What is Mary’s place in the history of Salvation? The best answer is given in the form of a follow-up question: If Jesus is the Son of God who is then his mother?
The child Mary bore in her womb is Christ, the Incarnate word of God. Therefore, the early councils honoured her as the Theotokos – the God-bearer. The sign for this was given by her cousin Elizabeth who greeted the pregnant Mary with the words: «Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb» (Luke 1:42).
In his poems on Mary, the Church Father Ephrem the Syrian (303-373) explains Mary’s amazement of giving birth to the Christ:
«How shall I call you,
O stranger to us
who became one of us?
Shall I call you ‘Son’?
Shall I call you ‘Brother’?
Shall I call you ‘Bridegroom’?
Shall i call you ‘Lord’?
Begetter of his Mother.
By a second birth
from out of the waters!»
(Sebastian Brock, 1975)
By referring at the end to Mary’s baptism, Ephrem understands her relationship to Jesus as a «two-way birth». First Jesus takes on Mary’s body as her son, then Mary takes on Jesus’ glory as a new birth. Thus, through his imagery and parallelism Ephrem, known as «Harp of the Spirit», brings Mary and the Christian believer close together.
A poetical adaption into Norwegian expresses the symbolic imagery in the following way:
«Da Jesus Kristus ble vår bror,
da ble Maria vår egen mor,
vår Far ble ham som i himlen bor,
Jesus og Maria.
I stallen fant Guds moder ly,
hun fødte ham i Davids by,
da var all verden som født på ny,
Jesus og Maria.
Ved Ånden fødes Gud og mann,
hun fødte ham i Juda land,
og vi ble født utav dåpens vann,
Jesus og Maria.»
(Börre Knudsen, 1976)
The mariology developed in Ephrem’s poems to Our Lady is very different from the Roman Catholic understanding of Mary as the mediatrix. Ephrem does not pray to Mary but he prays with her to Christ. Mary is not a distant intercessor, the Queen of Heaven, but she is the Mother of the Church, one of us and one with us.