Θεοτόκος (Theotokos): God-Bearer
Sem. Azam Vianney Mansha
The truth of all truths about Our Lady is that she is the Theotokos. This basic truth has twofold meaning. First, it shows that Jesus is fully divine and fully human (John 1:1-3), and second, God has entered into the human history through the woman (Galatians 4:4; Romans 9:5). This truth finds its roots in the Sacred Scripture, Sacred Traditions and in the second Vatican council.
The truth of all truths about Our Lady is that she is the Theotokos. This basic truth has twofold meaning. First, it shows that Jesus is fully divine and fully human (John 1:1-3), and second, God has entered into the human history through the woman (Galatians 4:4; Romans 9:5). This truth finds its roots in the Sacred Scripture, Sacred Traditions and in the Council of the second Vatican.
Theotokos is one of the ancient and significant Marian titles. This title is composed of two Greek words: Θεο (Theo) stands for God, and τόκος (tokos) stands for Mother. Theotokos was used by the Greek Fathers (Eastern Fathers) such as Origin (185-254), St. Athanasius (+ 339), St. Geogory of Nyssa (335-94), St. Gregory of Nazianzus (+389/390), St. John Chrysostom (344-407), whereas Latin Fathers (Wastern Fathers) such as St. Ambrose (339-97), St. Jerome (342-420), St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) used the title Dei stands for God and Genetrix stands for Mother. Greek Theotokos and Latin Dei Genetrix, literally has been translated as the ‘Mother of God’ or ‘God-Bearer.’ Mary was proclaimed as the Theotokos in the third Council of the Church known as the Council of Ephesus (431). In the following Council known as Council of Chalcedon (451) the title Theotokos was accepted and Dogma of the Divine Motherhood was proclaimed.
St. Luke explicitly says that Mary’s Son is called ‘Son of the Most High’ (1: 32, 35). Mary is conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35; Matthew 1: 20). The immediate context of the birth of Jesus foretold (Luke 1: 26-38) finds its fulfillment in the Visitation (Luke 1: 39-45). In this context, we can see that Mary has been called as the Mother of the LORD by Elizabeth (Luke 1: 43). The words of Elizabeth are filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1: 42).While briefly analyzing these two passages closely, we need to pay attention on the following movements:
Before the pregnancy, Mary has been chosen to be the Theotokos (Luke 1: 32, 35) and during the pregnancy, she has been called Theotokos (Luke 1: 42-43)
Angel Gabriel was sent from God (Luke 1: 26) and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1: 41b). In both occasions the two characters are moved by the LORD.
In short we can conclude here that Mary is the Theotokos.
In Johannine traditions, Mary is known as the ‘the Mother of Jesus (John 2:1, 3).’ For John, Jesus is the Word who is the Father from beginning (John 1: 1-3). The witness of the Evangelist John is confirmed by Jesus when he says, ‘I [Jesus] and Father are one (John 10:30).’ Beside Johannine traditions, in the Apostolic Tradition of St. Hippolytus of Rome, Mary has been seen as the Mother of Jesus, ‘Do you believe in Christ Jesus, the Son of God who was born by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary’ (Apostolic traditions, edited by B. Botte in SC 14, 50-51). Most probably Theotokos was first used by Origen (185-254). In 270 A.D. the title Theotokos appears in Sub Tuum Praesidium, ‘We fly to your patronage, O Holy Mother of God.’ Later it was used by Alexander of Alexandria in 325. In the following years this title was explained and defended in the third ecumenical Council of the Church, held in Ephesus (431).
The Council defended the teaching against the heresy of Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople. Nestorianism was condemned by St. Cyril of Alexandria in the Council of Ephesus. He wrote, ‘I am amazed that there are some who are entirely in doubt as to whether the holy Virgin [Mary] should be called Theotokos or not. For if our Lord Jesus is God, how is the holy Virgin [Mary] who gave [Jesus’] birth, not [Theotokos]?’ (PG 77: 13B). In the Council of Chalcedon (451), the title was affirmed and the Divine Motherhood of Mary was proclaimed as the Dogma.
The Second Vatican Council
The Second Vatican Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) explains:
From the earliest times the Blessed Virgin is honored under the title of ‘Mother of God’ (Theotokos), under whose protection the faithful take refuge together in prayer in all their perils and needs (66).
In the light of the Sacred Scripture, the Sacred Traditions and the Council of the Second Vatican, we have seen that Mary as the Theotokos. This title does not only speak about the Divine Motherhood of Mary, but it also highlights the Divinity of Jesus who dwelt among us (John 1: 14 ) and was born of Mary (Galatians 4:4). Theotokos is the truth of all truths!