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Question 280:

What is the reason for Christians giving Jesus’ mother a place equal to God?

 

Answer:

First of all, it must be stressed that in the Christian faith the mother of Jesus does not have a place that is equal to God. Mary’s place in the Christian faith is ordered strictly towards Jesus as the Saviour of humanity and towards Mary’s importance for the understanding the Church has of itself. Mary is a completely human person who responds to God – by no stretch of the imagination is she a part of the divine reality itself. God does not act without the freely given consent and the free will of people, as Mary’s “yes” to the angel’s message clearly shows. This naturally means that Mary is NOT God (unlike in Q 5:11, which possibly points to a heretical veneration of Mary by certain Christian groups).

All Christian denominations value Mary as the mother of Jesus and believe her obedience to God to be an example for a Christian believer. In the major Churches, for example in the Roman Catholic Church, she is also venerated (not worshipped!) as the “Mother of God” and the “Mother of the Church”. “Mother of God” must not be interpreted in a biological or a polytheistic sense. “Mother of God” is a theological statement about Jesus Christ (not foremost about Mary), pointing to the Christian understanding that God became a human being. This provocative proclamation was deliberately chosen by the early Church to encourage people to think about the true nature of Jesus Christ. A comprehensive interpretation can be found in the answer to question 71 on the website. Mary is the “Mother of the Church” not only because, according to the book of Acts, she and the Disciples were the centre of the new community of believers (Acts 1:12-14). She is also the “Mother of the Church” because she ordered her whole life according to God’s will. Jesus’ word applies to her: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:27-28; cf. 8:21). The Church too is only of importance if it hears the word of God, if it focuses solely on God and if it acts not from its own power but from the power of God. 

But beyond all theology, simple believers have always also seen Mary in terms of the heart and of emotions. For many she is a figure of hope, because looking at Mary’s life believers experience solidarity in suffering and the hope of God’s mercy. Because of this many who suffer greatly turn to Mary - as their advocate, without believing her to be divine. It is true that some practices can be misunderstood and even cross boundaries. The Church has always tried to maintain the boundaries, while at the same time taking people’s hopes and fears seriously. The balancing act between the correct theological teaching and the piety of the people is shared by many religions – not least Christianity and Islam. 

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