The Early Church Fathers on
The Mother of God

 

The Early Church Fathers had no problem referring to Mary as the Mother of God. They saw it as a natural consequence of the Incarnation. The title has more to do with Jesus than Mary. It is an affirmation that Jesus was indeed God and not merely human as some had claimed.

Irenaeus

The Virgin Mary, being obedient to his word, received from an angel the glad tidings that she would bear God (Against Heresies, 5:19:1 [A.D. 189]).

Hippolytus

[T]o all generations they [the prophets] have pictured forth the grandest subjects for contemplation and for action. Thus, too, they preached of the advent of God in the flesh to the world, his advent by the spotless and God-bearing (theotokos) Mary in the way of birth and growth, and the manner of his life and conversation with men, and his manifestation by baptism, and the new birth that was to be to all men, and the regeneration by the laver [of baptism] (Discourse on the End of the World 1 [A.D. 217]).

Gregory the Wonderworker

For Luke, in the inspired Gospel narratives, delivers a testimony not to Joseph only, but also to Mary, the Mother of God, and gives this account with reference to the very family and house of David (Four Homilies 1 [A.D. 262]).

It is our duty to present to God, like sacrifices, all the festivals and hymnal celebrations; and first of all, [the feast of] the Annunciation to the holy Mother of God, to wit, the salutation made to her by the angel, "Hail, full of grace!" (ibid., 2).

Peter of Alexandria

They came to the church of the most blessed Mother of God, and ever-virgin Mary, which, as we began to say, he had constructed in the western quarter, in a suburb, for a cemetery of the martyrs (The Genuine Acts of Peter of Alexandria [A.D. 305]).

Methodius

Hail to you forever, you virgin Mother of God, our unceasing joy, for unto you do I again return. . . . Hail, you fount of the Son’s love for man. . . . Wherefore, we pray you, the most excellent among women, who boast in the confidence of your maternal honors, that you would unceasingly keep us in remembrance. O holy Mother of God, remember us, I say, who make our boast in you, and who in august hymns celebrate your memory, which will ever live, and never fade away (Oration on Simeon and Anna 7 [A.D. 305]).

Cyril of Jerusalem

The Father bears witness from heaven to his Son. The Holy Spirit bears witness, coming down bodily in the form of a dove. The archangel Gabriel bears witness, bringing the good tidings to Mary. The Virgin Mother of God bears witness (Catechetical Lectures 10:19 [A.D. 350]).

Ephraim the Syrian

Though still a virgin she carried a child in her womb, and the handmaid and work of his wisdom became the Mother of God (Songs of Praise 1:20 [A.D. 351]).

Athanasius

The Word begotten of the Father from on high, inexpressibly, inexplicably, incomprehensibly, and eternally, is he that is born in time here below of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God (The Incarnation of the Word of God 8 [A.D. 365]).

Epiphanius of Salamis

Being perfect at the side of the Father and incarnate among us, not in appearance but in truth, he [the Son] reshaped man to perfection in himself from Mary the Mother of God through the Holy Spirit (The Man Well-Anchored 75 [A.D. 374]).

Ambrose of Milan

The first thing which kindles ardor in learning is the greatness of the teacher. What is greater than the Mother of God? What more glorious than she whom Glory Itself chose? (The Virgins 2:2[7] [A.D. 377]).

Gregory of Nazianz

If anyone does not agree that holy Mary is Mother of God, he is at odds with the Godhead (Letter to Cledonius the Priest 101 [A.D. 382]).

Jerome

As to how a virgin became the Mother of God, he [Rufinus] has full knowledge; as to how he himself was born, he knows nothing (Against Rufinus 2:10 [A.D. 401]).

Theodore of Mopsuestia

"When, therefore, they ask, ‘Is Mary mother of man or Mother of God?’ we answer, ‘Both!’ The one by the very nature of what was done and the other by relation" (The Incarnation 15 [A.D. 405]).

Cyril of Alexandria

I have been amazed that some are utterly in doubt as to whether or not the holy Virgin is able to be called the Mother of God. For if our Lord Jesus Christ is God, how should the holy Virgin who bore him not be the Mother of God? (Letter to the Monks of Egypt 1 [A.D. 427]).

John Cassian

You cannot then help admitting that the grace comes from God. It is God, then, who has given it. But it has been given by our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore the Lord Jesus Christ is God. But if he is God, as he certainly is, then she who bore God is the Mother of God (On the Incarnation of Christ Against Nestorius 2:2 [A.D. 429]).

Council of Ephesus

We confess, then, our Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, perfect God and perfect man, of a rational soul and a body, begotten before all ages from the Father in his Godhead, the same in the last days, for us and for our salvation, born of Mary the Virgin according to his humanity, one and the same consubstantial with the Father in Godhead and consubstantial with us in humanity, for a union of two natures took place. Therefore we confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord. According to this understanding of the unconfused union, we confess the holy Virgin to be the Mother of God because God the Word took flesh and became man and from his very conception united to himself the temple he took from her (Formula of Union [A.D. 431]).

Vincent of Lerins

Nestorius, whose disease is of an opposite kind, while pretending that he holds two distinct substances in Christ, brings in of a sudden two persons, and with unheard-of wickedness would have two sons of God, two Christs,—one, God, the other, man; one, begotten of his Father, the other, born of his mother. For which reason he maintains that Saint Mary ought to be called, not the Mother of God, but the Mother of Christ (The Notebooks 12[35] [A.D. 434]).

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For Further Study

The Mother of God by Steve Collison (Free)
Books - Meet Mary - Getting to Know the Mother of God by Mark Miravalle and Mary and the Fathers of the Church by Fr. Luigi Gambero and Hail, Holy Queen by Scott Hahn
DVD - Mary The Mother of God with Stephen Ray


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