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God's Son and Mary's Son

LET US MAKE MAN to our own image and likeness." In this way the special creation of mankind as well as the special place of mankind in creation is taught us by Sacred Scripture. God deliberated before He created man, something He did not do in the case of other creatures. Man was made to His image and likeness. Only of man is this said, for only man has within him a soul that reflects the simplicity, the spirituality, and the faculties of intellect and will to be found in God Himself.

"In the fullness of time . . . God sent his Son, born of a woman . . ." For centuries God has prepared for the coming of His Son in human nature. There had been many hundreds of years of planning and of deliberation, if we may apply the idea of time to God. It did take hundreds and thousands of years before all was prepared in time for the Word to become flesh. Adam was made to the image and likeness of God. The Son made man is "the brightness of his glory and the image of his substance . . . the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature . . . for it has pleased God the Father that in him all his fullness should dwell . . ." (Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:15, 19).

In the creation of the first man, Adam, God did not use human instruments. Adam had no father or mother according to the flesh. In the plan for the coming of His Son was to be found a mother. At the very beginning of the divine plan for the coming of Jesus Christ, we find the seed of the woman who is to conquer the devil (Gen. 3:15). The greatest of the prophets, Isaias, wrote of a virgin or young maiden who would bear a son (Isa. 7:14) and his contemporary, Micheas, mentioned the woman who would bring forth the leader of the Israelites (Mich. 5:2-3).

The divine plan for Jesus Christ in His human nature unfolds in the New Testament. It is here that we perceive the full significance of the woman, the virgin, the mother of Genesis, Isaias (Isaiah), and Micheas (Micah). "Now . . . the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary . . . And the angel said to her. . . 'Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus' . . . But Mary said to the angel, 'How shall this happen, since I do not know man?' And the angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee; and therefore the Holy One to be born shall be called the Son of God'" (Luke 1:26-38).


Let us now turn to Matthew (1:18-25) where we find Joseph perplexed because of the obvious condition of Mary. Matthew is careful to tell us that "Mary his mother (mother of Jesus Christ) had been betrothed to Joseph, and before they came together, she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit." Joseph's perplexity was removed by a special revelation from God. "Do not be afraid, Joseph, son of David, to take to thee Mary thy wife, for that which is begotten in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this came to pass that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, 'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son; and they shall call his name Emmanuel . . .' " (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:20-23).

Mary is the mother of Jesus Christ. His conception took place through the Holy Spirit. She was a virgin at the time of the conception. She was also a virgin to the birth of Jesus, for "he (Joseph) did not know her till she brought forth her firstborn son" (Matt. 1:25). It should be added that it is the teaching of the Catholic Church that Mary remained a virgin in the birth of our Lord, and that she remained a virgin after His birth. The perpetual virginity of Mary is a doctrine taught down through the centuries of the Church, and taught and believed today by all Catholics.

At the moment however our concern is with Mary and her Son Who is her Son in a unique way. She alone of human creatures was the parent of Jesus Christ. There was no human father. It is this that both St. Luke and St. Matthew are telling us in their Gospels. It is this too that God had in mind when He stressed the woman in Genesis 3:15, Isaias' young maiden, and the mother in Micheas 5:2-3.

St. Luke brings out the same point at the beginning of the genealogy of our Lord (3:23): "And Jesus himself, when he began his work, was about thirty years of age, being-AS WAS SUPPOSED-the son of Joseph." Luke is supplementing what he had already written concerning the conception of our Lord in chapter one, verses 26-38. It is noteworthy too that in the two incidents involving the Holy Family, this same author gives prominence to Mary (2:22-52). It is to Mary that Simeon speaks. It is Mary who speaks to the Son when He is found in the temple.


The beloved disciple is not less careful to indicate the special motherhood of Christ. Steeped in Jewish traditions as John was, nevertheless it is Mary who is mentioned. For Jewish tradition and Jewish custom paid little attention to women. John however makes no mention of Joseph. At the marriage feast in Cana of Galilee (2:1ff.) it is Mary who acts and intercedes. At the foot of the cross it is Mary who is present and it is Mary to whom our Lord speaks.

When the disciples of Christ were awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit, Mary is with them (Acts 1:14). There is no further mention of the presence of Mary after this. St. Paul however has a passage that confirms the special motherhood of Mary. In writing to the Galatians (4:4) he says: "But when the fullness of time came, God sent his Son, BORN OF A WOMAN, born under the law. . ."

Mary alone gave our Lord His human body. Through the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35; Matt. 1:18) she conceived in her womb. She was a virgin at that moment. She remained a virgin throughout the time that she carried her son in her womb. Such is the teaching of Sacred Scripture (cf. Matt. 1:25). Such also is the teaching of the Catholic Church.

Outside of Adam and Eve all of us have a father and a mother. Jesus Christ had but one human parent, and that was Mary, His virgin mother. The sacred humanity, the human flesh, the body, the bones, the blood, all these came from Mary without the aid of a human father. Mary could claim her Son in a way that no other woman could claim her son. Christ could look upon His mother in a way that no other son could look on a mother. When Mary said "my Son," there was a uniqueness about this never equalled in history. For she did not share Him with any other human being. She shared Him with God the Father. God the Father could say, as He did: my Son. Mary could say: my Son. God could say: my only-begotten Son.

Mary could say: my only-begotten Son. She alone begot Him as a human being.

From the very beginning the Catholic Church has taught that Mary retained her virginity. In the Apostles' Creed it is stated that Jesus Christ "was born of the Virgin Mary." Our Lord was Mary's only child. This teaching of the Church is not contradicted by Sacred Scripture. There are certain passages in the New Testament that cause difficulties to those who do not accept the Church as the guide for the interpretation of the Bible.


One of these passages is to be found in Luke 2:7, where our Lord is called the "first-born son." Does this imply other children? It may and it may not. Even today this expression is used of the first child, and no one knows if there will be a second or a third. What then did Luke mean by "first-born"? In the context he means that our Lord was her first child, for he continues to describe the ceremonies that must take place in the temple upon the birth of the first-born (Luke 2:22 ff.). St. Luke then is not implying that there were more children; he is pointing out that our Lord was Mary's first child without any reference to more.

A greater stumbling block however is to be found in the mention of "brothers and sisters" of our Lord (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3). Once again we must study the texts to find out what Matthew and Mark meant. In all languages brother and sister may mean blood brothers and sisters; the terms may also mean individuals united in some other way. Nurses are called "sisters" in some countries. In religious life members of the community are called "brother." In lodges we find the same thing. In Sacred Scripture it is the same. Abraham for example spoke of Lot as his brother (Gen. 13:8), whereas Lot was his nephew. In Genesis 29:15, Laban says to Jacob, "Because thou art my brother..." Actually, in the context it is clear that Laban was the uncle of Jacob. In 1 Paralipomenon (1 Chronicles) 23:22, we read that Eleezar died leaving no sons, "but only daughters, and the sons of Cis their brothers took them"; the brothers who married them were really their cousins.

A close scrutiny of those who are called "brothers" of our Lord will help to unravel the problem. Four men are called His brothers: James and Joseph and Simon and Jude. Both Matthew and Mark refer later on to James and Joseph as the sons of a Mary (Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40). This Mary is very obviously not the mother of our Lord. From John 19:25, she would seem to be related to the mother of Jesus. In this case then James and Joseph would be cousins of our Lord. Moreover, we would be obliged to look upon Simon and Jude as relatives, and not blood brothers of our Lord. Simon and Jude are always named together, next to James in the list of the Apostles and next to James and Joseph in the list of the "brethren of the Lord." Jude gives himself the title "brother of James" in the first verse of his own epistle. It is then very probable that Simon and Jude are blood brothers of James and Joseph, and therefore bear the same relationship of cousin to our Lord. The same would be true of the "sisters" mentioned in this same text. Moreover, nowhere in the Bible is Mary, the mother of Christ, called the mother of any of them.

Christ's giving John to Mary as her son (John 19:26) with the right and duty of caring for her, would be strange if Mary had other children naturally possessing that right and duty.


Matthew 1:25 is frequently quoted as a proof that our Blessed Mother did not remain a virgin: "And he did not know her till she brought forth her first-born son." The word "till" is the crux of the interpretation. Careful study will show that what St. Matthew is saying is this: Mary and Joseph did not live as man and wife to the time of the birth of our Lord. There is no indication of what happened after the birth. The word "till" as used in the Scripture (cf. also Gen. 8:7; Matt. 12:20; 1 Tim. 4:13) may merely signify a point of time until which something has been done without implying anything different after that time. In other words the text does not indicate a change after Christ's birth. Neither before nor after Christ's birth did Mary violate her virginity.

"Behold, thou shalt conceive . . . and shalt bring forth a son . . . He shall be great and shall be called THE SON OF THE MOST HIGH . . . the Holy One to be born shall be called THE SON OF GOD" (Luke 1:31, 35). Mary is to beget a son Who is also the Son of God. There is then in Jesus Christ a twofold sonship. He is God's Son. He is Mary's son.

One of the great mysteries of Jesus Christ is to be found in this fact: both the Father and Mary call Him Son. There is but one Son, the Son of God and the son of Mary. The reason for this is found in the Incarnation. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Word, assumed human nature. Two natures, divine and human, are there, but only one person. Perhaps a schema comparing Jesus Christ with God on the one hand and with angels and men on the other will enlighten us.

GodJesus Christ Angels and Men Three PersonsOne Divine Person One Person One Divine NatureTwo Natures One Nature Divine and Human

Even though there are three persons in God, there is only one God because there is but one divine nature. In angels and men there is but one individual, one "I" because there is only one person and one nature. But in Jesus Christ there are two natures. True, but there is only one "I" since there is only one divine person. There is no human person in Jesus Christ. There is no human "I" in Him, only a divine "I." This is the reason that we say our Blessed Mother is the Mother of God, for she is the mother of Jesus Christ.


The human nature of our Lord is unique. It is unique because while it is a human nature, there is no human person. In the place of the human person is the divine person, the Word. There never was a human person, for at the moment of the union of the divine nature with the human, the Word became flesh. If there were two persons, then we would not have the Word as the "I" of the human nature of our Lord. There would be the divine "I" and the human "I." Then there would be two persons with two natures, two individuals. It could not be said then that God became man, or that Mary was the Mother of God. Neither could it be said that God the Son redeemed man.

Throughout the accounts of our Lord's life one thing is clear: JESUS CHRIST WAS ONE INDIVIDUAL. He Himself used the pronoun "I" to refer to divine actions as well as human actions. He said that "I and the Father are one" but He also said "the Father is greater than I" (John 10:30; 14:28). It was the same Jesus Christ Who brought forth Lazarus from the tomb and Who wept over Jerusalem. It was the same individual Who came forth from Mary's womb and Who came forth from the tomb. The leaders of His people understood this for they accused Him of blasphemy, He a man claiming to be God (cf. John 5:18; 19:7; Matt. 26:62-64).

Herein is the great mystery of the sacred humanity of Jesus Christ. It is the humanity of God the Son. It is united to the divine nature through the person of the Word. It is a human nature that looks to a divine person for its "I." How much better is it to have a divine "I" than a human "I"! There was no need for a human person because the divine person could do all and do it better than a human person. This is the uniqueness of Jesus Christ: He IS MAN AND GOD.

Sin has always been familiar to us. So much is it a part of our human nature that it is easy to think that it came with our natures. In a sense this is true, for we were born with original sin. But in the beginning when human nature came from God, it was good (cf. Gen. 1:26-27, 31). There was no sin, for God and sin are opposed--as are light and darkness.


Jesus Christ is human, but He is sinless. He had to be sinless because He is also God. Openly He had challenged the people of His time: "Which of you can convict me of sin?" (John 8:46). Actual sin, as we call it, was foreign to Him, as His life shows. A careful reading of His Gospels brings before us a life of perfect union with God, of perfect control of all the movements of human nature. No moral imperfection is even hinted at. When He was brought to trial the crimes attributed to Him were political, except for one. This one was blasphemy. But there is no blasphemy for God to claim to be God, and Jesus Christ was God.

If nothing stained or soiled with sin is able to enter heaven, then no sin could touch Him Who is divine. In the epistle to the Hebrews, Jesus Christ is presented as a high priest "who can have compassion on our infirmities . . . one tried as we are in all things, except sin" (4:15). In another passage (7:26-27), the sinlessness of Christ is stated explicitly: "For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, set apart from sinners and become higher than the heavens. He does not need to offer sacrifices daily (as the other priests did), first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people; for this latter he did once for all in offering up himself."

Adam came forth from God's creative act in a sinless state. The second Adam, Christ, came forth from a virgin as a sinless son. We have already noted that He could not sin since He is God. Yet He is human. He had a mother who belongs to the human race. Is not original sin transmitted from one human being to another through the act of generation? Yes, it is. There was no act of generation how ever in the conception of Jesus Christ. "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee . . ." Mary begot Christ without the aid of man, not however without the aid of God. If then we needed to show that our Lord did not inherit original sin, we could show it this way.


The sinlessness of the human nature of our Lord becomes all the more apparent when we consider a great privilege of His mother. This privilege is called her Immaculate Conception. St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians that "Christ also loved the Church, and delivered himself up for her, that he might sanctify her . . . in order that he might present to himself the Church in all her glory, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that she might be holy and without blemish" (5:25-26). He did the same thing for His mother. He delivered Himself up for her (as He did for all men), yet in a special way. If the Church, the mystical body of Christ, is without stain, should not His virginal mother be without stain?

Original sin did not stain the soul of Mary. As a member of the human race she would be thought to have it, as all of us do. Yet Christ saw to it that original sin did not touch her because she was to be His mother. He delivered Himself for her as He did for us, but there is a difference. We are redeemed from sin. Mary was redeemed not from sin, but by prevention of sin reaching her soul. The mother of all living humans, Eve, came into the world without sin. The Mother of all Life (I am the life, says her Son) should not be less pure than Eve.

Since Mary did not have original sin, she could not transmit it to her Son. The human nature of Christ stands out all the better in its sinless condition when we view the Mother. She who was not touched by original sin begot a Son Who could not inherit original sin. Yet even if He could have inherited this sin, He would not since His mother did not have it.

On one occasion when a woman in the listening crowd praised His mother, our Lord answered "Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother" (Matt. 12:46-50). No one fulfilled this better than His mother. In this way there is a likeness between mother and Son that is most striking. Both had but one aim in life: to do God's will. Christ said that He came to do the will of His Father. His mother said that it should be done to her according to God's will. Mary resembled her Son in holiness, in virtue, especially in the virtue of obedience.

It is only natural that children resemble their parents. Physically this is often obvious. Often traits of parents are evident in their children. At times the resemblance is more from the father than the mother. Other times it is in the opposite way. Our Lord had a human mother, but no human father. Hence whatever resemblance is to be found can only be between Son and mother. Sacred Scripture has left us no indication of the physical characteristics of Christ or of His mother. We can only conclude to a resemblance from the principle (not always applicable) stated above. It may be conceded then that our Lord looked like His mother.


Mary was a Jewess, a Semite. There are general physical traits ascribed to this race. If Mary followed these general traits, we might be able to describe her physical characteristics. She would be dark rather than fair, with dark hair rather than light. She would be of medium height. Her face would be oval rather than round, olive complexion rather than ruddy or light. Her eyes would be dark, if not black.

If this is a portrait of Mary, then with some diffidence we may say that our Lord was dark, with black or dark brown eyes, oval face with an olive complexion. It is probable that He wore a beard. As for His physical build, anything that might be said would be conjecture. Should the Shroud of Turin be accepted as genuine, then our Lord could be said to be about six feet in height, weighing around 170 or 180 pounds.

What should not be forgotten is that He was of the Jewish race. His blood was of the best for it came directly from Abraham through King David. He could not be more Jewish in the mind of His own people. In fact He was THE JEW! He was to found and to establish the spiritual Israel; to do this He had to be of the Jewish race, for it had been promised that a member of this nation would establish this spiritual Israel. The fact that our Lord belonged to this race did not prevent Him from founding the spiritual kingdom of David. It was required that He should be of this race in order to establish it. This spiritual Israel is the Catholic Church, of which Jesus Christ, the son of David is the founder.

Courtesy of Catholic Information Network (CIN)



Copyright 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved