What Child is This?
There is a popular Christmas carol that asks of the newborn Jesus, “What child is this who laid to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping?” Today, on this octave day of Christmas, the Church gives us this feast in honor of Mary under the title “Mother of God.” Many non-Catholics at first might have difficulty with this title. However, the answer to the question posed by the carol, “What child is this?”, is also the answer to any objections to calling Mary the Mother of God. Mary gave birth to the child Jesus and this child was, is, and always will be God. Mary is therefore properly called Mother of God.
In the history of the Church, this title was actually first questioned by a Catholic bishop in 431. Although the Church had been referring to Mary as Mother of God for some time, the bishop Nestorius thought that this title implied that Mary was somehow the origin of God the way any parent could be seen as the origin of their child. Obviously Mary is not the source of the Godhead since Jesus was God even before his conception. Still a Council was called in Ephesus to determine if this title should continue to be used. What was discovered was that, if it was said that Mary was not the Mother of God, then the logical question would return to our carol, “What child is this?”
As is the case with all of the doctrines regarding Mary, they speak not so much about Mary but rather about Jesus. Was Jesus always God? Because Nestorius did not want to admit that Mary was the Mother of God, he then ended up denying that Jesus was God at his birth. Needless to say, the council fathers rejected Nestorius and affirmed the long-held teaching of the Church that Jesus was always God and Mary, his mother, is therefore rightfully called Mother of God.
Today we celebrate that Mary is also our mother. Jesus gave her to us from the cross. May she continue to protect and nuture our faith and belief in Jesus. May she intercede to bring us peace in this new year. May she do as she has always done…lead all of us closer to Jesus.