Mater Creatoris, the Mother of the Creator
This is a title which, of all others, we should have thought it impossible for any creature to possess. At first sight we might be tempted to say that it throws into confusion our primary ideas of the Creator and the creature, the Eternal and the temporal, the Self-subsisting and the dependent; and yet on further consideration we shall see that we cannot refuse the title to Mary without denying the Divine Incarnation – that is, the great and fundamental truth of revelation, that God became man.
And this was seen from the first age of the Church. Christians were accustomed from the first to call the Blessed Virgin “The Mother of God,” because they saw that it was impossible to deny her that title without denying St. John’s words, “The Word (that is, God the Son) was made flesh.”
And in no long time it was found necessary to proclaim this truth by the voice of an Ecumenical Council of the Church. For, in consequence of the dislike which men have of a mystery, the error sprang up that our Lord was not really God, but a man, differing from us in this merely – that God dwelt in Him, as God dwells in all good men, only in a higher measure; as the Holy Spirit dwelt in Angels and Prophets, as in a sort of Temple; or again, as our Lord now dwells in the Tabernacle in church.
And then the bishops and faithful people found there was no other way of hindering this false, bad view being taught but by declaring distinctly, and making it a point of faith, that Mary was the Mother, not of man only, but of God. And since that time the title of Mary, as Mother of God, has become what is called a dogma, or article of faith, in the Church.
But this leads us to a larger view of the subject. Is this title as given to Mary more wonderful than the doctrine that God, without ceasing to be God, should become man? Is it more mysterious that Mary should be Mother of God, than that God should be man? Yet the latter, as I have said, is the elementary truth of revelation, witnessed by Prophets, Evangelists, and Apostles all through Scripture. And what can be more consoling and joyful than the wonderful promises which follow from this truth, that Mary is the Mother of God?—the great wonder, namely, that we become the brethren of our God; that, if we live well, and die in the grace of God, we shall all of us hereafter be taken up by our Incarnate God to that place where angels dwell; that our bodies shall be raised from the dust, and be taken to Heaven; that we shall be really united to God; that we shall be partakers of the Divine nature; that each of us, soul and body, shall be plunged into the abyss of glory which surrounds the Almighty; that we shall see Him, and share His blessedness, according to the text, “Whosoever shall do the will of My Father that is in Heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother.”
Mater Christi, the Mother of Christ
Each of the titles of Mary has its own special meaning and drift, and may be made the subject of a distinct meditation. She is invoked by us as the Mother of Christ. What is the force of thus addressing her? It is to bring before us that she it is whom from the first was prophesied of, and associated with the hopes and prayers of all holy men, of all true worshippers of God, of all who “looked for the redemption of Israel” in every age before that redemption came.
Our Lord was called the Christ, or the Messias, by the Jewish prophets and the Jewish people. The two words Christ and Messias mean the same. They mean in English the “Anointed.” In the old time there were three great ministries or offices by means of which God spoke to His chosen people, the Israelites, or, as they were afterward called, the Jews, viz., that of Priest, that of King, and that of Prophet. Those who were chosen by God for one or other of these offices were solemnly anointed with oil – oil signifying the grace of God, which was given to them for the due performance of their high duties. But our Lord was all three, a Priest, a Prophet, and a King – a Priest, because He offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins; a Prophet, because He revealed to us the Holy Law of God; and a King, because He rules over us. Thus He is the one true Christ.
It was in expectation of this great Messias that the chosen people, the Jews, or Israelites, or Hebrews (for these are different names for the same people), looked out from age to age. He was to come to set all things right. And next to this great question which occupied their minds, namely, When was He to come, was the question, Who was to be His Mother? It had been told them from the first, not that He should come from heaven, but that He should be born of a Woman. At the time of the fall of Adam, God had said that the seed of the Woman should bruise the Serpent’s head. Who, then, was to be that Woman thus significantly pointed out to the fallen race of Adam? At the end of many centuries, it was further revealed to the Jews that the great Messias, or Christ, the seed of the Woman, should be born of their race, and of one particular tribe of the twelve tribes into which that race was divided. . . .
Thus was it that she became the Mother of the Christ, not in that way which pious women for so many ages had expected Him, but, declining the grace of such maternity, she gained it by means of a higher grace. And this is the full meaning of St. Elizabeth’s words, when the Blessed Virgin came to visit her, which we use in the Hail Mary: “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb”. And therefore it is that in the Devotion called the “Crown of Twelve Stars” we give praise to God the Holy Ghost, through whom she was both Virgin and Mother.
Mater Salvatoris, the Mother of the Savior
The special name by which our Lord was known before His coming was, as we found. . .that of Messias, or Christ. Thus He was known to the Jews. But when He actually showed Himself on earth, He was known by three new titles, the Son of God, the Son of Man, and the Savior; the first expressive of His Divine Nature, the second of His Human, the third of His Personal Office. Thus the Angel who appeared to Mary called Him the Son of God; the angel who appeared to Joseph called Him Jesus, which means in English, Savior; and so the Angels, too, called Him a Savior when they appeared to the shepherds. . . .
St. Peter says He is “a Prince and a Savior,” and St. Paul says, “a Savior, Jesus.” And both Angels and Apostles tell us why He is so called – because He has rescued us from the power of the evil spirit, and from the guilt and misery of our sins. Thus the Angel says to Joseph, “Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins;” and St. Peter, “God has exalted Him to be Prince and Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins.” And He says Himself, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost.”
Now let us consider how this affects our thoughts of Mary. To rescue slaves from the power of the Enemy implies a conflict. Our Lord, because He was a Savior, was a warrior. He could not deliver the captives without a fight, nor without personal suffering.
Now, who are they who especially hate wars? A heathen poet answers. “Wars,” he says, “are hated by Mothers.” Mothers are just those who especially suffer in a war. They may glory in the honour gained by their children; but still such glorying does not wipe out one particle of the long pain, the anxiety, the suspense, the desolation, and the anguish which the mother of a soldier feels. So it was with Mary. For thirty years she was blessed with the continual presence of her Son. . . . And then, when years had run out, she heard of His arrest, His mock trial, and His passion.
At last she got near Him. . .when He had been lifted upon the Cross. And at length she held Him again in her arms: yes – when He was dead. True, He rose from the dead; but still she did not thereby gain Him, for He ascended on high, and she did not at once follow Him. No, she remained on earth many years – in the care, indeed, of His dearest Apostle, St. John. But what was even the holiest of men compared with her own Son, and Him the Son of God?