The eternal existence of God, which is one that preceded all of creation (if one may speak thus), does make Mary’s unbelievably exalted title of “Mother of God” seem rather ridiculous. After all, according to our human thinking a mother always exists prior to the child she bears. Clearly, Mary as one among many of God’s creatures came into being in time, and certainly did not preexist God. As Catholics who have repeated her unique title countless times in the Rosary, her being the Mother of God, is understood in the sense in which it was intended by the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, way back in 431.
However, in our post-Christian Western world, this great title bestowed on Mary may seem ludicrous and irrelevant. Even among certain of our Protestant brethren, I suspect that this title reinforces their prejudices regarding Catholic devotion to Mary. Given this potential for confusion (and even of misrepresenting orthodox teaching about the place and role of Mary in the Church), we might wonder why the early Church insisted on this title. Well, as with so much else about Catholic devotion to Mary, it is well to remember that this title says as much about Christ as it does of Mary. This underscores the fact that any devotion to Mary that detracts from the centrality of her Son, and that does not lead us closer to him, is not that true devotion willed by her Son and promoted by the Church.
Without getting bogged down in complex and often subtle distinctions in those early Christological controversies, the bestowal of the title Mary, Mother of God, (or Theotokos—God-bearer), was actually in defense of the truth about Christ, and less about honoring Mary. As such this noble title was affirming what we now hold to be true: namely, that the divine person of the Eternal Word united himself to human flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in such a way that he was both God and Man—possessing both the fullness of divinity and the completeness of a human nature, like ours in all things but sin.
This wondrous act of becoming man (through Mary) makes possible that ineffable mystery of our ultimate divinization in Christ. And Mary, who shared beforehand in the fruits of her Son’s saving life, death, and resurrection, was the first human person to experience the full reality of divinization—the reality of which is celebrated in her Assumption. There is thus a real sense in which Mary in her divinized state was not just a human being giving birth to the God-Man, Jesus Christ, but was also one who already shared in the divinity of the one she bore.
Thus it is that Mary’s title as “Mother of God,” while reflecting directly on Christ and who he is, indirectly reflects also on us and who we are called to become in the same Christ. For, when that ineffable transforming divinization takes place in us, we also become—in the words Christ himself—his mother, since then our entire being speaks, communicates, and radiates the Christ within. In imitation of the Holy Mother of God and through her intercession, may we embrace this our God-given destiny by which we will praise and glorify our Blessed Savior who became Man so that we might come, by his grace, divine, in the glory of Eternal Life, at the heart of our Triune God.