Augustine regarded Mary not so much as above all Christians, but in the centre of the Christian assembly as the most perfect of all Christians. Augustine said that for her own salvation, it was more important that Mary have God in her heart than the Son of God in her womb.
Augustine’s interest in Mary’s maternity was Christ-centred; it underscored both the full humanity and full divinity of Christ. He never used for Mary the title of "Mother of God", but rather "mother of the Lord", or "mother of the Saviour."
Augustine’s relative restraint in this is partly explained by the fact that he died in the year 430, which was just before the Council of Ephesus declared Mary to be the Mother of God, after which proclamation Marian devotion advanced to new levels.
In the matter of Mary’s perpetual divinity (i.e., even after Christ’s birth), Augustine was a constant advocate, even though a few other Christian scholars questioned or challenged this.
Because of his very strong views about the totus Christus (metaphorically, the “whole Christ” that comprised of Christ as the head and the church as the body), he often spoke of Mary in that context. Mary is in some sense inferior to the church in that she is only a part of the church.
He preached, “Mary is holy, Mary is blessed, but the church is something much better than the Virgin Mary. Why? Because Mary is part of the Church, a holy member, a quite exceptional member, the supremely wonderful member, but nevertheless a member of the whole body." (Sermon 72a.7)
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For the Augnet page on the Augustinian Shrine to the Mother of Good Counsel at Genazzano, Italy, click here.