Maria

What do you do with a problem like Maria? Title and refrain from a very famous movie, The Sound of Music. A great movie to watch if you have exhausted your movie queue. It’s the ever so charming movie about a young woman who is discerning her vocation: to become a nun or to be married. Young Maria is a postulant, meaning that she lives within the convent but has not professed permanent vows for life. The nuns notice that Maria does not seem to do well following their rule of life, and so the Abbess sends Maria to spend some time outside the convent caring as a governess, or nanny, to seven children. I won’t give away any more details.

Did you know that the early Church Fathers asked a similar question, “What do you do with a problem like Maria?” They loved the Virgin Mary, but they debated back and forth about how to properly articulate the wondrous mystery of how we can call the Virgin Mary of Nazareth, spouse of St. Joseph, the Mother of God, or Theotokos in Greek. The title, Theotokos, had been used as early as the 4th century by Sts. Augustine, Athanasius, and John Chrysostom, to name a few. The controversy was this: God is eternal and therefore could not have a Mother; therefore She could only be referred to as Christokos, the Mother of Christ (this position was held by Nestorius), but that would be heresy against the divinity of Jesus, who is truly God and truly Man; the solution: Jesus did not begin existing when conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary but did receive His humanity from Her; the Virgin Mary is Mother to His humanity and Our Lord’s humanity is united to His divinity; thus, the Virgin Mary is the Mother of God, bearing Him in Her womb and giving to the Word of God His humanity from Her. The triumphant defender of Our Lady’s exalted dignity as Mother of God, Theotokos, in the 5th century at the Third Ecumenical Council in Ephesus was the great theologian, St. Cyril of Alexandria. So, what do you do with a problem like Maria? Discern your vocation whether to be married or give your entire heart and energies to God, and Google search the early Church Fathers. Might I suggest beginning with St. Cyril of Alexandria. Check them all out at ccel.org

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