Is Mary the Mother of God?
Source: Homilies on Matthew 12:47-50 (Chrysostom)
MATT. XII. 46--49. "While He yet talked to the people, behold, His mother and His brethren stood without, desiring to speak with Him. Then one said unto Him, Behold, Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with Thee. But He answered and said unto him that told Him, Who is my mother, andmy brethren? And He stretched forth His hand towards His disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren."
That which I was lately saying, that when virtue is wanting all things are vain, this is now also pointed out very abundantly. For I indeed was saying, that age and nature, and to dwell in the wilderness, and all such things, are alike unprofitable, where there is not a good mind; but to-day we learn in addition another thing, that even to have borne Christ in the womb, and to have brought forth that marvellous birth, hath no profit, if there be not virtue.
And this is hence especially manifest. "For while He yet talked to the people," it is said, "one told Him, Thy mother and Thy brethren seek Thee. But He saith, who is my mother, and who are my brethren?" And this He said, not as being ashamed of His mother, nor denying her that bare Him; for if He had been ashamed of her, He would not have passed through that womb; but as declaring that she hath no advantage from this, unless she do all that is required to be done. For in fact that which she had essayed to do, was of superfluous vanity; in that she wanted to show the people that she hath power and authority over her Son, imagining not as yet anything great concerning Him; whence also her unseasonable approach. See at all events both her self-confidenceand theirs.Since when they ought to have gone in, and listened with the multitude; or if they were not so minded, to have waited for His bringing His discourse to an end, and then to have come near; they call Him out, and do this before all, evincing a superfluous vanity, and wishing to make it appear, that with much authority they enjoin Him. And this too the evangelist shows that he is blaming, for with this very allusion did he thus express himself, "While He yet talked to the people;" as if he should say, What? was there no other opportunity? Why, was it not possible to speak with Him in private?
And what was it they wished to say? For if it were touching the doctrines of the truth, they ought to have propounded these things publicly, and stated them before all, that the rest also might have the benefit: but if about other matters that concerned themselves, they ought not to have been so urgent. For if He suffered not the burial of a father, lest the attendance on Him should be interrupted, much less ought they to have stopped His discourse to the people, for things that were of no importance. Whence it is clear, that nothing but vainglory led them to do this; which John too declares, by saying, "Neither did His brethren believe on Him;"and some sayings too of theirs he reports, full of great folly; telling us that they were for dragging Him to Jerusalem, for no other purpose, but that they themselves might reap glory from His miracles. "For if thou do these things," it is said, "show Thyself to the world. For there is no man that doeth anything in secret, and seeketh himself to be manifest;"when also He Himself rebuked them, attributing it to their carnal mind. That is, because the Jews were reproaching Him, and saying, "Is not this the carpenter's son, whose father and mother we know? and His brethren, are not they with us?"they, willing to throw off the disparagement caused by His birth, were calling Him to the display of His miracles.
For this cause He quite repels them, being minded to heal their infirmity; since surely, had it been His will to deny His mother, He would have denied her then, when the Jews were reproaching Him. But as it is, we see that He takes so great care of her, as even at the very cross to commit her to the disciple whom He loved most of all, and to give him a great charge concerning her.
But now He doth not so, out of care for her, and for His brethren. I mean, because their regard for Him was as towards a mere man, and they were vainglorious, He casts out the disease, not insulting, but correcting them.
But do thou, I pray, examine not the words only, which contain a moderate reproof, but also the unbecoming conduct of His brethren, and the boldness wherewith they had been bold and who was the person reproving it, no mere man, but the only-begotten Son of God; and with what purpose He reproved; that it was not with intent to drive them to perplexity, but to deliver them from the most tyrannical passion and to lead them on by little and little to the right idea concerning Himself, and to convince her that He was not her Son only, but also her Lord: so wilt thou perceive that the reproof is in the highest degree both becoming Him and profitable to her, and withal having in it much gentleness. For He said not, "Go thy way, tell my mother, thou art not my mother," but He addresses Himself to the person that told Him; saying, "Who is my mother?" together with the things that have been mentioned providing for another object also. What then is that? That neither they nor others confiding in their kindred, should neglect virtue. For if she is nothing profited by being His mother, were it not for that quality in her, hardly will any one else be saved by his kindred. For there is one only nobleness, to do the will of God. This kind of noble birth is better than the other, and more real.
2. Knowing therefore these things, let us neither pride ourselves on children that are of good report, unless we have their virtue; nor upon noble fathers, unless we be like them in disposition. For it is possible, both that he who begat a man should not be his father, and that he who did not beget him should be. Therefore in another place also, when some woman had said, "Blessed is the womb that bare Thee, and the paps which Thou hast sucked;" He said not, "The womb bare me not, neither did I suck the paps," but this, "Yea rather, blessed are they that do the will of my Father."Seest thou how on every occasion He denies not the affinity by nature, but adds that by virtue? And His forerunner too, in saying, "O generation of vipers, think not to say, We have Abraham to our father,"means not this, that they were not naturally of Abraham, but that it profits them nothing to be of Abraham, unless they had the affinity by character; which Christ also declared, when He said, "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham;"not depriving them of their kindred according to the flesh, but teaching them to seek after that affinity which is greater than it, and more real.
This then He establishes here also, but in a manner less invidious, and more measured, as became Him speaking to His mother. For He said not at all, "She is not my mother, nor are those my brethren, because they do not my will;" neither did He declare and pronounce judgment against them; but He yet left in it their own power to choose, speaking with the gentleness that becomes Him.
"For he that doeth," saith He, "the will of my Father, this is my brother, and sister, and mother."
Wherefore if they desire to be such, let them come this way. And when the woman again cried out, saying, "Blessed is the womb that bare Thee," He said not, "She is not my mother," but, "If she wishes to be blessed, let her do the will of my Father. For such a one is both brother, and sister, and mother."
Oh honor! oh virtue! Unto what a height doth she lead up him that follows after her! How many women have blessed that holy Virgin, and her womb, and prayed that they might become such mothers, and give up all! What then is there to hinder? For behold, He hath marked out a spacious road for us; and it is granted not to women only, but to men also, to be of this rank, or rather of one yet far higher. For this makes one His mother much more, than those pangs did. So that if that were a subject for blessing, much more this, inasmuch as it is also more real. Do not therefore merely desire, but also in the way that leads thee to thy desire walk thou with much diligence.