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Glancing Thoughts
The Fourth Sunday of Advent C
December 23, 2018
Eleonore Stump

Mary, the Mother of God

In his moving musical composition Like Winter Waiting, John Foley, SJ, has Joseph sing about Mary, “Who is this woman?” For many people (and, of course, maybe for Joseph too) the question is really, “Who is this woman to me?” These two questions are very different in character.
Consider the first one. The traditional answer to it is that Mary is the Mother of God.

You might think, how much care and commitment should I have for Mary?
This answer can be hard to understand. All Christians agree that God is without beginning. It seems that a God without beginning can't be born. And so it seems that God can’t have a mother either.
But Jesus is fully human and fully divine. As man, God can be born. And so, after all, God can have and did have a human mother.

The woman who was that mother is Mary.

And that is why, if it is taken theologically, the answer to the question Joseph sings in John Foley’s music, “Who is this woman?” is this: Mary is the Mother of God.

But the more pressing question remains: “Who is this woman to me?”

The answer to this question depends on the life and love of each person who answers it, doesn’t it?

Think about it this way. For every person who reads this Saint Louis University Liturgy Website, John Foley is the Jesuit priest who is the editor of the website and the composer of powerful and influential liturgical music. But the answer to the question, “Who is John Foley to me?” depends on the person answering the question. To me, he is a dear friend. But that is because the history of my life includes care for him and commitment to him.

But, you might think, how much care and commitment should I have for Mary?

Isn’t that a backwards way to think about relationship with any person, Mary included? What a person is to you depends on you, on your own care for her and commitment to her. We will discover our right relationship to Mary if we ask ourselves the question Elizabeth asked: “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Eleonore Stump
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University

Art by Martin (Steve) Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go