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The Titles of Mary

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The tiles given to Mary have never been viewed as in any way diminishing the unique role of her Son and Savior Jesus Christ.
Assumption of Mary - Palma Vecchio - 1512-14

Assumption of Mary - Palma Vecchio - 1512-14


Madonna Enthroned with the Infant Christ and Saints Antoniazzo Romano - 1487

Madonna Enthroned with the Infant Christ and Saints Antoniazzo Romano - 1487

From the earliest theological reflections in Christian history we find the defense of the most important of the titles of Mary, "Theotokos" in Greek. It is translated God-bearer or "Mother of God". The great Bishop of Constantinople, St. John Chrysostom (d. 407), composed a Eucharistic Prayer for the Divine Liturgy (Holy Mass) still in use today:

"It is truly just to proclaim you blessed, O Mother of God, who are most blessed, all pure and Mother of our God. We magnify you who are more honorable than the Cherubim and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim. You who, without losing your virginity, gave birth to the Word of God. You who are truly the Mother of God."

Objections to the term occurred early on in Christian history. In the fifth century another Bishop of Constantinople named Nestorius claimed that Mary was the mother only of the human Jesus to whom the divine Word of God was somehow joined. He and his supporters insisted that Mary was only the "mother of Christ." One sees the danger implicit in this objection. The errant Bishop carried through by claiming that only the human Jesus died on the mountain of Calvary. In short, he and his followers dis-Incarnated Jesus Christ.

St. Cyril, the Bishop of Alexandria refuted Nestorius, asserting, "It was not that an ordinary man was born first of the Holy Virgin, on whom afterwards the Word descended; what we say is that, being united with the flesh from the womb, (the Word) has undergone birth in the flesh, making the birth in the flesh His own..."

On June 22, 431, the Council of Ephesus was convened. That great Council insisted "If anyone does not confess that the Emmanuel is truly God and therefore that the holy Virgin is the Mother of God "Theotokos" (since she begot according to the flesh the Word of God made flesh), anathema sit." The Council affirmed that Jesus Christ is One Person, with two natures--human and divine and that this is a union which cannot be separated.

The Council's affirmation that Mary can rightfully be called the Mother of God is thus profoundly "Christological", affirming who Jesus is and who we can become in Him. Mary is not Mother of God, the Father, or Mother of God, the Holy Spirit; rather, she is Mother of God, the Son--Jesus Christ.

The Incarnation is a "mystery", in the sense of the Greek word from which our English word is derived, "mysterion". It is incapable of being fully expressed in words but needs to be received as a gift in faith.

The tiles given to Mary have never been viewed as in any way diminishing the unique role of her Son and Savior Jesus Christ. They were the fruit of men and women who, inspired by the Spirit, were given profound insights into the meaning of Jesus Christ and the work of salvation.

Litany is a Greek word for prayer (Latin litania, letania, from the Greek lite, prayer or supplication). Among many Litanies or prayers which recount her titles we find the Litany of Loretto from 1558 in the Western Church:

CATARINO: Coronation of Mary - 1360s

CATARINO: Coronation of Mary - 1360s


Madonna in the Church (detail) - Jan van Eyck - 1425

Madonna in the Church (detail) - Jan van Eyck - 1425

Below is a portion of the Litany of Loreto:

Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God,
Holy Virgin of virgins,
Mother of Christ,
Mother of the Church,
Mother of divine grace,
Mother most pure,
Mother most chaste,
Mother inviolate,
Mother undefiled,
Mother most amiable,

Mother most admirable,
Mother of good counsel,
Mother of our Creator,
Mother of our Savior,
Virgin most prudent,
Virgin most venerable,
Virgin most renowned,
Virgin most powerful,
Virgin most merciful,
Virgin most faithful,
Mirror of justice,
Seat of wisdom,
Cause of our joy,
Spiritual vessel,
Vessel of honor,
Singular vessel of devotion,
Mystical rose,
Tower of David,
Tower of ivory,
House of gold,
Ark of the covenant,
Gate of heaven,
Morning star,
Health of the sick,
Refuge of sinners,
Comforter of the afflicted,
Help of Christians,
Queen of angels,
Queen of patriarchs,
Queen of prophets,
Queen of apostles,
Queen of martyrs,
Queen of confessors,
Queen of virgins,
Queen of all saints,
Queen conceived without original sin,
Queen assumed into heaven,
Queen of the most holy Rosary,
Queen of families,
Queen of peace


More Mary, Mother of God



Appearances of Mary

Apparitions and Appearances

Apparitions and Appearances Image

The term "appearance" has been used with Marian apparitions and visions of Jesus Christ. The Church will confirm an apparition as worthy of belief, but belief is never required by divine faith. Read More

Evaluating Apparitions

Evaluating Apparitions Image

A Roman Catholic approved Marian apparition is one that has been examined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and has been granted approval by the local Bishop or the Holy See. Read More

Approved Appearances
Traditionally
Vatican
Bishop
Coptic
Un-Approved Appearances
Approval of Faith Expression
Unapproved Apparitions

Mary as Mother

Mother of God (TheotoKos)

Mother of God (TheotoKos) Image

From antiquity, Mary has been called "Theotokos", or "God-Bearer". The word in Greek is "Theotokos". The term was used as part of the popular piety of the early first millennium church. Read More

Daughter of the Father

Daughter of the Father Image

Mary is "full of grace," because it is precisely in her that the Incarnation of the Word, the hypostatic union of the Son of God with human nature, is accomplished and fulfilled. Read More

Mother of the Redeemer

Mother of the Redeemer Image

Mary was there at the Incarnation, Birth, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of God Incarnate. She was there throughout the often called "hidden years" in Nazareth. In the life of the Redeemer... Read More

Spouse of the Spirit

Spouse of the Spirit Image

Throughout God's relationship with Israel He promises to espouse His people to himself (See, e.g. Hosea 2:19). This language of spousal love, of nuptiality, is also present in this overshadowing... Read More

Mother of the Church

Mother of the Church Image

Since the Virgin Mary's role in the mystery of Christ and the Spirit has been treated, it is fitting now to consider her place in the mystery of the Church. She is acknowledged as... Read More

Mother of the Domestic Church

Mother of the Domestic Church Image

Mary is the mother of every domestic church, of every Christian family. She fully understands the naturally supernatural realities of family life because she lived them. Read More

Our Mother

Our Mother Image

I found that every one of the great influences in my Christian life from that communion of saints to which we are all joined was profoundly "Marian". Francis of Assissi, Bernard of Clairvaux... Read More



Mary as Model

Mary in the Scriptures

Mary in the Scriptures Image

Christian Scripture calls the "more excellent way", the way of Love. Mary understands this Way and walked on it with extraordinary humility. Follow her in journey through the Scriptures. Read More

Mary in the Tradition

Mary in the Tradition Image

To understand Mary in the Tradition of the Church we have to understand what is meant by the word "Tradition" - and why it matters. In his second letter to the Thessalonians the Apostle Paul... Read More

Mary and the Councils

Mary and the Councils Image

A Bishop named Nestorius objected to the title of Theotokos, Mother of God or God Bearer for Mary. The Council of Ephesus met in 431AD and affirmed Mary was the "Mother of God"... Read More

Mary in the Liturgical Year

Mary in the Liturgical Year Image

The Second Vatican Council did not offer one particular document on Mary, the Mother of God. Rather, the Council fathers incorporated the meaning and mission of Mary, as well as her... Read More

Mary East and West

Mary East and West Image

Devotion to - and love for . Mary, the Mother of God, is a foundational part of the Christian Church both East and West. The Eastern Christian emphasis, both doctrinally and devotionally, is... Read More

Mary and the Early Fathers

Mary and the Early Fathers Image

Among the multiple and profound references to Mary, the Mother of God, found in the writings of the early Church Fathers is one of my favorites in the Cappadocian, Gregory of Nyssa... Read More

Mary and the Saints

Mary and the Saints Image

Among the titles given to Mary is "Queen of all the Saints". In one of his reflections on this woman whom he loved with such devotion, Blessed john Paul II proclaimed "This woman of faith... Read More


Mary as Disciple

Mary as Disciple

Mary as Disciple Image

We were made to give ourselves away to the Lord and, in Him, for others. Mary's choice, her response to the invitation of a God, is a singularly extraordinary event in all of human history. Read More

Handmaiden of the Lord

Handmaiden of the Lord Image

"I am the handmaiden (servant) of the Lord; let it be to me according to your Word." (Luke 1:38) When Mary spoke those few words, human history was forever changed. Read More

Model of Holiness

Model of Holiness Image

From antiquity the early Christians reflected on a "mystery" of the faith- how the Incarnation of Jesus Christ came about through the free cooperation of this little Virgin of Nazareth... Read More

First Disciple

First Disciple Image

She was the first evangelizer and the first disciple of her Son Jesus. She gave the first Gospel testimony to her cousin, Elizabeth, without words, as the Redeemer in her womb drew the child in her womb... Read More


Way of Mary

The Message of Mary

The Message of Mary Image

And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. (The Gospel of Luke 2:34-37) Read More

The Meaning of Mary

The Meaning of Mary Image

"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word." "At the announcement that she would give birth to "the Son of the Most High" without... Read More

The Prayer of Mary

The Prayer of Mary Image

Mary's Prayer teaches us to stay afloat in the ocean of life, with all of its undertows. Mary's way is to become an ark within, where the same God who became incarnate within her... Read More

The Song of Mary

The Song of Mary Image

"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... Read More

The Titles of Mary

The Titles of Mary Image

From the earliest theological reflections in Christian history we find the defense of the most important of the titles of Mary, "Theotokos" in Greek. It is translated God-bearer... Read More


Mission of Mary

Mary and the Eucharist

Mary and the Eucharist Image

In a beautiful apostolic exhortation entitled the Sacrament of Love, issued in 1997, Pope Benedict XVI wrote these words under a section entitled The Eucharist and the Virgin Mary... Read More

Mary & the New Evangelization

Mary & the New Evangelization Image

Throughout his pontificate, Blessed John Paul II called for this "New Evangelization." Pope Benedict XVI made this a central pillar of his pontificate. He erected a Pontifical Council... Read More

The Path of Mary

The Path of Mary Image

Before they were called Christians (Acts 11:26), at Antioch, they were referred to as "the Way". A Rabbi named Saul spoke of persecuting "the way" (Acts 22:4) before he was profoundly converted... Read More

The Marian Moment

The Marian Moment Image

Over the last two decades a recovery of the significance of the life and witness of Mary has occurred among many Christians, even those who descend from the communities of... Read More

Mary's Mission

Mary's Mission Image

"Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother... When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, Woman, behold, your son." Read More

Marian Prayer and Piety

Marian Prayer and Piety Image

Marian prayer and piety developed very early in the history of the undivided Christian Church of the first millennium. It has been kept alive in a myriad of piety practices in the both the Catholic... Read More


Message of Mary

What Does She Say?

What Does She Say? Image

The message of Mary is the message of the Gospel, to repent and believe the Good news. The message of Mary is conversion to Her Son by saying "yes" to God's invitation. That is the path to true... Read More

Marian Prayer and Devotion

Marian Prayer and Devotion Image

The Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs the faithful on just how Mary prayed. Mary still prays. She has a special role in the plan of salvation and is a model for all Christians... Read More

Marian Consecration

Marian Consecration Image

To consecrate means to dedicate. It is used in reference to worship and means to be set aside or set apart for God. It is also a word which speaks to the very core of the Christian... Read More


Devotion of Mary

Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary

Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary Image

When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals - one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them... Read More

Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary

Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary Image

My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; Because he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaid; For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed... Read More

Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary

Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary Image

But at daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered... Read More

Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary

Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary Image

While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory... Read More

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