Behold Thy Mother

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And thou shalt say in thy heart:
Who hath begotten these?
I was barren and brought not forth,
led away, and captive:
and who hath brought up these?
I was destitute and alone:
and these, where were they?
Isaiah 49, 21

GIVE praise, O thou barren, that bearest not:
sing forth praise, and make a joyful noise,
thou that didst not travail with child:
for many are the children of the desolate,
more than of her that hath a husband,
saith the Lord.
Isaiah 54, 1

When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son.  After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.
John 19, 26-27
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Of all the enigmatic statements contained in sacred Scripture, the one made by Jesus to his beloved disciple from the Cross is no less mysterious and challenging to interpret or understand. Our Lord says to the Disciple: “Behold your mother.” By the word mother, Jesus has more its biblical sense in mind. His act of entrusting his mother to the disciple rests on the status and importance of motherhood in Israelite society. For the Jews, motherhood was more a social edifice than a biological expedient. Biblically, we can see it was redefined as something that embraced all of God’s chosen people, given the historical circumstances surrounding their covenant with God and his promise to Abraham.

For instance, Ruth was enjoined by her mother-in- law Naomi to lay at the foot of the bed of her lord Boaz who happened to be a relative of her deceased husband. Under the law of Moses, a close relation was expected to marry a widow for the sake of perpetuating the family name and keeping all the assets, such as land, within the family (Deut 25:5-10). It was important that when a man died without having a son, a relative should marry a widow so that a son should be born within the family and its name carried on (Lk 20:27-40). Now Ruth was childless when her husband died. But after she had married Boaz, the couple had a firstborn son whom they named Obed. The family name could now be carried on and all the property kept within the family.

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Thus, Ruth’s motherhood was not merely centred on giving birth to and nurturing children within the immediate family but was redefined in terms of a broader social scope that concerned the interests of the extended family and its preservation. Still, in Judaic thought, her motherhood extended even further by embracing all the children of Israel. Having given birth to Obed, Ruth did in a sense give birth to David. Her grandson Jesse begot the King of Israel. Providentially Ruth’s motherhood extended to King David from whose royal line the Messiah would come by being born of the Virgin Mary (2 Sam 7:12-13), whose dual maternity is prefigured in this Hebrew matriarch among others.

Leila Leah Bronner (Stories of Biblical Mothers) has introduced the biblical concept which she coins “Metaphorical Mother.” This term refers to a woman who figuratively gives birth to and nurtures an entire population of children who are hers symbolically, though biological ties are not precluded. Ruth metaphorically gives birth to the people of Israel who would be ruled by the Messiah by her biological ties with him through Obed, Jesse, and King David. Socially, she contributes to the birth and growth of a blossoming nation and the advancement of its people. Similarly, Sarah gives birth to Isaac, who in turn begets Jacob who represents Israel. By giving birth to Isaac, she does in a sense give birth to the nation of Israel, and by doing so her motherhood is redefined (Gen. 12:2; 46:3). Yet Sarah’s maternity isn’t intended to be confined within national boundaries – not according to the Divine plan.

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We see that all three of God’s promises to Abraham are fulfilled in their primary context in the Old Testament. In their secondary signification, they are fulfilled in the New Testament. All the families (nations) of the earth that shall be blessed together with the saved remnant of Israel as children (seed) of Abraham comprise the Gentiles who have been called to turn from their pagan iniquities, now that Christ has risen from the dead having reconciled mankind to God (Acts 3:24-26). Only those who are of faith (a steadfast love of God or His essential goodness and righteousness) are the true offspring of Abraham – both Jew and Gentile alike (Gal. 3:7-9). There is “neither Jew nor Greek” among those who have been baptized in Christ and have “put on Christ” by conducting their lives in faithfulness to God’s commandments. All who are faithful to God, by walking in the light as our Lord is in the light, are children of Abraham, not only the Jews who have been circumcised (Gal 3: 26-29).

Thus, the primary fulfillment of God’s three promises to Abraham, which includes Sarah’s important maternal role, finds its secondary fulfillment in Jesus together with his mother Mary. Just as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob prefigure Jesus and his Church, so too Sarah prefigures Mary, the Matriarch of the new and everlasting Covenant established ​through the precious blood of her divine Son.

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That the first Jewish converts to the Christian faith perceived this link between the two women is evident by the parallel St. Luke draws between the birth of Isaac and the birth of Jesus. In Genesis 11, we have Sarah, the free wife of Abraham and mother of the promised son, whom she gives birth to miraculously, seeing she was barren and past the age of having children (Gen 17:17-18;18:10). It is by God’s command that he is to be called Isaac (Gen. 17:19). As the free wife of Abraham, Sarah stands in opposition to her slave woman Hagar, one of Abraham’s concubines. Because Sarah is barren, she advises that Abraham and her servant Hagar have a son together whom they name Ishmael, but Sarah later demands that he must never have a share in her son Isaac’s inheritance and should be sent away with his mother because of his foul behaviour (Gen 21:8-10). Isaac is destined to become the father ​of a great nation, Israel in the person of his son Jacob.

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In the Gospel of Luke, we have Mary, the mother of the promised Son who is the rightful heir as Head of the kingdom of heaven. She is the free spouse of the Holy Spirit, through whom she has been endowed with the fullness of grace (Lk 1:28). The purity of her soul and freedom from all stain of sin magnify the Lord (Lk.1:46). Together with the free Son of promise, she is at enmity with Satan and stands against all his offspring: sinful humanity (Gen 3:15). Mary is a virgin but, nevertheless, miraculously conceives and bears her only son Jesus (Lk. 1:35). And not unlike Sarah, she questions how she could possibly conceive him, seeing that she does not have sexual relations with man: “I know not man” (Lk 1:34). Yet, she is to conceive and bear a son who shall be called Jesus by God’s command (Lk 1:31). He shall rule all nations from the throne he inherits from his ancestor David, and his kingdom shall never end. Jesus shall beget the Church, as Isaac has begotten Israel, and reign over Jacob’s descendant’s, his co-heirs, forever (Lk 1:32-33).

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The Biblical theme of the free Woman of Promise occasionally appears in sacred Scripture from Genesis 3 to Revelation 12. Sarah is first chosen by God to be a matriarch of the Israelites (the Matriarch of the Covenant) and not merely the biological mother of Isaac and maternal head of the extended family. She is called to serve as an active participant in collaboration with God for the birth of a nation from which the Messiah will come to reconcile humanity to God. Other matriarchs of the Hebrews include the heroines who faithfully contribute to the salvation of God’s chosen people by collaborating with Him to liberate them from bondage and impending death at the hands of their enemy invaders or captors.​

The three more highly acclaimed of these women in Judaic tradition are Esther, Jael, and Judith. Along with Sarah, they prefigure the Virgin Mary in her redefined maternal role in the economy of salvation, whose valiant deeds find their ultimate fulfillment in Mary’s association with her divine Son in his redemptive work. Both Jael and Judith strike victorious blows for Israel by severing the heads of the chieftains of their enemies, Sisera and Holofernes respectively, under God’s providential direction at appointed times, when God wills to restore His alienated people in his grace by the oath he had sworn to Abraham (Gen 22:15-18). And because of their saving acts in union with God, these valiant women are praised and proclaimed blessed (eulogeo) above all women together with Him, as all generations of the Jews shall follow suit (Jdgs. 5:24-27; Jdt. 13:18-20; 15:9-10).

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Mary crushes the head of the serpent, which is Satan, in collaboration with God when she humbly and faithfully consents to be the mother of the divine Messiah and suffers at the foot of the Cross in union with the afflictions of her Son to make temporal satisfaction to God for the sins of alienated humanity and help liberate it from slavery of sin and the power of the hostile enemy (Lk 1:38; 2:35). By her Fiat, she brings the living Font of redemptive grace into the world, by whose merits all people shall be reconciled to God and restored to friendship with Him. Through Mary’s womb, God fulfills His third promise to Abraham of regenerating mankind in Christ and delivering all souls from eternal spiritual death and separation from the Beatific Vision of God. In commendation of Mary’s faith in charity and grace, Elizabeth pronounces her kinswoman blessed (eulogeo) above all women together with the fruit of her womb (Lk.1:42), and all generations of the Christian faithful shall as well because of the great things God has done for her in their collaboration together (Lk 1:48-49).

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Esther is captured and enslaved with her people by King Ahasuerus (Xerxes), but because of her exceptional beauty, he chooses her from among all the Jewish maidens to be his wife and to reign with him as Queen of Persia (Esther 2:1-18). She abhors the thought of being his wife, not only because he is an evil Gentile who has enslaved the Israelites, but also because she is a righteous woman who observes the Torah and is married to Mordechai, according to the Talmud. But the king forces her to be his wife and to lay with him whenever he summons her to his bedchamber. Meanwhile, all the Hebrew captives have been condemned to death through the schemes of an enemy, the king’s highest official Haman the Agagite, except for Esther because of her marriage to the king. After her heartfelt prayer to God (Esther C:12-30, NAB), and taking advantage of her singular privilege, Queen Esther manages to foil Haman’s plot, despite risking her own life, and saves her people from certain death. In his wrath, the king orders his highest official to be hanged by the neck on the gallows (Esther 7:6-10).

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Being Esther’s anti-type, Mary, alone of her race, isn’t subjected to the corruption of physical death and the dark prospect of eternal spiritual death because of original sin, brought about by the machinations of the Devil (Gen. 3:14). God has exempted her from being born under the law of sin and death by preserving her free from the stain of original sin, so that she shall be the worthiest of mothers for the Son and assist Him in defeating the world’s chief enemy Satan as to deliver mankind from its slavery to sin and impending death. Through the Fiat of the faithful and valiant daughter of God the Father, the King of kings claims the final victory over the chief enemy of God’s people and his works (Rom 8:37; 1 Cor 15:57; 2 Cor 2:14, etc.). Now in Heaven, Mary dons her crown and reigns enthroned as Queen together with our Lord and King, as the faithful continue to make war with the Dragon in their spiritual battle against him together with her (Rev 12:17). Our Lady has been chosen by our Lord and King because she is the fairest woman of our race (Lk 1:28, 42).
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Behold thy Son – Behold thy Mother
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When Jesus addresses his sorrowful mother from the Cross, he calls her “Woman.” Jewish men of his time honourably called their mothers “Emah”, especially in public in observance of Mosaic law. However, Jesus refers to his mother Mary as being a mother to someone, when he says to the Disciple: “Behold your mother.” So, Jesus isn’t thinking of Mary as being simply his natural mother when he speaks to her and then to the Disciple, but rather as a genuine mother to others as well in a spiritual sense. Our Lord is addressing his most blessed mother in a Biblical sense. The truth is when Jesus calls his mother “Woman”, he is alluding to her as being the free Woman of Promise foretold to the serpent by God Himself in the Garden of Eden, she who shall crush its head by her faith working through love for the spiritual benefit of humanity (Gen 3:15; Lk 11:27-28).

Indeed, our Lord is affirming his mother to be in her person the culmination of all the Hebrew Matriarchs who have gone before her, beginning with Sarah and the promises God made to Abraham, of which his wife had a vital role to play in the economy of salvation in anticipation of the Incarnation. It is from the Cross, while his precious blood is being poured out for the remission of sin, that Jesus declares his mother to be the Matriarch of the New and everlasting Covenant and the spiritual mother or second Eve of redeemed mankind.

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It is from the Cross, of all places, where our Lord redefines Mary’s motherhood, for through the Cross she acts as the Mother of all Nations should by nourishing fallen man with the redemptive fruit of her womb – the body and blood of her divine Son, by which all souls may be reborn to new life in the Spirit. As the caregiver of all human souls, Mary feeds and nourishes her spiritual offspring the “true manna come down from heaven” and “the bread of life” (Jn 6:35, 51, 58) with the Cross standing ever-present before her. Mary’s saving office isn’t only affirmed but is also ratified by Jesus as he speaks to his mother and the disciple from the Cross.

The Church is born on Calvary, so Mary’s saving office is established there until the end of this age (Lk 2:35; Jn 19:34). As Mother of the Church, Mary exercises her new maternal role by nourishing and strengthening all Christ’s disciples with the “Word for childhood” and the graces her Son has merited for them. The filial bond Jesus forms between his mother and the disciple relates to his Messianic reign and all he has accomplished for humanity. His words to his mother Mary and the Disciple point towards his resurrection and ascension into heaven and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).

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The couplet “Behold your son – Behold your mother” bears prophetic and eschatological significance. Every prophetic utterance in the Scriptures must do with the Divine promise of salvation. Moreover, the ancient beliefs surrounding the spoken word (dabar) lends this couplet a special power. In ancient literature, the recorded words of a dying man have bearing on some future occurrence or condition that must not be ignored or dismissed. It is something that all readers should take to heart. The words of a dying man, because he is dying, turns him somewhat into a prophet. He isn’t to be taken lightly, considering he is drawing his last breath and approaching the gates of the nether world.

So, when Jesus says to the Disciple, “Behold your mother,” he isn’t merely asking a friend to do him one last favour before he departs. Jesus does not primarily or exclusively mean that the Disciple should look after his mother once he is gone, though he does have her well-being in mind. The underlying force and structure of this couplet dismiss the idea of such an ordinary or practical last will and testament. We mustn’t forget that every word spoken by our Lord in the Gospels carries salvific weight either explicitly or implicitly.

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In any event, being aware of how people in his time were affected by the portentous words of a dying man, John constructs this couplet in such a forceful and imperative way which does not smack of a simple request for a favour from a dear friend, but rather a Divine ordinance. He is drawing his readers’ attention to something of great prophetic and eschatological import which has bearing on the Divine plan of salvation. Jesus certainly has the welfare of his mother at the back of his mind because of his perfect love for her and in honour of her, but he has chosen to place her in his disciple’s care from the Cross, since it is from the Cross he wills to redefine her motherhood, in view of his mother’s final perseverance in faith and her vital role in the redemption because of it.

It is on Mount Moriah where God redefines Abraham’s fatherhood at the altar of holocaust because of his obedient act of faith (Gen 22:16-18), and it is on this same mount, also called Golgotha, where God incarnate redefines Mary’s motherhood from the Cross because of her faith in charity and grace. Jesus has her moral participation in his redemptive work in mind. Mary’s spiritual motherhood of the redeemed has its raison d’etre in her co-redemptive role which began at the Annunciation.

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The couplet “Woman, behold your son – Behold your mother” has a flavour of absoluteness to it. It is pronounced in a very direct way that borders on the imperative, analogous to a Divine ordinance or command. The first word (dabar) that Jesus utters while in agony for our sins is “Woman” which immediately draws our attention to Mary the mother of Jesus at the foot of the Cross. The word not only redefines her motherhood, but also defines who she is in the Divine economy of salvation. The temporal circumstance Mary finds herself in as the mother of Jesus is the least of the Evangelist’s concern. That she is the woman promised by God who will crush the head of the serpent by her faith in collaboration with God is what the author first draws our attention to. Only then is our attention drawn to the Disciple to clarify what it is that Jesus means by calling his mother “Woman” instead of “Mother” (Emah), and how she relates to all the faithful in the order of grace. In modern Biblical exegesis, this device is known as constructive or synthetic parallelism.

Therefore, what is more significant than Mary being the mother of Jesus and having to be looked after once he is gone is her title which denotes her new maternal and spiritual filial relationship with the Disciple. Now that Jesus has accomplished his mission and has cast the Accuser from heaven, Mary’s motherhood to Jesus recedes into the background. Mary does not assume the new role of being the mother of the Disciple after he takes her to his home (not that John needs a mother in the ordinary sense), but she does at the foot of the Cross together with him there, since it is because of the Cross that she becomes his mother, having had a painful intercessory role to play for the temporal remission of sin in her Son’s redemptive work.

Of all Christ’s disciples who have abandoned Jesus when he is betrayed and arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, only John overcomes his fear of being arrested, too, and musters the moral courage to stand beneath the Cross with Mary, the mother of his Lord. The Disciple, therefore, becomes a spiritual offspring of the mother of Jesus, as she becomes his mother because of his faith. From the Cross, the Son designates his mother Mary to be the Mother of the faithful – her Son’s true disciples (Rev 12:17). Of the Eleven, only John accompanied the Mother of their Lord to the Cross, while the rest had given their Master up for dead, despite what he had already prophesied to them on their way to Jerusalem before his arrest (Mt 20:18; Mk 10:33; Lk 24:7).  So, John’s presence beneath the Cross close to Mary is symbolic rather than purely incidental.

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In his Gospel narrative The Wedding Feast at Cana (2:2-11), John presents the servants at the wedding feast as types of disciples. We read: His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). Instead of using the Greek word duolois for “servants” in the ordinary sense, the Evangelist uses diakonois, the Greek word used for Jesus’ true disciples in the New Testament. For instance, “If anyone serves (diakonei) me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant (diakonoi) be also” (Jn 12:26). Hence, John is presenting Mary as the mother of all her Son’s disciples who faithfully follow and serve him. And the first thing she must say to all her children as Mother of the Church is “Do whatever he tells you”​ (Jn 2:5).

As a loving mother and caretaker of their souls, our Blessed Lady is encouraging them to live their lives in perfect obedience to her divine Son. It is on this occasion, when Jesus begins his public ministry in the shadow of the Cross at the behest of his mother Mary, that he also publicly calls her “Woman” for the instructive benefit of his disciples who were present with him and his mother at the wedding feast. Here and on Golgotha, John uses the same Greek word for ‘woman’ (gynai) that we find in Genesis 3:15 in the Septuagint. Evidently, he is identifying Mary with the free promised woman or second Eve, the “spiritual mother of all the living.”

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While the image of Eve provides a powerful background for the redefinition of Mary’s motherhood, John also employs the Old Testament imagery of Mother Zion. And in doing so, he captures our attention not only to Mary, but also the Disciple with no name. The fact that he is present together with Mary at the Cross indicates that he, too, has a role to assume which God wills to reveal. And this role is immeasurably more significant than one of caretaker. Certainly, Jesus wishes to place his mother in no better hands, but he chooses to do so on this occasion to disclose something that is vitally essential to God’s plan of salvation. Thus, on the contrary, Mary is to be the caretaker of the Disciple’s soul as the pre-eminent moral channel of her Son’s grace.

The more reasonable explanation of the Disciple’s presence must be that he represents the entire Christian community of believers or the Mystical Body of Christ. Such an idea rests on a biblical mind-set that scholars call “corporate personality” which originated from Biblical scholar Wheeler Robinson in 1907. The beloved disciple is a corporate representation of the Church which shall include even the Gentiles, just as Jacob is a corporate representation of all the faithful people of Israel who prefigure the faithful citizens of the New Jerusalem come down from heaven (Rev 12:1; 21:2). In the Biblical sense of motherhood, then, the Disciple is as much a son of Mary as Jacob is a son of Sarah, the mother of Isaac who prefigures Christ, and the Israelites the sons and daughters of Mother Zion – the second Eve in classical Jewish theology. Yet, for the early Hebrew Christians, the mother of their Lord wasn’t their spiritual mother in merely a metaphorical sense. She was someone whom they could personally relate to as much as they could her divine Son. Mary was much more to them than a symbol or representation (Lk 1:43).
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For I heard a cry as of a woman in labor,
anguish as of one bringing forth her first child,
the cry of daughter Zion gasping for breath,
stretching out her hands,
“Woe is me! I am fainting before killers!”
Jeremiah 4, 31
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The sorrowful scene at the Cross is Old Testament imagery and symbolism related to prophecy and the Judaic traditions. Isaiah 49:21, 54:1-3. and 66:7-11 carry the theme of Mother Zion amid sorrow over the loss of her children, when suddenly she is given a new and large family restored in God’s grace which is cause for rejoicing (Lk 1:46-49; Zeph. 3:14-17). In the words of Raymond E. Brown (The Gospel According to John): “The sorrowful scene at the foot of the Cross represents the birth pangs by which the Spirit of salvation is brought forth (Isaiah 26:17-18) and handed over (John 29:30). In becoming the mother of the beloved disciple (The Christian), Mary is symbolically evocative of Lady Zion who, after birth pangs (interior sorrow) brings forth a new people in joy.”​

Paul D. Hanson (Isaiah 40-66) adds: “Zion is not destined to grieve because of the loss she has endured, viz., the death of her Son. Instead, she will be able to compare her former desolation with the bustling activity of returnees (from exile) filling her towns and cities.” According to the author, the three-fold references to the children represent repopulated Zion. The returnees from exile foreshadow all believers in Christ who have been freed from the bondage of sin and impending eternal death, having been ransomed by the precious blood of Christ, but at the reparative cost of his blessed mother’s sorrow and anguish beneath the Cross (Rev 12:4).

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Now, why art thou drawn together with grief?
Hast thou no king in thee,
or is thy counsellor perished,
because sorrow hath taken thee
as a woman in labour?
Micah 4, 9
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The imperative “Behold” (Heb. hinneh) is sometimes used as a “predicator of existence”, something that looks to a new state of being (the redefinition of Mary’s motherhood). The hinneh clauses emphasize the immediacy of the situation (the crucifixion), and they may be used to point things out for the sake of clarification. For instance, “Behold (here is) Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and that I too can have a family by her” (Gen 30:3). Significantly, most hinneh clauses occur in direct speech. They introduce a fact or something actual on which a subsequent statement or command is based and must be closely observed. What Jesus said to the Disciple was “Here is your mother,” meaning she was as much of a mother to him with necessity as Bilhah was a servant of Rachel – and Mary the handmaid of the Lord: “Behold, I am (here is) the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38).

Mary, therefore, did not become a mother of John in any sort of figurative sense, as in being like a mother of his by living under the same roof with him. She became his own genuine mother along with all Christ’s other disciples, but in a spiritual and mystical sense. Mary became as much the mother of John and all her Son’s disciples as she did God’s handmaid and spouse of the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:35) with necessity by the will of God.

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Since Mary could not have become the Disciple’s mother in a naturally physiological way, but nonetheless his actual mother, she obviously became his mother spiritually; someone he could personally relate to, and not just a metaphor like Mother Zion. The Disciple accepted Mary in his heart as his very own mother – “TOOK HER TO HIS OWN” – and did not merely regard her as the widowed mother of a dear friend who needed to be looked after in his home. Mary’s troubled temporal state, of course, has no bearing on the good news of salvation, so why mention it at all? Nothing contained in the Gospels is purely incidental but is of soteriological import, and that includes Mary’s presence at the wedding feast in Cana where our Lord performs his most significant miracle of eschatological proportion which inaugurates his public ministry, while having called his blessed mother “Woman” from the outset.

Further, the word “Behold” was often used in ancient time as an introduction to a prophetic announcement of judgement pointing to God’s intervention and stood in the immediate context of the messenger formula (Jer. 6:21; 9:6; 10:18). By using this term, Jesus was in fact making a prophetic announcement of eschatological importance that related to his heavenly Father’s intervention back in the Garden of Eden. Jesus wished that it be made known and observed that his mother – the free Woman of promise – was to be the Mother of his one Apostolic Church and of all nations from that point on. It was the Disciple who was placed in his spiritual mother’s care. The redefinition of Mary’s motherhood in the Biblical sense points to a universal state of being that embraces all human souls who exist in the life of grace under the mantle of her maternal patronage and protection from the dark forces of evil (Rev 12:17).
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Your sun will never set again,
and your moon will wane no more;
the LORD will be your everlasting light,
and your days of sorrow will end.
Then all your people will be righteous
and they will possess the land forever.
They are the shoot I have planted,
the work of my hands,
for the display of my splendor.
Isaiah 60, 20-21
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Finally, we have the statement “Behold your mother” occurring in Matthew 12:47 and Mark 3:32. The theological theme in these two verses resembles that which we have in John 19:25-27. Both deal with what it means to be a “brethren of Jesus”. The crux of these passages is that the ties of obedience to the will of God take precedence over those of blood kinship. Although Jesus does not deny or intend to belittle his kinship with his mother, he nonetheless subordinates it to a higher bond of kinship that transcends all biological ties. Jesus regards Mary as his genuine mother more for her faith in God than for their physiological ties, since it is a greater blessing to her (Lk 11:27-28).​ Our Lord tacitly has the Annunciation and Crucifixion in mind when he answers the crowd after his attention is drawn to the presence of his mother and kin outside. They represent the extension of boundaries and point to the inclusion of the Gentiles in the New Dispensation of grace. Our heavenly Father’s family was never intended to be confined in Israel and consist of only the Jews.

The Kingdom of Heaven imposes demands on the personal commitment of the disciple, which must often supersede natural family ties and even ethnic bonds. Our Lord’s reply indicates that he regards his mother to be more of a mother to him by being a woman of faith, without which she could never have become his natural mother in the hypostatic order of his incarnation, nor thereby the mother of all his disciples in the spiritual family of God. Mary herself is as much a disciple of her Son as John and the other apostles are, and by being a fellow disciple (the first and foremost), she can be their spiritual mother to lead them in corroboration with her mystical spouse the Holy Spirit in their great commission after her Son’s ascension.

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Hence, these two verses, therefore, introduce the image of a new family which takes on an eschatological aspect and rises above the national bond that connects the group of listeners encircling Jesus. These passages are a prelude to our Lord’s intentions when he addresses his mother and the disciple from the Cross. There he uses the same hinneh clause to underscore how it is that his mother Mary is truly a mother in the economy of salvation, so that there should be no misunderstanding. It is not that she shall be like a mother to the Disciple, but rather she will be his actual mother from then on in the Kingdom of Heaven, as he shall be her son as much as Jesus is physically, though in a spiritual way. The Church is our mother by being like Mary is a mother to us, but only in an allegorical sense. Our Blessed Lady is our personal mother, having conceived and given birth to Jesus, our Lord and brother (Rom 8:29).

In establishing this family of faith during his active ministry, Jesus begins to redefine Israel in the figure of Mother Zion with his mother Mary kept in mind. The nation shall no longer be defined by national boundaries or birth right, but by faith, as the New Zion or Church shall extend beyond its borders and receive the Gentiles into God’s family kingdom. This vision of Zion goes beyond the metaphorical and reaches its personal secondary fulfillment in the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows and Mother of the Church, in which all the faithful may relate to their mother on a personal level, as much as they do relate with their Lord and brother, her resurrected divine Son, in filial prayer and devotion, as members of his Mystical Body.

“For if Mary, as those declare who with sound mind extol her, had no other son but Jesus, and yet Jesus says to His mother, Woman, behold thy son,’ and not Behold you have this son also,’ then He virtually said to her, Lo, this is Jesus, whom thou didst bear.’ Is it not the case that everyone who is perfect lives himself no longer, but Christ lives in him; and if Christ lives in him, then it is said of him to Mary, Behold thy son Christ.’”
Origen, Commentary on John, I:6
(A.D. 232)
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So, the ransomed of the LORD shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Isaiah 51,11
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Salve Regina!

The Disciple Took Her to His Own

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The child’s mother said,
“As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives,
I will not leave you.”
So he arose and followed her.
2 Kings 4, 3-4

When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour,
the disciple took her to his own.
John 19, 26-27 (DRB)
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All true disciples of Christ, those who faithfully keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus in their lives, take their Blessed Mother Mary to their own, or accept her as their own mother in the depths of their hearts, as she leads the way in the order of grace, taking them by the hand to their heavenly home. Mary must have assured John that she would never leave his side while his soul lived. She likely took him by the hand and led the way to his home never to separate herself from him during his apostolic ministry until her dormition. The Gospel of John bears testimony to the traditional belief of the infant Church that our Lord entrusted his mother to his faithful bride, which is the Church.

​In the Roman catacomb of St. Agnes, there is an extant fresco depicting Mary between the apostles Peter and Paul with her arms outstretched towards them. The image of these two chief apostles situated together has always symbolized the Church from earliest time. Thus, it is evident that the early Christians invoked Mary as Mother of the Church by the third century. The early tradition of Mary being the spiritual mother of all her Son’s faithful disciples was just as vibrant in the nascent church as it has been until now in the same Catholic Church.

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Jesus redefines Mary’s motherhood from the Cross. He does not renounce his own filial bond with her but adds a new dimension to her maternal role in the economy of salvation. This should explain why he has chosen not to place his mother in the care of the Disciple until this pivotal moment in salvation history. Mary’s motherhood must be redefined at the Cross, because it draws its raison d’etre from her intimate association with her divine Son in his work of redemption (Lk. 2:34-35). By her suffering, in union with the suffering of her Son, our Blessed Mother helps give new life in grace to all fallen Eve’s offspring like a woman in labour.

​It appears no names are mentioned, save the appellations “Woman” and “Disciple” to underscore how it is that Mary is a mother to John and he her son. The beloved Disciple represents all of Christ’s disciples who belong to his Church, and Mary is their spiritual mother in the order of grace. Not unlike Mother Zion, she must now “enlarge [her] tent” and “strengthen [her] stakes” because of the sudden influx of returnees from exile or slavery to sin (Isa. 54:2-3). Jesus has made his blessed mother Mary the mother of all people, who live their lives in the state of grace, by saying to his mother, “Woman, behold your son,” and to the Disciple, “Behold your mother.” Jesus means much more than that his beloved disciple should look after his mother in his home after he has gone to the Father. He certainly isn’t making a practical request in literary fashion, not that it has any significant bearing from a soteriological perspective.

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We mustn’t overlook the symbolic importance of the expression “the disciple” used by the Evangelist when referring to himself. He intends to identify himself with all true followers of our Lord. Not unlike Jacob who represents Israel, the Disciple is a “corporate personality.” Mary is the spiritual mother of all Christ’s disciples. She has adopted us no less than the Father has by our partaking of the divine life in faith (Eph. 1:5; 2 Pet.1:3-4). In his divinity, our Lord is the Son of the Father, and in his sacred humanity he is the Son of Mary his mother. We cannot be adopted sons and daughters of the Father while excluding our spiritual mother Mary who was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, since all the faithful are true brothers and sisters of Christ (Lk. 1:35; Rom. 8:29).

Through Mary’s womb, the baptized are “a new creation in Christ; the old is gone, and the new is here” (2 Cor. 5:17). They are no longer the seed of fallen Adam, but of the promised “Woman” and advocate of Eve who, in her original innocence, helped forfeit the life of grace for her offspring (Gen. 3:13, 15). That this was how the early Church understood the Gospel narrative is evident in the teaching of St. Augustine: “Therefore, this woman alone, not only in spirit, but also in body, is both Mother and Virgin. She is Mother in the Spirit, but not of our Head, the Saviour himself, for it is she who is spiritually born from him, since all who believe in him, among whom she too is to be counted, are rightly called children of the Bridegroom. Rather, she is clearly the Mother of his members … because she cooperated by her charity, so that faithful Christian members might be born in the Church” (De sancta virginitate 6).

“Being perfect at the side of the Father and incarnate among us, not in appearance but in truth, he [the Son] reshaped man to perfection in himself from Mary the Mother of God through the Holy Spirit.”
St. Epiphanius of Salamis
The Man Well-Anchored 75
(A.D. 374)

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In different words, the Bishop of Hippo means what St. Irenaeus professes in the late 2nd century: “The Word will become flesh, and the Son of God the son of man—the Pure One opening purely that pure womb, which generates men unto God. (Against Heresies, 4, 33, 12). The designation of Mary being the New Eve or spiritual “mother of all the living”, and thereby the Mother of the Church, was part of a Marian tradition for centuries leading up to the time of Augustine. St. Epiphanius wrote in the 4th century in his defence of the Catholic and Apostolic faith: “True it is . . . the whole race of man upon earth was born of Eve; but it is from Mary that Life was truly born to the world, so that by giving birth to the Living One, Mary might also become the Mother of all the living” (Against Eighty Heresies, 78, 9). The new birth of the Christian faithful receives its origin from the hypostatic order of Christ’s incarnation which could not have occurred without the Virgin Mary’s moral participation in the common activity of the Holy Trinity.

In this sense, all the faithful disciples and brethren of our Lord proceed from the same sanctified womb he did as reborn offspring of Eve. Mary stands with all those who are born again at the baptismal font. Indeed, she is Queen of all God-mothers! Father Hugo Rahner (Our Lady and the Church: Zaccheus Press) tells us that the sacrament of Baptism is “forever a continuation of the birth of God made man, born of the Virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit.” He adds that “the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ is ever born again in the sacrament of Baptism” (1 Cor. 12:13). The faithful are thus one mystical body in Christ who is the Head of this body. They have been born children of God and of the Virgin Mary by being conceived mystically in her womb through the power of the Holy Spirit together with God incarnate who was conceived physically by supernatural means. The mystery of Mary in the economy of salvation intertwines with the mystery of the Church, and so, the sacrament of Baptism has a Marian character.

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In the prayer for the Blessing of the Font at the Easter Vigil, the faithful acknowledge the Church’s power of rebirth through the Holy Spirit and her custodial endowment with grace. It is the Holy Spirit, through His hidden presence, that bestows sanctifying power to the water of baptism. A holy child is conceived in the womb of the baptismal font and reborn in the Spirit just as Christ is conceived in the womb of Mary and made the God-man by the power of the Holy Spirit. The divine womb of the baptismal font is as immaculate as the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. New heavenly offspring are conceived in holiness and reborn new creatures in the likeness of their Lord and brother Jesus. The Church is called Mother because, not unlike Mary, she nourishes her offspring with grace and gives them new life, so that they all grow as one family in God in one spiritual childhood.

Mary is the Mother of the Church which is comprised of all members of her divine Son’s mystical body, for she is the proto-type of the Church. The Church receives her character from the Blessed Virgin Mary. As a corporate entity, the Church finds her fulfillment in the person of Mary. The Church is first realized in Mary when she declares: “Be it done to me according to thy word” (Lk. 1:38). For mankind to be conceived in the womb of the Church, Christ must first be conceived in the womb of his mother. All catechumens must first receive Jesus in their hearts before they can be conceived in the womb of the baptismal water, but only if Mary physically conceives Jesus after she has first conceived him in her heart. In this sense, then, Mary is Mother of the Church through the Incarnation. By having conceived and given birth to Jesus, who is both Head and Body, our Blessed Lady has conceived and given birth to its members in a spiritual sense – her Son’s brothers and sisters (Rom. 8:29).

“It would be wrong to proclaim the Incarnation of the Son of God from the holy Virgin, without admitting also His Incarnation in the Church. Every one of us must therefore recognize His coming in the flesh, by the pure Virgin, but at the same time recognize His coming in the spirit in each one of us.”
St. Methodius of Philippi
De sanguisusa 8, 2
(ante A.D. 311)
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λαβεν μαθητς ατν ες τ δια.

Returning to the Gospel of John, in which we read ‘the Disciple took her to his own’, the Greek word for “took” is lambanō (λαμβάνω). This term connotes “take in the hand,” “take hold of, grasp.” It also encompasses the meaning to take away, take up, receive, or remove, without the use of force. Moreover, the term has mental or spiritual aspects when it is translated “make one’s own,” “apprehend,” or “comprehend” as Jerome has translated it in the Latin Vulgate. Roman Catholic Biblical scholar John McHugh builds upon the spiritual connotation of the word. He argues that the Disciple accepts Mary as his very own mother, and as part of the “spiritual legacy bequeathed to him by his Lord.” The use of the verb lambanō indicates something important that moves beyond the death scene being played out on Golgotha and is connected to it. Thus, the verb indicates something which has soteriological significance.

In other words, this spiritual or cognitive connotation implies that there is a tacit understanding that occurs between Jesus, Mary, and the Disciple which must do with something more significant than the fact Jesus is about to die as anyone else might by being crucified and consequently must leave his widowed mother behind who is in dire need of being looked after. What is significant isn’t merely the temporal death of Jesus and any temporal circumstances that might ensue because of it, but rather what shall entail eschatologically from it as one of many consummations and higher expressions of his death, having soteriological benefits for human souls with respect to our Lord’s mother in the hypostatic order of Christ’s incarnation.

The Mother and the beloved Disciple thus understand that this event marks a beginning – the start of something new that shall continue in this life and eternally in the Kingdom of Heaven. The original Greek text literally reads “to the own” (εἰς τὰ ἴδια), though modern Protestant and Catholic Bible English translations have “to his own home.” This Greek phrase means much more than the Disciple taking Mary to his home to look after her. Rather, it means the Disciple took her into his heart as a loving son of hers in their newly established spiritual filial bond. He received her in the deepest core of his being as her spiritual offspring. Certainly, Mary did not have to become an adopted mother for John to look after her as a caregiver. Jesus wasn’t speaking figuratively of her. She actually became the Disciple’s very own mother in the family of God in a spiritual and mystical way, as much as Mary was morally the spouse of the Holy Spirit, having been overshadowed by Him and begetting Jesus together.

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John is somewhat more mystical and symbolic in his literary style than are the authors of the Synoptic Gospels. His narratives contain deeper meanings and lend more theological insight into the Divine mysteries than what appears at first glance in the written word of God, and so they should often be read in a spiritual sense (1 Cor. 2:4-5). What the Evangelist presents to his readers in the Crucifixion scene is a reciprocal re-enactment of what has transpired in the Garden of Eden. We have the two principal protagonists: Jesus (the new Adam) and his mother Mary (the new Eve).

In the background, the Disciple represents all people who have cast off the old self and put on the new. Jesus and his mother are in the act of finally crushing the head of the serpent by their obedience to the will of God and undoing what it has worked since the beginning (Gen. 3:13-15). Unlike Adam and Eve, neither of them succumbs to the temptation of the serpent. Jesus does not come down from the cross and save himself in opposition to the will of his heavenly Father (Mt. 27:40). Mary is valiantly standing at the foot of the Cross enduring terrible sorrow at the cost of her joy in being the mother of our Lord, which fulfills the portentous words of Simeon that point to her crucial trial of faith on which rests her motherhood of mankind (Lk. 2:35). On Golgotha, she perseveres in that same faith she possessed at the Annunciation, a total surrender to God out of pure love and in humility which helped make the Incarnation happen. Mary joyfully became the mother of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the shadow of the Cross; she became our mother and merited her dual maternity by standing beneath the Cross, at this crucial point sorrowfully giving birth to us like a woman in labour (Rev. 12:2).

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The imagery of the Gospel narrative dismisses any temporal and morally practical explanation of Jesus’ words to his mother and the Disciple. What Jesus has in mind when he addresses his mother and the Disciple is something of great soteriological and eschatological importance. John the Evangelist has the Mother figuratively stand at the foot of the Cross – the Tree of victory over the serpent – as the moral channel of her divine Son’s grace which Adam forfeited by listening to Eve, who thus morally contributed to the fall of ‘mankind’, the loss of the original state of holiness and justice; whereas Mary morally contributes to mankind’s spiritual regeneration and justification by her perfect obedience to the will of God and willingness to suffer in union with her Son for man’s transgressions against Him.

His Gospel message is that the Son (the new Adam) wills to dispense his saving grace first and foremost through the mediation of his mother and helpmate (Gen. 2:18). Our Lord does not wish to act alone in his work of redemption, but rather desires that his mother be with him by her moral cooperation. And so, in this capacity, Mary has become the mother of all his disciples in the Spirit and, of course, redeemed humanity. It is she who has nourished the faithful with the blessings they have received through God’s grace by a mother’s dying to self in sorrow because of her love for her Son on the Cross, the only means of salvation. Mary is our spiritual mother because she helped restore fallen mankind to the life of grace with God through suffering, which Eve helped lose for her biological offspring in her selfish pursuit of personal gain and disobedience.

Hence, by using the epithet ‘Woman,’ Jesus is alluding to his mother Mary as being the new Eve – the “spiritual mother of all the living” as opposed to Eve who is the primordial mother of all who are conceived deprived of sanctifying or justifying grace and thus born spiritually dead. (Gen. 3:20). It is before the Fall that Adam refers to his wife as the ‘woman’ (Gen.2:23). So, what Jesus means by transferring this title to his mother is that she is to be a mother to the Disciple as Eve was intended to be before she fell from grace and the preternatural state of innocence.

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If Adam and Eve had not sinned against God, they would have passed on spiritual life to their descendants along with immortal physiological life. Since God has decreed that human life should emerge from the conjugal union between a man and a woman, but our primordial parents had forfeited the spiritual gifts He bestowed upon them, God has ordained from all eternity, in view of the Fall, that spiritual life should be restored through the intimate union between a man (the new Adam) and a woman (the new Eve).

On Golgotha stands the Tree of Life in the form of the Cross as opposed to the tree in the middle of the garden which bears the forbidden fruit (Gen. 2:15-17). On the Cross hangs the fruit of Mary’s womb (Lk. 1:42) who radically opposes all things that are forbidden by God and offensive to Him (Gen. 3:16-20). Eve manages to entice her husband to partake of the forbidden fruit on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Mary, on the other hand, co-operates with her Son and offers mankind the fruit of her womb, in whom the Father is well pleased (Mt. 3:17). By partaking of this fruit and being nourished and fortified by its grace, mankind is free of the snares of worldly wisdom and vain pleasures of life that lead to the death of the soul and the loss of true happiness in life with God.

We see in Luke 1:44 that the infant John the Baptist leaps in his mother’s womb upon the sound of Mary’s greeting having reached his mother Elizabeth. The child leaps because it has received the cleansing and healing balm of God’s sanctifying grace in anticipation of his divine calling. What Eve has helped forfeit by seducing her husband into partaking of the forbidden fruit, viz., the life of grace, Mary helps restore by offering the fruit of her blessed womb – the font (life giving water) of restorative grace. As the saying goes: “To Jesus through Mary.”

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On God’s initiative, the tree of life is no longer guarded off-limits by the cherubim with the flaming sword (Gen. 3:24). From now on, the way to the tree of life is the Church, the custodian of all saving grace which has been merited for everyone by the Son of Mary, whose gates are open to all who desire to gain peace and reconciliation with God through the blood of the Cross (Isa. 35:8; 62:10-12; Acts 2:22; Col.1:20; Rev. 22:17). All baptized Christians have cause to leap for joy for the graces they have received from the Son through the Mother’s mediation.

Jesus has ransomed us from death through the blood of the Cross, having reconciled the world to God his heavenly Father (Col. 1:20; 2 Cor. 5:18-19). Yet, with his mother having had a vital share in his victory over the serpent on Golgotha, the Divine validation of her motherhood of all humanity is completed at the foot of the Cross where her soul is pierced because of sinful humanity. The graces Christ has merited for mankind, therefore, are divinely ordained to be dispensed first and foremost through his most Blessed Mother Mary – Our Lady of Sorrows, whose interior suffering made finite temporal satisfaction to God for the sins of the world in union with her divine Son’s infinite temporal and thereby eternal satisfaction.

It is our Blessed Mother who “acts as mediatrix between the loftiness of God and the lowliness of the flesh” as mankind’s maternal advocate in vindication of fallen Eve (cf. St. Andrew of Crete, (Homily 1, on Mary’s Nativity); she who is the free promised woman “full of grace” and whose “soul magnifies the glory of the Lord” (Lk. 1:28, 46). In the words of Martin Luther, who took the Church to his own: “She is my love, the noble Maid, forget her can I never, Whatever honour men have paid, My heart she has forever!” (Sie ist mir lieb). John the Evangelist expresses this same heartfelt devotion and love in honour of Mary, the handmaid of the Lord and proto-type of the Church, which the infant Church possessed and paid to her, the spiritual mother of all Christ’s disciples.

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The mystery of Mary as the proto-type of the Church and Mediatrix of Grace is like all divine mysteries: shrouded in much obscurity. But it is only in darkness that the sanctifying light of faith may take effect and enlighten the minds and hearts of the faithful over time. For centuries, the Church has been gradually putting the Marian mosaic work together tile by tile. God’s great masterpiece is a mosaic work which can be seen in its fullness only by observing one tile at a time, for “who can know the mind of God or be His counsellor?” (Rom. 11:34). The Church can understand only what God chooses to reveal to her through the Holy Spirit in the course of time (Jn. 16:12-13). There can be no faith – “the evidence for things unseen and hoped for” – if there is gnosis (Heb. 11:1). Thus, “for now [she] sees in a mirror dimly, and then face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12).

The Church must have asked herself countless times with profound reverence, like Elizabeth had asked her kinswoman, while pondering on the divine mystery of Mary in the economy of salvation: “Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk. 1:43). What the Church asks of the Lord, she does receive and what she seeks to understand, she does find through the sanctifying light of faith by the working of the Holy Spirit who is with her “forever” (Mt. 7:7; Jn. 14:16). The Church is “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), the “unblemished and spotless” bride of Christ in the purity of the womb of her faith and conception of God’s word (Eph. 2:7). She reflects the Virgin Mary’s pure and unblemished womb and her conception of the Divine Word made man because of the purity of her faith and charity as the chaste bride of the Holy Spirit (Lk. 1:35).

Let us conclude with the words of St. Ambrose: “The Lord appeared in our flesh and in Himself fulfilled the spotless marriage of Godhead and humanity, and since then the eternal virginity of the life of heaven has found its place among men. Christ’s mother is a virgin, and likewise is His bride, the Church” (De Virginibus), and the words of his pupil, St. Augustine: “He has made His Church like to His mother, He has given her to us as a mother, He has kept her for Himself as a virgin. The holy Catholic Church, like Mary, is a virgin ever spotless and a mother ever fruitful” (Sermo 195, 2).

“The Church is a virgin. Perhaps you will say: If she is a virgin, how can she beget children? Or, if she does not bear children, how can we claim to be born from her womb? My answer is: She is both virgin and mother; she is like Mary who gave birth to the Lord. Was not Mary a virgin when she gave birth, and did she not ever remain a virgin? But the Church also gives birth and yet remains a virgin… she gives birth to Christ Himself, for all who receive baptism are His members. Does not the Apostle say: ‘You are the body of Christ, member for member’? If then she gives birth to Christ’s members, she is in every way like Mary.”
St. Augustine, Tract 1, 8
(ante A.D. 430)
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Who has heard of such a thing?
Who has seen such things?
Shall a land be born in one day?
Shall a nation be delivered in one moment?
Yet as soon as Zion was in labor
she delivered her children.
Isaiah 66, 8
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Salve Regina!

My Spirit Rejoices in God My Savior

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I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
and my soul shall be joyful in my God:
for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation:
and with the robe of justice he hath covered me,
as a bridegroom decked with a crown,
and as a bride adorned with her jewels.
Isaiah 61, 10

And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
Behold, from henceforth shall all generations call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.”
Luke 1, 46-49
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The Catholic Church has always taught that God alone infallibly knows who His elected are and who have been predestined to glory. And although Catholics believe that Mary’s salvation must have been assured, especially since she was predestined to be the Mother of God and, by a singular Divine favour, was preserved free from contracting the stain of original sin in view of her Son’s foreseen merits, our Blessed Lady couldn’t possibly have presumed that her individual salvation was guaranteed just by pronouncing her Fiat (Lk. 1:38). This is evident by the fact she conceived Jesus because of her poverty of spirit and deep humility. In her Canticle of Praise, Mary owns that God has looked upon the lowliness (humble estate) of his handmaiden (Lk. 1:48).

Being shielded from the effects of original sin, notably the pride of life, Mary didn’t have the disposition to be so presumptuous. Unless Jesus had told her at some point that she would be with him body and soul in heaven, her personal salvation was something she purely hoped for and worked out in “fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:2). Thus, she would understand that she should never cease to pray for all the graces she needed to persevere to the end and attain what she hoped for. God never ceased to be her source of strength and song. Mary’s trust in God’s promises was never misplaced in any way either. Nor did she ever fear that God might prove to be unfaithful in their covenant with each other. If any of the two could ever be unfaithful, it would surely be her.

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Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.
Isaiah 12, 2

Because of her faith, however, Mary trusted God with all her might and had complete confidence in His promises throughout her entire life once she was mature enough to know and personally relate with Him. God was her salvation because she trusted Him with steadfastness in faith. And so, she had no cause to be afraid, having found favour with God for doing His will by trusting His goodness and mercy (Lk. 1:30). What the Lord’s handmaid was sure of was that God would never disown her if she never disowned Him (2 Tim. 2:12).

Thus, Mary must have prayed constantly for the plenitudes of grace she received, so that she finally would be united with God in His heavenly kingdom. It was more God’s faithfulness than her own faith in God that she had confidence in. God could never withhold from Mary the many graces she asked for in prayer. If her heart did not condemn her, Mary knew that she would reap the fruits guaranteed by God’s goodness and righteousness. In faith, she was assured that she would receive countless blessings from God if she obeyed His commandments and did what pleased Him (1 Jn. 3: 21-22). Only then could she declare in the imperative mood: “My spirit rejoices in God my saviour!

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Indeed, Mary must have concurred with her Son that she was more blessed for having heard the word of God and keeping it than for being his natural mother (Lk. 11:28). She couldn’t have rejoiced in God her saviour if it hadn’t been for her faith working through love (Gal. 5:5-6). Mary had in fact rejoiced when she declared to the angel: “Be it done to me according to your word” (Lk. 1:38). She was more disposed to please God rather than please herself by receiving the blessing of being the mother of God incarnate. Not even spiritual pride (an effect of original sin) could touch her.

Moreover, in charity and grace, Mary was no less mindful of the world’s redemption than she was of her own. Her Lord and Saviour wasn’t only personally hers, but just as importantly everyone’s. She joyfully proclaimed her Magnificat immediately after her kinswoman Elizabeth had praised her for having believed in the word of God for the spiritual benefit of the whole human race (Lk. 1:45). The two of them could rejoice in the formal redemption of Israel and the entire world. That both Mary and Elizabeth were celebrating the final assurance of their own personal salvation wasn’t the case.

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O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt You,
I will give thanks to Your name;
for You have worked wonders,
Plans formed long ago,
with perfect faithfulness.
Isaiah 25, 1

If it hadn’t been for her Immaculate Conception, we can be sure that if Mary boasted in anything, it would have been in her weaknesses that required the aid of divine grace for the influence of her divine Son to impel her (2 Cor. 12:9). Of course, she was liberated from contracting the moral ill-effects of original sin, but she was still free to say No to God in her innocence just as Eve was before her fall from grace. So, it was by her co-operation with the abundance of grace God bestowed on her that our Blessed Lady merited to be the mother of the Divine Messiah and the gift of salvation for all humanity in the incarnation. She first had to conceive Jesus in her heart, as St. Augustine puts it, before she could conceive him in her womb.

Grace preceded Mary in her collaboration with God in His work of redemption; so, unless she united her spirit with the Spirit of God by acceding to His prompting, there could be no salvation for her or anybody. Mary must not receive the grace of God in vain if His work were to be accomplished first in her before it should be in the world by His Anointed One (2 Cor. 6:1). Fortunately for us, as well as for Mary, she sought to exalt God when she pronounced her Fiat. This was more important to her than any eternal reward she might receive because of her faith. Her love of God was impeccable, which gave her just cause to rejoice in her salvation. From this love flowed her love of fallen humanity which God honoured to her credit before He would become man.

As a maiden of true faith, Mary joyfully received the words of the angel in the depths of her heart, for she saw that what God graciously desired for the lasting happiness of mankind would redound to the glory of His love and mercy. She said Yes to the angel in a spirit of thanksgiving, ever-mindful of how faithful God was in keeping His promises, albeit the ungratefulness and unworthiness of fallen man. Mary’s spirit had rejoiced in God her saviour, who alone could have wrought wonders beyond all human understanding outside the sanctifying light of faith. Mary understood all too well that the redemption of humanity was certain provided she be faithful to God in return. All that was asked of her was that she align her spirit with the Spirit of God so that the Divine work be made complete as promised.

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And it will be said in that day,
“Behold, this is our God
for whom we have waited
that He might save us.
This is the LORD for whom we have waited;
Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”
Isaiah 25, 9

Mary did not simply rejoice in her salvation, though she had good reason to, seeing that it meant enjoying eternal life with God in heavenly bliss. But despite how joyful she must have been with the prospect of this great blessing – the Beatific Vision – presented before her, Mary rejoiced first and foremost in the Divine Messiah himself from the depths of her soul in faith and love. That she should have been chosen to bring the living Source of salvation into the world as a daughter of Zion was cause enough for her to be overjoyed in God’s mercy and love. For this, Mary was thankful that God should look upon her humble state as to manifest His infinite glory in a fallen world. Yet, our Blessed Lady understood, that before the Holy Spirit should come upon His chosen bride and cover her with His shadow, she had to have adorned herself with the jewels of divine grace by allowing it to supernaturally transform her heart and mind in the depths of her soul; she would have had to array herself with the garments of salvation by “putting on” the holy child she might bear (Rom. 13:14), and only then could she become His mother.

Hence, what was most important to Mary was that she loved God with all her heart, mind, strength, and soul for the glory of His holy name despite the personal sacrifices she might have to make in union with her divine Son. She rejoiced in the One whom she must array herself in, if He were to bring the gift of salvation to the world through her. And she rejoiced in the marvelous work God accomplished in her by His grace. The Lord had done great things for her in His mercy, for which she should be thankful and glad. Mary’s salvation initially depended on the One who was the living source of all the graces she had received so that she could be saved. Our Blessed Lady humbly owned there could be no salvation for her or anyone else without the Divine initiative.

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Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments,
Your neck with strings of beads.”
Song of Solomon 1, 10

The apostle Paul teaches us that our “perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53). Only then can our redemption and resurrection from the dead be personally realized. Mary saw herself in God’s plan as a woman who should be removed from sinful humanity, as Israel was separated from the surrounding pagan nations, if the formal redemption of the world were to be accomplished by the promised Messiah through the untilled soil of her virgin womb. Mary’s spirit could rejoice in God her saviour, since it conformed to His Spirit and the Spirit of the Son whom she would bear. Not unlike the holy Child she would be the mother of, Mary made no provision for the flesh or gratified any vain desires that would offend God; she had a compassionate heart, she was kind, humble, meek, and patient; holy and beloved by God because of her faith in charity and grace (Col. 3:12). Her interior disposition attested to what it meant to be saved. Mary rejoiced in God’s salvation by her virtuous living. A wicked spirit has no cause to rejoice.

The Incarnation happened and, as a result, the world’s redemption and hope of salvation because Mary was “robed in a mantle of justice” through the plenitudes of grace she was endowed with and never spurned at any time in her life (Lk. 1:28). Mary’s spirit rejoiced in God her saviour by being one in spirit with Him and like Him through His grace. So, unless Mary had led a life of obedience to the will of God, by shedding what was perishable in the flesh and putting on what was imperishable in the Son whom she would bear, she could not be God’s chosen and beloved handmaid. By living a life in the flesh and in disobedience to God together with fallen humanity, she could not rejoice in the One who was the world’s salvation, since she could only then reject the One in whom she would have no joy. The Divine Word chose to come into the world and become man on condition that the woman whom He chose to be His mother would find no joy except in Him.

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And my soul shall rejoice in the LORD;
It shall exult in His salvation.
Psalm 35, 9

Mary’s spirit rejoiced in God her saviour because her soul magnified the Lord. The supernatural quality of Mary’s soul proclaimed His glory in a fallen world. She embodied in her person what it takes to be saved and enjoy eternal life with God. Mary never presumed that her personal salvation was guaranteed, but the state of her soul attested that it was, provided she should persevere in God’s grace. If her heart did not condemn her, Mary had confidence before God. Mary’s spirit could rejoice in God her saviour, for it was perfected in love of God and neighbour. The Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary because of her perfect love which conformed to the love God has for all His created children. This pleased God (1 Jn 3:21-22). By joyfully pronouncing her Fiat, Mary essentially begged God to come into the world as its salvation. Her prayer was answered, since her spirit rejoiced in what pleased God, “that everyone might be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Mary’s spirit was united with the Spirit of God; her joy was what pleased God and what he desired of her.

In faith and love, Mary rejoiced in what should be to the glory of God’s goodness and righteousness. Nor could she bear to imagine the desolation of never ever seeing God face to face in His heavenly kingdom. Mary did not exalt in only her salvation, but also in the salvation which only God could offer all humanity in His love and mercy. She rejoiced in God’s benevolence for the salvation of the world. And what God offered Mary was something she couldn’t possibly resist, having been supernaturally transformed by His grace, as to be worthy to bear His salvation in the promised Messiah. She rejoiced in her Son Yeshua, which in Hebrew means “God is salvation”. Meanwhile, Mary desired for the world what she desired for herself, for she knew that no soul could find true happiness separated from God. She desired God more than anything else. The salvation of her soul meant nothing if it did not entail eternal life with God and seeing Him face to face. The hope of the Beatific Vision gave Mary’s soul cause to rejoice in God her saviour (Ex. 24:11).

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She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth…
And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth,
so that when she bore her child, he might devour it.
Revelation 12, 2-4

With Mary’s joy would come sorrow, without which there could be no heavenly bliss in God’s presence. The greatest trial our Blessed Lady ever faced in her pilgrimage of faith must have been when she stood at the foot of the Cross. She could have felt as abandoned by God as her Son might have had in his humanity, if he weren’t a Divine person, as she witnessed his humiliating and cruel death at the hands of ungrateful sinners, who certainly didn’t deserve God’s love and mercy. Yet Mary remained steadfast in her faith together with her Son in his steadfast obedience to the will of the Father. Here lies the paradox of faith: Concomitant with Mary’s sorrow was her joy in having to face this terrible trial for the salvation of all souls, including her own. Her soul joyfully exalted in God’s salvation even when it was pierced by immense sorrow, and because of her shared agony (Lk. 2:34-35). To live and reign with Christ one must suffer and die with him.

​Mary knew that the Passion of her Son was all for a greater good, that God would never renege on His promised inheritance. At the foot of the Cross, God faithfully upheld His end of the covenant by establishing His handmaiden’s second maternal role. It was through her agonizing sorrow – the sword that pierced her heart – that Mary gave birth to the countless sons and daughters of all nations who would form the mystical Body of her Son, which is the Church, upon his resurrection and ascension into heaven, where he established his authority and everlasting rule after casting out Satan and his angels from heaven (Rev. 12:5, 9-11).

When Mary gazed upon her suffering and dying Son with a loving mother’s terrible anguish, she understood that the testing of her faith produced endurance; and by letting her endurance have its full effect, she would become mature and complete in her faith, lacking nothing, which being associated with her Son in his redemptive work required. God would be faithful in keeping His promise if she was faithful to Him. Mary rejoiced in God her saviour because of her faith in God’s faithfulness, despite this difficult trial.

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Golgotha was indeed the climatic point in Mary’s journey of faith, but even on this heart-rending occasion, her soul continued to magnify the Lord and proclaim His glory. Mary’s spirit could rejoice in God her saviour, for the salvation of all humanity demanded that our Blessed Lady suffer for the sins that had offended God, whom she wished to propitiate on behalf of all ungrateful humanity because of her perfect love for Him. The interior suffering that was imposed on her she gladly accepted, not only because of her love of God, but also because of her love and compassion for fallen mankind.

Our sorrowful Mother’s merciful spirit resembled the compassion God had for all His created children. Without Mary’s willing collaboration with God in and through the Holy Spirit, the temporal reparation she was called to make would be left undone. Without it, her divine Son would not make eternal reparation and be the expiation for the sins of the world (1 Pet. 1:3-7). Mary could rejoice in her suffering, since it was united with the suffering of her beloved Son for the salvation of humanity. She drew all her moral courage from him.

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Our Blessed Lady possessed a love for the world that emulated the love her divine Son had in his humanity. The divine image that she was created in reached full perfection as she stood beneath the Cross under the weight of her sorrow. Because of her supernatural love for God and humanity, Mary could rejoice in His salvation, but not without rejoicing in her interior suffering. Jesus made suffering the necessary means of redemption, that is being willing to suffer out of love of God for sin which offends Him and has ravaged mankind, so that the equity of justice between God and man may be restored. The apostle Paul rejoiced in his suffering for the sake of his flock and the glory his sheep might attain because of it (Col 1:24).

Our Blessed Lady possessed a love for the world that emulated the love her divine Son had in his humanity. The divine image that she was created in reached full perfection as she stood beneath the Cross under the weight of her sorrow. Because of her supernatural love for God and humanity, Mary could rejoice in His salvation, but not without rejoicing in her interior suffering. Jesus made suffering the necessary means of redemption, that is being willing to suffer out of love of God for sin which offends Him and has ravaged mankind, so that the equity of justice between God and man may be restored. The apostle Paul rejoiced in his suffering for the sake of his flock and the glory his sheep might attain because of it (Col 1:24).

In agony, Mary gave new birth to mankind. Adam’s trespass resulted in the condemnation of humanity; so also the righteous act of her Son, the second Adam, resulted in justification and new life for all (Rom. 5:18), but on condition that his mother Mary, the second Eve and helpmate, suffer in union with him by offering the fruit of her womb back to God to complete and perfect his super-abundant peace offering of reconciliation.

God’s plan of salvation required Mary’s full moral participation, since the Fall involved both genders and, therefore, could not be totally undone without full reciprocation. Mary’s willingness to suffer on Calvary, because of sin, was her loving response to God’s will in union with her Son, which eradicated Eve’s unfaithfulness to God and her transgression because of her inordinate love of self. Mary vindicated Eve by acting in an alternate way. She denied herself to the point of dying to her maternal self, thereby becoming the spiritual mother of redeemed mankind.

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On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah 3, 16-18

Mary was more of a mother to Jesus and further blessed in this capacity (Lk. 11:27-28). Subjectively, her love of God and compassion for fallen humanity had redeeming value. Her obedient act of faith pleased God because of the supernatural quality of her soul. Grace preceded Mary, and so she could merit the grace her Son produced by his self-immolation for fallen humanity by right of friendship with God. Our Blessed Lady could rejoice in God’s salvation, for she understood and accepted what was required of her for His salvation to be perfect and complete.

Mary’s spirit rejoiced in God her saviour, for our Blessed Lady was “buried with Christ” at the hour of his Passion. Mary stood beneath the Cross dead to the world with all its vain allurements. She sacrificed her maternal rights when she offered her beloved Son back to God for the salvation of the world. The hope of our salvation, which only Christ could initially produce by his merits alone, was completed, however, by the Blessed Mother who crucified her flesh and died to self in union with her Son’s Passion, so that everyone might be saved (Col. 1:24; Eph. 3:13).​

Beneath the Cross, Mary raised her heart and mind to things that are above this world, as our Lord was raised in spirit when he was lifted high on the Cross through his obedience to the will of the Father so that we might share in his glory, provided we die with him in spirit (Col. 3:1-4). God honoured Mary’s interior sorrow as a temporal means of reparation for the sins of the world, and thereby He exalted His faithful and loving handmaid by designating her Mother of the Church (Jn. 19:26-27).

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The Incarnation happened because Mary did not doubt God. She wasn’t like “the wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind, being double-minded and unstable in every way.” And, so, she could expect to “receive anything from the Lord” both for her and the human race (Jas. 1:2-8). Her spiritual work of mercy completed her faith by animating it. Our Blessed Lady couldn’t have appeased God’s justice and make temporal satisfaction to God for the sins of the world if her faith had been nothing but a mental construct. Mary could rejoice in God her saviour only by possessing a living and active faith (Jas. 2:14-25). Her faith anticipated the faith of the Church: a faith that sought what she could do for God rather than what God could do for His bride. The Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and the disciples of Christ who were gathered in the upper room on the day of Pentecost days after his ascension (Acts 2:1-13). But first, the Holy Spirit had to come upon and overshadow the Blessed Virgin Mary because of her faith (Lk. 1:35, 38).

The Incarnation alone should not redeem fallen man, though it could more than sufficiently by God becoming man and being born in a lowly manger on a cold night. The Annunciation had to be the starting point in Mary’s pilgrimage of faith as the mother of the divine Redeemer who chose to suffer and die an ignominious death for the world’s salvation. After all, suffering and death are concomitant with sin. The completion of God’s plan of salvation called for Mary’s perseverance in faith and unshakable trust in God, just as our own salvation depends on the quality of our faith when having to be tested through the trials God sends us (1 Pet. 1:7).

Jesus chose to die on the cross with his mother kneeling before him in anguish, for if we hope to be saved, we must take up our crosses after him (Mt.16:24; Mk.8:34; Lk. 9:23). Only then, should we have cause to rejoice in our salvation together with our Blessed Mother. Without suffering and having to die to self in this imperfect world, we could never show our love for God by choosing to make sacrifices to Him for our transgressions. His faithful handmaid chose to suffer for humanity because of her love for Him. This act of worship she offered God who was grieved by sin was paradoxically an expression of her joy in God’s salvation.

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I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live,
but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live
by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Galatians 2, 20

God would never have chosen Mary to be the mother of His Son if He knew that she would prove to be unfaithful at the hour of His Son’s perfect obedience to His will. Her spirit must rejoice in God her saviour, which could be expressed by nothing less than Mary accepting her sorrow and uniting her interior suffering with the suffering of her Divine Son for the remission of sin. Christ used suffering as a means by which he merited the grace of redemption for the entire world. He sanctified suffering by his Passion. What was once an evil effect of original sin and a condition of it had been given a “quasi-sacramental” value, by which we might be saved if offered to God in union with our Lord and Savior (cf. Dom Bruno Webb, Why Does God Permit Evil?). God was temporally appeased by Mary’s suffering, for her Son lived in her while she willingly suffered in union with him for the sins of the world. Since the Annunciation, the life Mary led as the mother of our Lord wasn’t merely the natural life of a mother, but a life lived by faith in her divine Son and what he came to accomplish for us all. The mother of our Lord lived her faith by putting it into action for the salvation of souls. Her exile into Egypt together with the infant Jesus was her first great act of sacrificial love and spiritual worship of God. Mary made temporal satisfaction for sin in union with her Son long before Calvary arrived.

As the second Adam and new Head of humanity, our Lord merited grace for us, so that by our suffering in union with him, grace can be transmitted to us and even to others. By Mary’s willingness to suffer in union with her Son, our Lord suffered in her to complete his act of redemption. Thus, her suffering had supernatural value and could merit an increase of the grace of sanctification or justification on behalf of the world in and through the merits of her divine Son. Our Blessed Lady understood this by the sanctifying light of faith, and she knew by the Holy Spirit’s gift of knowledge, that she had no cause to rejoice in God her Savior unless she were willing to suffer for God her “spiritual worship”. Her salvation, not unlike ours, meant offering herself as a living sacrifice to God holy and pleasing to Him (Rom. 12:1-2). Mary’s spirit (pnuema) had rejoiced in God her saviour by the life she had led in faith in her Son as his mother. She was more or truly (menoun) a mother to him in this respect (Lk. 11:27-28). Mary’s Divine Maternity was a sublime form of discipleship. Catholics have long praised her as Queen of Apostles.

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A faithful saying: for if we be dead with him,
we shall live also with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him.
2 Timothy 2, 11-12

Fortunately, for both her and mankind, our Blessed Lady never doubted God, not even on Golgotha; since, as she knelt and gazed upon her dying Son, she fervently prayed for the graces she needed to endure her interior suffering in union with his suffering. By her perseverance in faith, Mary accepted God’s will, that her heart should also be pierced, if her Son was to redeem the world and reconcile it to God (Lk. 2:34-35). That Our Lady of Sorrows should cradle her beloved Son’s lifeless body in her arms because of man’s sins against God was a condition of the salvation she rejoiced in. Her spirit rejoiced in God her Saviour up to this culminating moment, albeit the pain and the loss. She possessed a faith that pronounced “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23) and “died with Christ” so that she and all humanity could hope to live eternally with her divine Son in heavenly glory (Rom. 6:8). Our Blessed Mother suffered and died for us all “with the Redeemer,” and so we rightly hail her as our co-Redemptrix.

Mary rejoiced in her suffering and found consolation in it because of the suffering her beloved Son was willing to endure in his love for humanity and its salvation. Mary rejoiced in God her saviour, the Father’s suffering servant, by reciprocating her love for her Son who was wounded for our transgressions. She could return her love only by willingly suffering with him for all the sins which had offended God. Her virtue of faith gave cause to her soul’s rejoicing in God her savior amid the piercing sorrow. This was a faith informed by love in charity and grace, the faith we need to be saved: faith put into loving action in union with Christ’s work of sacrificial love.

Our sorrowful Mother understood what the Apostles hadn’t until Pentecost, that she could rejoice in being alive with her Son in the Resurrection only by dying to self and being buried with him in his death through suffering. Hence, despite her sorrow at the foot of the Cross, Mary had cause to rejoice and be glad in God’s salvation – that is in what it must take for us to be saved. Mary perceived, by the sanctifying light of faith, as she looked upon her suffering and dying Son, that our salvation may be attained only if we suffer and die to self and to this world in obedience to God in union with Jesus in perseverance to the end (Rom. 6:5-8). Jesus did not come into this world only to save us, but also to show us what we must do if we hope to be saved in and through his merits.

“Let us not be astonished that the Lord, who came to save the world, began his work in Mary, so that she, by whom the salvation of all was being readied, would be the first to receive from her own child its fruits.”
St. Ambrose of Milan, In Lk. II, 17
(ante A.D. 397)

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Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion,
for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst,
declares the Lord.
Zechariah 2, 10
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Salve Regina!

Rejoice Heartily, O Daughter Zion

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 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah 3, 14-18

And Mary said,
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my saviour,”
for he has looked with favour on his lowly handmaid.
From henceforth, all generations will call me blessed;
for He who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His name.”
Luke 1, 46-49
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The Hebrew name Tzion (ציון), or as translated “Zion”, appears over 150 times in the Bible. Interchangeably these verses refer simply to “Zion”, to a “Mount Zion,” “the daughter of Zion,” and “virgin daughter of Zion”. Zion is first mentioned in 2 Samuel 5:7: ‘David captured the fortress of Zion, which is the City of David.’ Zion was originally an ancient Jebusite fortress which David captured, allowing the Israelites to take possession of Jerusalem. The royal palace and the temple were subsequently built there, as Zion or Jerusalem, became the seat of power in the kingdom of Israel (Judah after the schism) and the chief site of worship. Thus, Zion is called “the City of David” and “the City of God”. The metaphorical term extends to the Temple (Synagogue) and God’s kingdom on earth.

The name Zion basically means “fortification” and carries with it the idea of being “raised up” as a monument and a sign of God’s presence among the Israelites and His rule on earth. As a fortress, it served as a place of refuge and protection for the Israelites from their enemies. Situated on top of a hill on the southeast side of Jerusalem, Zion was the strongest and safest place in the city for its inhabitants who would take shelter there. Inviolable from David’s time, through the reign of the righteous Davidic kings, no enemy ever entered this fortress which had been established by God’s providential design.

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From a spiritual perspective, it is here God protects His virgin daughter from the rape her enemies intend to commit upon her; He keeps her pure in good measure from the gross idolatry wherewith the people of the surrounding pagan nations are defiled, viz., spiritual whoredom. God has removed His chosen people from their original prostitution in the world and has consecrated them to be his very own in holiness by establishing His covenant with them, which He shall faithfully keep despite their occasional infidelity. God’s covenant with His chosen people is perpetual. With the people’s transgressions against His laws and established precepts comes Divine chastisement as forewarned. Yet, on Mount Zion, the faithful remnant of Israel shall never be conquered and destroyed by their enemies under God’s gracious protection.

​​From Zion is where the word of God dwells and comes forth. ‘For out of Zion shall the Torah come forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.’ (Isa. 2: 3). It is in the temple where God dwells and from whence His word is proclaimed and His laws are prescribed. Those who hear the word of God and observe it are like Mount Zion, which shall never be shaken (Ps. 151:1). The name Zion also refers to God’s chosen people and faithful servants from whom the promised Messiah shall come forth and rule all nations in righteousness and justice with a rod of iron.

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We see in Mary’s Canticle of Praise or the Magnificat that the first Jewish converts to the Christian faith in Apostolic time perceived Mary to be the personification of Daughter Zion. And for them, Mary was much more than a metaphor or an abstract figure representing a corporate entity and nation. She was the mother of their Lord (Lk. 1: 43), the Woman of Promise in the flesh of whom her Divine offspring was made (Gal. 4:4). They could relate to Mary on a personal level as much as they could with her divine Son and thereby deeply appreciate her contribution in His redemptive work (Lk. 1:45). She was someone they could personally relate to and love no less than they could the resurrected Jesus in their personal relationship with him, now that his mother had been gloriously assumed body and soul into Heaven.

​The parallel Luke draws between Mary and Zion, by echoing the Old Testament prophets and alluding to the Psalms, clearly shows that this Marian tradition of the infant Church in Palestine was a vibrant part of the faith as part of a Judaic legacy. In the first part of the Magnificat, Mary refers to her position with God in the order of grace. All four verses in Luke 1:46-49 parallel Old Testament passages pertaining to Daughter Zion.

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And Mary said,
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my saviour,

 I will rejoice greatly in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robes of righteousness.
– Isaiah 61, 10 (cf. Zech. 9:9; Zeph. 3:14

“for he has looked with favour on his lowly handmaid.

The Lord has taken away the judgments against you,
he has cast out your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall fear evil no more.
– Zephaniah 3, 15 (cf. Lk. 1:28, 30)

But you, O Lord, will arise and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to show favour on her;
the appointed time has come.
– Psalm 102, 13

“From this day, all generations will call me blessed;

At that time, I will bring you home,
at the time when I will gather you together;
yea, I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes, says the Lord.
– Zephaniah 3, 20

I will perpetuate your memory through all generations;
therefore, the nations will praise you for ever and ever.
– Psalm 45, 17

“because the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.”

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
then we thought we were dreaming.
Our mouths were filled with laughter;
our tongues sang for joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us;
Oh, how happy we were.
– Psalm 126, 1-3

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And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.
Joel 2, 32

The early Hebrew Christians certainly understood the soteriological and eschatological significance of Mary’s designation. They regarded her as an intermediary of divine grace (Lk 1:44) and as a place of refuge from their enemy Satan, especially since she was at enmity with the Devil and had crushed his head by her perfect faith in charity and grace (Gen 3:15). Mary could be regarded as a spiritual fortress because of the power of her prayerful intercession (Jn 2:3-5) and opposition to the dragon which could not conquer her (Rev 12:13-14). Mary constantly observed the word of God and kept it (Lk 11:28), even to the point of giving her beloved Son back to God for the salvation of the world, despite the terrible sorrow she would have to endure by the will of God for the sins of the world in union with her offspring’s afflictions (Lk 2:34-35). God hears the prayers of the righteous (Jas. 5:17) and so, all the children of their heavenly mother can seek refuge in her supernatural merits and the power of her heavenly intercession for the actual graces they need to persevere in faith and conquer the Dragon and its wicked offspring once and for all in alliance with her.

It is through the desolation that Mary experiences at the foot of the Cross that she morally contributes to the deliverance of mankind from exile in sin and its restoration to friendship with God in collaboration with Him as His righteous spouse and handmaid (Isa 54:1-3; Lk 1:35, 38). And by having done so, Mary becomes the spiritual mother of all the living. All who believe in Jesus and keep God’s commandments are her sons and daughters (Rev 12:17), being the rightful heirs of a promised inheritance together with Mary and Jesus, the Son of Promise and the first-fruit of the royal inheritance: resurrection to eternal life with God (Gal 3:29; 1 Cor 15:22-23).

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For thus the LORD said to me, As a lion or a young lion growls over its prey, and — when a band of shepherds is called out against it — is not terrified by their shouting or daunted at their noise, so the LORD of hosts will come down to fight upon Mount Zion and upon its hill.
Isaiah 31, 4

Mary is at enmity with Satan, the prowling lion who is out to devour souls. The Devil is her adversary, as he continues to make war with her and her children (1 Pet 5:8-9; Rev 12:17). It is through Mary’s maternal patronage and powerful intercession in heaven that Christ protects his Church and all her inhabitants from the enemy who seeks to destroy her. The Devil shall never conquer those who seek refuge in Mary’s Immaculate Heart. God has established her to be the security and protection of the Church. Through the intercessions of our Blessed Mother, our eternal inheritance is virtually assured. She is Advocatrix of the Church. She who never succumbed to adoring the false idols of this world can by her just merits protect all the Church’s inhabitants from worshiping pagan idols and defiling themselves, if only they seek refuge in her Immaculate Heart for the graces they need to persevere in faith. Because of the power of Mary’s prayerful intercession at the right hand of her divine Son by the throne of grace, the faithful of the pilgrim Church on earth assuredly receive the actual graces they need from her Son to persevere in faith to the end and attain their salvation. The pilgrim Church on earth has much cause to rejoice in their salvation because of her mother’s merciful patronage which has been established by God.

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Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion!
For lo, I will come and dwell in your midst,
says the LORD.
Zechariah 2, 10

Mary has cause to rejoice, for God has chosen her to conceive and bear His Son, who shall redeem the world and restore mankind to friendship with Him. And through her, God has chosen to execute His judgments on all His adversaries and those of His chosen people in all nations. God shall raise up the poor in spirit and cast the proud and mighty from their thrones; for through Mary, Christ shall be born to regenerate mankind unto God. People of all nations will renounce their idolatry by the saving power of God’s grace. They shall join God with purpose of heart in establishing His heavenly kingdom on earth. All nations shall be blessed in Mary, for the salvation of the world will come from her. Her virgin womb provides the pure, untilled soil for the Gentiles who shall hear the Word of God and be taught in His ways. In the hypostatic order of Christ’s incarnation through his blessed mother, God physically manifests His presence among us and dwells with us that we may learn of His ways, as to be eternally united with Him at the end of the course of our earthly existence.

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O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion!
When God restores the fortunes of his people,
Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.
Psalm 53, 6

Jesus (Heb. Yeshua or “God is salvation”) comes to us from Mary. The salvation of the world comes from her. Mary is the dwelling place of God the Word, “exempt from putridity and corruption.” From Mary, we receive the true manna come down from Heaven, He who has called himself the “Bread of Life” that lasts to life everlasting with God and has delivered us from the slavery of sin and the power of death (Jn 6: 32, 35-54; 11:25) Through Mary, our Lord has established the New Covenant of his blood poured out for all humanity to the joy of all Abraham’s faithful descendants, the true heirs of promise (Mt 26:28; Lk 22:20). And so, Mary has been clothed with purity instead of fine gold which can be corrupted, for in her, holy Divinity resides and comes forth for the redemption of mankind and its deliverance from subjection to the powers of darkness. From the time God restores Mary to His grace, by her Immaculate Conception, all mankind has cause to rejoice, for she has been blessed to be the mother of our Lord and Saviour. Humanity’s re-creation has begun with God’s creation of Mary in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham and the birth of Jacob.

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The LORD is exalted, he dwells on high;
he filled Zion with justice and righteousness.
Isaiah 33, 5

Our God who saves takes His holy flesh from the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom God has separated from the rest of sinful humanity, as to be worthiest of being the mother of His Only-begotten Son. To glorify the Son who glorifies the Father, God makes Mary holy and pure by His sanctifying grace. God has set her apart and consecrated her to Himself to be His holy bride as He is holy in preparation for the coming of the divine Messiah (Lev 20:26; Lk 1:35, 42) By Divine election, Mary is pledged to be the mother of our Lord and Saviour. He first appears in his glory tabernacled within the pure womb of his most blessed mother, who by the grace of God has no affinity with sin whatsoever. God is glorified by His most perfect creation in the person of Mary, the mother of our Lord, when He enters and dwells in her sacred womb. From the sacred womb of Mary, the most holy Offspring comes forth “full of grace and truth” to regenerate mankind unto God for His glory (Jn 1:14).

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Let Mount Zion be glad, let the towns of Judah
rejoice because of your judgments.
Psalm 48, 11

Mary rejoices in God her Saviour, for He has looked with favour on His daughter’s humility. The Lord has done great things for Mary by removing the judgement he has passed on sinful humanity from her by restoring her to His grace upon the creation of her soul (Lk 1:46-49). She has no cause to fear God’s justice, for her love of God and neighbour drives out all fear which must do with punishment (Lk 1:30; 1 Jn 4:18). The spirit of the Torah or the natural law of love and freedom fills her soul and enriches her heart. Thus, God judges her to be worthiest of all women to be the mother of the Son. No pride and selfishness separate Mary from God’s love and His mercy. She rejoices in the love and kindness God shows her because He has judged her to be faithful and loving to Him, which is what she most desires. Mary stands opposed to the daughter of Babylon whose soul is corrupted by false idols. God’s faithful and loving daughter proclaims the glory of God in the depths of her soul where there is no place for the profane objects of dark worldly desires.

Our Blessed Lady has cause to rejoice in her salvation because her affections gravitate towards the righteousness of her Son. It is the covetous and the worldly minded who mourn, for their minds are set on perishable material things whose false glory is finite and shall eventually slip away from their grasps. Mary rejoices, for she desires nothing less than the things of God and the imperishable heavenly treasures that await her because of her love and fidelity towards Him. Mary is confident that God has blessed her as he does all His faithful servants who humble themselves before Him and refuse to offend Him by bowing to false idols, but rather wish to observe His will always, placing God – the source of all life and true happiness in His goodness and love – above all created and perishable things which offer no true and lasting joy.

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And all nations shall call you blessed:
for you shall be a delightful land,
says the LORD of hosts.
Malachi 3:12

Babylon or sinful humanity has fallen and lies in ruin because of God’s judgment against her. There is no fear of condemnation for those who humbly love God and obey His commandments. In faith, Mary knows this, and so she is encouraged to rejoice in her salvation and praise God for His goodness and kindness to her and all the humble and poor in spirit who find favour with Him (Lk 1:50-56). All generations of the Christian faithful shall rejoice with Mary for the blessings God has conferred on their Blessed Mother Zion from whose pure, untilled virgin soil of her sacred womb has sprung new life in God (Lk 1:48). The Church rejoices in the Gospel of Luke for the streams of the Divine mercy that have flowed as living water down upon the Lord’s chosen handmaid from His loving kindness. The Lord has done “great things” to her – the mother of the Divine Messiah, sprung from the pure virgin soil of her womb – and holy is His name (Lk 1:49).

Mary is blessed for having been chosen to be the mother of our Lord and Savior, but she is further blessed for having received the privileges of being the Mother of God, viz., her Immaculate Conception and Assumption body and soul into heaven. God has made her to be a delightful land that consists of all peoples from all nations who are regenerated unto God through her pure womb as brothers and sisters of her Son (Rom 8:29). The offspring of the free promised woman are the ones who sing her praise because of the spiritual gifts she has received from God (Lk 1:48-49). And by God’s graciousness towards her, Mary can nourish and protect the souls of her children provided they remain faithful to her divine Son.

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Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God has shined.
Psalm 50, 2

Luke presents Mary as likened to the Kingdom of God. She is blessed (eulogemene) above all the women on earth no less than Israel is blessed above all the nations on earth, both being declared holy and consecrated to God. The kingdom of God dwells in her (Lk 1:42; Mk 11:10). This is because God has established His covenant with her and His Word dwells within and radiates her soul as a light for all peoples. From her, the word of God is proclaimed as a model for all mankind to follow. The temple of her body is made sacred by the quality of her sanctified soul. Mary’s interior state is ruled by the word of God who reigns in her life of faith and charity in grace. She is like “Mount Zion that shall never be shaken,” for the word of God abides in her soul.

The Spirit of God dwells within her, and so Satan has no dominion over her soul. The holiness and justice of Mary’s divine Son is reflected in her person. She is like God, for the Holy Spirit dwells in her and she abides in His love. Unlike the sinful pagans of this world, Mary does not try to be like God apart from Him and in His place. The light of the Holy Spirit shines from her soul. He bears witness to the perfect beauty of its divine constitution by His presence and work within her that ultimately redounds to His glory. Mary is God’s work of art, and thus we cannot praise the Artist without praising His artistic work. St. Augustine reminds us that “God is glorified in His saints”.

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And you, O tower of the flock, hill of daughter Zion,
to you it shall come, the former dominion shall come,
the sovereignty of daughter Jerusalem.
Micah 4, 18

By partaking of the divine nature, Daughter Zion is free from all the corruption that defiles the pagan world within the devil’s domain caused by dark human passions. Divinity shines forth from Mary’s soul, for God’s Holy Spirit dwells and rules within it. The kingdom of God is in Mary (Lk 1:42). She can withstand the onslaught of the wicked ways of the ungodly world, for she is God’s re-creation in grace. In her blessed state, she is mystically united with God who has endowed her with the fullness of His lasting sanctifying grace (Lk 1:28). Mary is at enmity with Satan and all his offspring who still belong to his kingdom and make war with her and her offspring. By her unwavering love of God and faithfulness, she crushes the devil’s head together with God (Gen. 3:15). Sheltered and inspired by God’s grace, Mary observes the word of God and keeps it throughout her life.

Satan can never conquer and rule over the Lord’s faithful handmaid and virgin bride as he has ruled over his subjected offspring who are enslaved in sin within his dominion. Mary possesses the innocence in the life of God’s grace that Eve lost for herself and her offspring. She is the free woman who God promised would crush the serpent’s head with her “immaculate foot” which shall help destroy its dominion on earth. In the order of grace, our most Blessed Lady immeasurably surpasses all the saints combined in holiness because of her intimate association with God in the hypostatic order of Christ’s incarnation. Jesus has chosen his mother to be his helpmate in the redemption and salvation of mankind, which requires that she be pure as he is pure in their shared humanity (1 Jn 3:3).

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The LORD sends out from Zion your mighty sceptre.
Rule in the midst of your foes.
Psalm 110, 2

Mary, daughter of Jerusalem and of the House of David, gives birth to the child “who shall rule all nations with a rod of iron” (Rev 12:5). “All kings shall fall down before him, and all nations shall serve him” (Ps 72:11). His sceptre of justice is his living and guiding word for the entire world to heed, the rod of rectitude that dashes all pride and wicked desires to pieces. From Mary, the Divine Word takes his humanity and assumes his sovereignty over his enemies who oppose his word. These are the offspring of the serpent who are equally at enmity with Jesus and his blessed mother. Rightfully established as King who shall rule over all earthly monarchs and powers, Christ shall be victorious over his enemies. He shall conquer the powers of darkness that rule in this world in opposition to him with his Queen Mother (Gebirah) standing by his side.

​By his laws, Christ shall pass judgement on all those who reject his word. The subjects of his spiritual kingdom are the ones who believe and abide in him by observing his word. They are blessed in the righteousness, peace, and joy of the Holy Spirit. Their souls are predestined to grace and through perseverance in grace predestined to glory, as the souls of Christ’s adversaries are destined for spiritual ruin because of their selfishness and moral corruption. Thus, from Mary’s pure womb, the living Word of God in the flesh has come forth to proclaim his truth and justice to humanity, establish his laws by Divine authority, and pass judgement on the world from his heavenly throne in righteousness and justice (Lk 1:31-33; Rev 19).

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What can I say for you, to what compare you,
O daughter Jerusalem?
To what can I liken you, that I may comfort you,
O virgin daughter Zion?
For vast as the sea is your ruin; who can heal you?
Lamentations 2, 13

Mother Zion has cause to lament because of her miserable state. In His justice, God has abandoned her because of the sins of her children by allowing her enemies to victoriously destroy Jerusalem and the sacred temple. In the wake of her ruin, Zion has been deprived of all that is related to public worship, including the institution of the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the solemn festivals. She is in terrible distress because of the desolation the Israelite’s have brought upon themselves by heeding the words of false prophets and worshiping the false gods of their neighbours. The dark cloud of God’s just anger has covered Zion for the unfaithfulness of her children.

No longer is she protected by God as she was when He led her out of Egypt and provided safe passage for her children across the Red Sea, manifesting His guardian presence in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. With the destruction of all the habitations in Israel, including the sacred places, God no longer manifests His presence in the glory cloud (Shekinah) that once descended upon the temple and filled the sanctuary of the Ark of the Covenant. The children of Zion have alienated themselves from Him, and in their sinful condition, God is no longer manifested among them. It appears to the lost house of Israel that the God of their fathers has abandoned them. Zion weeps not only for their infidelity to God, but also in compassion for their despair.

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For she saw the wrath that came upon you from God,
and she said: Listen, you neighbours of Zion,
God has brought great sorrow upon me.
Baruch 4, 9

God has distanced himself from His daughter, for her children have distanced themselves from Him. Even the most fortified palaces, castles, towers, and citadels have been entirely laid waste by the wrath of God because of the grave sins of Israel. Zion is no longer that fortress which cannot be shaken because of the people’s infidelity. God has drawn back His right hand from the enemy, because even His appointed kings and princes of the House of David are defiled by sin. The light and splendour of Zion has gone out, since she no longer exalts in the glory of the Lord through her offspring. No ally and earthly power can rescue her from the hands of her enemy. Only by humbly returning to God in faith and appealing to His mercy can the Israelites be delivered from ruin and captivity by Divine intervention which shall give Mother Zion cause for renewed joy.

​The prophecies of Jeremiah, Baruch, and Malachi, pertaining to the misery and sorrows of Mother Zion, because of the apostasy and idolatry of her sons and daughters, find their secondary fulfillment in Mary’s sorrow at the foot of the Cross. Her interior suffering serves to make temporal reparation and satisfaction to God in His justice for the sins of the world. On Golgotha, she grieves for her sacred Son, King and High Priest, whose death is brought about by his enemies. Mary’s heart is pierced not only by the mockery and insults they hurl on her beloved Son as he is cruelly put to death, but also by the soldier’s lance that pierces the sacred temple of his body (Mt 27:38-44; Jn 19:33-34; Lk 2:34-45). Because of sin, God does not spare even that which is sacred to Him, rending the Mother’s heart in two. In His justice, “He who [is] without sin is made sin for us” as a propitiation for sin to make eternal satisfaction to God and appease His wrath (2 Cor 5:21). To redeem the world, God has allowed the unclean to defile that which is sacred and clean, all to the sorrow and anguish of our Blessed Mother beneath the Cross. But “destroy this temple” (of his body) and our Lord “will raise it in three days” (Jn. 2:19; Lk 24:1-7).

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Now, why art thou drawn together with grief?
Hast thou no king in thee, or is thy counsellor perished,
because sorrow hath taken thee as a woman in labour.
Micah 4, 9

Beneath the Cross, Mary is overwhelmed with sorrow and misery, for God has withheld His right hand and allowed the unclean to defile what is most sacred to her. The agonizing words of her Son must penetrate the depths of her soul as she suffers because of her love for him: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me!” The mother cannot be comforted in the loss of what is most precious to her. “How can [she] sing one of Zion’s songs on alien soil” (Ps 137:4). Only God can deliver Mary from having been drawn into the dark, alienated world of sin and death through mankind’s idolatry and ungratefulness to God by not letting her Son see corruption. Her sorrow is turned to joy upon his glorious resurrection, and as all the inhabitants on earth are reconciled to God and freed from the slavery of sin and oppression of death by her Son’s atoning death and the grace of redemption which he has merited for them in his paschal sacrifice (Rev 12:4).

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For I heard a cry as of a woman in labor,
anguish as of one bringing forth her first child,
the cry of daughter Zion gasping for breath,
stretching out her hands,
“Woe is me! I am fainting before killers!”
Jeremiah 4, 31

Mary’s suffering has the character of satisfaction in union with Jesus in that she suffers because of sin and the offence it offers to God. She suffers because of her love of God whom sin offends, by the love of her Son who is crucified for the sins of the world, and by the love she has for humanity which is ravaged by sin. The faithful remnant of Israel who must share in the suffering of those who brought about the ruin of the Hebrew nation by their sins and offences against God suffer in the same capacity that Mary does. It is they who acknowledge the sins of the nation and the need of making atonement for all the transgressions of the Divine laws handed down by Moses. Only by acknowledging their sins as a people and accepting their suffering as just shall they be delivered from captivity and restored to God’s friendship as a nation.

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Your sun will never set again,
and your moon will wane no more;
the LORD will be your everlasting light,
and your days of sorrow will end.
Then all your people will be righteous
and they will possess the land forever.
They are the shoot I have planted,
the work of my hands,
for the display of my splendor.
Isaiah 60, 20-21

The sorrowful scene at the Cross is Old Testament imagery and symbolism related to prophecy and the Judaic traditions. Isaiah 49:21, 54:1-3. and 66:7-11 carry the theme of Mother Zion amid sorrow over the loss of her children, when suddenly she is given a new and large family restored in God’s grace which is cause for rejoicing (Lk 1:46-49; Zeph 3:14-17). In the words of Raymond E. Brown (The Gospel According to John): “The sorrowful scene at the foot of the Cross represents the birth pangs by which the Spirit of salvation is brought forth (Isaiah 26:17-18) and handed over (John 29:30). In becoming the mother of the beloved disciple (The Christian), Mary is symbolically evocative of Lady Zion who, after birth pangs (interior sorrow) brings forth a new people in joy.”

Paul D. Hanson (Isaiah 40-66) adds: “Zion is not destined to grieve because of the loss she has endured, viz., the death of her Son. Instead, she will be able to compare her former desolation with the bustling activity of returnees (from exile) filling her towns and cities.” According to the author, the three-fold references to the children represent repopulated Zion. The returnees from exile foreshadow all believers in Christ who have been freed from the bondage of sin and impending eternal death, having been ransomed by the precious blood of Christ, but at the reparative cost of his blessed mother’s sorrow and anguish beneath the Cross in union with him (Rev 12:4).

Yet her sun shall never set again, nor her moon ever again wane, since she has helped make satisfaction to God for the sins of the world in union with her Son’s temporal satisfaction and thereby eternal expiation. Lady Zion finds its final consummation in the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary who is much more than a metaphor. Historically and tangibly, she is the mother of our Redeemer and our co-Redemptrix. Because of her impeccable faith working through love, she is forever “clothed with the sun with the moon under her feet” (Rev 12:1) gloriously reigning in heaven as Queen with her Son, our Lord and King.  Thus, Mary’s saving office is ratified on Calvary and from there continues even in Heaven. She remains to be a spiritual fortress and refuge of sinners in their spiritual combat with the Dragon. All those who bear witness to Christ her Son and keep God’s commandments implore Our Lady of Perpetual Help in their daily warfare with the Prince of Darkness in alliance with her until the consummation of this age (Rev 12:17).

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GIVE praise, O thou barren,
that bearest not: sing forth praise,
and make a joyful noise,
thou that didst not travail with child:
for many are the children of the desolate,
more than of her that hath a husband,
saith the Lord.
Isaiah 54, 1
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Salve Regina!

 


			

The Lord Is with Thee

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“I AM WITH YOU and will watch over you wherever you go,
and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you
until I have done what I have promised you.”
Genesis 28:15

And the angel being come in, said unto her:
Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee:
blessed art thou among women.
Luke 1, 28
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In Catholic theology, merit is that property of a good work which entitles the doer to receive a reward from God for having done His will in cooperation with His grace. This is something God has ordained in His mercy; and since God is just, He won’t withhold a reward which may include an increase in faith and charity needed for our sanctification and justification. “The grace of the Holy Spirit can confer true merit on us, by our adoptive filiation, and in accordance with God’s gratuitous justice. Charity is the principal source of merit in us before God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2026). “Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life” (CCC, 2027).

Justification includes not only the remission of sins and sanctification, but also the renewal of the person. Hence, by the fact that our good works in faith and charity originate from Divine grace, we can merit actual graces either for ourselves (condign merit) or others (congruous merit) by our prayers and acts of self-denial for the salvation of souls. When Mary gave her consent to be the mother of the divine Messiah, she didn’t simply seek the gift of the Divine Maternity for herself, which would have been selfish of her, but rather sought the fruit that should increase to humanity’s credit by the personal sacrifices she might have to make for the sake of mankind’s redemption (Phil 4:17).

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Theologically, condign merit designates the kind of goodness that is bestowed on a person because of their actions done in grace. It assumes an equity between service and return (commutative justice). It is reward for having accomplished good works in collaboration with the Holy Spirit, and a reward that the doer deserves for having freely consented to act in faith. If the reward due to condign merit is withheld, then there is injustice, for God has willed to obligate Himself to those who love Him (Deut.5:33; Prov.3:3-4; Amos 5:14; Mt.25:21; Lk.6:33,38; Rom.2:6 13:11; 1 Cor.2:9; 15:58; Col.3:23:34; Gal.6:9; Phil.3:14; Heb.11:6; Jas.1:12; 1 Pet.5:6). Condign merit contrasts with strict merit, which must do with some goodness that is owed by legal agreement or the equity of justice.

It is in the strict sense of justice Christ has merited for us the initial grace of justification and forgiveness which we initially receive when baptised (Eph 2:8-9). Only he could infinitely and eternally restore the equity of justice between God and ‘mankind’ because of his divine nature and being one with the Father in substance and essence (Jn 10:30). The most Mary could merit for herself (condign merit) and humanity (congruous merit), by freely cooperating with divine grace and doing good works under its influence, was a promised reward, viz., God’s gift of salvation. Now in heaven, where our Blessed Mother prayerfully intercedes for us, our rewards may include subsequent actual graces (i.e., faith, hope, and charity, etc.) needed for our growth in sanctification and justification (2 Cor.3:18; 4:16; 10:15; Col.3:10; Phil.2:13).

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It is important that we distinguish between the nature and extent of Jesus’ and Mary’s merits, which in the context of grace is properly called supernatural merit. First, there is a third kind of merit which belongs exclusively to our Lord and Saviour. This highest kind which is perfect and most worthy of a reward is called perfect condign merit: the act of charity of the Divine Person made man. Jesus’ act of love is at least equal in value to the reward, since it is the act of a Divine person. And even though Jesus did not merit the reward for himself, but for mankind, he could still condignly merit it in strict justice, since in his humanity he acted charitably as the new Head (Adam) of mankind in the fullness of grace which he possessed by divine nature (Jn 1:14), that we all might receive his grace through his merits as he was given it in his humanity.​

On the other hand, the human merit which applies to Mary with respect to her acts of charity and grace is congruous merit. She could perform her acts of love in a manner worthy of a supernatural reward for others. But this is not in the sense that it was proportionate to the reward, since her meritorious acts proceeded from the fullness of habitual grace with which she was completely and perfectly endowed by Divine favour and not from any natural merit of hers outside the order of grace (Lk 1:28;1 Pet 2:5, etc.).

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This lower kind of merit assigned to human creatures is founded on charity and friendship with God rather than on strict justice. What this implies is that Jesus chose to come into the world more for his righteous mother’s sake than for sinful mankind’s (the principle of predilection) when she meritoriously offered up her body as a living sacrifice by consenting to be the mother of our Divine Lord (Rom 12:1). Mary merited for us, by right of friendship with God, all that Jesus merited for us in strict justice. Though Mary could not merit anything for us de condigno, since she was not constituted head of humanity, she nonetheless could cooperate in our salvation by her congruous merits in God’s grace. None of us can merit condignly except for our own rewards.​

Mary’s meritorious act of faith in charity and grace conferred a right to a supernatural reward for mankind, even though she didn’t herself produce it. Christ’s perfect merits, by his substantial grace of union with the Father, have produced our temporal rewards of grace and our eternal reward of salvation. Still, by Mary’s Fiat, what her Divine Son has gained for humanity is now something we can all hope for and receive provided we persevere in faith just as our Blessed Lady did. Mary heard the word of God and kept it (Lk 11:28). And so, she had cause to proclaim: “My spirit rejoices in God my saviour!” (Luke 1:47). She rejoiced in conceiving God who is salvation not only for Israel but also the entire world.

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Jesus teaches us in the Parable of the Talents that the amount of grace we have received, no matter how bountiful, is worthless like dead money unless we invest ourselves by spreading this grace to others through spiritual works of mercy and self-sacrifice. Our eternal rewards are commensurate with the amount of labour we put in for the conversion of sinners by our acts of charity and grace. Christians who bury their talents or gifts of the Holy Spirit in safe keeping out of servile fear of infringing upon the prerogatives of their Master are like the presumptuous servant who buried the one talent he received and was admonished for his retention (Matt 25:14-30). Paul rued that none of the other “fellow-workers with God” in the field could match Timothy’s zeal for saving souls. ‘For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ’ (Phil 2:21).

The passive servant in our Lord’s parable, therefore, presumed that he was looking after his master’s interest by keeping his money safely tucked away, and all the while feared he had no right to use what originally didn’t belong to him. But, on the contrary, he would have better served his master’s interest if he had invested his single talent instead, so that it should increase to his merit. Certainly, it isn’t enough for Christians only to conform their minds to Christ’s way of thinking and to no longer live for the flesh and for the sinful passions, but for the will of God. What is also required of Christ’s disciples is that they use the graces they have received to serve others as good stewards of God’s grace (1 Pet 4:1-7).​

Jesus had no intention of sacrificing himself all alone for the conversion of sinners by the grace of redemption only he alone could produce for humanity. We invest the graces we have received by being “fellow workers with God” (1 Cor 3:9). Mary wouldn’t have increased in charity and sanctification or receive further plenitudes of grace if she were content only with having given birth to our Lord and Saviour. She was also called to suffer and die in union with him for the temporal remission of mankind’s debt of sin. A sword should pierce her soul that the grace of conversion would be produced and granted by her divine Son in the redemption. It wasn’t enough for Mary to be the natural mother of our Lord in his humanity to have cause to rejoice in God’s gift of salvation.

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The initial grace of justification and forgiveness, which Christ alone has merited for us as the God-man, marks the beginning of our journey in faith towards life ever-lasting (Eph 2:8-9). This has all been prepared for us by God from the beginning (Gen 3:15). Mary is the sign of humanity’s restoration to the life of grace because of her charitable act of faith (Isa 7:14). By her Fiat, our salvation is nearer than it was. Following our Blessed Lady’s example, she who precedes us in the order of grace, we mustn’t slumber, now that we do believe (Rom 13:11). Saving faith is an active faith. Our salvation is something that we must “work out in fear and trembling” because of our deficiencies of love for God and neighbour. Mary opened her heart to God, and for that she had found grace with Him (Lk 1:30) and helped gain the grace her Son had produced for all human souls by his life and death on the cross as his “fellow-worker”. The Incarnation wouldn’t have happened by default if Mary had been deficient in love of God and humanity. Nor could she have endured the road to Calvary together with her Son without the fire of the Holy Spirit’s love kindled in her heart.

Divine grace is a supernatural asset which we are expected to invest by collaborating with the Holy Spirit in the life of charity and grace for our increase in sanctification or justification. Grace is added to grace, as St. Paul puts it, by our bearing fruit (merit) through faith in God’s grace. The holding of our spiritual gifts of grace, beginning with faith working through love, is a co-operative enterprise between God and us. We must invest our share in what our Lord has contributed for our salvation in his humanity by his just merits, if we hope to reap the eternal benefits which he alone has produced for us. It isn’t enough for us to accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior while passively doing nothing and leaving all the labor up to him as we sit idly by, if we hope to be saved.

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This being the case, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary in the month of Nisan (Lk 1:27). Indeed, she had found favour with God because she was His handiwork of grace, created in her divine Son to do good works, which God had prepared for her to do (Eph 2:10). Faith through grace is the foundation of our justification before God, Yet, St. Peter tells us that we “as living stones are built up a spiritual house” on this foundation “to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5). We are not justified by faith alone; the foundation is practically useless unless the house is erected on it.

Mary had faith in the words of the angel Gabriel. She believed in what he spoke of the incarnation and was the first human being to know about the Holy Trinity. Her Fiat marked the foundation of her new pilgrimage of faith, but she had to be constructed as a spiritual house upon this foundation if the grace of redemption were to be gained for all humanity by her Son. And this should require much spiritual sacrifice of her in union with her Son on behalf of all living souls. In the order of grace, Mary stands pre-eminent among the common priesthood of believers in Christ’s mystical Body. Because of her moral and physical participation in the redemption, we too have been offered and received this grace of divine adoption.

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Thus, Mary helped gain countless souls for her Lord by the singular gift that he had graced her with, viz., the Divine Maternity. By pronouncing her Fiat in charity and grace, she brought the living Font of all grace into the world for the salvation of souls as her Son’s chief steward of grace. And this entailed that she should sacrifice herself for the sake of God’s goodness and love and for poor sinners so that they might be reconciled to God. In the order of grace, Mary led the way for all Christ’s disciples to gain souls for him. And she did so by taking up her cross after her Son and carrying it with him in spirit along the Via Dolorosa.​

Our Lord’s handmaid didn’t presume to look after only her own interest, the blessed and joyous state of being the mother of the Lord and the moral responsibility of raising her divine Son. Rather, our Blessed Lady understood very well that, by her decision, she was called to collaborate with God in His redemptive work; she would have to make many great personal sacrifices in union with her Son for the welfare of human souls.

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Mary knew that her faith wasn’t something that she was expected to put into safe keeping for the benefit of her soul alone, but that God required her to spread the faith she had to others even at the cost of having to endure many trials in the spirit of the Christian martyrs who followed her (Rev 7:14). The Divine Maternity wasn’t the eternal reward that Mary sought, but rather eternal life with God. She believed that this reward could be obtained only by suffering and dying to self for the sake of spreading God’s word and helping to make His truth known to everyone, including the Gentiles.​

In the depths of her soul, Mary perceived what her divine Son would bring to light with the establishment of his heavenly kingdom: “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken way” (Matt 25:29). Mary couldn’t condignly merit her maternal blessing or eternal life if she buried the talent she received in and through the merits of her divine Son by refusing to make sacrifices to God her spiritual worship and suffer for the sins of the world and the conversion of sinners.

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When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you,” she was perplexed by the meaning of the angel’s greeting, for she intuited that God must have sent His messenger to ask something very demanding of her for a divine purpose of tremendous proportion. After all, Mary must have been familiar with the Jewish traditions of God appearing to the patriarchs, judges, and prophets and calling them to engage in daunting tasks.

When God appeared to Jacob and ratified the covenant He had initially made with Abraham and now entrusted to his grandson, he said: “I AM WITH YOU and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Gen 28:15). Likewise, when God called Moses from the burning bush to lead His people from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land, He said: “I WILL BE WITH YOU. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain” (Ex 3:12). Taking Moses’ place, Joshua was called by God to lead the Israelites into battle as to possess the land God promised them with these words: “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I WILL BE WITH YOU; I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Josh 1:5).

Further, when God placed David, a humble shepherd boy, on the throne as head of His everlasting kingdom in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah, reminding David of His faithfulness to him, He said: “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel; and I HAVE BEEN WITH YOU wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth…When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom” (2 Sam 7:9,12). And, finally, when God called Jeremiah to be a prophet for the nations, He said: “Do not be afraid of them, for I AM WITH YOU and will rescue you” (Jer 1:8).​

Thus, the words “the Lord is with you” must have signalled to Mary that God was calling her to a great mission which could be as difficult and demanding as it was for the Hebrew heroes who went before her. Sensing her uneasiness, the angel Gabriel assured her not to fear, for she “had found grace with God” (Lk 1:30). The good news Mary received from the angel dispelled all her uneasiness (vv.31-33), but what she feared in her humility was whether she might not be up to the task. It wasn’t that she dreaded what she might have to suffer, or she didn’t trust God. So, when she pronounced her Fiat joyfully, she did affirm that God would be her “refuge” and “fortress” in whom she could “trust” (Ps 9:12), for God alone was her “help” and her “salvation”, in whom she had nothing to fear (Lk 1:46-49; Ps 27:1). In God alone was her soul at rest.

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Indeed, Mary was conversant with the bloody history of her people, and so, as she pondered on the words of the angel, the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem under the authority of Sennacherib could easily have come to mind in the words of the Psalmist: “Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” (Ps 46:10). On this historic occasion, God is commanding the Israelites to quietly wait upon Him without fear or diffidence. There is no reason for the Jews to tremble before the invaders, for their vain idols are no match for YHWH who shall exalt over the heathen and their false gods.​

In the Psalm’s primary context, the command to “be still” is a call for warriors to stop fighting. The word ‘still’ is translated from the Hebrew word rapa, meaning “to slacken, let down, or cease.” It connotes two people fighting until someone separates them and makes them drop their weapons. It is only after the fighting has stopped that those who have been fighting can acknowledge their dependence on God and need to trust in Him despite the seemingly hopeless odds against them.

Hence, Mary’s soul was at peace when the angel called her to engage with God in His work of salvation. God sent His messenger to Mary because He had an impact on her stillness. In her spiritual state, she saw that God was the only one she could trust: omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, holy, sovereign, faithful, infinite, and good. God would certainly exalt Himself over His enemies which were hers as well. All Mary could do, in the meantime, was surrender herself to God and trust in His plan, whatever trials and hardships she might have to endure together with her divine Son. Her greatest enemy must never be herself by losing her trust in God and relying on her own strength and personal resources. If she faithfully co-operated with God like her ancestors before her did, all should work for the greater good. We can be sure that our valiant Lady implicitly expressed these thoughts of hers in her Magnificat (Lk 1:50-55).

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A faithful saying:
for if we be dead with him,
we shall live also with him.
If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.
2 Timothy 2, 11-12
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Since Pentecost, the Catholic Church has infallibly taught that Christ alone redeemed the world by suffering and dying for its sins. It was he who liberated us “from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal 3:13). In other words, to satisfy His justice, God willed that Jesus be made an object of His wrath by laying “the iniquity of us all” on him (Isa 53:6). Unless Jesus was “smitten by God and inflicted” for its transgressions, mankind couldn’t be reconciled to Him and delivered from the stain of original sin, the deprivation of the original justice and sanctity which Adam had forfeited for all his descendants. Nor could our own personal sins be forgiven, and our common guilt be removed unless Christ was “bruised for our offenses” (Isa 53:5).

Still, Jesus wasn’t punished for our sins, or else our personal sins would now be non-sequitur. But our Lord and Saviour did take the punishment we all deserve upon himself to propitiate the Father for our offenses against Him. This required that he suffer and die unjustly so that he could restore the equity of justice between God and man. And by doing so, he merited all the graces we need for our regeneration, as to be sanctified and reckoned as personally just before God in his likeness (2 Cor 5:21).

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About two millennia later, we still see that our Lord desired to work together with his blessed mother so that “everyone might be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:1-4). The apostle Paul writes: ‘We then, as workers “together with” (sunergountos) him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain’ (2 Cor 6:1). And the apostle adds: ‘God “works for good with” (sunergei eis agathon) those who love Him’ (Rom 8:28). God desired to work for the good of all mankind with a young maiden by the name of Mary when he sent the angel Gabriel to her with His kind proposal (sunergei/ συνεργέω). And God prepared the mother of our Lord with a complete and perfect endowment of His grace so that she would be completely faithful and up to the task (Lk 1:28).

Mary would have received God’s grace in vain if she decided to bury her talent or gift of the Divine Maternity by being content only with giving birth to Jesus and nurturing him in his childhood. She was called to be a disciple and take up her cross after him. By having done this, she was further or truly (menoun/μενοῦνγε) blessed (Lk 11:28). Mary understood that her faith was an on-going process which required good works done in grace for the sanctification or justification of her soul to be saved. In the order of grace, our Blessed Mother has exemplified what we must do to inherit eternal life: acts of sacrificial love (Mt 19:16-22).

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Thus, God’s messenger greeted “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for [her] to do” (Eph 2:10). This was all made possible in anticipation of her Son who, through his suffering and death, merited the grace of justification and forgiveness for her by no preceding natural merit of her own outside the system of grace (Eph 2:8-9). And since no soul can ever hope to enter Heaven without having to suffer and die to self, Mary’s Fiat carried with it all the suffering and personal sorrow she would have to endure by her moral participation in the Incarnation in temporal satisfaction to God for the sins of the world.

Our Blessed Lady didn’t receive the grace that was bestowed upon her in vain but invested it in the salvation of souls which required that she suffer in union with her Son’s suffering and anguish for the ungratefulness of sinners. Mary’s first trial of faith came so soon after Jesus was born, when she and her infant Son were forced to flee into Egypt because of King Herod’s decree (Mt 2:13-23). The shadow of the Cross descended on Mary in Bethlehem where her pilgrimage of faith enshrouded in obscurity began. The manger was the door she stepped through after it had been opened at the Annunciation. Her joy in giving birth to the Messiah had to be qualified by her sorrow in giving new birth to humanity (Rev 12:1-2).

Mary’s association with her Son required that she too suffer and die to her maternal self. For the redemption to be completed, Mary had to willingly endure all the sorrow which only a loving mother could for her offspring. And to make temporal satisfaction to God for the sins of the world, her love was the only means by which God’s justice could be fully appeased. Our Blessed Lady was called through the angel to make up for what was lacking in her Son’s afflictions in her own afflictions (Col 1:24). Jesus would make both temporal and eternal satisfaction to the Father for mankind’s sins, but not without the temporal satisfaction his mother must make to repair man’s broken relationship with God. Mary satisfied God, for she suffered in filial love of God who was offended by sin, with a motherly love for her Son who suffered and died because of sin, and with the love our heavenly Father had had for all humanity which was ravaged by sin ever since the fall of Adam and Eve.

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The truth is, by gladly accepting our suffering in steadfast love of God in acknowledgement of our sins, our pain or loss becomes a fragrant offering to God and thereby a means of temporal satisfaction to Him for them. In fact, through suffering and dying to self, we may repair our broken relationship with God by restoring a measure of balance that was upset by the selfish pursuit of sinful gratification. God wills us to endure temporal punishments for our sins because His absolute justice and holiness demands it. “God rules the world in justice, and he judges the people with equity” (Ps 9:8). Human suffering is a temporal consequence of original sin, but Jesus has conferred redemptive value on this penalty for sin by his passion as the new Head or second Adam of humanity. We the members of his Body must follow our Lord and Saviour on the path that leads to Calvary if we hope to enter heaven by being cleansed of all remnants of sin and remitting our entire temporal debt of sin.

In and through Christ’s merits, our suffering has redemptive value provided we offer it to God in union with our Lord and Saviour for our sins with humble and contrite hearts over and against our natural desires which often result in the commission of sins. Mary helped make temporal reparation for the sins of the world possible by leading the way in the order of grace. The Lord was with his blessed mother when the angel greeted her because she was already willing to endure any cross God might present her with as a sin offering for others.

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It was by means of suffering “that man should not perish but have eternal life.” By Christ’s death on the cross, spiritual death has been conquered and the second death is no longer an irrevocable prospect facing mankind. Suffering and death are in themselves evil in character, but our Lord and Saviour has made them a basis of something good. Suffering involves pain and loss because of sin, but when offered to God in union with Christ’s suffering and death, it can serve to reconcile us to God. Whenever we suffer or face death, we can give back to God that which we denied Him, viz., our love for the sake of His love and goodness. Those who have truly acknowledged their guilt before God and are contrite in spirit, accept their suffering and death to this world which temporally appease the Divine justice and renders the eternal satisfaction Christ has made for them personally applicable (Dan 12:10; Sirach 2:5; Zach 13:8-9; 1 Cor 3:15-17; Jude 1:23, etc.).

The Virgin Mary was sinless from the time God created her and endowed her with a fullness of sanctifying grace, but she could congruously merit for us temporal satisfaction to God for our sins because she accepted her pain and loss and offered her sorrow to God for them on our behalf. In our stead, she was sorry for the sins that had offended God and willing to make reparation for them because of her love of God who was grieved by our sins. God was pleased with her spiritual sacrifice and accepted it as a sweet oblation which was sufficient to temporally restore the equity of justice between Him and mankind in union with Christ’s temporal satisfaction in his humanity. Being the new Eve and helpmate of the new Adam, Mary is our co-Redemptrix: “Mother with (cum) the Redeemer,” having merited the grace of redemption, not in co-ordination with her Son’s just merits but in co-operation with them.

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Sin and death no longer have absolute power over us because of Christ’s work on the cross, and so we must now take up our own cross together with him if we hope to be saved (Matt 16:24; Mk 8:34; Lk 9:23). The faith that we must have to be saved is a repentant faith that involves doing penance by willingly making personal sacrifices and suffering for God because of our sins and those of others. We owe God so much for our offenses against His love and goodness. Jesus did not suffer and die for us so that we should no longer owe God what He rightly deserves from us and receives by our acts of self-denial – our “spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1-2). Mary’s painful walk along the Via Dolorosa to the top of Calvary was her greatest act of worship to God. By having to sorrowfully watch her beloved Son suffer and die a cruel and shameful death, she offered up the greatest sacrifice to God any mother could have. Her Son’s suffering and death proved to be the heaviest cross she would ever have to carry so that everyone might be saved.

Mary’s painful walk along the Via Dolorosa to the top of Calvary was indeed her greatest act of worship to God. She was chosen to be the mother of our Lord so that a sword should pierce her soul to temporally appease the Divine justice and open the gates for the formal application of her Son’s work of salvation. What Mary’s Son victoriously achieved by his passion and death was instrumentally applied to his most Blessed Mother because of her faith working through love which required suffering and dying to self. We must emulate Mary, if we hope to have Christ’s merits instrumentally applied to us, since she emulated her Son and shared in his paschal sacrifice of himself for the expiation of sin. Our Lady of Sorrows suffered and died with Jesus on Calvary that we, too, might be saved through the many trials we may face in our lives. Our Lady of Fatima told the three shepherd children as a reminder to us all that no soul can enter heaven without having first suffered.​

The women and the beloved Disciple who were with Mary also suffered much anguish because of their love for Jesus, but with a love that paled in comparison with the perfect and unconditional love of a mother for her offspring. Our Blessed Mother had offered a sweet oblation that completely satisfied God and appeased Him for the sins that grieved Him: the blessed fruit of her womb. Thus, the temporal satisfaction she made for the remission of mankind’s temporal debt of sin was unsurpassed. In the order of grace, the Blessed Virgin Mary is our Mother of Mercy. And because of her impeccable perseverance in faith and moral courage in collaboration with God in His saving work, she is rightly the Queen of Apostles.

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St. Paul teaches us that we all have an active share in the work of redemption through suffering (subjective redemption). His teachings, together with those of St. Peter, provided hope and fortitude for the early Christians who were barbarously persecuted by the Romans. The apostle assured his listeners that what they might suffer because of Christ’s name was all for a greater good. “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Cor 1:5). The “comfort” he is referring to is the share in Christ’s glory which can only be attained through suffering as our Lord suffered for the sake of God’s goodness and love in a humble spirit of self-sacrifice (objective redemption) – that is for the remission of the temporal debt of sin in union with our Lord’s eternal expiation.

Just as the apostle bore his tribulations in and through Christ together with all the faithful who had to suffer from persecutions for their “praise, honour, and glory”, so too was Mary called to endure the sorrow she had to face at the foot of the Cross to complete what only her Son could have gained for the world all alone if he had chosen. Her participation in her Son’s suffering was a spiritual service to mankind no less than the persecutions the apostles had to suffer in Christ’s name and for the sake of his gospel were. Yet our Blessed Lady’s collaboration with her Son was of immeasurably greater import, for it belonged to the hypostatic order of Christ’s incarnation. Her spiritual work of mercy extended beyond ecclesial communities and embraced all humanity.

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And so it was that God ordained the world’s redemption should require Mary standing before the Cross and take it up herself by having to suffer interior anguish because of her love of God and hatred of sin. Temporally, she restored the equity of justice between God and mankind by collaborating with God in her sorrow in union with her Son’s afflictions. Mary’s sacrifice for sin in praise and thanksgiving was made on humanity’s behalf by restoring moral equilibrium between God and man, since her sacrifice was made in humbleness of heart and in a broken spirit of humanity.

Our sorrowful Lady completed an act of contrition on behalf of us all while valiantly standing erect against the powers of darkness on Golgotha. Mary is the Queen of Virgins whose lamp never dimmed and became extinguished (Mt 25:1-13). The sanctifying light of faith that radiated her soul strengthened her to overcome and defeat the dark spiritual forces that be. And so, Mary’s final perseverance in grace helped deliver humanity from the snares of death and restore it to new life with God.

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The temporal remission of our debt to God because of sin which Mary gained for us beneath the Cross completed the eternal debt paid for us by her divine Son on the Cross. If the temporal atonement for sin Jesus made for mankind was all that was required, albeit its all-sufficiency, Mary’s suffering couldn’t have had any redemptive value. Her role as a mother and how she felt at the cross would have been strictly natural and moral in character with no supernatural and saving merit. In that case, our Lord wouldn’t have needed a mother at all to become man. The dust of the earth could have served sufficiently for the creation of the new Adam (Gen 2:7).

Yet God willed that the Son should have a helpmate like the first Adam had, only she would be at enmity with the serpent and undo Eve’s transgression by crushing the head of the Serpent with her “immaculate foot” (Gen 2:18; 3:15). Mary was chosen to repair all the minor incidents that led to Adam’s catastrophic fall from grace. The super abundance of God’s plan to redeem mankind wouldn’t have been perfect and complete without her moral participation. The Serpent’s head couldn’t have been entirely crushed if his victory over the Woman and Adam’s helpmate had remained unresolved and he could forever gloat over it in his pride against God. The woman herself, too, would then remain interminably at enmity with the Serpent with no final resolution ever having been reached in Eve’s transgression. She did, after all, greatly contribute to the fall of her husband Adam as his unfaithful bride. So, it had to take God’s faithful virgin bride to untie the sinful knot which Eve had made (Lk 1:35). The new Adam chose to justify mankind with the new Eve’s vindication of the woman. Eve stood before the tree which bore the forbidden fruit, and then something terrible happened to our spiritual detriment; the new Eve stood before the tree which bore the fruit of her womb so that where sin abounded, grace would abound even more to our spiritual benefit (Rom 5:20).

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Mary is the proto-type of the Church, for she was a woman of faith which was tried and proved to be as genuine as gold through suffering. When she stood beneath the Cross in sorrow by having to gaze upon her Son, who was “wounded for our transgressions”, she looked to him and tried to be like him: meek and humble of heart. Only then could our Blessed Mother have the fortitude and moral courage to take up her cross together with Jesus so that the Church should be born and comprised of redeemed humanity.

By being made of a woman, Jesus offered himself to the Father for the eternal expiation of sin, but his mother was called to suffer with him to cover its temporal debt on behalf of mankind. God forgave David his mortal sins of murder and adultery, but He still took David’s child from him because of his sins (2 Sam 2:14). This was done to restore an equity of justice between them. David still owed God something in return for having taken something from Him, viz., His sovereign dignity, although his sins were forgiven. Our Blessed mother restored what sinful humanity had taken from God through pride and selfishness by suffering for our sake.

Even though Jesus atoned for mankind’s sins more than sufficiently, suffering and death remained. This was because temporally mankind was still indebted to God for all its sins (past-present-future) which required that reparation be made for the remittance of its temporal debts. The purpose of satisfaction is to repair the offense given to God and make Him favourable to us again. An act of reparation can be satisfactory to God only if there is something painful about it.

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Hence, in all righteousness and wisdom, God chose a morally courageous woman who would serenely and happily accept all the sorrows that should come her way so that He would be appeased in His justice. The Son should not have to redeem the world all alone with no moral responsibility on man’s part for his sins (sola Christo). And so that this woman should satisfactorily make reparation for the world’s sins temporally together with the Son’s eternal expiation, she had to be a spotless ewe, a woman worthiest to be associated with the holy Lamb of God as his helpmate and the anti-type of Eve, our co-Peccatrix: “woman with the sinner.​”

The Blessed Virgin Mary was completely dead to this world and wasn’t the least bit anxious over anything we might naturally be obsessed with, such as honours, personal profits, and vain pleasures. Since the time Mary was of moral age and centred her life on the Torah, she was ever-mindful of the things of God and not the things of man. Living her life in a manner pleasing to God was always first and foremost on her mind. The glory of God was always the primary objective of whatever she did (1 Cor 10:31). Thus, since earliest time, Christians have hailed Mary as the new Eve or spiritual “mother of all the living” who comprise redeemed humanity restored to the life of grace and the preternatural gifts of the Holy Spirit (Jn 19:26-27). It was from the Cross that our Lord gave her as mother to us, since she gave birth to us by the Cross after having conceived and borne her Son and our brother in its shadow.

“Adam had to be recapitulated in Christ, so that death might be swallowed up in immortality, and Eve in Mary, so that the Virgin, having become another virgin’s advocate, might destroy and abolish one virgin’s disobedience by the obedience of another virgin.”
St. Irenaeus, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, 33
(AD 190)

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Sing, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband,
says the Lord.
Enlarge the place of your tent,
stretch your tent curtains wide
do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
your descendants will dispossess nations
and settle in their desolate cities.
Isaiah 54, 1-3
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Salve Regina!

And Thy Own Soul a Sword Shall Pierce

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Now, why art thou drawn together with grief?
Hast thou no king in thee,
or is thy counsellor perished,
because sorrow hath taken thee
as a woman in labour.
Micah 4, 9

And Simeon blessed them,
and said to Mary his mother:
Behold this child is set for the fall,
and for the resurrection of many in Israel,
and for a sign which shall be contradicted:
And thy own soul a sword shall pierce,
that, out of many hearts,
thoughts may be revealed.
Luke 2, 34-35
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Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Mt 11:28-30). Our Lord is citing the Book of Sirach 51, 23-30: ‘Come to me, all you that need instruction, and learn in my school. Why do you admit that you are ignorant and do nothing about it? Here is what I say: It costs nothing to be wise. Put on the yoke, and be willing to learn. The opportunity is always near. See for yourselves! I have not studied very hard, but I have found great contentment. No matter how much it costs you to get Wisdom, it will be well worth it. Be joyfully grateful for the Lord’s mercy, and never be ashamed to praise him. Do your duty at the proper time, and the Lord, at the time he thinks proper, will give you your reward.’ Jesus also says, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt 26:24).

By citing Sirach, Jesus is identifying himself with the eternal wisdom: The Divine Logos of God. Our souls can find rest only by learning how to be like Jesus was in his humanity: humbly and meekly obedient to the will of God and perfected in obedience by willingly suffering for the sins that offend our heavenly Father. Jesus produced our eternal reward for us, but if we hope to merit this reward, we must be willing to take up our cross after him. No matter how much it physically and emotionally costs us to follow the road to Calvary in our Lord’s footsteps, our love of God and hope in His promised reward should relieve us of our burdens (Rom 8:18).

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By trusting God and surrendering our burdens to Him, as we faithfully carry out our duties of discipleship with Christ’s yoke taken upon us, He will be faithful to us in return and provide the patience and fortitude we need to endure our yoke with the help of these actual graces (Rom 5:2-3; 2 Cor 12:9-10). God’s actual grace is efficacious in that it has the power to inspire and influence us to do what pleases Him over and against our natural instincts. By opening ourselves to the Divine persuasion with the knowledge and understanding we have received from the Holy Spirit (the sanctifying light of faith), we can acquit ourselves of the temporal debt of sin by offering our suffering to God in reparation for our sins.

Without faith and uniting our sufferings with Christ’s afflictions, the trials we have and the burdens we carry hold no redemptive value. Nor could they ever be lightened if we focus strictly on ourselves and fail to look at Christ our paschal victim. Trying to remove these burdens altogether would be ignorant of us and unwise, for without them we could never be buried with our Lord into death and be raised with him to new life with God. We who have been predestined to grace or adopted as children of God are co-heirs with Christ on condition that we unite our sufferings with our Lord’s suffering in temporal expiation for our sins to appease God’s anger or justice. St. Paul teaches us: ‘And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God and joint-heirs with Christ; yet so, if we suffer with him, that we may be glorified with him’ (Rom 8:17).

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Jesus suffered and died first and foremost to redeem humanity by making eternal expiation for sin. The primary purpose of his self-sacrifice was to gain forgiveness of sin for the whole world and remove mankind’s eternal guilt. So, we as Christians do not unite our suffering and dying to self with Christ’s temporal satisfaction to God for sin exclusively to increase in sanctification for the individual allotment of heavenly rewards, now that we have been assuredly saved by professing our faith in our Lord and Saviour’s just merits – a Protestant presumption. Rather, our predestination to glory or the attainment of our salvation rests on whether we have sufficiently expiated our temporal debt of sin before gaining admittance into Heaven with no stain of the remnants of sin on our souls. Nothing unclean may pass through the gates that lead to the marriage feast of the Lamb. Those who have been invited (predestined to grace) must don white and spotless apparel by having suffered and died to self in union with Christ to be worthy of attendance in the first place (Rev 2:7; 7:14; 21:27; Mt 22:1-14).

​Our cross stands at the forefront of our baptismal commitment (Jn 12:24; Rom 6:4; Col 2:12). St. Paul preached a “Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23). For unbelievers, the cross is a scandal and something foolhardy to take up. The wisdom of this world is totally indifferent to it. Yet, as heirs with Christ, we shall be glorified with him, but only after we have temporally suffered for our sins (Rom 8:17). Jesus did not eradicate suffering and death by his passion and death, because these evil effects of original sin are means by which we can make temporal reparation and expiation for our personal sins to amend our broken relationship with God. Our Lord and Savior gave suffering redemptive value, making it the necessary means to redeem mankind. So, unless we accept and unite our suffering and death with the passion and death of our Lord because of our daily sins and offer our suffering to God in reparation for our sins in union with him, we are unworthy to reap the fruit Christ alone gained for us: eternal life with God (Phil 3:10).

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Pain and suffering have no moral and spiritual value if divorced from repentance. Conversely, repentance is incomplete if the debt of sin remains in the balance. God forgave David his mortal sins of murder and adultery after he sincerely repented with a contrite heart. But to off-set his transgressions and restore an equity of justice, God took the life of the child David conceived in his act of adultery with Bathsheba for having murdered her husband Uriah: an innocent life for an innocent life, or an eye for an eye. And God also permitted the rape of David’s wives for his act of adultery (2 Sam 12:9-10, 14, 18-19). Only then could David’s broken relationship with God be fully amended, provided he accepted his pain and loss as a temporal punishment for his sins to restore the equity of justice in his relationship with God.

​Now, one might object that this was required of David because Christ hadn’t died for his sins yet in real time. However, if our Lord and Saviour’s just merits hadn’t been applied to David, God wouldn’t have forgiven him to begin with. He, nor even Abraham, couldn’t have been reckoned as righteous before God because of his act of faith. His several days of fasting and lying on the ground in sack cloth covered with ashes would be non-sequitur if Christ’s foreseen merits and the saving grace which our Lord produced for us did not apply to him at this time. But what Jesus accomplished on Calvary transcends historical time and space. His merits extend to all three dimensions of time: past, present, and future. If this weren’t the case, all the righteous in Hades of Old Testament time would still be there forever, but not in Gehenna or Hell, being denied the Beatific Vision of God.  Yet, they were liberated by Christ after he had died on the cross and rose from the dead to open the gates of Heaven.

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Thus, the debt of sin can be remitted only by having to do penance for it. Doing acts of penance, whose pain and loss counter-balances the sinful pleasure one is heartily sorry for or accepting the pain and loss that God permits because of our sins, completes the temporal redemptive process. Christ did not suffer and die so that we should no longer owe God what is His rightful due for having offended His sovereign dignity (Mt 5:17; Job 42:6; Lam 2:14; Ezek 18:21; Jer 31:19; Rom 2:4; Rev 2:5, etc.). If this were so, then there would be no need for us even to repent, besides doing penance. Our Lord and Saviour made eternal expiation for sin on behalf of mankind (Adam). We cannot reap the fruit of his merits unless we make temporal expiation for our own personal sins in union with his temporal and thereby eternal propitiation for sin, now that he alone has unlocked the gates of heaven and merited grace for us as our ultimate paschal sacrifice.

This is from Jesus himself: “No, I say to you: but unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish”(Lk 13:3); “Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance” (Mt 3:8). True repentance for the forgiveness of sin calls for fruit worthy of our act of contrition. Our outward acts (alms-giving/fasting) must conform to our inner disposition or spiritual reality (charity/temperance) to off-set our vices and sins (greed/gluttony) which have been forgiven by the act of repentance pending full temporal restitution.

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In Protestantism, sanctification isn’t the essence or formal cause of justification. Sanctification is a separate construct that relies on our first being justified strictly by Christ’s external merits. Some Non-Catholics do exercise penance but merely for an increase in sanctification and consequently a greater enhancement of heavenly rewards. Penance does not contribute to an ongoing justification in Protestant thought. Here there is no place for the temporal remission of our debt of sin and purification of the soul making it inherently just or righteous before God and worthy of entering Heaven. Yet Jesus says in the Gospel of Luke that unless we do penance, we shall all perish. Repentance and penance go together. Doing penance, therefore, is necessary for gaining admittance into Heaven, albeit the subsequent rewards. Our Lord’s infinite merits aren’t applied to us personally unless we make temporal and finite restitution for our sins in union with his temporal and thereby eternal satisfaction for sin.

​Hence, the best way to learn from Jesus is to look to him and try to be like him: meek and humble of heart. Only then can we have the patience and fortitude to carry our cross. It is the proud of heart who can’t bear carrying the cross and regard it as a personal affront. By being inordinately self-appreciative, they see their trials as having no positive value, since they’re too focused on themselves and on what they feel they don’t deserve but deserve better. But as Christians, we mustn’t forget that the crosses we bear have redemptive value. By offering our suffering to God as an oblation for our sins, in acknowledgement of them, we can make temporal satisfaction to God in union with Christ’s temporal and thereby eternal satisfaction for the remission of our personal temporal debt to God for our past sins, regardless of whether God has already forgiven us, yet because He already has by our humble act of contrition in a true spirit of repentance in and through the just merits of Christ.
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Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake,
and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions
of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake,
which is the church.
Colossians 1, 24
 

Temporally we are still indebted to God for our offenses against Him and are required to make restitution for the remittance of our debts. The purpose of satisfaction is to repair the offense offered to God and make Him favourable to us again. An act of reparation can be satisfactory to God only if there is something painful about it. This is what is meant by commutative justice, that virtue whose object is to render to everyone what belongs to him. When we sin against God, we deny Him what He is supremely entitled to, viz., our love and obedience. So, saying sorry isn’t enough to restore a balance of equity in our relationship with God. This requires that we show our love for Him which we have denied Him. By accepting our sufferings or making personal sacrifices and offering them to God as means of reparation for our offenses against Him, equity is restored, as the pain or loss counters the vain pleasure of selfish gain which is the object of our sins.​

By his passion and death, our Lord gained the grace of forgiveness and the removal of guilt for all humanity because of man’s implication in the sin of Adam. But the temporal damage that remained because of man’s personal sins still had to be covered on his part, and this had initially been done by the Blessed Virgin Mary on behalf of all mankind. She was chosen to help restore mankind to the life of grace, since Eve morally contributed to its loss. Her interior suffering counter-balanced Eve’s pursuit of vain pleasure and repaired the offense our primordial mother had committed against God’s sovereign dignity by enticing her husband to join her with the Serpent in common rebellion (Gen 3:6).

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The sin Eve committed was an irrational movement towards a mutable good, which Satan was aware of when he deceived Eve to put her faith in him. So, only Mary’s obedient act of faith in God could have provided the contrary movement needed to undo Eve’s transgression. And this required that she willingly suffer to appease God in His justice. Only then could the equity of justice be restored between mankind and God, on condition that our Blessed Lady united her suffering with the suffering of her Son in and through his merits. The Mother made finite temporal satisfaction in union with the Son’s infinite temporal satisfaction in his sacred humanity, pending the eternal satisfaction to God for sin he alone could make in his divine nature, but not without temporal satisfaction.

God willed that eternal satisfaction be made on condition that it be completed and perfected by man’s temporal satisfaction. Both Jesus (the second Adam) and Mary (the second Eve) did this in their shared humanity, having learned obedience to God and made perfect through suffering. If temporal satisfaction weren’t needed, God would have redeemed humanity without having to become man. Our Lord’s theandric (Divine and human) act would be superfluous. We, as “living stones,” have been “built up into a spiritual house,” a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5). As “partakers of the divine nature,” we are called to unite our sacrifices to God with the ultimate sacrifice of the God-man for the temporal remission of sin.

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The eternal satisfaction Jesus made for our transgressions by his afflictions could be completed only by the temporal satisfaction our Blessed Lady made by her sorrow in union with her divine Son’s suffering for the forgiveness of sins in reparation for Adam’s transgression which alone produced the Fall. What our Lord super-abundantly gained for us by his just merits – mankind’s reconciliation to God – was completed by the Virgin Mary, whose participation rendered God’s plan of salvation perfect. The Serpent mustn’t be able to gloat, not even over half of what he accomplished by seducing Eve to rebel against God with him, now that the sin of Adam would be undone by her divine Son.​

God ordained that a sword should pierce Mary’s soul so that the temporal satisfaction she should make would complete the eternal satisfaction made by her Son in human unity together. What Jesus accomplished in his passion was mankind’s objective redemption. What his mother Mary gained for mankind as its spiritual and maternal representative was subjective redemption. By carrying her cross in union with her Son, Mary offered penance to God for all the sins of Adam’s descendants and thereby helped remit the temporal debt of sin by her act of reparation. Her sorrow for the loss of her beloved Son temporally expiated mankind’s sins so that her Son’s temporal and eternal expiation would be complete. Our Lady could act in union with her Son on behalf of sinful humanity because she was without sin (Gen 3:15; Luke 1:28, 30; 1:42).

Christ chose to be “made of a woman” primarily for this reason (Gal 4:4), which is why he called his mother “Woman”, viz., the New Eve, at the beginning and end of his public ministry – in the shadow of the Cross and from the Cross (Jn 2:2-5; 19:26-27). Adam called his spouse and helpmate “the woman,” though she wasn’t much help to him. By her instigation, we who are descended from Adam are “conceived in sin” and “born in guilt” by association (Ps 51:5). Mary’s moral participation contributed to our reconciliation to God and restoration to the life of His grace. Her sorrow beneath the Cross temporally restored a measure of balance on the scales of the Divine justice by counteracting Eve’s selfish pursuit of vain glory – her wish to be like God but apart from God and before Him. Partaking of the divine nature as God’s adoptive daughter was not enough for her.

“For it was necessary Adam should be summed up in Christ,
that mortality should be swallowed up and overwhelmed by immortality;
and Eve summed up in Mary, that a virgin should be a virgin’s intercessor, and by a virgin’s obedience undo and put away a virgin’s disobedience.”
St. Irenaeus,The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 33
(A.D. 190)
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But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was
already dead, they did not break his legs.
Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear,
and at once blood and water came out.
John 19, 33-34

The Greek translation for “and a sword shall pierce your own soul” is ψυχὴν διελεύσεται ῥομφαία. The nominative noun ῥομφαία (a sharp blade) can be taken both literally and figuratively. Thus, we have a play on words in this verse. Just as the Son’s body was pierced by a sharp blade when the soldier struck his side with his spear, so also should the Mother’s soul or heart be pierced by a sharp blade. Luke’s message is clear: God desired Mary to participate in her Son’s suffering to complete His plan, though Christ’s suffering alone was more than sufficient to make reparation for the sins of the world. The nominative noun is a metaphor for the shared anguish of the Son and the Mother which was required for the redemption to be perfect in the Divine order.

What Jesus, therefore, merited in strict justice, Mary merited by her maternal right and friendship with God. Unless the Mother would make temporal satisfaction for the world’s sins against God, the Son would not make eternal satisfaction. So that the hearts of many shall be revealed, a sword should pierce Mary’s soul – and not only the side of her deceased Son. Mary’s participation cannot be excluded. The truth of this revelation is emphasized by the juxta-positioning of the Son’s rejection and physical suffering and the Mother’s interior suffering in verses 34-35 of Luke’s gospel.

She stood before the Cross and looked up full of pity
to the wounds of her Son,  because she expected not the death
of her Son but the salvation of the world.”
St. Ambrose
De Institutione Virginis
(c. A.D. 392)

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And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you,
though the more abundantly I love you,
the less I am loved.
2 Corinthians 12, 15

In His wisdom and justice, God chose Mary to associate her with His dispensation of grace for the salvation of souls in and through the merits of Christ. Our heavenly Father acted purely on His own initiative, which was then followed by Mary’s free act of faith working through love in collaboration with the Holy Spirit. In the Christian life, the merit of our good works done in grace is first attributed to the grace of God and only then to the faithful “whose good works proceed in Christ” by cooperation with divine grace (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2008). And since we are created in the image of God and have free will, we can either accept or reject God’s grace (Acts 7:51).

The application of the salvation formally gained for us by our Lord and Saviour by his merits more than sufficiently ultimately depends on how well we respond to His grace. Our salvation is conditional. And despite our having been forgiven and our collective guilt removed, temporal reparation is still required of us individually to completely satisfy God’s justice, and this often requires spiritual works of mercy done in charity and grace (Eph 2:8-10). His righteousness demands it. ‘He shall judge the world in equity, he shall judge the people in justice’ (Ps 9:8).

With the fall of Adam, mankind incurred eternal separation from the Beatific Vision of God. And in consequence of the fall, man needed a satisfaction to God for his sins of infinite value to be released from this eternal debt of sin. Of course, only God Himself could make such infinite satisfaction, which he did in the person of Jesus Christ, the Divine Word made man. Nevertheless, temporal satisfaction for sin is still required of us for the temporal remission of the debt of sin and the conferral of sanctifying or justifying grace. This finite satisfaction of ours has supernatural value and confers supernatural merit provided it is joined with Christ’s eternal satisfaction to the Father in and through his merits. Mary made this satisfaction on behalf of humanity when she united her interior suffering with the suffering of her divine Son in his Passion.

Eve brought in sin by means of a tree; Mary,
on the contrary, brought in Good by means of
the tree of the Cross.”
St. Gregory of Nyssa
Sermon on the Nativity of Christ
(A.D. 395)

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But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering
on the sacrifice and service of your faith,
I am glad and rejoice with all of you.
Philippians 2, 17

Sin is a transgression against the order of the Divine justice with which God rules the universe. He has arranged all things by measure. Thus, Christ had to counter-balance the eternal consequences of sin and restore the equality of justice between God and mankind. But our Lord had no intention of acting entirely alone (sola Christo). God willed with necessity that his blessed mother should counter-balance the temporal consequences of sin by uniting her suffering with his to restore the equality of friendship and justice between God and man. God required a just measure of satisfaction from her on behalf of humanity to restore equilibrium in His Divine order of creation.

The infinite satisfaction made by Christ made Mary’s finite satisfaction possible, since she had acted in union with him in charity and grace. When Adam sinned against God, he did not sin as an individual person, but as the natural head of an organic whole, viz., humanity. The human race is like a human body: Once the head falls of, all the lower members are destroyed with it. So, when Adam sinned against God and fell from the supernatural life of grace, the whole human race fell with him. We are all members of this single organic whole, and as such, we have all fallen from grace in Adam. And as members of this one organic whole, we have all inherited the penalties of Adam’s sin, suffering and death, inasmuch as we all have sinned (Rom 5:12).

​In the order of grace, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the “neck” that joins us with our Head. She is the Second Eve and Dispensatrix of Grace who channels the grace that proceeds from Christ and flows to the members of his body. Through Mary’s maternal mediation, we receive the life of grace which our primordial mother Eve lost for all her offspring. Mary’s obedience and her being made perfect through suffering for the sake of appeasing an offended God in His grace counter-balanced and undid Eve’s rejection of God and disobedience in her fall from grace by an inordinate love of self in the pursuit of selfish gain. The Virgin Mary appeased the Divine justice by acting contrary to her natural maternal instinct, that is by joyfully offering her Son back to God in faith despite her sorrow for the salvation of the world. She “rejoiced” in God our savior in the depths of her pierced soul and wounded heart.

The cross and nails of the Son were also those
of his Mother; with Christ crucified the Mother
was also crucified.”
St. Augustine
Of Holy Virginity
(c. A.D. 401)

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Wherefore I pray you not to faint
at my tribulations for you,
which is your glory.
Ephesians 3, 13

​Mary’s divine vocation was much more than being a natural mother of Jesus. As a member of her Son’s Mystical Body, Mary was called to participate with her Son in his redemptive work, which required that she, too, suffer to repair the offense mankind committed against God and amend its broken relationship with Him. The suffering Mary endured drew its supernatural value from the suffering her Son had to endure in his passion. Only by suffering would Christ merit the grace of redemption for mankind. And since her Son suffered to provide this channel of grace, Mary’s suffering could also serve as an instrument of the dispensation of grace by being joined with her Son’s suffering, since it is originally a penalty for our sins.  As Head of his Mystical Body, of which Mary was a member, Christ could suffer in his blessed mother. As one member of a body suffers, so too, the other members are affected.

​It was by his own suffering as Head of his Mystical Body that our Lord merited redemptive grace for humanity. So, by suffering, Mary could also merit grace as a member of her Son’s Body and being joined with him. This grace that she merited for mankind was channelled to her from her divine Son. Her willingness to suffer had a supernatural effect for mankind, for she participated with her Son in his redemptive work as a member joined with the Head in one Mystical Body. St. Paul tells us:

‘As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable, we treat with special honor.’
1 Corinthians 12:20-23

Since ancient time, the Catholic Church has honoured Mary for her vital contribution in the dispensation of redemptive grace as a member of Christ’s Mystical Body. Presently, she is the neck that transmits all the signal graces from the Head to all the lower members of the body. As “the mother with (cum) the Redeemer,” the Blessed Virgin Mary is our co-Redemptrix. ​Being both Head and Body, Jesus desired his mother Mary, the most vital member, to collaborate with him, simply because he chose it to be this way in concurrence with the will of his heavenly Father. All members of his Mystical Body serve the Head in some capacity in the order of grace, each according to their spiritual gifts (See 1 Cor. 12).

Mary’s gift is the Divine Maternity which belongs to the higher hypostatic order of Christ’s incarnation. Her co-operation in and through the merits of her divine Son, by her pleasing love of God, immeasurably exceeds that of any of his apostles in the redemption. Our Blessed Lady is the spiritual mother of all Eve’s offspring in her co-redemptive participation with her Son – the new Adam. Jeremiah prophesies: “A woman shall compass a man” (Jer. 31:22).

Oh, womb so holy that welcomed God,
womb in which the writ of sin was torn up.”
St. Basil of Seleucia
Homily 39 on the Annunciation
(ante A.D. 460)

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Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete,
lacking in nothing.
James 1, 2-4

Mary co-operated in the principal act of Christ’s priesthood when she consented to the sacrifice of the Cross. She offered up her Son to God spiritually in her wounded love for Him as his loving mother. True, the priestly power effectively rested with Jesus, but the oblation and immolation of her Son which she acceptably offered in her motherly sorrow bestowed on her the character or spirit of the priesthood. Mary offered up her Son to God in conformity with his suffering, by the interior suffering of hers because of a mother’s love for her Son – the God-man. Spiritually, our sorrowful Mother was the first among the royal priesthood of believers to offer up the Eucharistic sacrifice to God in union with our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek and sacrificial victim.

​Indeed, her presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple was a pre-presentation of her sacrificial offering for the expiation of sin on Calvary in union with her Son’s pre-presentation of his self-sacrifice on the Cross at the Last Supper. The fruit of Mary’s womb (her offering of peace and reconciliation) was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. Jesus offered himself as the ultimate propitiation of sin, but he chose to do so in union with his blessed mother. Our Lord chose to be “made of a woman” so that she should have an active priestly role to perform as a member of his Mystical Body.

Thus, her sorrow for the God-Man (the most perfect and pleasing oblation offered up to God the Father for the sins of the world) temporally appeased God’s justice. It was under the shadow of the cross that Mary consecrated her firstborn and only Son to God when she presented the infant Jesus in the Temple in commemoration of Abraham’s consent to offer up Isaac as a fragrant oblation (Gen 22:1-19). Fittingly, it was on this occasion Simeon prophesied that a sword would also pierce her soul. The prophecy was fulfilled at the instant the soldier pierced Jesus’ side with his lance, drawing out blood and water, which represent justification and regeneration, symbolically marking the birth of the Church (Jn 19:34). This incident on Golgotha happened after Jesus had redefined Mary’s motherhood from the Cross and designated her Mother of the Church, just before he drank the fourth (hallel) Passover cup of the sacrificial wine of his wedding banquet on the Cross, which he deferred from drinking at the Last Supper, and gave up his spirit, having consummated the new nuptial covenant between God and redeemed humanity (Jn 19:26-30).

Through Mary we are redeemed
from the curse of the Devil.”
St. Modestus of Jerusalem
PG 86; 3287
(ante A.D. 630)

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For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God,
one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.
For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it,
you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure,
this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example,
so that you might follow in his steps.
1 Peter 2, 19-21

God willed that His Only-begotten Son be “made of a woman” rather than be formed out of the clay of the ground, as the first Adam had been at the time of creation, partly so that a woman could make temporal satisfaction to Him in view of Eve’s transgression. Mary had, in fact, vindicated the entire human race by her faith working through love. Together with the infinite satisfaction that the Son alone made in strict justice, since its value and dignity was derived from his divine Person, Mary offered for us a satisfaction of becomingness and friendship with God, whose value rested on her obedient act of faith and charity in God’s grace in and through Christ’s merits. The immeasurable love she had for her divine Son – the God-man – could only please God, without which the merits of our Lord’s sacrifice should not be formally applied to the human race in the Divine plan.

What our Lord and Saviour accomplished in his passion and death was more than sufficient and super-abundant, but his work would have lacked perfection and completeness without his blessed mother’s moral participation. Mary, on the other hand, would have lacked perfection and completeness in God’s grace if she had lost faith in God beneath the Cross. The collaboration between the Mother and her Son had to be faultless and lacking in nothing for God’s plan of salvation to be fulfilled.

The Virgin after giving birth to her Son, was never separated from Him in His activity, His dispositions, His will… When He suffered, not only was she everywhere present beside Him and even realized especially then His presence, but she even suffered with Him.”
St. John the Geometer
The Life of Mary
(A.D. 989)

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Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his  sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3, 8-11

In Catholic theology, Mary made a satisfaction de convenientia, whose value was derived from the dignity of her divine motherhood and the plenitudes of grace she was endowed with. Thus, her interior suffering made satisfaction to God on our behalf, since she suffered in proportion to her love for her crucified Son who was also God – a human love which was perfect in that it held supernatural value. As the Mother with the Redeemer, Mary was intimately united with him in his work of redemption by her perfect command of the will in conformity with the Divine will, her poverty of spirit, and suffering for the sake of God’s infinite love and goodness in emulation of her Son in his loving obedience to the Father. Both the Son and the Mother suffered to propitiate God the Father who was offended by sin and for humanity which was ravaged by sin. “God desires that everyone be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). The Mother and the Son also suffered in unity so that God’s antecedent will might be fulfilled, for “God so loved the world” (Jn 3:16).

Moreover, Mary made a temporal satisfaction of becomingness on our behalf through her obedience to God’s will. The aim of making satisfaction to God is to repair an offence against God and make him favourable to us again. This can only be achieved by suffering pain or loss and being in the state of grace. Mary’s consent to be the mother of our Lord was a meritorious deed, since it was made in charity and grace. But what made it a means of satisfaction and temporal expiation was the suffering that would be involved. Her satisfaction was perfect, since it proceeded from a love and oblation which was more pleasing to God than the sin of Eve was displeasing to Him. It was made by a woman who was full of grace and with the Lord as His fellow worker in the vineyard (Lk 1:28; 1 Cor 3:9).

“Her toil is in her manifold birth-giving and in her distress of sighing. Hers are the pains as of ‘a woman in labour.’ Her loving care is for the holy children, whom she conceived by the Holy Spirit, for them the warmth of her love, for them her motherly concern and untold sorrow over the dangers and temptations which assail them.”
Adam of Perseign
Sermo 5
(ante A.D. 1221)
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Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 4, 12-13

Hence, Mary’s interior suffering had the character of satisfaction in that like her divine Son and in union with him she suffered because of sin and the offence it offers to God. As the late Catholic theologian, Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange tells us: “Her suffering was measured by her love of God whom sin offended, by her love of her Son who was crucified for our sins, and her love towards those who do sin.” God honoured her suffering in accord with her state of grace and the affinity which had existed between them. It was through Jesus that the inner thoughts of many might be revealed, but only if it involved the wounded love of his sorrowful mother because of sin. So that the inner thoughts of many might be revealed, a sword should pierce her heart.

Mary’s participation in her Son’s suffering was ordained by God. She had to stand before the Cross and feel the pangs of tremendous sorrow to vindicate Eve and her fallen offspring and make temporal restitution for the sins of the world together with her Son’s eternal expiation which undid the sin of Adam and opened the gates of Heaven. But for us to pass through these gates, we must willingly offer up our suffering to God for our sins and the sins of others to temporally make satisfaction for offending Him. Jesus did not temporally remove suffering and death by his passion and death in order to give these penalties for sin redemptive value by our sharing in his paschal work.

In this sense, the Blessed Virgin Mary is our co-Redemptrix, Reparatrix, and Advocatrix of grace. She shouldered the moral responsibility of humanity for its sins and temporally restored the equality of justice between God and His fallen created children by her act of reparation, which universally relieved mankind of the temporal debt of sin, forgiven by the merits of Christ through his passion and death on the Cross. Since God judges the world in equity, he shall judge the world in justice. Mary had to stand beneath the Cross and feel its full weight upon her on behalf of all Eve’s offspring, which was indebted to God for its sins, if her Son were to be crucified on the Cross for the dispensation of the grace of justification and forgiveness. As our co-Redemptrix, the Virgin Mary is indeed the spiritual mother of all the living, she who gave birth to redeemed humanity through the labour of her sorrow.

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And so, God decreed with necessity that our sorrowful mother take up her cross together with her Son’s for mankind’s redemption. Mary helped reveal the glory of the Lord for all mankind by sharing in her Son’s suffering. This she did by making up for what was lacking in her Son’s afflictions in her sorrow and anguish through the Cross. Our Blessed Lady suffered the loss of her maternal right so that the world might gain Christ and be restored to the life of grace.

​Mary’s endurance in suffering for the sake of God’s love and goodness, which had been violated against, was a gracious thing to God, and so He honoured her suffering and was propitiated by it insofar He could forget about mankind’s unworthiness to be forgiven because of her faith and love. Mary’s obedient act of faith counter-balanced mankind’s infidelity and disobedience, its cold-hearted indifference and hatred, thereby temporally restoring the equality of justice between God and man by her act of reparation. And temporally she made satisfaction for mankind’s sins by suffering because of them and for them, so that God may be fully appeased for the sin of both Adam and Eve.

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Thus, by showing herself to be worthier than Eve, Mary made temporal satisfaction to God for our sins with a strong appeal to the Divine justice and mercy which her love and sorrow satisfied to completion. She, being a human creature, concretely represented the human race as worthy of being redeemed by the blood of the Cross in strict justice. Unlike the rest of humanity, Mary was not alienated from God, having never fallen from grace. So, for his mother’s sake more than for ours, Jesus delivered himself into the hands of ungrateful and unworthy sinners, through which act he designated her Mother of the Church and redeemed humanity because of her perseverance in faith together with him in his obedience to the will of the Father, despite all the suffering they should bear for the sins of the world.

As Eve prompted Adam to disobey God, so Mary encouraged her Son in his suffering humanity to fulfill the will of his heavenly Father by standing sorrowfully by his side and enduring suffering together with him so that the grace of redemption could be channelled to the world and mankind be reborn. Both the human wills of the Mother and the Son were aligned with the Divine will, albeit the suffering that was required of them to appease God who was greatly offended by the sins of humanity.

She is a ship laden with priceless treasures,
which has brought heavenly riches to the poor.
The dead have received gifts from her,
who had carried life itself within her.”
St. Epiphanius
Hymn to the Virgin Mary, 2
(A.D. 370)
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A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman
clothed with the sun with the moon under her feet
and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant
and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.
Revelation 12, 1-2
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Salve Regina!

 

The Voice of Thy Salutation

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And when the ark of the Lord was come into the city of David,
Michol the daughter of Saul, looking out through a window,
saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord.
2 Samuel 6, 16

And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come
to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded
in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Luke 1, 43-44
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Grace originates from God the Father and is produced for us by the merits of God the Son through his passion, death, and resurrection. The distribution of divine grace is appropriated to God the Holy Spirit. By her divine motherhood and mystical union with the Holy Spirit as His chaste spouse, the Blessed Virgin Mary has acquired a universal maternal role in the dispensation of all actual graces in collaboration with the third Person of the Holy Trinity. Since it was through Mary’s salutary co-operation with divine grace in faith and love that the living Font of all grace came into the world by the power of the Holy Spirit, her Son willed to continue coming to us through his most Blessed Mother’s mediation (Jn 2:2-8), and he continues to reach out to us through her until the end of this age (Jn 19:26-27).

Vatican 2 Council explains:

This maternity of Mary in the order of grace began with the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross and lasts until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continued to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and cultics, until they are led into the happiness of their true home. Therefore, the Blessed Virgin is invoked by the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix, and Mediatrix. This, however, is to be so understood that it neither takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficaciousness of Christ the one Mediator. – Lumen Gentium, 62

Before we see how the Virgin Mary is designated Mediatrix of Grace, it’s a good idea to clear up any misunderstanding that might arise with respect to Christ’s majestic stateliness of being the “one mediator between God and man.” Protestants who object to this Catholic Marian doctrine do so because they think it “takes away from or adds to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator.” To support their objection, they normally quote in isolation 1 Timothy 2:5: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.”

However, St. Paul doesn’t mean to say that Jesus is our “one and only” mediator in the entire economy of salvation. If this were his intention, he would have chosen the Greek word monos instead of heis. By using heis, the apostle means there is “one and the same mediator between God and mankind.” Jesus is exclusively the one mediator for both the Jews and the Gentiles in “uniqueness,” but in “a sameness of function” which the word heis denotes. This is obviously what Paul means, considering what he writes in the four preceding verses: ‘I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people… This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth’ (1 Tim 2:1-4). By no means are baptized Christians totally passive in the divine work of salvation.​

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If, then, we were to ask Paul, the father of the theology of human mediation, how it is that the Blessed Virgin Mary is a mediator (mediatrix), he would reply by saying that she intercedes for us in the name of her divine Son by making petitions and prayerful intercessions in Heaven. And he would surely underscore the fact that she isn’t our Mediatrix of Grace by having given herself as “a ransom for all people” through the outpouring of her blood (1 Tim 2:6). For the apostle, Mary would be a factual mediator, not unlike himself and Abraham, who intercedes for us by participating in the principal mediation of her divine Son in and through his merits, as all baptized Christians can do as adopted sons and daughters of God; only the mother of our Lord holds a pre-eminent place in the order of grace because of her moral participation in the hypostatic order of Christ’s incarnation and his work of redemption.

Hence, Vatican 2 has made it clear that Christ is the only one mediator as such by divine nature. He alone has merited the initial grace of justification and forgiveness by being both God and man in his work of redemption (Eph 2:8-9). And he alone has produced all the actual graces (faith, hope, charity, etc.) we can now receive and minister by his passion and death. What he alone has merited for us is the ability to merit an increase of grace and charity for ourselves and others for our growth in sanctification or justification. God hears the prayers of the righteous (Jas 5:17). Christ alone has made this possible for us by his unique mediation, in and through which we become adopted children of God who partake of his divine nature and are a kingdom of priests to serve our God (1 Pet 2:5; 2 Pet 1:4). Indeed, God has prepared us to do good works in His grace in view of the merits of Christ, and these good works include spiritual works of mercy, such as offering our prayers for others and making personal sacrifices for the salvation of souls (Eph 2:10).

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Moreover, there is only one mediator, which is Christ, whose sacrificial work is necessary if mankind is to be redeemed and reconciled with God. Without Christ, there can be no salvation in the Divine plan. Although God has willed that the Blessed Virgin Mary should participate in His plan of salvation, her involvement and contribution aren’t necessary; since she cannot merit grace for anyone, including herself, in strict justice, but only by right of friendship, if this is what God wills. What Mary can merit by her prayerful mediation is sufficient insofar how God has ordered her moral participation in and through her Son’s merits, without which the reward of eternal life couldn’t be produced at all, not by the Virgin Mary or any saint.

Christ’s mediation is more than sufficient and necessary for the forgiveness of sins and our initial justification. Still, God has obligated himself to honour the Blessed Virgin Mary’s merits in His love and mercy. But what she can merit is only an increase in sanctification and charity needed for the attainment of salvation, a gift and a reward which Christ alone has produced for mankind. Our Lord and Saviour does not depend on anyone in what he alone has merited for mankind (justification and forgiveness), though he desires that all the members of his mystical body participate with him in his mediation or dispensation of grace, now that he alone has merited grace for them. To be sure, we read in 1 Peter 4:10: “As every man hath received grace, ministering the same one to another: as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

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The Protestant doctrine of sola Christo (Christ alone) is originally a Catholic doctrine, but in Protestantism it has been grossly exaggerated. What follows is that all baptized Christians are merely passive spectators in God’s plan of salvation and dispensation of grace. However, the Blessed Virgin Mary was no coerced on-looker, when she declared: “Let it be done to me, according to thy word” (Lk 1:38). By her Fiat or free consent, she brought the living Font of all grace into the world so that “all might be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). God honoured her free will pending the Incarnation.

Still, the universal Magisterium of the Catholic Church reminds us that Mary is only a human creature. If God has chosen her to be our Mediatrix, it is strictly because she freely consented to be the mother of our Lord and Saviour and intimately associate herself with him in his redemptive work. Meanwhile, what she has and can merit for us is in co-operation with her Son and participation in his merits, but not in co-ordination with them. Thus, we must always remember that Mary’s association with her Son in his saving work receives its raison d’être in the free decision of the Father. Mary must not be counted together with her divine Son in his unique mediation, which alone is necessary for our redemption and without which her factual mediation for an increase in sanctification or justification would be non-existent. Mary’s whole ability to do anything in God’s plan comes entirely from her Son, the principle of all human merit in his sacred humanity and the divine source of all saving grace.

Finally, I should point out that the term Mediatrix of all Grace refers to all actual or signal graces that are needed for effecting our increase in sanctification and the attainment of eternal life with God (2 Cor 2:15; 4:16; Col 3:10, etc.). These include the actual graces of faith, hope, charity, repentance, chastity, and final perseverance, without which we cannot reap the fruits of Christ’s saving work. On an individual basis, the baptized are in the process of “being saved” and “renewed” daily. The justification of the person isn’t a one-time and completed event. So, Catholics petition Mary for these helping graces when, for example, they recite the Rosary. These graces, of course, do not include the initial grace of justification and forgiveness for our sanctification which has been merited and produced by Christ alone. Thus, now that there should be no misunderstanding, and hopefully no objections, let us proceed with our topic.

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There is Mary, Mediatrix and Dispensatrix of grace. These titles signify that, by God’s special ordinance, all the graces merited by Christ for our salvation are conferred and distributed through the actual mediation of his mother. These are the actual graces which Christ pours out to us through the Holy Spirit for an increase in our sanctification or justification by Mary’s moral influence with her divine Son. Mary’s association with her divine Son is moral in nature. Our Blessed Lady co-operates with him by her maternal prayerful intercession in applying saving grace to all people in spiritual need according to God’s will. Mary co-operated in the same way when she, in charity and the state of grace, freely consented to be the mother of our Lord for the redemption of mankind in the shadow of the Cross on Calvary (Lk 2:34-35).​

The Virgin Mary’s co-operation describes what Catholic theologians call “subjective redemption.” Unless we freely co-operate with the graces God mercifully wills to give us for our sanctification, we have no hope of being saved, for sanctification is supernatural life with God. The Holy Spirit operates through Mary, our mediary and chief steward of grace, just as He operates through the seven Sacraments in the conferral of actual graces and sanctifying grace. Unlike Mary, however, the sacraments are physical instruments that communicate grace as opposed to a moral influence for its conferral.

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Sacramental grace is communicated by the valid and fruitful reception of any of the seven sacraments. A distinctive sacramental grace is imparted by each of the sacraments in accord with their respective purpose in the supernatural life of the soul. The actual graces given upon the reception of the sacraments efficaciously sanctify the soul making it just. The faithful, however, do not receive graces that are physically channelled through supernaturally transformed properties naturally intrinsic to Mary, as they are conferred by the application of the sacramental water of baptism or the oil of chrismation. On the contrary, the graces that they receive through her mediation are a share in those graces which she herself has received from the Holy Spirit without making any physical contact with her.​

Sanctifying grace is the supernatural state of being by the efficacious infusion of God’s grace which permeates the soul. Sanctifying grace is a quality of the soul effected by the activity of the Holy Spirit through His efficacious actual graces. If, then, one should happen to receive an actual grace by touching the hem of Mary’s mantle, that grace would be contained in this sacramental garment as a supernatural healing property of it and not in Mary herself, though she would undoubtedly be endowed with that same grace which effects the supernatural quality of her soul through the working of the Holy Spirit. In the same way, many people were cured of their illnesses and liberated from demonic oppression or possession simply by touching the handkerchiefs that were used by Paul to wipe sweat from his body and the aprons he wore (Acts 19:12).

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When we place our faith in the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on the other hand, we are essentially placing our faith in her divine Son who has granted his mother the maternal prerogative of morally channelling the dispensation of his grace, so that we may continue to abide in his love by faithfully observing all his commandments (Jn 15:9-10). Christ’s redemptive work in our souls continues from the time we are baptized and through our pilgrimage of faith, as we grow in spiritual perfection to attain our salvation by bearing fruit and persevering in grace to the end (Col 1:11-12; 3:9-10). The grace of final perseverance is one of the many actual graces we can receive through the intercessory prayers of our loving Blessed Mother by her supernatural merits, if only we humbly implore her intercession as her Son desires (Prov 15:29; Jas 5:17).​

We have testimony from early sacred Tradition:

“The Word will become flesh, and the Son of God the son of man –
the Pure One opening purely
that pure womb, which generates men unto God.”
– St. Irenaeus (A.D. 180-189)

“There is one who is called both a mother and a virgin.  And my joy is to call her by her name of the Church. Christ’s body she nurtures by the power (grace) of the Word; the people reborn, for whom the Lord on the Cross hung in agony, lovingly cradling as children, and wrapping them deep in the blood (justice) of the Godhead.”
– St. Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 202)

Under your mercy we take refuge, O Mother of God.
Do not reject our supplications in necessity,
but deliver us from danger.”
– Sub Tuum Praesidium (c. A.D. 250)

“O Lady, cease not to watch over us; preserve and guard us under the wings of your compassion and mercy, for, after God, we have no hope but in you!”
– St. Ephraem of Syria (c. A.D. 361)

“True it is… the whole race of man on earth was born of Eve;
but in reality, it is from Mary that Life was truly born to the world, so that by giving birth to the Living One, Mary might also become the Mother of all the living.”
– St. Epiphanius (c. A.D. 374)

 “God has ordained that she (Mary) should assist us in everything.”
– St, Basil the Great (A.D. 379)

“It was through a man and woman that flesh was cast from Paradise; it was through a virgin that flesh was linked to God…
Eve is called mother of the human race, but Mary Mother of salvation.”
– St. Ambrose of Milan (A.D. 397)

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And the ark of the Lord abode in the house of Obededom
the Gethite three months: and the Lord blessed Obededom,
and all his household.
2 Samuel 6, 11

And Mary abode with her about three months;
and she returned to her own house.
Luke 1, 56
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John’s coming into the world to prepare mankind for the coming of the Messiah was foretold by a prophet who spoke of him as “A voice of one calling in the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God” (Isa 40:3). And another: “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty” (Mal 3:1). If John had been sanctified and justified by being made holy in his mother’s womb, making him more than a prophet, it would also have happened in anticipation of his ministry to administer or mediate the grace of justification and forgiveness through the sacrament. John baptized his followers in the Jordan River, which signifies the drowning of their old life in the flesh and their emergence out of the water of purification into a new life in the spirit by the foreseen merits of Christ.

The sanctifying grace that the infant John received in his mother’s womb originated from the Divine infant in Mary’s holy womb. But it was by the mediation of the mother that he was cleansed of original sin. The powerful influence which the mother of our Lord wielded resided in the voice of her salutation. It was through Mary’s mediation that the infant John entered communion with Jesus. In Heaven, the sweet sound of Mary’s prayers for her children never escapes the attention of her divine Son. With that same dynamic influence only a mother can possess over her son, the Blessed Mother petitions on behalf of all her children. David leaped and danced with joy in the presence of the Ark of the Old Covenant, as John the Baptist had in his mother’s womb in the presence of the Ark of the New Covenant, which in the personification of the Blessed Virgin Mary mediated God’s physical presence and grace on earth.

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When the Ark of the Covenant was carried in procession, it was accompanied by joyous singing and dancing, the playing of several musical instruments, and the wearing of religious vestments. The procession was an occasion for celebrating being blessed by God and receiving the grace of His faithful covenant (2 Sam 6:3). The Ark served as a sacred tabernacle in which were placed God’s written testimony (Torah), a jar of the manna that fell daily from heaven during the Israelites’ 40 years’ sojourn in the desert, and the budding priestly rod of Aaron. It was also associated with God’s dispensation of grace and His providential care. In the Battle of Jericho, for instance, the Ark was carried round the city’s walls seven times (figuratively the number of days God created the world) until they came tumbling down (Josh 6:11-17). ​

The Israelites bowed towards the Ark in profound veneration when it was carried in procession. And while it was kept in the Holy of Holies in the tent of meeting and three hundred years after its construction in the temple in Jerusalem, God’s chosen people would bow towards the sanctuaries there in which the Ark was placed, for where the Ark was, God’s manifesting presence could be felt. Likewise, Catholics venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary in whom dwelled the physical manifestation of God in the person of the Divine Word and Testimony made man, the eternal “High Priest in the order of Melchizedek,” and the “true manna come down from heaven.” When looking towards her, the presence of God incarnate is strongly felt, for His physical manifestation took place in the holy sanctuary of her womb within the holy temple of her body. Elizabeth felt the same way when Mary came to her home, which explains why she greeted her kinswoman deferentially.

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We meet our Lord Jesus Christ in his blessed mother Mary, as the ancient Hebrews met God when YHWH physically manifested Himself in the glory cloud (Shekinah) which descended on (“overshadowed”) the sanctuary and enveloped the Ark to be with them. Mary was overshadowed in a similar way by the Holy Spirit so that she would conceive the Son of God and he would physically dwell among his people (Ex 25:8; 40:34-35; Lk 1:35; Jn 1:14).

Gary G. Michuta (Making Sense of Mary: Grotto Press) cites Zechariah 2:10 to connect the verse with John 1:14. In the prophecy, God says, “I am coming to dwell among you.” The author informs us that the Greek word for “dwell” is kataskenoso, whose root word for “tent” or “tabernacle” is skene, viz., the portable tent or tabernacle that housed the Ark of the Covenant before Solomon built the Temple. In the Gospel of John (1:14), the Greek word for “dwelt” is eskenosen, which is derived from the same root word skene. So, the evangelist is literally saying, “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.” This occurred when Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and conceived our Lord. God’s incarnated presence filled the temple of her body and the sanctuary of her womb in which He personally dwelled and filled with His glory as He had the Ark of the Covenant. Since Jesus comes to us through his blessed mother Mary, we can come to him only through her. As the living Ark of the New Covenant, our Blessed Mother mediates the graces we need to tear down the walls or barriers in our souls which separate and keep us from God and the life of grace.

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By Mary’s mediation, Jesus came to re-create the world and depose the Prince of darkness. The walls of his dominion in the world came crashing down through the mediation of our Lord’s mother by whom He physically manifested Himself and made His presence felt. The Virgin and Immaculate Mary carried in her pure womb the One who claimed, “The water that I will give him, shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into life everlasting” (Jn 4:14). Jesus was alluding to the supernatural life we receive through Baptism, the sanctifying grace and charity that raises us from spiritual death unto eternal life. This supernatural life of grace merited for us by the Son was made possible through the merciful and charitable mediation of our Blessed Mother, who brought the living Font of all saving grace into the world by the sacred tabernacle of her womb. The sound of Mary’s Fiat ascended to God’s heavenly throne sweeter than the fragrance of a burnt sacrificial offering: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to thy word” (Lk 1:38).

God instructed Moses to construct the Ark for mediating the divine theophany and God’s providential grace for His people, the two primary credibilia: God who is and God who saves. To inaugurate His New and everlasting covenant a millennium later, God sent the angel Gabriel to a virgin who was espoused to a man named Joseph, and the virgin’s name was Mary (Lk 1:27). It was she who was blessed above all women by being drawn into the mystery of the hypostatic order of Christ’s incarnation and his redemptive work (Lk 1:42). God willed Mary’s mediation, that we must go to the Son through His mother. All should be accomplished by her intercession from the time she joyously gave her salutary consent to be the mother of the Lord to the time she sorrowfully stood beneath the Cross on Calvary to make temporal satisfaction to God for the sins of humanity – and beyond this climatic event in salvation history until the end of this age, during which period (the new exodus anticipated by the Jews) she hasn’t laid her saving office aside as our Queen Mother (Gebirah) and Advocatrix.

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Indeed, God decreed by His consequent will that “all good should come to us through the hands of Mary”. God gave us this Mediatrix by “His most merciful providence” (Cf. Pope Leo Xlll, Encyclical, Jucunda sempre). Our Lord and Saviour constituted her “Mother of Mercy, Queen and are most loving advocate, Mediatrix of His graces, Dispenser of His treasures” (Cf. Pope Pius Xll, Radio Message to Fatima). ‘When Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, the king stood up to meet her, bowed down to her and sat down on his throne. He had a throne brought for the king’s mother, and she sat down at his right hand. “I have one small request to make of you,” she said. “Do not refuse me.” The king replied, “Make it, my mother; I will not refuse you”’ (1 Kgs 2:19-20).

Mary received her office of Queen Mother and Advocatrix from God. By being the royal mother of the King, whose genuine Davidic lineage is received from her, she is closely linked to Christ’s saving mysteries and the restoration of the Davidic kingdom as foretold by the prophets (Lk 1:31-33). As our maternal advocate, Mary offers our petitions to her Son for the graces we need to inherit the kingdom. By this title, we are not so much her subjects as we are her children, her being the mother of our Head and Body of which we are the members. By her life, the Blessed Virgin Mary personally relates to us as a genuine mother should. Mary is not just a metaphor. “She teaches us all the virtues; she gives us her Son, and with Him all the help that we need, for God has willed that we should have everything through Mary” (Cf. Pope Pius Xll, Encyclical, Mediator Dei).

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God said to the serpent: “I will put enmities between you and the woman, and between her seed and your seed; she will crush your head, as you lie in wait for her heel” (Gen 3:15). In the wake of the fall, of Adam and Eve, God foretold that He would designate Mary to be the universal Mediatrix to help repair and undo the fall of mankind in union with her Son. This was right after He chastised the serpent for having caused the fall by deceiving the virgin Eve in her innocence. The Virgin Mary was chosen “before all ages, prepared for Himself by the Most High” to be the “Reparatrix of the first parents, the giver of life to posterity” (Cf. Pope Pius lX, Apostolic Constitution, Ineffabilis Deus). At the beginning of creation, at the time of the fall which God foresaw, but permitted for the sake of a greater good, “Mary was set up as the pledge of restoration of peace (with God) and salvation” (Cf. Pope Leo Xlll, Encyclical, Augustissimae).

Mary is the Immaculate Mother of the Church who is at total enmity with the serpent by being without sin and standing ever-just before God as our pre-eminent patroness. In a universal capacity, our Blessed Mother serves to help repair the fall of mankind by giving her children a filial spirit through the graces they receive by her maternal intercession. Mother Mary desires nothing more than we cease to offend God and be reconciled to Him. She is there to teach us the docility she had as a servant of God. Mary calls us to supplicate her for the graces we need to humble ourselves before God and abide in His love. She truly is our heavenly mother, for through her maternal patronage we receive the divine life, if in a childlike spirit, we truly wish to turn towards God through her and be one with her divine offspring as from her regenerating womb at enmity with the serpent and its offspring: sinful humanity.

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The late Catholic Theologian, Father Garrigou-Lagrange (Mother of the Savior: Tan) tells us that true devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is a sign of being predestined to glory. So, now that we Christians have been predestined to grace, being adopted sons and daughters of God by partaking of the divine life, we have a far greater chance of attaining our salvation and realizing our hope if we take recourse to the Immaculate Heart of our Blessed Mother for the actual graces we need to persevere in faith. This is because her divine Son has ordered it this way. In Heaven, Mary prays for all God’s created children, but she is more attentive to the spiritual needs of those who are regenerated in Christ and humbly implore her intercession. It is for his mother’s sake more than ours that Jesus confers his graces on us from conversion through repentance to final perseverance (the principle of predilection).​

The prophet Elijah prayed fervently so that it might not rain, and so, it did not rain for three years and six months. Then when he prayed that God provide rain for the fruit harvest, his prayer was answered. This was because God heard the prayers of the righteous who aligned their will with His. If God could work great wonders such as these in response to the prayers of a prophet, what greater wonders must He perform in response to the prayers of His own mother. All Christians are exhorted to pray for the conversion of sinners that they might be healed and saved by the grace of God (Jas 5:13-19).​

​​In the order of grace, the Blessed Virgin Mary leads the way. By joining our prayers to God with hers and asking her to put in a good word for us, we can be confident that our Lord will shower down an abundance of grace on us from Heaven. This is because our Blessed Mother is holy with absolute perfection, as we continue to strive towards that heavenly perfection she has been graced with in our pilgrimage of faith on earth. Mary has attained her salvation in a singular way: the redemption and glorification of her body in anticipation of ours, and she has received her eternal reward for her labour in Christ’s vineyard, while there is no guarantee that we will attain ours. Thus, it’s imperative that we implore our Blessed Mother for her moral assistance, since she has an immeasurably far greater influence on her Son than we can ever hope to have in our fallen human state. Christ himself has designated his blessed mother Mary to be Our Lady of Perpetual Help. And so, by this title, the pilgrim Church implores her powerful maternal intercession in Heaven.

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The Blessed Virgin Mary is Mediatrix in the dispensation of grace – our Dispensatrix. She undertook the discharge of her maternal duties when the Church was born at Pentecost. She nurtured the infant Church in Jerusalem “by her holy example, her authoritative counsel, her sweet consolation, and her fruitful prayers”. She was in truth “the Mother of the Church and the Queen of Apostles” (Cf. Pope Leo Xlll, Encyclical, Ubri primum). Jesus entrusted the Church to his mother Mary’s tender care and the whole human race in the disciple John from the Cross (Jn 19:26-27). Mary received the redefinition of her motherhood while uniting her sorrow with the suffering of her beloved Son. She prayed more fervently for sinful humanity while she was smitten with great sorrow and a sword pierced her heart, all because of the perfect love she had for her Son who was unjustly “wounded for our transgressions.” Thus, God accepted her prayers as they were joined with her Son’s self-sacrifice for the expiation of our sins. Only by suffering for the sins of the world and dying to self together with Him could Mary become the mother of us all and reign with her Son the King of kings as our Queen Mother (2 Tim 2:11).

The sword that pierced our Great Lady’s heart or soul undid the vain and selfish pleasures Eve sought for herself while she presumed she could be like God apart from Him and before Him (Lk 2:35). By her sorrow, Mary repaired what Eve had wrought to God’s satisfaction. Jesus would not undo what Adam had wrought in his pride unless his mother stood at the foot the Cross and united her interior suffering with his suffering in accordance with the Father’s will. “From this community of will and suffering between Christ and Mary she merited to become most worthily the Reparatrix of the lost world and Dispensatrix of all the gifts that our Saviour purchased for us by His death and by His blood…By this union of sorrow and suffering which existed between the Mother and the Son, it has been allowed through the august Virgin to be the most powerful Mediatrix and advocate of the whole world with her divine Son” (Pope Pius X, Encyclical, Ad diem illum).

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Hence, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the “help of Christians” and the “refuge of mankind”. She is “triumphant in all battles” with the serpent as she makes war against it with her children in their spiritual warfare. In view of this cosmic battle between light and darkness, in which we are involved as descendants of Adam and Eve, we should humbly prostrate ourselves before the heavenly throne of our Queen Mother as her loyal suppliants, “confident that we shall obtain mercy and grace, the needed assistance and protection, during the calamities of these days…through the goodness of [her] motherly heart” (Cf. Pope Pius Xll, Radio Message).​

The Blessed Virgin Mary is intimately associated with our Lord Jesus forever with infinite power and majesty, in virtue of her royal dignity as a daughter of King David and the mother of Christ the King in the New Dispensation of all the saving graces which flow from the redemption gained for us by her royal Son. This is all made possible because “she gave us Jesus, Himself the source of grace”. Mary has been the mediatrix and dispensatrix of all graces since the Annunciation. Predestined to be the mother of our Lord, “she has been appointed the mediatrix of all the graces which look towards sanctification” in and through the merits of her divine Son (Cf. Pope Pius Xll, Apostolic Constitution, Sedes sepientiae).

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Our Lady of Lourdes

All baptized Christians, whether alive or dead are visible or invisible members of the mystical Body of Christ, which comprises both the heavenly and the pilgrim church on earth. We read in sacred Scripture that all members of Christ’s body are bound together by mutual love (Jn 13:34-35; Rom 12:10, 13:8; Gal 5:13; Eph 4:2, 16:1, etc.). The Head has composed his body so that all its members “may have the same care for one another” (1 Cor 12:25-27). Death doesn’t drive a wedge between the love that unites all the saints with each other in Christ’s mystical Body (Rom 8:38-39). Christians remain “in him” as living members of his body even after death (Eph 2:5-7). Thus, the saints who have passed from this world stay united with the saints who are still living on earth.

​​By being connected members of Christ’s Mystical Body, the saints in Heaven can express their love and concern for the pilgrim saints on earth as best they can, that is by prayer, which presupposes an awareness of the needs of these other beings and a communicative link with them. Meanwhile, they don’t rely on the physical sense of hearing or any form of natural mental awareness, existing in God’s eternal presence beside real time. The saints in Heaven have a direct vision of Christ and the Beatific Vision of God, which enables them to intuit what the Lord knows, and in this capacity, be like him in his glorified state and shared humanity (1 Jn 3:2). The saints in Heaven can intuit all that God knows about the saints or other beings on earth who are of concern, except what God knows about Himself. God reveals His knowledge to them, so that they can express their love for others on earth the best way they can. The saints in Heaven must know what concerns the spiritual welfare of the saints on earth, if they are to show concern for them. After all, we are all members of one mystical Body in Christ the Head and comprise the family of God as His adopted children.

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Our Lady of Fatima

We read in the Apocalypse that the prayers of the saints (in heaven and on earth) are presented to God by the angels and human saints in heaven. This reveals that all the saints intercede on our behalf before God, and it also shows that our prayers on earth are united with their prayers in heaven (Rev 5:8). Further, the martyred saints in Heaven are shown to be crying out to God to avenge their blood “on those who dwell on the earth” (Rev. 6:9-11; cf. Ps 35:1; 59:1-17; 139:19; Jer. 11:20; 15:15; 18:19; Zech.1:12-13). This vision indicates that the saints in Heaven are aware of what is happening to the pilgrim Church on earth in the wake of persecution. The saints are praying for their loved ones and all the other pilgrim members of the Body. What affects one member affects the other. These prayers for God’s judgement on the persecutors resemble the imprecatory prayers of the Jews in the Old Testament. In the same vein, God hears and answers the intercessory prayers of the saints in Heaven for those who are being treated unjustly on earth (Rev 8:1-5).

​​In the order of grace, therefore, the Blessed Virgin Mary’s intercession is maternally based on her care for Christ, who alone is both the Head and the Body. Since we who belong to her Son are members of his body, we too are sons and daughters of hers (Rev 12:5, 17). In Heaven, our Blessed Mother has assumed the royal office of Queen Mother, whose throne is situated in the heavenly court on the right of the throne of our Lord and King in the royal line of David (Lk 1:31-33). Being our Queen Mother or “Great Lady” (Gebirah), the Blessed Virgin Mary serves as our Mediatrix and Advocatrix. She prayerfully intercedes for us by presenting our petitions to her Son. Not unlike the other saints in Heaven, our Blessed Mother cares for us, but with a maternal love that immeasurably surpasses the love which all the other saints combined have in their concern for our spiritual well being. Thus, she constantly prays for us with a most perfect and solicitous maternal love, being aware of our individual spiritual needs.

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The pilgrim saints on earth have a far greater chance of growing and persevering in grace, and attaining their salvation, if they petition their Queen Mother daily in true filial devotion. Our Lord and King knows all our needs even before we present our petitions, either directly to him (but not without the other member’s awareness in his Body) or indirectly, by asking his Blessed Queen Mother and our Mother, the pre-eminent member of Christ’s Body, to put in a good word for us while we pray. This is because our Lord Jesus desires that we, stewards of grace, pray for one another in mutual, filial love as members of God’s family.

​Hence, of all such stewards who Peter and Paul speak of, the Blessed Virgin Mary is immeasurably the most influential member in God’s heavenly kingdom because of the supreme office she holds in her Son’s royal court. Her Son the King will not refuse her. By seeking God’s grace through Mary, the pilgrim saints on earth will surely receive it. By petitioning the King through his Blessed Queen Mother, they will surely receive her loving maternal patronage which pleases God, who for her sake more than anyone else’s, who lacks her spiritual perfection, shall dispense His grace wherever it is wanting in a human soul.

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May he send you help from the sanctuary,
and give you support from Zion.
Psalm 20, 2
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Salve Regina!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They Have No Wine

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In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen…
the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
and all the hills will flow with it.
Amos 9, 11, 13

And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine…
and all the stream beds of Judah shall flow with water;
and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord.
Joel 3, 1

AND the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage. And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine. And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? my hour is not yet come. His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye. Now there were set there six water-pots of stone, according to the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three measures apiece. Jesus saith to them: Fill the water-pots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And Jesus saith to them: Draw out now, and carry to the chief steward of the feast. And they carried it. And when the chief steward had tasted the water made wine, and knew not whence it was, but the waiters knew who had drawn the water; the chief steward calleth the bridegroom, And saith to him: Every man at first setteth forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse. But thou hast kept the good wine until now. And saith to him: Every man at first setteth forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse. But thou hast kept the good wine until now.
John 2, 1-11
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Catholics profess Jesus Christ to be “the one Mediator between God and man” (1 Tim. 2:5), by which St. Paul means He is the one who has redeemed the world and has reconciled all humanity to God by serving as a ransom for sin which was paid through the outpouring of his most precious blood (2:6). However, our Lord’s principal mediation in his humanity does not preclude the mediation or intercession of the faithful in and through His merits by prayer and sacrifice “so that everyone might be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

In other words, the apostle has no intention of emphasizing that Jesus is the “one and only mediator” in the economy of salvation. The Christian faithful are indeed called to participate in our Lord’s mediation as active and living members of His Mystical Body who partake of the divine life (1 Pet. 2:5; 2 Pet. 1:3-4). This prerogative is conferred on these members by right of adoption as sons and daughters of God, who participate in Christ’s divine nature; since it is in his humanity – not divinity – that Christ as Head of His Mystical Body intercedes for us all before the Father as both eternal High Priest and sacrificial victim. The Letter to the Hebrews best describes how it is our chief High Priest mediates or intercedes for us continuously in the heavenly sanctuary “not made by human hands” in perpetuation of his sacrifice on Calvary, pre-presented in the sacrificial meal of the New Passover at the Last Supper and re-presented as a visible sign in the unbloody holy sacrifice of the Mass in expiation for our daily sins.

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Exegete Manuel Miguens has pointed out that translated from the Greek v.5 should read: “There is one and the same God for all, and there is one and the same mediator for all.” In other words, The Father’s merciful love and the Son’s obedient act of atonement are for both Jew and Gentile alike. In v.5, the Greek word for “one” is heis (εἷς) which denotes “a sameness of function, commonality, or universality.” If Paul had meant that numerically there is only one mediator in the whole economy of salvation, he would have chosen the word monos (μόνος) instead, for it “signifies ‘only’ in the sense of exclusive uniqueness,” but not in a “sameness of function.”

So, Paul isn’t saying that Jesus is the one and only mediator in the economy of salvation. Rather, he means Jesus is the one principal or universal mediator between God and man for both Jew and Gentile alike by having ransomed all humanity from sin and death. Jesus intercedes for us before God in a way no human creature can ever do by being equal to the Father in his divine nature. We, on the other hand, are called by our baptism to intercede for others, but in a different and subordinate capacity as participants in Christ’s principal mediation in and through his merits being members of his Mystical Body.

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The covenantal mediation of Moses in the Old Dispensation is fulfilled in Christ who has established the New Covenant by the outpouring of his blood in the Paschal mystery. This is what is unique about Christ’s mediation which is necessary for the forgiveness of sins. All baptized Christians, however, may participate in it in and through our Lord’s merits, but not necessarily. God has graciously called them to have a sufficient share in his sacrificial act of love and dispensation of grace as members of His Son’s Mystical Body and “fellow workers with God” (1 Cor. 3:9).​

​Hence, Jesus is the one principal Mediator between God and man in a singular and necessary way, but he is not the one and only mediator per se in the Divine plan of salvation. As members of a royal priesthood, in and through the merits of Christ, all baptized Christians can sufficiently participate in their Lord’s principal mediation in accord with the function of being priests (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6; 5:10). They can intercede for others by their prayers and acts of personal sacrifice. And by doing so, they can congruously merit actual graces for others so that they might be saved. In his gospel narrative of the Wedding Feast at Cana, John presents Mary, the mother of our Lord, as such a factual mediator who participates in the mediation of her divine Son and the dispensation of his grace.

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St. John’s theology has been described as deeper than that of the authors of the Synoptic Gospels, which explains why his gospel has much more of a mystical flavour to it. In his narrative of the wedding feast, he allegorically characterizes Mary as the universal mediatrix of grace who is associated with her Son in his saving work. Throughout Scripture, grapes or any fruit of the vine represent God’s favour towards His children and spiritual regeneration. Being deprived of grapes symbolizes having fallen from God’s grace and the loss of the true happiness which can only be attained by living a life wherein God rules in the soul. The absence of grapes in the vineyard after they have been gleaned at the harvest signify the absence of grace and holiness in the souls of those who have reached spiritual ruin by rejecting God and replacing Him with false idols.​

​Spiritual famine is the result of losing one’s faith (steadfast love and trust) in God by falling prey to the machinations of the devil whose purpose is to plunder the soul of all its grace without which it cannot partake of the divine life. In the words of the prophet Micah (7:1): “Woe is me! For I have become as when the summer fruit has been gathered, as when the grapes have been gleaned; there is no cluster to eat, no first-ripe fig that my soul desires.” And Obadiah (1:5): “If thieves came to you, if plunderers came by night – would they not steal only enough for themselves? If grape gatherers came to you, would they not leave gleanings.

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Deprived of grace, the soul suffers nothing but calamity and misery, pending its destruction. Divine grace gladdens the heart and cheers the soul, since God’s love showers it with His blessings. God’s grace purifies and refreshes the soul by removing all stains of darkness which may cause unhappiness and despair. Divine grace invigorates the soul and sustains its strength by nourishing it with true happiness and real peace, albeit the trials and tribulations one may have to experience in this world. The Psalmist affirms: “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart” (Ps. 104:14-15).​

​Grace enables us to bear more fruit as we grow in holiness and righteousness. Without grace, the soul cannot enjoy eternal life with God who is the true source of our happiness and lasting inner peace. In allusion to God’s chosen people, the Israelites, Jeremiah assures us of how important it is for us to persevere in faith and be restored to God’s grace each time we fall into grave sin, if we hope to reap all the Divine blessings: “Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant and enjoy the fruit.” (31:5). The exile of the ancient Hebrews evokes the fallen state of the entire human race because of original sin and its need to be reconciled with God and restored to the life of grace through the blood (sacrificial wine) of the Cross.

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You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace
that was given to me for your benefit.
Ephesians 2, 3

Jesus uses a familiar Jewish expression when he asks his mother Mary: “What is that to us, woman?” At first, it may appear to us that our Lord is addressing his mother abruptly. We may have the impression that what concerns Mary is of no concern to her Son. However, both the Mother and the Son share one vital concern, ever since Mary consented to be the mother of the Messiah: the salvation of Israel and the Gentiles included. Thus, in the Greek text of John’s Gospel, we have a Hebraism used by Jesus that reads te emoi kai soi: literally “what to thee and to me”. This idiom denotes a close personal relationship between the one who is asking the question and the one who is being asked and carries with it a mark of respect and denotes a sharing of interests. The Greek word for “Woman” is gynai which in a respectful and polite way is “Madam” or “My Lady” in English. Yet Jesus uses the title more in a theologically significant way, as we shall see.

The closest equivalent to this form of expression in English is “What is that between friends (mother and son)?” In the Hebrew NT, this expression reads mah-liy walak isah: “what is there to me and you”. In other words, “What would you have of me, woman?” This is the polite form of asking ‘What would you have me do, woman?’ and it implies that the speaker already has an idea of what she would like him to do. Jesus is implicitly asking his mother a rhetorical question which is more a declaration and affirmation: “What concern is this matter of the wine to us?” (2 Kg. 3:13; 2 Chron. 35:21; 2 Sam. 16:10). This wine, in the meantime, is the object of interest, but not in a practical and mundane sense. Both Mary and Jesus know it signifies something immeasurably more important in a spiritual sense and is connected to Jewish eschatology. What concerns Mary does in fact concern Jesus, too, and affects him.

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By asking his mother how her concern might affect him, Jesus is drawing her closer into association with him in his divine work of salvation. He is implicitly asking whether she is willing to go through with what he is about to do, for their relationship to each other will no longer be the same if he does; she will have to let go of her Son and have him be subjected to cruel and humiliating suffering and even death at the hands of ungrateful sinners. So, when Jesus addresses his mother, he is mindful that they share a similar interest far from beneath their common dignity; a concern much more important to them than the replenishing of wine for the wedding guests. Mary expects Jesus to perform a miracle and begin his public ministry, knowing full well what the implications are and that the time has arrived for him to make his entrance.​

​On this occasion, both the Mother and the Son desire that he begins his public ministry for the spiritual benefit and salvation of Israel and all humanity. Still, Jesus wants his mother to affirm whether she is prepared to follow this objective together with him despite the sorrow that will eventually pierce her soul (Lk. 2:35). Mary’s concern affects Jesus, since it conforms to his Divine will which has taken charge in alignment with his human will. The miracle is inevitable. Our Lord’s hour has indeed come in the form of a sign in the shadow of the Cross. Thus, there are no further words from Jesus, but from Mary to the servants in the capacity of the head steward who customarily acted on behalf of the bridegroom and host: “DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU.”

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Expecting her Son to perform that first miracle which will inaugurate his public ministry on earth in the shadow of the Cross, Mary faithfully approaches him with her tacit request. Here we must note the rich symbolism that exists in this circumstance of the lack of wine, without which the wedding feast is rendered a disaster in ancient Jewish culture. The wine is evocative of the blood of the new and everlasting Covenant (Mt.26:27-28). The elements of wine and blood are identified with each other at our Lord’s paschal supper with his apostles on the eve of his passion and death at the Jewish Passover.

​The wedding feast at Cana allegorically represents the eschatological wedding feast of the Lamb in celebration of the marriage between the Divine Bridegroom and his Bride (the Church) by the sacrificial outpouring of his blood (Rev. 19:6-9). Our Lady mediated on humanity’s behalf when she consented to become the mother of the divine Messiah, and she continued to intercede on its behalf by beckoning her Son to begin his mission which would eventually result in the shedding of his precious blood in atonement for the sins of the world and mankind’s redemption.

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Indeed, our Blessed Lady acted as our chief steward in the distribution of an infinitely superior wine by addressing her concern to the Bridegroom, that being the blood of her Son which supersedes the blood of goats and bulls of the first covenant. In the spirit of the priesthood, Mary sacrificed her maternal rights for the sake of appeasing the Divine justice when she solicited her Son to perform his first miracle for something she understood was immeasurably far more important than the replenishing of wine at a family wedding. By Mary’s solicitation, which her Son quietly anticipated as an affirmation of her faith and charity, the wedding day of the Lamb had been heralded. The bride, which is the Church, was to make herself ready to celebrate the marriage feast with her groom in his heavenly kingdom (Rev. 17:7,9).​

In the narrative of the Wedding Feast at Cana, therefore, John is characterizing Mary as a factual mediator who participates in the mediation of her divine Son. The Evangelist is affirming this Marian tradition of the nascent church by allegorically portraying Mary as our universal mediatrix who serves the Lord by morally channelling all the graces we might need through her solicitation and prayerful intercession. All these graces are ordained to pass through her from the Son in virtue of her divine motherhood.

“From her we have harvested the grape of life;
from her we have harvested the seed of immortality.
For our sake, she became Mediatrix of all blessings;
in her God became man, and man became God.”
St. John Damascene
Homily 2 on the Dormition
(A.D. 749)

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Every man has received grace,
ministering the same to one another:
as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
1 Peter 4,1

In the order of grace, among all the faithful and righteous in the Mystical Body of Christ, Jesus has honourably conferred this pre-eminent prerogative on his most blessed mother. In honour of his mother, the Son himself has designated her as the chief participant in his principal mediation. The beloved disciple, moreover, is affirming that Jesus never intended to act alone in the Divine work of salvation, but willed that his mother should collaborate with him in saving impoverished souls through the dispensation of his grace, as all faithful disciples of his are called to do as “stewards of grace” in keeping with the spiritual gifts they have received from the Holy Spirit. The Divine Maternity is the greatest gift any disciple of Christ could receive on earth, since it belongs to the hypostatic order of our Lord’s incarnation.​

​If Mary had no active salvific role in her Son’s first and most important miracle, one with profound eschatological significance and prompted by her solicitation, John wouldn’t have included her involvement in the development of the story to its climax. He could have simply just left it at this: ‘On the third day, a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding (vv.1-2) …Jesus had noticed (not his mother) that the wine was gone’… Nearby stood six stone water jars…. Jesus said to the servants (without Mary having first adjoined them to obey her Son) … “Fill the jars with water…”’ (vv.6-11). Yet, instead, we have Mary mediating on behalf of the wedding guests (vv.3-5).

This action of hers isn’t purely incidental. Nothing is incidental in Scripture or even in a well-written piece of literature; not even the failing of the wine on this occasion, seeing that the wine is more than just ordinary wine in a spiritual sense. Mary is a principal character with a significant role to play in this story, one which has a powerful impact on its anticipated climax: God’s establishment of His New Covenant through the outpouring of the Son’s blood (sacrificial wine) on the Cross. Our Lord’s sacrificial wedding ceremony begins at the Last Supper in anticipation of his sacrificial offering of himself on Calvary where the new nuptial covenant between God and redeemed humanity is consummated: “It is finished!” (Jn. 19:30). His mother Mary sorrowfully stands beneath him at the foot of the Cross, having fulfilled her participatory role and assuming a new one, of being the Mother of all peoples (Matriarch of the New Covenant), belonging to this new dispensation of grace.

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Thus, God Himself is implicitly telling us something deeply important about Mary (sensus plenior) through the literary technique of His co-author. Our Blessed Lady is a major character in the story with a significant role to play. She is, in fact, first mentioned being present at the wedding feast followed by Jesus and his disciples. This is because the Evangelist wishes to draw our attention to Mary before he proceeds with the miracle that is performed by Jesus at his mother’s behest. Mary has an essential role in the performance of her Son’s first and most important miracle which serves as a sign that the Divine Bridegroom is about to consummate His marriage covenant with His bride Israel and all peoples of the world included. As the mother of our Lord, she is giving her Son away in marriage.

If Mary’s presence weren’t meaningful with respect to her moral contribution in the Divine dispensation of grace, and all the author was concerned with was the miraculous event and what it resulted in, the mother of our Lord would not have been included in the events leading up to the miracle and the start of Jesus’ public ministry in the shadow of the Cross. Literary protocol presupposes this. Mary’s participation is an affirmation of the nascent church’s perception of her active collaboration with the Son in the redemption of mankind. Traditionally, Mary was understood to be the Mediatrix of Grace. In the Old Testament, as we have seen, the fruit of the vine (grapes/olives/figs) does symbolize God’s grace and the need to be rejuvenated by it. “Woe is me! For I have become as when the summer fruit has been gathered, as when the grapes have been gleaned; there is no cluster to eat, no first-ripe fig that my soul desires” (Micah 7:1). Analogically, the Jews’ fall from grace and exile parallel mankind’s need for redemption and restoration to the life of grace.

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Shall not Zion say:
This man and that man is born in her?
and the Highest himself hath founded her.
Psalm 87, 5

It is very likely that the wine ran out during the fifth of seven stages of the week-long family wedding ceremony, the chuppah or “canopy”. The chuppah would have been a decorated piece of cloth held aloft as a symbolic home for the new couple. It was usually held outside, under the stars, as a sign of the blessing given by God to the patriarch Abraham, that his children shall be “as the stars of the heavens.” The groom would be accompanied to the chuppah by his parents and usually wore a crown and a white robe, (kittel) to indicate the fact that for the bride and groom life was starting anew with a clean white slate, since they were uniting to become a new entity, without past sins. While the bride followed and came to the chuppah with her parents, a cantor would sing a selection from the Song of Songs (an allegory of the marriage between Christ and his Church in Christianity), and the groom would pray that his unmarried friends find their true partners in life.​

When the bride arrived in joyful procession at the chuppah, she circled the groom seven times with her mother and future mother-in-law, while the groom continued to pray. The groom’s mother danced with the bride and her parents as a gesture of uniting the two families. The bride, too, wore a crown, and like Christ’s bride in the Apocalypse, she wore a gown made of pure white linen. Under the chuppah, an honored Rabbi or family member then recited a blessing over wine, a blessing that praised and thanked God for giving them laws of sanctity and morality to preserve the sanctity of family life and of the Jewish people. The bride and groom then drank from the wine. The blessings were recited over wine, since wine was symbolic of life​.

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In view of the traditional Jewish wedding, John could be envisioning Mary as meeting the family of her Son’s bride (the Church) and dancing with her as she is about to put her past sins behind and start with a clean slate by uniting with the groom. The wine that he serves, of course, isn’t merely symbolic of life, but in the transformed substance of his blood is the source of eternal life with God. So, to understand the meaning of this Gospel narrative, we must look through the Jewish lenses of the Evangelist and see his story in a Jewish context.

John is confirming that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah of the Divine Bridegroom YHWH who shall offer the sacrificial wine of salvation to Israel and the peoples of all nations at the coming of God’s heavenly kingdom to the world: the Jewish eschaton, but with a new twist, that the Divine Bridegroom would be the Messiah himself. Eventually, the disciples would see that Jesus himself was the Divine Bridegroom.

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In Jewish eschatology, it was (and still is) expected that when the Messiah came he would cause manna to fall once again from heaven and lead the sacrifices consisting of the Bread of the Presence and miraculous sacrificial wine for undoing the sin of Adam and Eve in the (restored) Temple at Jerusalem in the order of the priest-king Melchizedek in which his forefather David belonged. During the periods of the two Temples, the priests would perform unbloody sacrifices for the temporal forgiveness of sins with the holy bread and wine every Sabbath. The Bread of the Presence or Face of God was kept in a tabernacle in the holy sanctuary in the Temple. This bread signified God’s merciful love for the people of Israel and was a sign of His providential presence.

At any rate, Mary’s participation is an affirmation of the nascent church’s perception of her active collaboration with the Son in the redemption – by being his mother. John does not say that Mary was at the wedding feast, but that “the mother of Jesus was there” out of due reverence for her maternal prerogatives in the order of grace. It was the groom’s mother who met his bride and her parents to unite their families as one during the traditional wedding ceremony by dancing with them. Mary has assumed this mediatory role in the marriage between Christ and his Church. It is she who formally unites us the human family with her Son at our wedding banquet in the kingdom of heaven.

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In the traditional Passover meal, there are four phases each in which one cup of wine is served for drinking; that is four separate cups altogether. The first cup of wine (kiddush) is mixed with water and then served during the introductory rite. Here the father of the family leads a prayer of thanksgiving and blesses the food. The appetizers are consumed in this part of the meal. In the second stage, the second cup of wine (haggadah) is also mixed with water, but not consumed, for the son asks his father questions about the original Passover night and the Israelite’s exodus from Egypt, while the father replies by citing passages contained in the Pentateuch of the Old Testament.

However, in the Gospels, Jesus is presented after the first and second cups of wine have been drunk, continuing with the mixing and serving of the third cup (berekah) which is served after the main meal (unleavened bread and the flesh of the sacrificed Passover lamb) has been eaten. With this third cup, the ‘cup of salvation’, Jesus is traditionally blessing and thanking God for having brought forth bread and the fruit of the vine on the earth (Lk. 22:14-20). So, it appears that our Lord is establishing a renewed paschal sacrificial meal of bread and wine while looking more towards the future than recollecting and reliving the past.

As the apostles ate the traditional Passover meal between the serving of the second and third cups, Jesus was taking the place of the lamb and looked towards his own self-immolation for the forgiveness of sins. His sacrifice of himself began at the Last Supper as a pre-presentation of Calvary, when he blessed the bread and the wine and substantially transformed these species into his body and blood for the apostles to consume from then on instead of the flesh of the traditional lamb. This was still a sacrificial meal of thanksgiving, but the one that fulfilled the Passover meal of the Mosaic covenant.

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Further, it is important to note, as Dr. Brant Pitre points out in his insightful book Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, that at the Last Supper Jesus refrains from mixing and serving the fourth and final cup of wine (hallel) while he and his disciples are singing hymns (the hallel Psalms of David: 113-118) of praise and thanksgiving to God who is their “salvation” and the provider of “the bread of the earth and the fruit of the vine.” This is because he is extending the sacrificial meal of his body and blood by joining it to his passion and the immolation of himself on Calvary for the sins of the world. Dr. Pitre explains why Jesus left the traditional Passover meal unfinished on the eve of his passion and death. Jesus “has just celebrated the Last Supper in which he identified his own body as the sacrifice of the new Passover. He has also identified one of the cups of wine with his own blood, about to be poured out for the forgiveness of sins… Jesus implicitly identified himself as the new Passover lamb… By the time this new Passover is finished, Jesus will be dead… When the meal is finished and the final cup drunk, it will mean his own death has arrived.”

Dr. Pitre goes on to explain that it is when Jesus is nailed to the Cross he drinks from this last fourth hallel cup of wine at the time he receives the vinegar mixed with wine (or sour wine) extended to him on a hyssop (a branch used in the Levitical sacrifice for sin), since it is by his death on the Cross that our Lord establishes the new marriage covenant between God and redeemed mankind in place of the covenant of the Old Dispensation. The new Passover meal is “finished” when Jesus bows his head and gives up his spirit right after he has consumed the mixed wine of the fourth cup or ‘cup of completion’. His hour, which he first alludes to at the wedding feast in Cana, is now over, having begun at the Last Supper, and his disciples have already eaten his flesh and drunk his blood in the transubstantiated species of bread and wine. In the traditional Jewish Passover meal, the flesh of the sacrificed lamb must be eaten, or the sacrifice is rendered fruitless (Jn. 6:54).

Thus, the Last Supper is more of a wedding banquet than a traditional Jewish Passover meal. As the Divine Bridegroom, Jesus serves the “best wine” (his own blood) to his disciples for the forgiveness of sins. Our Lord’s perpetual sacrifice and offering of himself in love of his bride begins at the Last Supper, which is a prelude to the sacrificial heavenly wedding banquet of the Lamb that shall begin following his resurrection and ascension into heaven. The Apostles (except Judas who has already absented himself before the start of the meal) have drunk from the third cup of mixed wine and will also share the fourth cup of the wine of salvation with Jesus in the Eucharistic sacrifice of Holy Mass (1 Cor. 10:16).

O Lord, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the child of your handmaid.
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice
and call on the name of the Lord.
Hallel Psalm 116, 16-17

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And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him:
They have no wine. And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is
that to me and to thee? My hour is not yet come. His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye.
John 2, 3-5

We should keep in mind that the narrative of the Wedding Feast at Cana is a literary work, and as such all the characters in the story have a significant role to play, including the servants. Nothing further is said of the disciples after their attendance is recorded. What is intriguing, though, is that John presents the servants at the wedding feast as types of disciples. We read: His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). Dr. Edward Sri (Walking with Mary) points out, that instead of using the Greek word duolois for “servants” in the ordinary sense, the Evangelist uses diakonois, the Greek word used for Jesus’ true disciples in the NT. For instance: “If anyone serves (diakonei) me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant (diakonoi) be also” (Jn. 12:26). Hence, John is presenting Mary as the mother of all her Son’s disciples (the bride of Christ) who faithfully follow and serve him. And the first thing she must say to all her children as Mother of the Church is: “Do whatever he tells you.”

As their loving mother and caretaker of their souls, our Blessed Lady is encouraging them to live their lives in perfect obedience to her divine Son (Jn. 19:26-27; Rev. 12:17). Moreover, John does not say “Mary” spoke to the servants but that it was our Lord’s “mother.” He is alluding to her dual maternity which Jesus ratified on the Cross just before he concluded the New Passover meal. His mother is the faithful disciple’s mother as well, though spiritually.  So, John’s gospel is far more mystical in flavour than are the Synoptic Gospels. The narrative of the Wedding Feast at Cana is indeed allegorical in aspect.

When Jesus asks his mother how it is that the wine concerns them, he is implicitly referring to the Last Supper and Calvary, which is where he will publicly designate Mary Mother of the Church. In the context of the traditional Jewish ceremony, the wedding feast is a prelude to the New Jerusalem come down from heaven by the blood of the new and everlasting covenant, the marriage between the Bride Groom and his Bride, which is the Church. Mary must formally unite her Son to his bride to become her mother and Advocatrix of grace in and through the merits of her divine Son. Her mediation is a formal act of uniting God with redeemed humanity which now begins with a clean slate and the sin of Adam put behind.

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Mary’s maternal prerogative is most efficacious by merit because of her salutary consent to be the mother of our Lord. It was by her faith working through love that the divine Word became incarnate not only to redeem the world, but also to justly merit the dispensation of divine grace, without which we cannot be regenerated and personally justified before God. So, it is only fitting that she who brought the living Source of all grace into the world should continue to act in a primary mediatory capacity, as the neck that connects the Head to all the members of Christ’s Mystical Body, in the dispensation of his signal or actual graces.​

No miracle of Jesus was ever performed through the solicitation of any apostle, including those who were present at the marriage feast. Mary approached her Son expecting a miracle. She did not suggest that the wedding feast should now come to an end and the guests return home, unlike the apostles who suggested to Jesus that the crowds be sent away for want of food (Mt. 14:15-21). The miracle of the loaves and fishes is a prelude to our Lord’s Bread of Life discourse in John 6 in anticipation of the Last Supper when Jesus institutes the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist by miraculously transforming the substance of the bread and wine into his own body and blood.

Mary did not approach the bridegroom with her concern, though it was his responsibility to provide enough wine for a one-week celebration. She simply and confidently said to her Son: “THEY HAVE NO WINE.” Mary approached Jesus because she knew that her Son was the long-awaited Bridegroom who would come into the world to provide the wine of salvation for the redemption of Israel and mankind. This was the “best wine” flowing in abundance, as foretold by the prophets. Jesus produced over one hundred gallons of wine from the water that was held in the six stone jars, water that was used for domestic purification rituals. John tells us in his First Epistle (5:6) that Jesus came into the world “not by water only” (regeneration/baptism) but “by water and “blood” (justification/the Eucharist).

 “Cease your laments; I will make myself your advocate in my Son’s presence. Meanwhile, no more sadness, because I have brought joy to the world. For it is to destroy the kingdom of sorrow that I have come into the world: I full of grace … Then curb your tears; accept me as your mediatrix in the presence of him who was born from me, because the author of joy is the God generated before all ages. Remain calm; be troubled no longer: I come from him, full of grace.”
Romanos the Singer, On Christmas 2, 10-11
(ante A.D. 560)

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May he send you help from the sanctuary,
and give you support from Zion.
Psalm 20, 2

All the unmerited graces we receive originate from Christ, who is Head of his Mystical Body. Yet they sufficiently flow through Mary, its neck. It is for the sake of his mother above all else and out of his perfect love for her that signal graces are given to us despite our unworthiness. John’s allegorical narrative of the wedding feast illustrates this intimate association between the Mother and the Son in the dispensation and application of divine grace in our lives. Being our spiritual mother, by having conceived and borne Jesus so that we may be reborn in the Spirit and have new life with God, the Church has designated Mary to be the New Eve. By being the second Eve, Mary is Mother of the Church, and as such the culmination of Mother Zion in whom the Church is symbolized as the sacrament of grace for the entire world. It is in the heavenly sanctuary that the Lamb of God intercedes for us all through the merits of his precious blood. The grace he has produced for us by his infinite merits is dispensed first and foremost through our Blessed Mother by whose mediation we are formally united to Christ our Divine Bridegroom.

That John perceived Mary to be Eve’s anti-type, the spiritual “mother of all the living” by her association with the Son, the New Adam, is evident in how he constructs his Gospel from the beginning up to the narrative of the marriage feast at Cana. The Evangelist begins with a type of creation story that in its day-by-day format remarkably parallels the Story of Creation in Genesis 1. What follows in the Gospel is a seven-day model of the new creation of the world which culminates in the inauguration of Jesus’ public ministry in the shadow of the Cross and Mary’s vital participation with him in undoing the sin of Adam and Eve. Remarkably, the Evangelist presents us with a New Creation story in which we have the new Adam and his ‘helpmate’ the new Eve.

Day 1

In the beginning, God created heaven and earth.
Genesis 1, 1

That was from the beginning, that which we have heard,
which we have seen with our eyes;
that which we contemplated,
and our hands handled,
concerning the word of life;
John 1, 1

And he called the light Day, and the darkness Night;
and there was evening and morning one day.
Genesis 1, 5

And the light shineth in darkness,
and darkness did not comprehend it.
John 1, 5

Day 2 

And the earth was void and empty,
and darkness was upon the face of the deep;
and the spirit of God moved over the waters.
Genesis 1, 2

The next day, John saw Jesus coming to him,
and he saith: Behold the Lamb of God, behold
him who taketh away the sin of the world.
John 1, 29

And John gave testimony, saying: I saw the Spirit coming down, as a dove from heaven, and he remained upon him. And I knew him not; but he who sent me to baptize with water, said to me: He upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining upon him, he it is that baptizes with the Holy Ghost.
John 1, 32-33

Day 3 

And he said: Let the earth bring forth the green herb,
and such as may seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, which may have seed in itself upon the earth.
And it was so done. And the earth brought forth the green herb,
and such as yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that beareth fruit having seed each one according to its own kind.
And God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1, 11-12

The next day again John stood, and two of his disciples.
And beholding Jesus walking, he saith: Behold the Lamb of God.
When the two disciples heard him say this,
they followed Jesus.
John 1, 35-36

In this is my Father glorified; that you bring forth very much fruit
and become my disciples.
John 15, 8

Day 4    

And God made the two great lights: a greater light to rule the day; and a lesser light to rule the night: and the stars. And he set them in the firmament of heaven to shine upon the earth. And to rule the day and the night, and to divide the light and the darkness. And God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1, 16-18

On the following day, he would go forth into Galilee, and he findeth Philip. And Jesus saith to him: Follow me… Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him: and he saith of him: Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile.
John 1, 43-44

Again therefore, Jesus spoke to them, saying: I am the light
of the world: he that follows me, walks not in darkness,
but shall have the light of life.
John 8, 12

Day 5

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
John 1, 29

Day 6 

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples.
When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
John 1, 35-36
 

Day 7  

God also said: Let the waters bring forth the creeping creature having life, and the fowl that may fly over the earth under the firmament of heaven. And God created the great whales, and every living and moving creature, which the waters brought forth, according to their kinds, and every winged fowl according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And he blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the waters of the sea: and let the birds be multiplied upon the earth.
Genesis 1, 20-22

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee.
Finding Philip, he said to him,
“Follow me.”
John 1,43

Jesus is journeying to Cana in Galilee, while John continues to baptize people in the Jordan, many of whom will follow Jesus and have the light of life through the regenerating baptismal water: men and women of every kind, the great and the small alike. Up to three thousand people were baptized on the first Pentecost Sunday (Acts 2:41). The Second New Creation story begins in Chapter 2 of John’s Gospel with the marriage feast in Cana and the New Adam and his helpmate the New Eve present there.

The wine mourns, the vine languishes, all the merry-hearted sigh…
No more do they drink wine with singing…
There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine;
all joy has reached its eventide;
the gladness of the earth is banished.
Isaiah 24, 7, 9, 11

On this mountain (Zion), the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a feast of fat things, a banquet of aged wine – of fat things full of marrow, of fine wine well refined. And he will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the covering that is cast over all nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth.
Isaiah 25, 6-8

AND the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage.
John 2, 1-2

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And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of great thunders, saying, alleluia: for the Lord our God the Almighty hath reigned. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give glory to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath prepared herself. And it is granted to her that she should clothe herself with fine linen, glittering and white. For the fine linen are the justifications of saints. And he said to me: Write: Blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith to me: These words of God are true.
Revelation 19, 6-9

St. John’s account of the new creation culminates in the wedding feast at Cana, the seventh day on which our Lord does not rest but, on the contrary, begins his work of salvation (Gen. 2:2-3). This is the second creation story whose principal characters are Jesus, the New Adam, and Mary, the New Eve. The narrative is rife with literary and theological symbolism. The first of Jesus’ miracles, by no coincidence through his mother’s solicitation, is to turn water into wine, just as the first miracle of Moses was to turn water into blood. Jesus turns the water into the blood of the grape, as it is called in Genesis 49, by converting the wine of salvation into the substance of his own blood at the Last Supper or the sacrificial New Passover meal of the heavenly wedding banquet.

Recall on Day 2 of the new creation: ‘John saw Jesus coming to him, and he saith: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sin of the world.’ (Jn. 1:29). John 2 opens with the Lamb of God, who is attending a wedding feast with his mother and disciples. This wedding feast points to the eschatological wedding banquet of the Lamb in the new order of creation which John envisions in the Apocalypse. What allegorically takes place at the wedding feast in Cana is celebrated in the New Jerusalem that has come down from heaven (Rev. 21:1-5). This invisible reality is made visible in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist which in union with the wedding banquet in heaven has been celebrated in Holy Mass (the re-presentation of Calvary) in the pilgrim Catholic Church since Apostolic time (1 Cor. 10:16).

Suffice it to say, the Evangelist is drawing our attention to a deeper divine mystery than what first meets the eye. He mentions Mary and constructs the dialogue she has with Jesus in a way that is intended to illustrate their close association in the Divine work of salvation. Mary’s presence at the wedding feast together with that of her Son’s is of providential design, no less than the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary is in the Gospel of Luke. Nothing is merely incidental in the Scriptures. By the time his Gospel was written, the author could draw from a Marian tradition that was flourishing in the nascent Church: That it is first and foremost through the mediation of the faithful Mother that we receive the blessings of the faithful Son. It is at the celebration of the wedding feast of the Lamb that Mary, as mother of the Son, has passed him on as groom to the bride, which is the Church and sacrament of divine grace for the entire world (Rev. 21:1-2, 9-22).

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Then why didn’t Mary appeal to the bridegroom instead of addressing her Son when the wine failed? After all, it was his chief responsibility to provide for his guests. As we have seen, the answer lies in ancient Judaic tradition which Mary herself was well acquainted with through the teachings of the religious elders or rabbis. The answer is she understood the eschatological meaning of the prophets who describe Israel’s desire for the wine that shall be poured out at the Messianic wedding, when the groom YHWH shall consummate His marriage covenant with Israel and all nations. When the Messiah comes, people of all nations will come to the Temple on Mount Zion to worship God and offer unbloody sacrifices of holy bread and miraculous wine to Him (Deut. 33:19).

​The Jews long expected this banquet to be universal, for both Israel and the Gentile nations. It would be a sacrificial wedding banquet of wine. Isaiah speaks of “fat things” and “fine wines”, which refer to the fat of the sacrifices and fine wine that were offered to God as bloody and unbloody sacrifices in the Jewish Temple (Lev. 3:16; 23:13). And, finally, this sacrificial wedding banquet hosted by the Messiah would undo once and for all the ill-effects of the sin of Adam and Eve. It would “destroy the covering that is cast over all peoples” and “swallow up death forever… God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from the earth.”

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In the time of Jesus and his blessed mother Mary, the Jews believed that this eschatological wedding banquet, which shall celebrate the consummation of the spiritual marriage covenant between YHWH the groom and Israel the bride, including all nations, would be a kind of return to the Garden of Eden before the fall of Adam and Eve. Here the righteous would drink miraculous wine and feast on the Beatific Vision of God. So, Mary’s words “They have no wine” express the Jewish hope for the wine of the Bridegroom YHWH at His banquet – the wine of salvation. This is what the mother of Jesus meant by wine, “the best wine saved for last” in the transubstantiated form of her divine Son’s blood (Jn. 2:10).​

Not unlike John the Baptist, Mary knew that her Son was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world by offering himself as a living sacrifice. What she did, then, by making her request, was implicitly ask him to provide the sacrificial and supernatural wine of salvation spoken of by the prophets and long-awaited by the Jews. The Jews expected the groom YHWH to send his Messiah to lead the unbloody sacrifices of bread and wine for the forgiveness of mankind’s sins on Mount Zion, though they had no idea that the celebration on Mount Zion would take the form of the holy sacrifice of the Mass in the Catholic Church or New Jerusalem as a visible sign of the invisible heavenly marriage banquet until the end of this age. In union with the pilgrim Church on earth, the bread and wine offered by our High Priest in the order of Melchizedek would actually in appearance be the substance of his own body and blood.

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Mary understood that the sacrificial victim would be the Divine Groom Himself in the person of her Son Jesus by the outpouring of his blood: the wine of the new and everlasting covenant. His bride would be forgiven humanity and his Church. The Groom’s gift to his bride would be the giving of himself in his sacrificial act of love: the regenerating water and justifying blood that poured out from his pierced side upon the consummation of their eternal marriage covenant (Jn. 19:28-35). On this occasion, a sword would also pierce Mary’s soul (Lk. 2:34-35). Therefore, Mary approached Jesus as she normally would have the bridegroom of the wedding feast at Cana who was responsible for the provision of the wine. Mary did not expect her Son to sacrifice himself at the wedding feast, but she understood that it was time for him to begin his public ministry in the shadow of his self-immolation for the forgiveness of sins. Our Lord knew that his mother knew (what to thee and to me) and so he told her: “My hour has not yet come.”

In other words, Jesus implicitly said to his mother that the Last Supper or sacrificial wedding banquet still lay three years ahead together with the consummation of the marriage between God and forgiven mankind on the Cross, upon his receiving the sour wine that would be extended to him on a hyssop branch: the fourth hallel cup which concluded the traditional Passover meal. (Jn. 19:28-30). The wedding guests at Cana shall have their wine for the feast, but as a sign that the Divine Bridegroom did come to host the sacrificial wedding banquet of salvation and consummate his new marriage covenant with redeemed humanity, in fulfilment of the prophecies, he shall honour his mother’s request. In a Jewish religious context, therefore, Mary was asking her Son to reveal himself as the long-awaited Divine Bridegroom YHWH and to provide the wine of salvation (his own blood) for the redemption of humanity by saying, “THEY HAVE NO WINE.”

In conclusion, as the New Eve or spiritual mother of all the living, Mary prompted her Son upon the seventh day of the New Creation to provide the best wine, viz., the wine of salvation to undo the sin of Adam, so that all people might return to the Garden of Eden as it was before mankind’s fall from grace. Thus, since the time the Blessed Virgin Mary consented to be the mother of our Lord, she has never laid her saving office aside as our universal Mediatrix of Grace. By her glorious Assumption body and soul into Heaven, Mary’s maternal responsibilities have rather increased in the dispensation of actual graces, produced by the body and blood of Christ, for the sake of her children’s spiritual growth towards perfection in the new Exodus and their reaching the new promised land, which is Heaven.

“With the Mediator you are the Mediatrix of all the world.”
St. Ephraem of Syria
Syri opera graeca latine, v.3
(A.D. 373)
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My beloved spoke and said to me
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, come with me.
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth,
the time for pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come!
Song of Solomon 2, 10-13
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Salve Regina!

He Knew Her Not Until

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And he knew her not till she brought forth her firstborn son:
and he called his name Jesus.
Matthew 1, 25
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Most Protestants, those who deny the Perpetual Virginity of Mary and wish to believe that Mary and Joseph had conjugal relations and children of their own after the birth of Jesus, often cite Matthew 1:25 as a proof-text against this ancient Catholic dogma. The problem with this, however, is they try to support their belief by super-imposing a modern English use of the preposition “until” on the sacred text. Yet, to understand what Matthew is saying in the above passage we must examine what the Hebrew and Greek meanings are for this word, since the Gospel wasn’t originally written in modern English, but in Hebrew-Aramaic, and then translated into Koine Greek. Matthew himself was a Jewish Christian, and he addressed a Hebrew audience when he wrote his gospel.

Unfortunately, the meanings of words or phrases in the Bible are often lost in subsequent translations. So, let us examine this word in its original form for ourselves and see what the sacred author means to say. For a moment, let us forget what this passage appears to mean by our common use of the word “until” in casual, modern everyday English.

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The Semitic and Greek words for “until” or “till” (‘ad/ heos) refer to the period that precedes an event. These prepositions do not function to imply what might come after it. What matters is only what happens before the event in question occurs. So, let us begin by looking at a couple of passages in the Hebrew Old Testament to see how this grammatical exponent is designed to function and convey meaning. The following verses translated from Hebrew into English are taken from the King James Bible.

לְדָוִ֗ד מִ֫זְמֹ֥ור נְאֻ֤ם יְהוָ֨ה ׀ לַֽאדֹנִ֗י שֵׁ֥ב לִֽימִינִ֑י עַד־אָשִׁ֥ית אֹ֝יְבֶ֗יךָ הֲדֹ֣ם לְרַגְלֶֽיךָ׃

A Psalm of David. The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand,
until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
– Psalm 110, 1

The preposition ‘aḏ (עַד) literally means “up to the time of”. This Messianic prophecy is referring to the period when Jesus shall sit at the right hand of God before or up to the time his enemies are made his footstool. Obviously, the author doesn’t intend to imply that Jesus will no longer be sitting at the right hand of God after his enemies are made his footstool. Similarly, nor does Matthew mean to imply that Joseph had conjugal relations with Mary after Jesus was born. All he means to say is that the couple had no marital relations up to the time of Jesus’ birth. Matthew originally wrote his gospel for Jewish Christians in Hebrew Aramaic, so the Greek copy reflects his native language.

לְמִיכַל֙ בַּת־שָׁא֔וּל לֹֽא־הָ֥יָה לָ֖הּ יָ֑לֶד עַ֖ד יֹ֥ום מֹותָֽהּ׃ פ

Therefore, Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.
– 2 Samuel 6, 23

Again, we have the preposition ‘ad, only the English translation is less ambiguous with the word “unto” instead of “until”. In the Hebrew, this verse literally reads: “up to”, “to”, or “until” (the day of). It is obvious that Michal couldn’t have had any children after her death. But that is beside the point. The only thing that matters is what the author intends to say, that Michal was childless up to the day of her death, without any further irrelevant implications.

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Surely, Matthew has no reason to express himself as to imply that Joseph had no marital intercourse with Mary until after Jesus was born to get his gospel message across to his audience. All he should say is what he explicitly intends to say which is relevant to the gospel, that Joseph and Mary had no conjugal relations ‘before’ or ‘up until’ Jesus was born. He is underscoring the truth of the Incarnation, which wasn’t easy for many Jews to reconcile with their idea of the one God. If he is implying anything, it is that Mary conceived Jesus by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. This implication or hidden premise is contained in the statement that Joseph and Mary had no marital relations up to the time of Jesus’ birth and is relevant to what Matthew is proposing.

In the original Greek translation of the Gospel of Matthew, the word for “until” is heos or ἕως. Not unlike the Hebrew preposition, the word references the period leading up to an event in question. It literally means “up to the time of” or “hitherto” without necessarily implying anything unrelated that might come after. Matthew is strictly concerned with how Mary and Joseph related to each other prior to the conception and birth of Jesus. This is evident by the fact that the author quotes Isaiah 7:14 in vv. 22-23. His main point is that Jesus is indeed the long-awaited Messiah of the Hebrew people, but he isn’t of paternal human lineage as the Jews expect. If the evangelist meant Joseph did not know his wife “until after” the birth of Jesus, we would have έως ότου instead. Simply put, the Greek word for “until” does not mean “until after” but rather “up until”.

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Nevertheless, some Protestants adamantly maintain that, because the original Greek text reads heos hou (ἕως οὗ), it follows reference to the time after the birth of Jesus can be made. The phrase heos hou (up to the time of – that) somehow lends them the notion that Joseph did not have sexual relations with his wife Mary until “after” she had brought forth her firstborn son. The Greek text literally reads: “And (he) knew her not until that she had brought forth a son.” However, the demonstrative “that” is being used to emphasize the couple had no conjugal relations up until that time Mary had brought forth Jesus. In other words, she did not conceive her son by her husband’s seed. The use of the negative form – “knew her not until” – really makes no difference. It simply means the couple had no marital relations up to the time Jesus was born, and so, Joseph wasn’t his real father.

Anyway, many Protestants contend that the grammatical structure of the verse (heos hou) indicates that the action or state (Mary’s virginity) of the first clause discontinues after the event (birth of Jesus).  However, heos hou can be used interchangeably with heos and mean the same thing “up to the time of.” We find another example in the NT: ‘But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of the emperor, I commanded him to be held until (heos hou) I could send him to Caesar” (Acts 25:21). We know for a fact that the apostle remained in custody after he was sent to Caesar; he was held while en-route to Rome (Acts 27:1) and for a short time after he arrived there (Acts 29:16). Thus, the action of the main clause (the command to be held in custody) did not necessarily cease upon the pivotal event (being sent to Caesar) in the linear course of time. Paul was no more sent to Caesar free of his chains than Mary was no longer a virgin sometime after the birth of Christ.

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Still, one could easily have the impression that Matthew is implying Joseph and Mary had marital relations after Jesus was born, when he reads the text in modern English and even with preconceived notions. But the word “until” does not reference the future in the ancient Greek and Hebrew languages, and it might not even in modern English use, depending on the speaker’s intention. For instance: “After the teacher had left the classroom, the students did not make any noise until he returned.” The speaker could mean in all probability that the students worked quietly after the teacher left the classroom and continued to work quietly before or up until he returned. He doesn’t necessarily have to mean that the students became noisy after the teacher returned.

Likewise, Matthew mustn’t necessarily mean to say that Mary and Joseph had no conjugal relations until ‘after’ Jesus was born (Joseph did not know Mary – he knew her not – until (heos hou) the birth of her firstborn son.) but must mean they never “came together” before he was conceived to underscore the Messiah’s divinity. After all, the couple had celebrated their second and final marriage ceremony (Nisuin) by the time Jesus was born. He was understood to be “the carpenter’s son” (Mt 13:55). It is important for us, therefore, to ask ourselves what it is that Matthew primarily intends to say to his audience without having to needlessly infer anything mundane before we presumptuously venture to force our interpretation on the text to suit our own religious or cultural bias.

“And when he had taken her, he knew her not, till she had brought forth her first-born Son.’ He hath here used the word till,’ not that thou shouldest suspect that afterwards he did know her, but to inform thee that before the birth the Virgin was wholly untouched by man. But why then, it may be said, hath he used the word, till’? Because it is usual in Scripture often to do this, and to use this expression without reference to limited times. For so with respect to the ark likewise, it is said, The raven returned not till the earth was dried up.’ And yet it did not return even after that time. And when discoursing also of God, the Scripture saith, From age until age Thou art,’ not as fixing limits in this case. And again, when it is preaching the Gospel beforehand, and saying, In his days shall righteousness flourish, and abundance of peace, till the moon be taken away,’ it doth not set a limit to this fair part of creation. So then here likewise, it uses the word “till,” to make certain what was before the birth, but as to what follows, it leaves thee to make the inference.”
St. John Chrysostom, Gospel of Matthew, V:5
(A.D. 370)
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And Mary said to the angel:
How shall this be done,
because I know not man?
Luke 1, 34
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Salve Regina!

Her Firstborn Son

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While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Luke 2, 6-7
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Primogeniture is the right, by Jewish law or custom, of the legitimate, firstborn son (bekhor) to inherit his parents’ entire or principal estate in preference to daughters, younger sons, stepsons, and illegitimate sons. Even the son of a deceased elder brother inherits before a surviving younger brother of his father by right of substitution of the deceased heir. The legal, social, and religious features of this institution were reflected in the norms and practices of ancient Hebrew society. Mosaic law granted the firstborn male a privileged status with respect to the rights of inheritance and cultic regulations.

A son might also refer to his own status as firstborn son when addressing his father (Gen. 27:19, 32). The composition of Biblical genealogies illustrates that the status of the bekhor was a pervasive feature of Israelite social life. In many of them, there is a formula which specifies the status of the first named son. Even in genealogies which do not specifically indicate the status of the first son listed, it was understood that he was the firstborn son. There are indications in the Bible that primogeniture carried certain duties and privileges in addition to the estate rights (Gen. 27; 48:13; Judg. 8:20; 1 Chron. 26:10) [cf. Jewish Virtual Library: Firstborn].

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St. Luke has primogeniture in mind with respect to Jesus when he writes “she gave birth to her firstborn son.” Yet many Protestants who aim to prove from sacred Scripture that Mary never remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus often cite this passage. They argue, in a numerical sense, that if Jesus were her first child, then naturally she must have had a second, third, or even fourth child together with her husband Joseph. But even though the firstborn son would logically have to be the first son that was born, the one who “opens the womb” as the “first issue”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that his parents subsequently had other children, sons or daughters. Recall that the firstborn son was entitled to a double portion of his father’s entire estate without any fraction provided he had no younger brothers.

Moreover, John the Baptist was the firstborn son (bekhor) of Zachariah and Elizabeth, but he was their only offspring. Elizabeth was aged and barren, but God intervened only so that she would conceive and bear Christ’s forerunner. It wasn’t for her becoming fertile, though her womb was made fertile by God on this occasion. The same can be said for Sarah who conceived Isaac, her only son. Isaac prefigures Jesus, as Sarah prefigures Mary. Both Sarah and Mary had only one child, a firstborn son who was rightfully entitled to the inheritance of his father’s estate as principal heir without any competition (Gen. 21:9-10; Lk. 1:31-33). Jesus is the offspring or seed of the free promised Woman who did not conceive and bear children (Ishmaels) in slavery to sin (Gen 3:15). Mary and Joseph could not have had their own children together without disfiguring God’s perfect plan, seeing the Lord’s handmaid is Sarah’s anti-type.

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Hence, Luke refers to Jesus as Mary’s firstborn son (bekhor) in the sense that our Lord is principal heir and successor of his heavenly Father’s family. As YHWH is head of His chosen people, the Israelites, in the Old Dispensation so, in the New Dispensation, Christ is the Head of his Church and the first fruit of the children of the resurrection in his heavenly kingdom (1 Cor. 15:20-28). As his brothers and sisters by our baptism, we have been granted a share in his inheritance (Rom. 8:17). The only other children Mary has begotten are we who bear testimony to Christ and keep God’s commandments (Rom. 8:29; Rev. 12:17). We are the offspring of the Woman of promise along with Jesus (Gen. 3:15; Rev. 12:1-5), though spiritually. In labour, Mary bore us as she sorrowfully stood beneath the Cross with no other uterine offspring of hers alongside, but with the Disciple who represents all faithful Christians (Jn. 19:26-27).

In any event, by the prescriptions of the Mosaic law, a father was obligated to acknowledge his firstborn son as principal heir. Christ’s heavenly Father did this when a voice came out of the heavens at the time of our Lord’s baptism: “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mt. 3:17; cf. Lk. 2:49). God did so again at the time of Jesus’ transfiguration on Mount Tabor (Mt. 17:5). In turn, Jesus acknowledged his own status as the firstborn Son of his Father after Caiaphas asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the son of the blessed One?” Our Lord responded, for which reason he was sentenced to death and finally received his eternal inheritance, “I am. And you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mk. 14:61-62; cf. Dan. 7:13.

“It helps us to understand the terms ‘first-born’ and ‘only-begotten’ when the Evangelist tells that Mary remained a virgin ‘until she brought forth her first-born son’ [Matt. 1:25]; for neither did Mary, who is to be honored and praised above all others, marry anyone else, nor did she ever become the Mother of anyone else, but even after childbirth she remained always and forever an immaculate virgin.”
Didymus the Blind, The Trinity 3:4
(A.D. 386)

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A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse;
a spring dried up, a fountain sealed.
Songs of Solomon 4, 12
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Salve Regina!