Monday, October 11, 2010

Theotókos, Dei Genitrix

The Mother of God (‘Theotókos’) from a Deesis
Made in the Upper Volga Region, Russia
Egg tempera, Gold and gesso on wood
84.2 cm x 32 cm
The British Museum, London
Three gold star-like ornaments on her mantle symbolize the Trinity and allude to her role in the incarnation
Inscription: in slightly obscure Greek besides the Virgin's halo: MP ΘY (Mother of God).

This morning the Pope delivered an apparently off the cuff tour de force of a speech to the Bishops presently gathered for the Special Synod of the Bishops in the Middle East presently assembled in Rome.

It was wide-ranging.

At present it is only reported in Italian here.

It may surprise many

A large part of Pope Benedict XVI`s speech was about Mary.

Let us hope an English translation comes out shortly.

At the start the Pope referred to today used to be the Feast of Mary, Mother of God which (before 1969) was celebrated on 11th October. It was later moved to the beginning of January

The Pope recalled that the Feast was only instituted in 1931 by Pope PIus XI. It was to celebrate the 1500th anniversary of the Council of Ephesus which amongst other things conferred on Mary the title of Theotókos, Dei Genitrix

Pope Pius XI issued an Encyclical Lux Veritatis (On the Council of Ephesus) on 25th December 1931 to commemorate the 1500th anniversary.

Lux Veritatis is in English on EWTN but is not in English on the Official Vatican website. (There it is only available in Italian and Latin, rather surprisingly)

But as October is the Month of the Rosary, it might be worthwhile reminding ourselves what Pope Pius XI said about Mary in Lux Veritatis and what was decided about her at the Council of Ephesus in AD 431

"33. We, therefore, in full accordance with all the ages of Christian history, venerate the Redeemer of mankind not as "Elias . . . or one of the Prophets," in whom the heavenly Godhead dwelt by His grace, but together with the Prince of the Apostles, who knew this mystery by divine revelation, we make profession with one voice: "Thou are Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matt. xvi. 16.) ...

[T]he true Church of Christ has most diligently defended this genuine and uncorrupted doctrine concerning the personal unity and the divinity of her Founder, it has not been so, alas! with those who wander unhappily outside the one fold of Christ. ...

39. Now from this head of Catholic doctrine upon which We have touched hitherto, there follows of necessity the dogma of the divine maternity which We preach as belonging to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

"Not that the nature of the Word or His Godhead"—as Cyril admonishes us—"took the source of its origin from the holy Virgin; but because He derived from her that sacred body, perfected by an intellectual soul, whereto the Word of God was hypostatically united, and therefore is said to be born according to the flesh." (Mansi, I.c. IV. 891

And, indeed, if the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary is God, assuredly she who bore him is rightly and deservedly to be called the Mother of God. If there is only one person in Christ, and this is Divine, without any doubt Mary ought to be called, by all, not the mother of Christ the man only, but Theotókos, or God-bearer.

Let us all, therefore, venerate the tender Mother of God, whom her cousin Elizabeth saluted as "the Mother of my Lord" (Luke i. 43), who, in the words of Ignatius Martyr, brought forth God (Ad Ephes. vii. 18-20); and from whom, as Tertullian professes, God was born; whom the Eternal Godhead has gifted with the fullness of grace and endowed with such great dignity.

40. Nor can anyone reject this truth, handed down from the first age of the Church, on the pretext that the Blessed Virgin Mary did, indeed, supply the body of Jesus Christ, but did not produce the Word of the Heavenly Father; since, as Cyril already rightly and lucidly answered in his time (cf. Mansi, I.c. IV. 599), even as those in whose womb our earthly nature, not our soul is procreated, are rightly and truly called our mothers; so did she, from the unity of her Son's person, attain to divine maternity. ...

42. From this dogma of the divine maternity, as from the outpouring of a hidden spring, flow forth the singular grace of Mary and her dignity, which is the highest after God. Nay more, as Aquinas says admirably: "The Blessed Virgin, from this that she is the Mother of God, has a certain infinite dignity, from the infinite good which is God." (Summ. Theo., III. a.6.)

Cornelius a Lapide unfolds this and explains it more fully, in these words:
"The Blessed Virgin is the Mother of God; therefore she is far more excellent than all the Angels, even the Seraphim and Cherubim. She is the Mother of God; therefore she is most pure and most holy, so that under God no greater purity can be imagined. She is the Mother of God; therefore whatever privilege (in the order of sanctifying grace) has been granted to any one of the Saints, she obtains it more than all" (In Matt. i. 6)"."


  1. I picked up this video with a translation:!