If you are a member of a modern evangelical church, you may have never heard Mary being called “the Mother of God.” You will hear that she was the mother of Jesus, but you will rarely, if ever hear that she is the Mother of God. However, if you attend Catholic or Eastern Orthodox services, you will often heart the term “Theotokos” or “Mother of God” or “Bearer of God.” Why is Mary called the Mother of God?
Not all, but some of my evangelical friends become uneasy when I refer to Mary as the Mother of God, they will back up and say, “whoa, I am fine with calling her the Mother of Jesus or the Mother of Christ, but don’t call her the Mother of God.” Is this an appropriate response?
The Council of Chalcedon in 451 addressed this exact same scenario. In the final wording of the Council, it refers to Mary as the Theotokos (Mother of God). But why? The main thrust of the Council was concerning the dual natures of Christ. Exactly. Giving Mary the title of Mother of God, does give her honor; afterall she will be known as blessed throughout all generations. But more importantly, giving Mary the title of Theotokos drives home the point that Jesus is fully divine and fully human. Theotokos is primarily a Christological term, it is not to be used for Mary apart from Jesus. It does not refer to Mary giving birth to the essence of the eternal and everlasting Triune God, that would be utterly detestable. It refers to the fact that it was truly God, who truly became a real man through a physical birth, and the Virgin Mary was the blessed servant of God who helped make this come to be.
It is truly meet to bless you, O Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim. Without defilement you gave birth to God the Word: true Theotokos, we magnify you!