A Series of Posts – The Marian Dogmas Part I

Still posting from a short essay I wrote – enjoy 🙂

We have three Marian dogmas (teachings) in the Catholic Church

a) Her divine motherhood (Theotokos, defined @ the Council of Ephesus in 431)
b) her Immaculate Conception (formally defined in 1854)
c) her bodily assumption into heaven (formally defined in 1950)

Plus one dogma that is not formally defined but still kept:
d) her perpetual virginity (baptismal formulation since the 3rd century)

Now some history & theology 🙂

Divine Motherhood

Mary was declared theotokos (from the Greek; literally "to give birth to God"; usually transliterated as Mother of God) in direct contradistinction to the heresy that denied that Jesus was really God, or that he was fully human and fully divine. It is embedded in the church’s Christological teaching because it helps describe and delineate the nature and person of Christ Jesus – it is not a separate teaching on it’s own.

Regarding "Mother of God", this is from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theotokos:

Theotokos is a compound of two Greek words, θεος "God" and τοκος "parturition, childbirth." Literally, this translates as "God-bearer" or "One who gave birth to God." However, since many English-speaking Orthodox find this literal translation is awkward, in liturgical use, "Theotokos" is often retained in Greek or translated as "Mother of God." This last is not precisely synonymous, as it does not have the same connotations of physical childbearing. Furthermore, "Mother of God" (Greek Μητηρ Θεου) has an established usage of its own in certain hymns, but especially on icons of the Theotokos, in which case it is usually abbreviated as ΜΡ ΘΥ (see illustration below).

I would add that the term officially first entered the Church’s vocabulary in 431 @ the Council of Ephesus, and it entered in as a Christological term, not a Mariological term (that is, the term was meant to affirm something about Jesus, not Mary). Nestorius was preaching that Mary was only Mother to the human side of Jesus and that Jesus had two distinct natures – that he was almost a split being. "Nestorius conceived of the divine Logos and the human Jesus as two separate persons who were joined together in some sort of moral or sympathetic union. According to Nestorius, the Son of God had joined Himself to the child or man named Jesus because of Jesus’ own moral excellence. And so Jesus was born, grew to manhood, hungered and thirsted, suffered pain, and was crucified, dead, and buried. The Son of God, on the other hand, endured none of these things. He was with Jesus — so much so that Nestorius taught that the man Jesus ought to be worshipped — but He was a different person altogether, one incapable of experiencing anything human. (From the council)

Immaculate Conception

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception states "that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege from Almighty God and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, was kept free of every stain of original sin." Again, the dogma doesn’t exist in a vacuum – it is also tied into the Christological teaching of the Church. Because of the singular nature of Jesus’ birth, because of her anticipated "yes" to God’s call, because of the necessity of preparing a vessel of honor for the Son of God to inhabit and enter into our world, we believe that Mary was kept free of original sin (what might be translated as "sin-nature" by some strains of Christianity somewhat captures what Catholics believe about original sin) – that is, she was not radically broken or disconnected from God, not because of her special place, but because she was to be the mother of the savior – again, it sheds light and helps define a Christological function: that Jesus was and is the Son of the living God.

Next week – the rest of the Marian dogmas 🙂

Blessings & Peace,

6 thoughts on “A Series of Posts – The Marian Dogmas Part I

  1. Hugo says:

    Evil protestants 🙂 Come back to our side – we have cookies and milk 🙂 (And lots of wine!) 🙂

    Blessings & Peace,

  2. pecheur says:

    The doctrine of Immaculate Conception is of course one of the hardest for us protesties to swallow. =)

  3. Hugo says:

    Ahh – gotcha – I think I can concur with all of that 🙂

    Blessings & Peace,

  4. iggy says:


    I understand where you are going with the "proper use of our sexuality doesn't make us unclean :)" Yet that was not quite what I meant (even if I sort of wrote that) I was thinking on terms that physically Mary had not "sinned" (not that proper use of sexuality is sin).

    I was trying express the holistic view that you are saying. Mary was chosen by grace… just as anyone is saved by grace. It was in her submission of body, mind and spirit to God for His use that showed humilty. (God gives grace to the humble and resists the proud)

    Again, each person will pay for their own sins, so Mary would not pass "sin" down to Jesus. I do believe that all people are born with the propensity to sin, but I am not so sure they are born "sinful" as some state.

    I agree it is the "whole person that commits the sin", my point is that the "flesh" in and of itself is not sinful, but what we do with it to fulfill our own evil desires is.

    To that I see that Mary was "pure" in the sense she had not pursued sinful desires, yet… that being said, even if she had, she was chosen by Grace and not through works or her own purity. So it would not have mattered if she was a virgin or a whore… if God chose her by Grace. Yet, the prophecy and miracle is that a virgin would give birth… that was the sign so that is how it was.

  5. Hugo says:

    Iggy 🙂 Good so see you 🙂 You wrote a lot – let me return the favor 🙂

    Hmm – I see sin in a more holistic fashion – it is the whole human who sins, so it is a mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, psychological, etc. act and state of being. We choose to sin (individual acts), and we choose to live lifestyles of sin (where we are more open to sinfulness in general or in specific circumstances).

    I agree that we are created good – we are created in God's image and are filled to overflowing temples of the Spirit. But I take umbrage at your saying that Mary was "clean" by being a virgin. The proper use of our sexuality doesn't make us unclean 🙂

    And I think I would say we are born into a sinful world that doesn't work as it should to help keep us sin free 🙂

    Thanks for the conversation – keep it coming 🙂

    On a technical note, I tried to get to your blog and received multiple error messages – I think they were caused by a song or video on there – I'll try again tomorrow.

    Blessings & Peace,

  6. iggy says:


    I guess I viewed that Mary was human and sinful, yet chosen by grace. I see sin as a "spiritual" condition as opposed to a physical condition. Meaning that God created all things and it was good. Man and woman died spiritually in the Garden and later the effects of sin was imposed on creation by God and not just by man's sin… (Romans 8:19)

    The body is subject to decay, and has the effects of sin on it, yet it in itself is not sinful. It is our desires to fulfill the lusts of the flesh that is sinful, but not the flesh itself. Mary was not "sinless" (in my opinion) but her body was clean as she was a virgin. Being that she subjected her entire being,(Body soul and mind) to God she was accepted by Grace to give birth to Jesus.

    As far as sin, each person is accountable for their own sin. We are not "born with sin" we are "born in sin".

    The difference to me is like baptism… we are baptised into death when we are born… just as when we are baptised into Jesus we are baptized into life.

    Anyway I see much that is taught on original sin seems in conflict with the bible… but then again that is my opinion.

Comments are closed.