Author Topic: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?  (Read 4496 times)

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Offline ignatius

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Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« on: December 11, 2007, 02:02:45 PM »
Grace and Peace,

Why not Mother of our Lord instead of Mother of God?

I know this is something that was in one of the Councils but could someone help me understand the Councils reasoning behind it?

Thanks!
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Offline Veniamin

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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2007, 02:04:20 PM »
Grace and Peace,

Why not Mother of our Lord instead of Mother of God?

I know this is something that was in one of the Councils but could someone help me understand the Councils reasoning behind it?

Thanks!

It was to re-emphasize the point that the Virgin Mary truly bore God within her womb, rather than Christ being "adopted" by God or something like that. 
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Offline Fr. George

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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2007, 02:32:40 PM »
Grace and Peace,

Why not Mother of our Lord instead of Mother of God?

I know this is something that was in one of the Councils but could someone help me understand the Councils reasoning behind it?

Thanks! 

Because Jesus is God - that's essentially what was being denied by opponents of the term.  They were using the debate between "Christotokos" (i.e. Christ-bearer) and "Theotokos" (God-bearer) as a means of making a statement about Jesus (not about the Virgin Mary).  The insistence on Theotokos is continually affirming that Jesus was truly God who became man, and not a human who "became" God or "like God" or "like a god."
« Last Edit: December 11, 2007, 02:33:55 PM by cleveland »
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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2007, 06:05:02 PM »
To say simply "Mother of our Lord", thus implying only Jesus is to make a Nestorian distinction of the person of Christ which was condemned as heretical by the Council of Ephesus in 430 A.D.  Unfortunately, most Protestants have adopted "mother of our Lord" in their reference to Mary which is, essentially, Nestorianism rearing its ugly head once more.
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Offline Veniamin

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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2007, 06:10:41 PM »
To say simply "Mother of our Lord", thus implying only Jesus is to make a Nestorian distinction of the person of Christ which was condemned as heretical by the Council of Ephesus in 430 A.D.  Unfortunately, most Protestants have adopted "mother of our Lord" in their reference to Mary which is, essentially, Nestorianism rearing its ugly head once more.

However, to what extent is that merely semantics (from their perspective) versus an active, Nestorian denial of Christ's divinity.  "Lord" seems to be a frequent Protestant address for God, so from their point of view, they may very well be thinking that saying "mother of the Lord" is the same as saying "mother of God."
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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2007, 10:10:51 PM »

Offline PeterTheAleut

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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2007, 02:20:10 AM »
This old thread discusses this issue a bit:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,2358.0.html#top


Having read this article, I need to say that in calling Mary the Mother of God, we Orthodox seek in no way to imply that the Only-begotten Son and Logos of God finds His origins in Mary as to His eternal Divinity apart from His Incarnation.  The idea that RCs and Orthodox believe this is ludicrous!  Mary is rightly to be called the Mother of God because He who was born of her is truly God in human flesh.
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Offline Alexius

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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2007, 03:12:03 AM »
However, to what extent is that merely semantics (from their perspective) versus an active, Nestorian denial of Christ's divinity.  "Lord" seems to be a frequent Protestant address for God, so from their point of view, they may very well be thinking that saying "mother of the Lord" is the same as saying "mother of God."

From my personal experience, many of my friends are uneasy about this term. One is a very strict Reformed Calvinist and he was uneasy about it because the term seems to both elevate Mary and imply that Mary was somehow the origin of God or at least divine. I told him the true meaning, but he seemed hesitant. I wasn't about to argue with him, but I know that one of my teachers who I bumped into during the discussion (high church Anglican) accepted it. I simply explained that it is a term used to clarify that Jesus didn't become God at some later time (Adoptionism) and he did not become God upon birth (Nestorianism)...Most Protestants I know call her "Mother of Jesus," or "Mother of the Lord." Sometimes I wonder what they mean by "Lord," though.
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Offline Aline

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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2007, 03:30:03 AM »
This is because Jesus was God in the fleash.

Therefore she is the Mother of gOD!

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Offline ignatius

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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #9 on: December 13, 2007, 03:29:51 PM »
Grace and Peace! Salva!

Could anyone point me to some good 'web-resources' for the Orthodox Teaching of Mary? Any good books?
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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #10 on: December 13, 2007, 11:39:26 PM »
St. John Maximovitch, Bishop of San Francisco and Shanghai wrote a very short and yet invaluable treatise called The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God.  There are any number of places where you can procure a copy.
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Offline Cephas

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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2007, 12:09:43 AM »
+ Irini nem ehmot,

You can find two books in pdf format here.  One is by H.H. Pope Shenouda entitled 'The Holy Virgin St. Mary' and the other is by Fr. Tadros Malaty entitled 'St. Mary in the Orthodox Concept'.
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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2007, 12:24:31 AM »
What needs to be borne in mind is that mothers give birth to persons not natures. One may call my mother the mother of Andrew, but it would seem silly to refer to her as the mother of human/man. The term "God", as it used in the title "Mother of God" is not a qualitative reference to the Divinity that defines the nature of the Logos, but rather a personal reference to the title of the Logos (which He bears as a result of His essential nature).
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Offline pathofsolitude

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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2007, 01:38:55 PM »
What needs to be borne in mind is that mothers give birth to persons not natures. One may call my mother the mother of Andrew, but it would seem silly to refer to her as the mother of human/man.

She is mother of a human/man if you are a human/man. To be a human/man is to be a person and to be a person is to be a human/man. Its the same thing.

The problem is that the Byzantines and Miaphysites say that Jesus is not a human/man. They say that he is only representative or abstract humanity/manhood. Thats why they also say that there is no human hypostasis or human person involved at all in the incarnation.

I believe that Mary is Man-bearer, Christ-bearer, God-bearer. Please dont call me a heretic. There is nothing heretical about this. Christ is one undivided divine-human person. And I affirm the theopaschite formula.
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Offline pathofsolitude

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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #14 on: December 14, 2007, 01:40:03 PM »
To say simply "Mother of our Lord", thus implying only Jesus is to make a Nestorian distinction of the person of Christ which was condemned as heretical by the Council of Ephesus in 430 A.D.  Unfortunately, most Protestants have adopted "mother of our Lord" in their reference to Mary which is, essentially, Nestorianism rearing its ugly head once more.

WHAT ? ? ?

I suppose St Luke is a Nestorian then?

The great apostasy has occured. Get out of there while you can!!! Its better to be priestless than to have a heretic bishop. The apostles taught that the church consists of saints only. There are about 7,000 Spirit-bearers currently in the catacombs.

Offline Christodoulos

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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #15 on: December 22, 2007, 09:14:48 AM »
From my personal experience, many of my friends are uneasy about this term. One is a very strict Reformed Calvinist and he was uneasy about it because the term seems to both elevate Mary and imply that Mary was somehow the origin of God or at least divine. I told him the true meaning, but he seemed hesitant. I wasn't about to argue with him, but I know that one of my teachers who I bumped into during the discussion (high church Anglican) accepted it. I simply explained that it is a term used to clarify that Jesus didn't become God at some later time (Adoptionism) and he did not become God upon birth (Nestorianism)...Most Protestants I know call her "Mother of Jesus," or "Mother of the Lord." Sometimes I wonder what they mean by "Lord," though.

God bless !

To call the Theotokos - Mother of the Lord or Mother of God- has the same meaning. God is the Lord and the Lord is God...

In hebrew Adonai/Lord is a name of God used instead of the Holy Name JHWH and it was translated in greek Kyrios, but it means God.

When Christ was called Lord ( Adonai,Kyrios) he was called God, but some people forget this and think to be a Lord is something lesser than to be a God.

And so the term - Mother of the Lord - is often used by heretics who do not believe that Christ was true God and to make it more clear the Holy Fathers and the Synods used the term Mother of God.

To call Her Mother of God or God-bearer is the highest glorification and the most exact term, because there is no place for any doubt that Christ is God.

In CHRIST

Offline Veniamin

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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #16 on: December 22, 2007, 09:51:20 AM »
From my personal experience, many of my friends are uneasy about this term. One is a very strict Reformed Calvinist and he was uneasy about it because the term seems to both elevate Mary and imply that Mary was somehow the origin of God or at least divine. I told him the true meaning, but he seemed hesitant. I wasn't about to argue with him, but I know that one of my teachers who I bumped into during the discussion (high church Anglican) accepted it. I simply explained that it is a term used to clarify that Jesus didn't become God at some later time (Adoptionism) and he did not become God upon birth (Nestorianism)...Most Protestants I know call her "Mother of Jesus," or "Mother of the Lord." Sometimes I wonder what they mean by "Lord," though.

From my experience, most Protestants simply don't think about it.  (In all fairness, I doubt most Orthodox or Latins think too much about Christology, either.)  Even if they aren't thinking that calling the Theotokos "Mother of the Lord" is the same as saying "Mother of God," I would imagine its far more likely to be because they aren't thinking about the implications of that statement at all, rather than a denial of Christ's divinity of any sort.
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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #17 on: December 22, 2007, 10:38:55 AM »
Mayhap it's because "Lord" has civil/political implications as well as religious (as exemplified in the title "Lord of lords"), whereas "God" has only religious implications.
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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #18 on: December 22, 2007, 01:06:12 PM »
(In all fairness, I doubt most Orthodox or Latins think too much about Christology, either.) 

Perhaps, but I don't think we necessarily have to consciously think about Christology (i.e. hypostatic union) because so much of our prayers and hymns are to Christ, the incarnate Son of God and He is specifically invoked in this way and the hymns to his mother also reemphasize this dogma. Removing Mary so overtly as the Protestants and Evangelicals have done in the past 150 years, is it really noteworthy or astonishing that new springs of Arianism and Nestorianism have cropped up in their circles in this past time?
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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #19 on: December 22, 2007, 02:03:14 PM »
I highly recommend Mary, the Untrodden Portal of God I believe was written by Coniaris.

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Offline Christodoulos

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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #20 on: December 22, 2007, 05:17:41 PM »
God bless !

Some Links on the Veneration of the Theotokos:

From Archimandrite Nektarios:

Questions often asked about the Mother of God:

http://www.serfes.org/orthodox/questions.htm

The Mother of my Lord, by Archbishop Averky:

http://www.serfes.org/orthodox/motherofmylord.htm

The New Mary Mother of God:

http://www.serfes.org/orthodox/theotokos.htm

The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Theotokos by St. John of Shanghai:

http://www.stmaryofegypt.org/library/st_john_maximovich/on_veneration_of_the_theotokos.htm

Honoring the Most Holy Mother of God:

http://oodegr.com/english/ekklisia/praktikes/panagia1.htm

The Holy Mother and the “ΜΕΝΟΥΝΓΕ”- A slip in Translation:

http://oodegr.com/english/protestantism/menunge1.htm

The Brothers of Christ:

http://oodegr.com/english/ekklisia/praktikes/panagia2.htm

The Theotokophilia by Metropolitan Hierotheos:

http://www.vic.com/~tscon/pelagia/htm/b16.en.saint_gregory_palamas_as_a_hagiorite.09.htm

St. John of Damascus, Three Sermons on the Dormition:

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/johndamascus-komesis.html

The Veneration of the Mother of God, by Patriarch Sergius:

http://www.holy-trinity.org/feasts/sergius.theotokos.html


In CHRIST

Offline Alexius

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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #21 on: December 23, 2007, 01:42:47 AM »
God bless !

To call the Theotokos - Mother of the Lord or Mother of God- has the same meaning. God is the Lord and the Lord is God...

In hebrew Adonai/Lord is a name of God used instead of the Holy Name JHWH and it was translated in greek Kyrios, but it means God.

When Christ was called Lord ( Adonai,Kyrios) he was called God, but some people forget this and think to be a Lord is something lesser than to be a God.

And so the term - Mother of the Lord - is often used by heretics who do not believe that Christ was true God and to make it more clear the Holy Fathers and the Synods used the term Mother of God.

To call Her Mother of God or God-bearer is the highest glorification and the most exact term, because there is no place for any doubt that Christ is God.

In CHRIST

Perhaps the relation between the terms does not occur in the minds of many Evangelicals? I had a lengthy (5 hours!!!) conversation with my father (grew up Presbyterian--he is an Evangelical) today during last minute Christmas shopping about Orthodox and Roman Catholic theology. I mentioned "Theotokos" being a dogma in the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Church and after a brief explanation of the term, he showed no disagreements...On a side note, I found we agree on other issues as well such as justication by faith and works, veneration of Mary and others things which escape my burned out brain...;D
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Offline Christodoulos

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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #22 on: December 23, 2007, 12:57:41 PM »
I highly recommend Mary, the Untrodden Portal of God I believe was written by Coniaris.

Blessings,
Panagiotis

God bless !

Do you mean the book; The Untrodden Portal of God by George S. Gabriel ?

There are many good books about the Theotokos in english:

My favourite is : The Life of the Virgin Mary the Theotokos, by the Holy Apostels Convent-it is great ( within the framework of Holy Scripture, Holy Tradition, Patristics and other ancient writings together with the Liturgical and Iconographic Traditions of the Orthodox Church)

The Most Holy Theotokos , by Archbishop Lazar ( usually I do not like his writings) The Teaching about the Life of the Virgin Mary, and a prayerful contemplation on the Theotokos for each day of the month.

The Repose of our Most Holy and Glorious Lady the Theotokos; by Minos Charitos

The Assumption of our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God, translated from the Menology

Mary and the Fathers of the Church; The blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought

On the Dormition of Mary; Early Patristic Homilies, by Brian E. Daley,

Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption, Stephen Shoemaker, Oxford Studies,

The Image of the Virgin Mary in the Akathistos Hymn, by Leena Mari Peltoma,

About the Iconography of the Theotokos:

Icons and Power, the Mother of God in Byzantinum, by Bissera V. Pentcheva,

Images of the Mother of God, Perceptions of the Mother of God in Byzantinum, by Maria Vassilaki

MOTHER OF GOD; Representations of the Virgin in Byzantine Art ( a great book)

Wonderworking Icons of the Theotokos; translated from russian and compiled by Feodor S. Kovalchuk,

Miracle of the Mother of God:
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Visions outside the church:
http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/visions-outside-the-church.aspx

An Orthodox View of the Virgin Mary:

http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/theotokos.aspx

Why is Mary considered Ever-Virgin:
http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/evervirgin.aspx

The Veneration of the Virgin Mary, by Protobresbyter Michael Polsky:
http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/general/veneration_mary.aspx

The Council of Ephesus:
http://www.piar.hu/councils/ecum03.htm

From the Spiritual Meadow of John Moschus

......When the old man heard the name of Nestor he was so overcome with fear that this brother would be damned that he fell down and prayed, and begged him to abandon this most evil and pernicious heresy and return to the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

"There is no hope of being saved unless we truly feel and believe that Holy Mary is the Theotokos," he said, "and this is true."

Elisabeth is the first to address the Virgin Mary with the sublime salutation of " the Mother of my Lord" ( ee Meeteer tou Kyriou mou). The word Kyrios, Lord that Elisabeth used, was a term wich, among Hellenistic Jews, MEANT ONLY GOD. from the Life of the Virgin Mary

St. Gregor the Theologian:

"If anyone does not accept the Holy Mary as Theotokos, he is without the Godhead."

St. Vincent of Lerins:

"Therefore, may God forbid that anyone should attempt to defraud Holy Mary of Her superiority in divine grace and of her special glory. For by unique favor of our Lord and God, She is to be confessed to be the most true and most blessed Mother of God."

Everyone, who does not confess the Virgin Mary to be the Theotokos- can not be called Christian !

In CHRIST
« Last Edit: December 23, 2007, 12:58:45 PM by Christodoulos »

Offline GreekChef

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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #23 on: December 23, 2007, 01:40:00 PM »

Everyone, who does not confess the Virgin Mary to be the Theotokos- can not be called Christian !


Not to dredge up the argument that I think has already been covered here (maybe I'm just late), but...

This statement is more accurate than one might first think.  Though it looks a little harsh, and a lot of people who do not believe in the Virgin Mary as the Theotokos might take offense to it, it is quite accurate, for the reasons that Cleveland stated before.

Because Jesus is God - that's essentially what was being denied by opponents of the term.  They were using the debate between "Christotokos" (i.e. Christ-bearer) and "Theotokos" (God-bearer) as a means of making a statement about Jesus (not about the Virgin Mary).  The insistence on Theotokos is continually affirming that Jesus was truly God who became man, and not a human who "became" God or "like God" or "like a god."

The act of calling Mary the "Theotokos" has no bearing on her status within Christianity, nor does it change or elevate her role, nor does it have anything, really, to do with her, aside from the fact that it is how we refer to her.  As Cleveland stated, every time we call her "Theotokos," we are restating, reaffirming, and proclaiming that Christ was truly God and truly Man.  We are stating that He is two natures, divine and human, from the beginning of time. 

I think when someone tells you that they don't agree with the term "Mother of God," but rather "Mother of the Lord" is their preference, you should ask them why.  What distinction do they make such that they are more comfortable with this expression?  I would venture to guess that the reasoning they will give you for preferring the heretical expression will, indeed, be a heresy.  Most Protestants won't care when you tell them that this is the Nestorian heresy that was anathematized by the Ecumenical council.  Nor will they care when you tell them that the saints proclaimed that this term for Mary was indeed correct.  These things hold no weight for them, as they have rejected and/or lost these traditions.  But maybe if you explain to them the reasoning behind the anathema, the reason that this is a heretical expression (that referring to her in this way is proclaiming that Christ was truly God and truly man from the beginning of time, etc.), they might understand and accept it.  Just my humble opinion, though.
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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #24 on: December 23, 2007, 06:59:51 PM »
I think when someone tells you that they don't agree with the term "Mother of God," but rather "Mother of the Lord" is their preference, you should ask them why.  What distinction do they make such that they are more comfortable with this expression?  I would venture to guess that the reasoning they will give you for preferring the heretical expression will, indeed, be a heresy.  Most Protestants won't care when you tell them that this is the Nestorian heresy that was anathematized by the Ecumenical council.  Nor will they care when you tell them that the saints proclaimed that this term for Mary was indeed correct.  These things hold no weight for them, as they have rejected and/or lost these traditions.  But maybe if you explain to them the reasoning behind the anathema, the reason that this is a heretical expression (that referring to her in this way is proclaiming that Christ was truly God and truly man from the beginning of time, etc.), they might understand and accept it.  Just my humble opinion, though.
This is, in fact, how I, a former Protestant, came to know Mary as TheotokosIf He who was born of her is truly God and Man, then Mary can be rightly called "Mother of God", "Birthgiver of God", "Theotokos".


However, just me being a nitpick ;), I find the grammar of the statement I highlighted in the above quote rather confusing.  The reference pronoun "this", in that the object to which "this" points is not made clear, can almost be read to indicate that the title Theotokos IS the heresy condemned in Ecumenical Council.  I know is NOT what you intended to say, since this statement runs totally counter to everything you said (clearly) beforehand.
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Offline GreekChef

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Re: Why Theotokos (Mother of God)?
« Reply #25 on: December 23, 2007, 09:17:59 PM »
This is, in fact, how I, a former Protestant, came to know Mary as TheotokosIf He who was born of her is truly God and Man, then Mary can be rightly called "Mother of God", "Birthgiver of God", "Theotokos".


However, just me being a nitpick ;), I find the grammar of the statement I highlighted in the above quote rather confusing.  The reference pronoun "this", in that the object to which "this" points is not made clear, can almost be read to indicate that the title Theotokos IS the heresy condemned in Ecumenical Council.  I know is NOT what you intended to say, since this statement runs totally counter to everything you said (clearly) beforehand.

Hee hee.  You're right.  Apologies on the grammer mistake.  That's what happens when you're in a hurry and don't reread before you post!!  Thanks for the correction!

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