Why is Mary the “Mother of God”?

The reason for Mary being called the Mother of God is actually quite simple:

Mary is the mother of Jesus.
Jesus is God [the Son].
Therefore, Mary is the mother of God [the Son].

We find this truth proclaimed in Scripture. Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, calls Mary the mother of the Lord:

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? …”

— Luke 1:41-43 (NAB)

What this tells us about Jesus

The Catholic Church’s doctrines on Mary always point to truths about Jesus. Mary’s title as Mother of God is a very succinct way of conveying an important Christological truth:

Jesus is one divine person with two natures.

The divine person of God the Son took on a human nature at a specific point in history. From that point forward, God the Son — i.e. Jesus — was one divine person who was both God and man at the same time. At the time when this occurred, Mary truly became the Mother of God, because she became the Mother of Jesus who is God.

The pope, and the bishops in union with him, clarified this in the year 431, in order to combat what we now call the Nestorian heresy. This heresy claimed that Jesus was a fusion of two persons, i.e. that God the Son fused himself to the human child of Mary. Nestorians denied that Mary was Mother of God, and claimed she was only the mother of a human child who was joined to God.

As an antidote to this heresy, the Catholic Church formally declared Mary to be the Mother of God in the year 431. From that time forward, the title “Mother of God” has been a litmus test and a safeguard of orthodox Christology.

“Mary is the mother of Jesus” “Mary is the mother of a human being” “Mary is the mother of God”
According to
Christianity:
True True True
According to the
Nestorian heresy:
True True False

Calling Mary “the Mother of God” is an incredibly succinct and effective way to communicate the truth about Jesus.

From the Catechism

The Nestorian heresy regarded Christ as a human person joined to the divine person of God’s Son. Opposing this heresy, St. Cyril of Alexandria and the third ecumenical council, at Ephesus in 431, confessed “that the Word, uniting to himself in his person the flesh animated by a rational soul, became man.” Christ’s humanity has no other subject than the divine person of the Son of God, who assumed it and made it his own, from his conception. For this reason the Council of Ephesus proclaimed in 431 that Mary truly became the Mother of God by the human conception of the Son of God in her womb: “Mother of God, not that the nature of the Word or his divinity received the beginning of its existence from the holy Virgin, but that, since the holy body, animated by a rational soul, which the Word of God united to himself according to the hypostasis, was born from her, the Word is said to be born according to the flesh.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 466
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