Theotokos: The Mother of God


Not everyone hates Mary. It’s easy to think that sometimes, especially when sitting in a protestant church. Pastors seem afraid to speak of Mary – Mother of Jesus – in a positive light, lest they give the opinion that we are worshipping her. Lutheran pastors are probably the worst in that regard.

For those who don’t know me, let me add I am a Lutheran, by marriage, but a Lutheran nonetheless. I don’t want you thinking that I’m picking on Lutherans here because that is not my intent. Most Lutherans are, however, overly cautious on anything that might be perceived as Catholic teaching. And so,they avoid Mary.

Mary, as a mother, has always fascinated me. I can’t imagine what she must have been thinking, or how she did the things she did. She was 13, 14 at the most, when Gabriel came to her and offered greetings. WOW — I haven’t really given her much thought lately, until.. A half sheet of paper fell out of a book bag this morning. On it are my notes from a Sunday School class I taught last December. Doesn’t mean much really, except that I taught a class DEFENDING Mary’s title as Mother of God as well as her dignity within our church. My passionate tone, opinions, and facts cover that half page of take home material.

I’m not sure what I remember most, the excitement over being allowed to lead the women’s class in December while pastor led the men – or the fact that I got teach on something that resonated so passionately within my spirit.

Like I said, Lutherans seem to be afraid of Mary. – Unless you are a Catholic – with a capital “C” Lutheran – and I recently learned that we have a few of those around. It was because of one such local pastor, that I found the courage to dig deeper into Mary’s story. By doing so, I found pieces of my own.

I’m looking at my notes today and I see my first point – Mary’s response to Gabriel seems flip, almost a “yeah what do you want” kind of response and why is that? Because Mary knew her history. She wasn’t the first person to “find favor” with the Lord. Abraham, Moses, and King David to name a few also found favor.

Having an angel of the Lord appear to you to say “you found favor” means only one thing really; Your life is about to be turned upside down. Go or someone is going to die.

Lot to ask of a 13 year old. Lot to ask of a 44 year old.

What has me pondering today, isn’t the message I taught on Mary, but the fact that I have roughly 50 of these pages scattered throughout my closet, into my den, and on my kitchen counters. Someone probably just needed that book bag, but still… I’m a little on the creeped out side because

Everywhere I look I see that phrase “Your life is about to be turned inside out – go – or people will die… Will you answer the call?

Edited to add: My liturgical studies have ended for now. I will write more about it later, but for now I’d like to leave this thought. There is a difference between capital C, Catholic and small c, catholic; one equals Rome, the other means universal. While I am grateful for the opportunity to dig more deeply into the things of God, I’ve learned that to replace a real relationship with Christ for the things of Christ (a worship service only from the hymnal) is like having a parishioner who mails in their tithe but doesn’t come to church. They’ve done their duty, but nothing more. They are bound by obligation and pride, but not love.

14 thoughts on “Theotokos: The Mother of God

  1. It is a pleasure to read your blog. I enjoy likable people and in interfaith discussions that isn’t always easy.

    Luther himself believed Mary was ever virgin as her womb was holy. I sat through an hour and a half homily on the subject which convinced me. I only find Mariology important as it relates to proper Christology. I venerate all of Christ Saints equally as Christ is glorified in all His saints, in the church militant and the church triumphant. I do believe in a divinely instituted form of liturgy as Christ himself was a liturgical Jew. Rites alone are meaningless but add faith and they can change the world as well as maintain it from ever encroaching error. The East under the barbaric rule of Islam and then communism was able to maintain the same faith and practice sometime at the penalty of death. I love the LCMS, I left the LCMS when during classes to become a member I stumbled across the worship wars and with contemporary worship and music a change from evangelical Catholicism to a reformed/baptist blend. The latter clearly is an affront the Luther’s Theology of the Cross and embraces the Theology of glory. I like some praise and worship but as entertainment not the work of the people (liturgy). I will listen to p&w in my car on my I-pod but during worship we chant the psalms, historic hymns of the fathers etc. At 5 my daughter was chanting “Save us o Son of God who hath risen from the dead, save us who sing unto thee hallelujah” while my niece is learning fluffy feel good music with no meat. I am amazed in Orthodoxy how we educated the children are. I know Fr. Luther held cathecism as critical for the formation of the family with the father being the priest of his home. Are you familiar at the Lutheran attempt in the 16th century to reunify with the patriarchs and the churches of the East? Interesting reading and a model for ecumenical diologe. You are correct about Divisions. I believe it was Met. Philaret of Moscow said the walls of division do not extend all the way to heaven. I agree, it will be Christ who perfects us, diefies us. Christ is not a polygamist, he will return to wed his one bride the church, not many brides. God bless you and the LCMS, there is a beautiful, faithful evangelical catholic parish in Rocklin, CA Holy Cross. I visit from time to time. Currently I am working on the creation of a Wester Rite Orthodox mission in Sacramento. I hope to hold our study group at a coffee shop owned by Lutherns. I want to support the people who support me. I will be blogging soon, I’ll let you know when I do, please pray that we will reach the countless numbers of people dropping out of church and those who have avoided contemporary radish Christianity. I will be praying for you. I bookmarked your site. God bless!
    Pax,
    David

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    1. David, that would be wonderful. I look forward to reading your blog and hearing more about your mission. I had not studied on Luther’s attempts to reunifiy though I’m not surprised. He never intended to leave Rome only debate with it. Thank you for coming back. I enjoy reading your comments and your thoughts. Blessings, Deana

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  2. These things I am certain, The Theotokos remained ever virgin, history, scripture, and the 2000 year life of the church attest to it. Also she ascended bodily into heaven. In a world full of greed merchants would have been chomping at the bit to sell relics of her bones, saints would have venerated them like they did the prophets in he OT. I am glad evangelicals are returning to the Mother of the church, I only hope it won’t be just another fad. I continue to pray that Lutherans become more Lutheran rather than embracing a generic reformed/baptist faith and worship. I was blessed to find the LCMS and heartbroken to see it change, the worship wars changed the church away from the ecumenical or catholic faith. Now I am Orthodox, begining a study society in Sacramento. We will be focusing on the Western Rites I hope we can provide a home to catholic Christians who have been left behind by changing faith and worship. People who are willing to bear a cross for a while in return for a crown. God bless you and the faithful brothers and sisters contending for the faith in hostile waters.

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    1. David – pleasure to meet you. I almost missed your comment. I saw someone from California on my blog today and believed it to be one of my former mentors. He has stepped down from pastoring, uncertain of his return, and I miss him. While I find your comments interesting and I do appreciate them- I’m not sure I understand the theology. Yes, Theotokos is a title given to Mary by the Councils – but they were given to settle the dispute over the diety of Christ. It has little to do with her. Now don’t get me wrong, I hold Mary in very high regard. No one could have done what she did – If I might be so bold – I believe I’m speaking with a pastor here – I cannot find anything in scripture indicates that she remained a virgin, the greek is vague here and we cannot ascertain the translation with absolute certainty – Lutheran’s believe she went on to have many other children and nothing in scripture states she ascended bodily into heaven. Only two instances of this are recorded – Enoch, and Christ. As far as I know, her resting place is simply unknown. While this is adiophoric and theologians still debate this, I hold to my original teaching that she had more children until someone can prove via sound reason and scripture that I am wrong. But that is just me. Again, her viriginity and resting places are paled by the death, ressurrection, and ascension of Christ. Believing one or the other – does not make or break our salvation. It is simply one of those questions we get to ask God in the end.

      Your society in Sacremento sounds wonderful. Have you read deep church? I love the conclusion of keeping the history, depth and breadth of liturgy within worship as necessary to spiritual growth. I also love his explanation of how words across generations have changed. (I’m not doing it justice, however, it really is a good book)

      I myself am not orthodox but I do see that movement rising within LCMS. While I love liturgical worship and believe it is vital to christianity, I also love praise and worship and outreach. I like some of the new things. I just hope they aren’t in place to replace the old. Our traditions are not what makes us Lutheran. It is our faith in a tri-une God and our creeds, confessions, as well as word and sacrement. We stand on three solos – faith, scripture, and grace alone. I like that. We believe the bible to be the complete and inerrant word of God – I like that as well.

      I hate the divisions myself. It is my prayer the church (all churches) remember there is but one groom – Christ and one bride – the church universal. We all get the crown (those who are truly saved anyway – not everyone sitting in our pew is, I believe)- whether orthodox or not.

      Thank you again for coming here – I assume you found me via Pastor B’s blog. I am blessed by knowing him. He has been a good friend and teacher – although if he knew I claimed Mary to not remain a virgin, he’d probably shoot me. 🙂 And as I said, I miss him. Thank you again. Deana

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  3. Thank you, Deana, for your honest approach to a ‘sensitive’ topic. As a Baptist (Southern, at that!) I am frustrated by a lack of serious discussion and/or commentary about Mary. I’m certain most of us are so fearful of adoring Mary that we’ve simply chosen neither to like her nor to mention her. I’m preaching on Mary (again) as one of the few biblical characters “who got it right.” I appreciate your insights.

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    1. Wow, thanks James. I have appreciated being able to dig more deeply into Mary and all that she embodied. I also appreciate those in my own synod who understand the title Theotokos is about the divinity of Christ and not worship of Mary. She is a hard character to understand, but in it all, she was faithful to God — and is to me, an awesome example.

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  4. I’m seeing a lot of hits on this post this week — please keep in mind that while I”m being tongue in cheek over finding my sheet of paper, the class was not. I do not have my bullet points listed here or is this by any stretch the full 45 minute teaching. That page would be far to long to post as a wordpress blog. ;-D

    and pastors — please be kind.

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  5. I have done a few “in depth” lessons on Mary. Thankfully, our church does not shun the “blessedness” or the life lessons we can learn from her. It is made clear that we respect and call her blessed, but we do not worship or pray to her. One thing about her life that has always struck me as odd was when Jesus “gave” her to John, instead of allowing his own brothers, her natural sons, to care for her. I know that they didn’t “believe” until after the resurrection, but that one action still baffles me.

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    1. What is neat is the Council of Ephesus is what gave Mary the title Theotokos and they did so not because of her greatness, but in order to put to rest any doubts about Christ’s divintity. Jesus is in deed 100% man and 100% God.

      It was a fun study focused more on some celebrations we do – or don’t do – in the church and I explained the liturgical aspects of our calender year and what those celebrations represent.

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    2. That baffles a lot of people Rena – and while I do not hold to the belief that she remained a virgin her whole life – a lot of great theologians do. The greek word for brother is vague. Him giving her to John can be seen as a sign that John (Christ’s Cousin) was the oldest living male in the family and next of kin (if she did not have children of her own) and therefor responsible for Mary who was by then a widow — the other take was his siblings did not believe he was the Christ until post resurrection.

      The good news is, whether or not she remained a virgin has nothing to do with our salvation — it’s just an interesting side note to ask God about when we get to heaven.

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  6. Some thoughts about Mary. Mary is very important, whether you are Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical. Mother of God? She was the vehicle in which she gave the Son of God a human body and she was prophesized in Genesis. Mother of God fits. She was also the first person to doubt the virgin birth, yet submitted herself to God’s will.
    As for a life turned around, she did suffer. People doubted her purity and in a small town that was not easy. She did not get her name cleared to over 30 years later.
    And last, in her last spoken words, she gave us all great advice. Whatever her son tells us to do, we are to do it.

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