Mary the Mother of God?

On my journey into the Catholic church there were three things that had the potential to derail me.  Mary, Mary, and Mary.  One of the objections I had, which sprang from my Baptist days, was the title of Mother of God for Mary.

After all God is eternal and has always existed.  That title, at least in my mind back then, meant that somehow Mary was exalted to a deified state in which she surely didn’t belong. and one she would surely object to herself.  How can a mere mortal be the Mother of God?  Thsi objection is one that is till quite prominent.  If you dont believe me feel free to visit a Protestant/Catholic discussion forum on Facebook.  Simply ask if Mary is the Mother of God and watch the sparks fly.

This issue was settled by the church in the 400’s at the Council of Ephesus.  Nestorius, the Bishop of Constantinople, objected to the long revered title of Mary known as Theotokos.  This is a Greek term that simply means “God-bearer”.  Nestorius decided to use a different term known as Christokos, or “Christ-bearer”.  This term is problematic for a couple reasons.  First and formost Nestorius used this term in an attempt to maintain the two natures of Christ, but he failed, because by using this term, he separated the human and divine nature of Christ from the person of Christ.  His attempt to be Orthodox led him into heresy because Jesus had a human and divine nature while in the womb of Mary.

To say that Mary only gave birth the to human Jesus would deny the teaching of scripture that states he is human and divine.  Secondly, if Mary only gave birth to the human Jesus when did his divine nature arrive?  Do you see the Christological dilemma?  Either Jesus had both natures since conception or he did not.  To say he did not is to fall into error.  Adoptionism is one result that can come from this line of thinking, the other is one that denies the hypostatic union.  The latter is what would become known as Nestorianism.

The fact of Jesus having a human and divine nature coexisting in the one person of Jesus was upheld by the Council of Ephesus in 431.  As a result the Greek term for Mary known as Theotokos was upheld.  In short calling Mary the Mother of God has everything to do with understanding Jesus properly, and even less to do with Mary.  Regarding this para 495 of the Catechis states, “Called in the Gospels ‘the mother of Jesus, Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as “the mother of my Lord”. In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God” (Theotokos)”.

As stated a few sentences ago, Jesus was fully God and fully man from the time of his conception.  Mary gave birth to the second person of the Trinity, not a boy who would latter take on a divine nature.  The divine nature was already there.  Since Mary gave birth to Jesus, who we affirm to be God incarnate, she gave birth to God.  Yes my friends, it really is that simple.  Nestorianism is the logical consequence for those who deny the Theotokos.

Works Cited

Catechism of the Catholic Church, http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p122a3p2.htm

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Doctrine Matters

Imagine someone saying that they love Jesus, but they abhor sacred doctrine and theology. As unfortunate as this sounds, it is something that happens on a daily basis within Christendom. There are also those, some through no fault of their own, that do not understand the importance of sacred doctrine. Understanding of sacred doctrine is important in many facets of our lives, not just the spiritual.

Sacred doctrine is important because we are oriented toward God, and this orientation exceeds that which we can describe. These truths are given to us by divine revelation. Some of these may have become known by some, but over time error would creep in (ST 1, Q1, A1). Sacred doctrine is important because it is taught by divine revelation. Furthermore, it is important because it is the study of our creator, and if we truly love him, we would strive to know everything possible to build a stronger relationship.

Sacred doctrine and the use of reason are not at odds. Quite the contrary, reason can lead to some truths of sacred doctrine (ST I, Q1, A1). However, reason can only get us so far and we eventually need to be enlightened by God to other truths. Sacred doctrine includes the philosophical and natural sciences. This is because both have their origins in God, and sacred doctrine is the study of God. As St Thomas Aquinas states, “But in sacred science, all things are treated of under the aspect of God: either because they are God Himself or because they refer to God as their beginning and end” (STI, Q1, A7).

Works Cited

Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica. Trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province. London: Burns Oates & Washbourne. Print.

Life in a State of Grace

When speaking of grace, it is important to remember that we are all sinners. There will be times when we reflect the love of God and live the Christian life well, and there will be times when we err and show our human imperfections. When we are in a state of grace, we are living the deiform life on earth imperfectly but truly. For one to do this sanctifying grace must be received because it provides the theological edifice that supersedes our human nature (Hardon Ch.4)

This deiform life, as John Hardon describes it, starts with the sacrament of Baptism. This sacrament infuses us with sanctifying grace and elevates us to partake in the divine life. In Baptism, we are born again in the way the scriptures speak. We are “born again in a new childhood of true innocence” (Hardon Ch.4). With original sin, and all sin, washed away we now partake in the deiform life imperfectly but truly. How can this be? We still have concupiscence, and though we may not fall into mortal sin we will commit venial sin. This is one of the reasons why Jesus established the sacramental system. Our physical bodies require exercise, sleep, and proper nourishment to grow into healthy adults. It is very similar in our spiritual lives as we need prayer and nourishment through the sacraments to continue in the practice of virtue (Hardon, Ch.4).

There are many saints throughout history that can be used to illustrate the example of the deiform life that living in a state of grace can bring about, but I feel the need to use a personal example. The Director of Religious education of St. Francis De Sales in Tucson, Arizona fits this mold. I am a member of the parish, and Maureen and her husband Deacon Russ, have been mentors. Maureen has suffered from Multiple Sclerosis for many years and is often in great pain. However, she never complains and offers up her sufferings for the parish and the children that she is responsible for educating in the faith. Her life is an example of how living the Christian life can inspire someone else to do the same. She is involved in many other ministries, but no matter what is going on has the time to give an encouraging word, pray for someone, and answer questions about the faith. Her zeal to share the Gospel drives her and you can see grace at work in her life. Her life is a great example for those of us under her tutelage.

Works Cited

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Varying Views of Grace

As a convert from Protestantism, one of the challenges was the concept of grace. It was taught, and still is, that justification and sanctification were an instantaneous barrage of grace that instantly transformed. Granted, this is more of a Baptist, view and can change based on denomination. This differs widely from the Catholic view that grace more of a renovation for the soul.

Protestant theology looks at grace as a forensic, or declarative, justification. The reformers saw the concept of concupiscence and took it a step further and said that man is totally depraved. This total depravity prevents man from doing anything good, and all good things done are done by God. Therefore, man is unable to do good even with the help of sanctifying grace. The work of Christ on the cross is therefore imputed to the sinners account when a faith in Christ is declared. Fr. John Hardon writes that in the Protestant view a sinner is “righteous by reason of the imputed merits of Christ and a sinner because his inherited guilt remains” (Hardon Ch.4). Justification is now a matter of declaration whereby the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the sinner making the Father see the sinner as righteous.

The is in stark contrast to the Catholic view that sees sanctifying grace as a transformative force that changes the sinner into a saint. The journey takes a lifetime and is fills with highs and lows. Through the sacrament of baptism all sin is washed away, and we have a clean slate. Through the voluntary of grace on a daily basis and is ours. Regarding this John Hardon states, “what we obtain is truly ours and no mere judicial attribution” (Hardon Ch.4). It is given to us to transform us, not merely to make a once time declaration and not change our nature. In the Protestant system we are not changed, and in the Catholic system Christ transforms us.

Works Cited

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Divine Providence

When we speak of divine providence it can be hard to understand how free will, efficacious grace, and perseverative grace can exist can fully exist within its context. If God knows how everything will turn out, then how can we truly exercise free will? These topics can be confusing to those who are just beginning their journey in faith, but they do have an explanation.

We must remember that God is not limited to time. In fact, he is outside time. Imagine that you had the ability to travel back in time to your childhood. You have the strange opportunity of observing how you interact with others. Though you know the outcome as an adult, you are observing your childhood self-using the gift of free will to make decisions. You know how those decisions will turn out, but you as a child still used your gift of reason to decide. This analogy is, of course, a hypothetical one.   Within the context of divine providence, we use our free will to cooperate with efficacious grace. Efficacious grace is grace given when we consent to it and always leads to good actions (Journet 2.10).

So, what of perseverative grace? Does God not grant us the power to persevere in grace? Regarding perseverance St. Thomas Aquinas writes that man “needs the Divine assistance guiding and guarding him against the attacks of the passions” (ST II, Q 109, A 10). This relates to free will and efficacious grace because, though it is freely given, it is still something that must be asked for. God will not deny this special help or deny his grace because of his divine providence (Hardon Ch. 3). Free will, efficacious grace, and perseverative grace can exist really and truly within the mystery of Divine Providence because they require an accent of the will and must be asked for.

Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas.  Summa Theologia. Trans. Thomas Gornall.  Blackfriars, St. Joseph, IN:  Ave Maria Press, 1981. Accessed August 10, 2018.

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Journet, Charles.  The Meaning of Grace.   Princeton: Scepter Publishers, 1997.

Farewell Amazon

It isn’t easy being an indie author.  It is difficult to get reviews, and Lord knows the royalties one gets are very little, though there are some exceptions.  I know this post is very different than others I do, but hear me out.  I have published a few books, and praise God those have helped people develop a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.  Those books have been available for a low price pretty much everywhere…until today.

I made the difficult decision to pull my ebooks from listing on Amazon.  Amazon seems to get deeper and deeper into the bullying business when it comes to indie authors.  I made the decision before Amazon told my current distributor to remove them.  Why?  It would seem that Amazon has these built in Algorithms that scan the web to find any remnant of your material.  Once in a while I post a small section of an upcoming, or previously published, book as a tease to generate interest,  On the surface this would appear to be basic marketing.  After all I own the material adn am only posting a small section of around 450 words out of a book that may have 23,000.  To the brain trust at Amazon this is unacceptable in there mind because I am giving the “book” away.

I have gone around and around and the frustration isn’t worth it to be honest.  Most of my sales come from Apple and Kobo, so it really won’t hurt sales much.  While I am talking about sales I do have to mention one other thing.  I don’t write for the sales.  I write to spread he message of Christ and His church.  I’m sure Amazon has been burned in some fashion and that is why they are choosing this route, and maybe since they are the largest dog on the block they feel the need to show their teeth.   Long story short, my books will no longer be available on Amazon.  All books are the lowest price I can make them, and I do that intentionally.  If for whatever reason you are not able to afford the 99 cent price tag please email me, and I will gladly send you a free pdf of the book you want.  No strings attached.  God bless you all and thank you for your patience through my rant.

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