Jesus Christ; nor has that faith ever failed by which we are taught that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, reigns with a mother's solicitude over the entire world," the Holy Father exhorted.
Although the feast exalting Mary's maternity was extended to the universal liturgical calendar by Pope Pius XI in 1931, the faithful have been invoking Mary's aid under the title Mother of God from time immemorial as shown by the Angelic Salutation. The Hail Mary, recited by the faithful in the Rosary, contains the phrase: "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners."
Before the third century, the Fathers of the Church had already applied the Greek word Theotokos, meaning Godbearer, to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Because this term was disputed by the heretic Nestorius, the Church at the Council of Ephesus in 431 solemnly defined that Mary was rightly called the Mother of God.
Nestorius falsely claimed that Mary only gave birth to the human nature of Christ. The Church formally corrected this notion at Ephesus by asserting that Christ was a divine person from all eternity, who took on a human nature at His incarnation in Mary's womb without loss of or alteration to His divine personhood. The same person, who was the Son of God the Father from all eternity, was the same person born of Mary.
On the Cross, Our Lord extended Mary's maternity to all the human race when in John 19:26 He said to her, "Woman, behold thy Son" and to St. John, "Behold thy mother." Mary's motherhood has the power to heal the misconception of motherhood today and in so doing, to heal the misunderstanding of fatherhood so prevalent in this day and age.
Watch the panel discuss the healing power of Mary's motherhood in The Download—Maternity of Mary.