Salve Regina

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Marshal your troops now, city of troops, for a siege is laid against us. They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Therefore, Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.
Michah 5, 1-3
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A garden bower in flower
Grew waiting for God’s hand:
Where no man ever trod,
This was the Gate of God.
The first bower was red —
Her lips which “welcome” said.
The second bower was blue —
Her eyes that let God through.
The third bower was white —
Her soul in God’s sight.
Three bowers of love
Now Christ from Heaven above.

— LAWRENCE HOUSMAN
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“Humility is a passive virtue: it is a readiness to accept what is born not of blood, nor of the flesh, nor of man’s will; a readiness to welcome God who comes down.”
Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
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“Behold, from now on shall all generations call me blessed;
for the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.”
Luke 1, 48-49

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Yours in Jesus and Mary,
Marian Catholic
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Upon Thy Right Doth Stand the Queen in Ophir’s Gold

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My heart is stirred by a noble theme
as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skilful writer.
You are the most excellent of men
and your lips have been anointed with grace,
since God has blessed you forever.
Daughters of kings are among your honoured women;
at your right hand is the royal bride in gold of Ophir.
Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention.
Forget your people and your father’s house.
Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;
honor him, for he is your lord.
Psalm 45, 1-2, 9-11

Then Bethsabee came to king Solomon, to speak to him for Adonias: and the king arose to meet her, and bowed to her, and sat down upon his throne: and a throne was set for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right hand.
1 Kings 2, 19

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.  He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Luke 1, 31-33

In the historic period of ancient Israel, there stood a throne next to the one occupied by the king in the royal house of David. This throne at his right was reserved for the king’s mother who served as queen. The position of the Queen Mother or “Great Lady” (Gebirah) was a privilege of the highest honour and authority for a woman of the kingdom of Judah. The Gebirah was an extremely powerful and influential figure in ancient Jewish culture; she directed all domestic matters and had the final word among all the women of the royal household – including the king’s wives. Unlike the Queen Mother, the king’s spouses were given the primary task of bearing and raising their husband’s offspring and potential heirs to the throne.

The Gebirah alone acted as close adviser to her son and as advocate to the people. Anyone who had a petition to present or sought an audience with the king was formally expected to approach him through the mediation of his mother and by her patronage. This was the case when Adonijah sought a high-ranking bride from his half-brother Solomon through Queen Mother Bathsheba’s intercession. Solomon’s gesture of placing his mother’s throne at the right of his is believed by many Catholics to be a foreshadowing of Mary’s Assumption and Coronation in Heaven, where she acts as our Queen Mother and advocate next to the heavenly throne of her divine Son and King in the order of grace (Mk. 10:40).

Historically, what was temporally instituted in the Kingdom of Judah foreshadowed the kingdom that God would establish from all eternity and which should embrace people from all the nations of the earth with Christ as the King of kings. There is no reason why our Lord and King, the son of David, would abolish an office to which his mother was entitled to by Divine sanction. God’s plan would certainly lack perfection if there were no eternal Queen Mother sitting on a heavenly throne next to her royal Son. What God had prepared in the Old Dispensation was for fulfilling in the New. The office of the Gebirah continued to exist from the time of King Solomon while there were Davidic kings ruling in Judah until 587 B.C., the year when the southern kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonians.

“Raised to heaven,
she remains for the human race an unconquerable rampart,
interceding for us before her Son and God.”
St. Theoteknos of Livias
Assumption, 291
(ante. 560 AD)
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God did not promise an uninterrupted Davidic monarchy, but rather an unbroken line of descendants of David who would be eligible to inherit his throne. Its re-establishment is forever with Jesus having ascended to the throne for all eternity. Jesus could trace his line only legally through Joseph, since the latter was not his natural father. But as the fruit of Mary’s womb, he could trace his blood line back to David and rightfully claim his royal inheritance as foretold: ‘The LORD has sworn in truth to David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of your body will I set on your throne’ (Ps. 132:11; Lk. 1:42). This is one reason why God chose to become incarnate by being “made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4), and more importantly why the Son had to have a natural mother in his humanity.

It was all part of God’s perfect plan. God did promise David an eternal dynasty, despite the northern kingdom’s rejection of Solomon’s son Rehoboam and the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, which finally brought an end to the temporal rule of the Davidic kings in anticipation of the Messiah and the culmination of the Davidic kingdom in the New Dispensation with Jesus as King and Mary as his Queen Mother. (2 Sam. 7: 8-13).

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Allegorically, the kingdom of Israel (David and Solomon ruled when Israel was still united.) prefigures the kingdom of Heaven. Because of their wickedness and unjust rule, King Jehoiachin and the Queen Mother Nehusta eventually lost their crowns and were taken captive into exile by Nebuchadnezzar along with all the high-ranking people of Judah and its defeated warriors (Jer. 13: 18; 22: 24-26). King Zedekiah’s demise would soon follow because his wickedness after having reigned over the lowest and poorest remnants of his kingdom. And his mother Queen Hamital would have to relinquish her crown as well at the fall of her son at the hands of the Babylonians and Chaldeans after her son’s rebellion against the Babylonian king (2 Kgs. 24: 12-24).

However, God’s kingdom would not end, now that the Davidic monarchy should temporally cease with Zedekiah, the parental uncle of Jehoiachin. Jeremiah makes God’s intentions clear in his metaphor of the two baskets of figs which prophetically alludes to the coming of God’s heavenly kingdom (Jer 24). The crowns which the Davidic kings and their queen mothers had to forfeit should forever be replaced on the heads of the King of kings and the Queen of queens in God’s eternal kingdom of the New Dispensation​. God’s oath to David came to be realized in Jesus, the son of Mary. ‘And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” (Lk 1:31-32). ‘And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” ‘(Lk 1:42); ‘Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh’ (Rom 1:3); ‘Remember that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and was descended from David’ (2 Tim 2:8). Jesus’ bloodline can be traced only through his mother Mary, who alone has provided all the genetic material and our Lord’s flesh. His blood mixed with his mother’s royal blood in her womb.

“O Virgin most pure, wholly unspotted, O Mary, Mother of God, Queen of the universe, thou art above all the saints, the hope of the elect and the joy of all the blessed. It is thou who hast reconciled us with God; thou art the only refuge of sinners and the safe harbour of those who are shipwrecked; thou art the consolation of the world, the ransom of captives, the health of the weak, the joy of the afflicted, and the salvation of all. We have recourse to thee, and we beseech thee to have pity on us. Amen.”
St. Ephraim of Syria
Prayer to the Immaculate Queen
(ante A.D. 373)

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The city of Tyre will come with a gift,
people of wealth will seek your favour.
All glorious is the princess within her chamber;
her gown is interwoven with gold.
Psalm 45, 12-13

St. Luke has quite a different account of the genealogy of Jesus from what we have in the Gospel of Matthew. Unlike Matthew, he wrote his Gospel to address the Gentiles who weren’t under the Mosaic Law. Jewish law stipulated that genealogies were to be through the line of the males, not the females. ‘So, Moses and Aaron took these men who had been designated and assembled the whole community on the first day of the second month. Every man of twenty years or more then declared his name and lineage according to clan and ancestral house’ (Num. 1:17-18).

In Luke 3:23-38, the genealogy goes from Jesus, through David, and back to Judah, continuing all the way back to Adam, and then finally to God. Luke, however, shows the descendant of David to be Nathan (v. 31) rather than Solomon, as in Matthew. This suggests the possibility that Luke’s genealogy is for a person other than Joseph; so, in that case, he would be tracing Jesus’ ancestry through Mary’s side of the family. We read: And Jesus himself was beginning about the age of thirty years; being (as it was supposed) the son of Joseph, who was of Heli [Eli] who was of Mathat. (Lk.3, 23). This verse seems to say that Heli (Eli) is Joseph’s father, yet in the Gospel of Matthew we have Joseph being the son of Jacob.

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So how can Joseph have two fathers? Surely, he had only one father. And certainly, the two Gospels can’t be contradicting each other. We have good reason to conclude, therefore, that to trace the bloodline of Jesus through Heli, we would first have to go through Mary, His mother. Heli would be the biological father of Mary, and the father – in – law of Joseph. Even though the name of Mary isn’t listed, to comply with Jewish social custom and legal procedure, it surely is implied. The Greek word used for “as it was supposed” is nomizo, which means “to hold by custom or usage.”

We know that Jesus truly descended from David by bloodline, which could only have happened by his being the Son of Mary – the fruit of her womb. Luke’s genealogy through Mary is implied, but it is certain by the fact that Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ blood father. There was no human intercourse for the conception of Jesus, and so the Davidic bloodline couldn’t be traced through Joseph, apart from his legal Davidic lineage. Since it was customary to trace the son’s lineage through the father, God chose Joseph to be Mary’s husband and earthly father of Jesus. She could marry Joseph because it was also customary for a couple of the same tribe to wed (Num. 36:6-7). Seeing that Luke traces Jesus’ genealogy through Mary all the way back to God through David and Adam, it is most appropriate to designate Mary not only as the Mother of God, but also as the Queen Mother of God’s heavenly kingdom because of her royal blood which Jesus our Lord and King received through her.

“Concerning the holy and much-lauded ever-virgin one, Mary, the Mother of God, we have said something in the preceding chapters, bringing forward what was most opportune, viz., that strictly and truly she is and is called the Mother of God. Now let us fill up the blanks. For she being pre-ordained by the eternal prescient counsel of God and imaged forth and proclaimed in diverse images and discourses of the prophets through the Holy Spirit, sprang at the pre-determined time from the root of David, according to the promises that were made to him. For the Lord has sworn, He says in truth to David, He will not turn from it: of the fruit of Your body will I set upon Your throne. And again, Once have I sworn by My holiness, that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and His throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. And Isaiah says: And there shall come out a rod out of the stem of Jesse and a branch shall grow out of his roots… “Must there not therefore be a Mother of God who bore God incarnate? Assuredly she who played the part of the Creator’s servant and mother is in all strictness and truth in reality God’s Mother and Lady and Queen over all created things.”
St. John of Damascus
An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 4:14
(ante A.D. 749)

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

Psalm 45, 9-17 refers to a Phoenician princess from Tyre who becomes queen (shegal) by her marriage with the Davidic king. It is a prophetic song which points towards the institution of the Queen Mother established by King Solomon, son of David and Bathsheba. Let us look at these verses in conjunction with other passages in Scripture to see the connection between the Old and New Testaments. The Queen in Gold of Ophir certainly finds her secondary fulfilment and final consummation in the Immaculate Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven and Mediatrix of Grace.

Psalm 45:9
Daughters of kings are your lovely wives;
a princess arrayed in Ophir’s gold
comes to stand at your right hand.

So Bathsheba went to King Solomon, to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah.
The king rose to meet her, and bowed down to her;
then he sat on his throne, and had a throne brought for the king’s mother,
and she sat on his right.
– 1 Kings 2, 1

“But to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant.
These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
– Mark 10, 4

Psalm 45:12
Honor him, daughter of Tyre.
Then the richest of the people will seek your favor with gifts.

So Bathsheba went to King Solomon,
to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah.
– 1 Kings 2, 1

And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said unto him,
“They have no wine.”
– John 2, 2

Psalm 45:13-14
All glorious is the princess within her chamber;
her gown is interwoven with gold.
In embroidered garments, she is led to the king.

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, 1

And Mary said,
“My soul proclaims the glory of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my saviour;
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his handmaid.
– Luke 1, 46-48

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

 “Behold, From now on will all generations call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.”
– Luke 1, 48-49

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They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house,
they saw the child with his mother Mary.
Then they prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Matthew 2, 10-11

The Judeo-Christians of the nascent Church perceived Mary to be the anti-type of the Gebirah in the royal line of David, and they saw the fulfillment of this institution in her Divine Maternity (Lk. 1:31-33, 35). St. Matthew affirms the continuation of this Jewish tradition in the New Dispensation by emphasizing Mary, the mother of Jesus, was with her Son when other kings came from afar to pay him tribute and present their gifts to him. Upon appearing to Mary, the archangel Gabriel did say to her: “The Lord is with you” (Lk. 1:28). The Mother and the Son are portrayed as being closely related to each other in the Kingdom of Heaven by their royal line of descent.

Matthew’s narrative is suggestive of the truth that anyone, including royal figures, who seeks access to the King and presents himself to him must do so with the Queen Mother at his side. No Gospel narrative is the least concerned with anything incidental or contains theologically insignificant elements. The phrase “mother of Jesus” isn’t used as a kind of filler for the sake of providing colourful detail to a story, but rather a means to highlight the significance of their relationship. Mary’s filial relationship with Jesus is historical and eschatological in aspect, and so, the Gospel narrative confirms a traditional belief held by the first Christian Ecclesia as an offshoot of its past Judaic heritage: The Virgin Mary is “with” Jesus by being his mother. She was chosen to be the mother of our Lord and King to be intimately associated with him in his redemptive work and monarchical rule over all nations in the Messianic age.

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Thus, this narrative highlights a royal affair which consists of characters of royal lineage, including Mary, from whom Jesus acquires the legitimacy of his royal pedigree and through whom his royal inheritance. Mary is her Son’s guarantor of his rightful claim to King David’s throne – not Joseph, which explains why his obvious presence there isn’t even mentioned. There is something about the Virgin Mary that Matthew wishes to underscore without any needless distractions. Her maternal presence points to the pre-eminent position she holds by the grace of God in His heavenly kingdom.

Incidentally, we read in the Gospel of Luke that the shepherds ‘came with haste; and they found Mary and Joseph (not Mary, the mother of Jesus and Joseph or Mary, the mother of Jesus), and the infant lying in the manger’ (Lk. 2:16). The shepherds weren’t regal figures, unlike the Magi. So, there was no need for Luke to describe who Mary was in relation to Jesus. Theophilus knew Mary was the mother of the Messiah, but he had to understand also that Mary was much more than the natural mother of our Lord and King. John, too, refers to Mary as ‘the mother of Jesus’ in his Gospel narrative of the Wedding at Cana (Jn. 2: 1-11) for the reason she had a significant intermediary role to play in association with her Son in his redemptive work.

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Matthew, therefore, is affirming that the Virgin Mary is the “trigger sign” of the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom by giving birth to the promised Messiah King, as foretold by the prophets (Isa. 7:14, 11:1; Micah 5:1-3; Jer. 31:22). As a Jew, he would have known that the sign of the Queen Mother’s royal office was her crown and throne placed at the right of the King’s throne in the royal court from the time of Solomon to continue the Davidic dynasty. As we have seen, the King’s and Queen Mother’s fortunes were intertwined. When the King took his throne, because of whose mother he was, so did his Queen Mother. If another power usurped the King’s throne, the lives of both the King and the Queen Mother would be in danger (1 Kgs. 1:21). If the King were deported in exile, the Queen Mother and all the royal court would be, too, along with him (2 Kgs. 24:12; Jer. 13:18, 22:26, 29:2).

Now, there were plenty of male descendants of David after the Jews of the Southern Kingdom were freed from captivity and restored as a nation, but none of them could legitimately inherit the throne of David and continue his dynasty, because there was no Queen Mother to guarantee his Davidic kingship. Since God swore an oath to David, that the fruit of his womb would inherit his throne forever, this being fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah King, the legitimacy of his throne in the Davidic dynasty could be guaranteed only if his mother were entitled to the office of the Gebirah (Ps. 132:11; Lk. 1:42). Thus, Matthew is implicitly testifying to the historical truth of the Blessed Virgin Mary being the Queen Mother of the Messiah King Jesus by giving birth to him (Lk. 1:31-33). Jesus fulfills the prophecies of the restoration of the Davidic dynasty and kingdom by being her Son – the fruit of her womb. The fates of the Mother and the Son are closely intertwined and rest on God’s gratuitous design from the beginning (Gen. 3:15).

And, so, Mary’s fate is inextricably bound to the fate of her Son Jesus. When the Messiah King ascended into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God, so too was his mother enthroned at his right after she was assumed body and soul into heaven by his power at the end of the course of her earthly life. In heaven, our Queen Mother Mary fulfills her royal office as a sign of her Son’s legitimate claim to the throne of David in his eternal royal court. There she also serves as our prayerful Advocatrix and Mediatrix of Grace, while she reigns together with her Son the Messiah King in the order of grace (2 Tim. 2:12).

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At any rate, the Jews, who were the first to embrace the Christian faith, undeniably recognized Mary’s royal dignity and her privileges by her being the mother of their Lord and King in the line of David. They must have held the mother of their Lord (Adonai) in the highest esteem, whose efficacious patronage mustn’t be ignored. The deference they continued to show Mary after her Dormition and Assumption body and soul into heaven is clearly expressed in the words of her kinswoman Elizabeth: “Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”. And it is by Mary’s mediation or implicit advocacy that the infant John the Baptist is graced and leaps in his mother’s womb at the sound of her greeting (Lk. 1:43-44). It was customary for the Judeans to address the Gebirah as the “mother of my Lord” and King, especially when petitioning her for favors they sought to receive from her son.

Our Great Lady’s pre-eminent advocacy and mediation of grace in the Kingdom of Heaven are indeed royal prerogatives that belong exclusively to her by maternal right. How honoured the infant Church must have felt that the mother of their Lord should deign to attend to the faithful from her heavenly throne, being solicitous to her children’s spiritual needs and attentive to their petitions. In time, this private Marian devotion in the nascent Church would spread throughout the Roman-Greco world and become widely held among Catholics in the early Church. The persecuted early Christians implored their Blessed Mother’s aid and intercession. They sought refuge in the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Heart when they supplicated her in spirit standing before her heavenly throne which stood alongside her Son’s throne of grace in the wake of terrible persecution. With the growing rounds of persecution and deaths of the martyrs came a stronger Church growing in number which would eventually outlast the Roman Empire or the whore of Babylon, viz., the City of Rome with its seven hills – all this through the compassionate mediation of the Queen of Heaven and of Martyrs.

‘Under your mercy we take refuge, O Mother of God.
Do not reject our supplications in necessity,
but deliver us from danger,
O you alone pure and alone blessed.’
Sub Tuum Praesidium
(c.250 AD)

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And coming to her, the angel said:
“Hail, full of grace!
The Lord is with thee.”
Luke 1, 28

The angel Gabriel did indeed acknowledge Mary’s royal dignity when he must have greeted her in genuflection. In the original Greek text, we have ‘chaire kecharitomene’: “Hail, O favoured one by grace.” In ancient time, this form of salutation, “Hail” (chaire), was normally used for greeting and acclaiming royal figures. The term expressed loyalty and allegiance. Only on one other occasion in the New Testament is this expression used, and that is when the Roman soldiers mock Jesus by placing a crown of thorns on his head and a reed in his hand, because they had heard that Jesus claimed to be the king of the Jews: “Hail, King of the Jews!”: chaire basileus ton ioudaion (Jn. 19:3). The angel greeted and praised the mother of our Lord in this manner, since Mary is also the Queen of Angels.

Now the word chaire can also be translated as “rejoice”, but sacred Scripture is often polyvalent. Words and symbols do in fact sometimes carry more than one underlying meaning. We can reasonably assume that this Greek word has a twofold meaning with respect to Mary. The word “rejoice” does apply to her from the perspective of her being designated as Daughter Zion, the personification of the virgin spouse of YHWH, Israel, from whom the Messiah comes into the world. We find it in the first part of Mary’s Canticle of Praise in Luke 1:46-49 which parallels the prophecies of Isaiah (61:10), Zechariah (2:10-11), and Zephaniah (3:14) about the restoration of Israel from exile through God’s saving intervention. With respect to Mary’s royal Davidic lineage, the word “Hail” is also proper, since it is on this occasion that the angel announces to Mary that she will conceive and bear a Son who shall eternally inherit the throne of his father David by being born of her royal ancestry (Lk. 1:31-33).

We should note that, in ancient Judaic tradition, Sarah was seen to have prefigured the Gebirah of the Kingdom of Judah. Originally her name was Sarai, but God told Abraham to call his wife Sarah from then on (Gen. 17:15-16). In ancient Hebrew, the name Sarai means “princess”, while Sarah means “exalted princess”. Naturally, a princess is exalted by becoming a queen. Just as Abraham was told not to call his wife Sarai anymore, for she was destined to bear Isaac, and by doing so became the Matriarch of the Covenant between God and Israel, so must the angel have been instructed by God not to call Mary by her given name when saluting her, but rather by her perfect and perpetual state of grace: The female vocative used by Luke is kecharitomene. This was fitting, since Mary was predestined to be the royal mother of our Lord and King Jesus, who was prefigured by Isaac (Gen. 22:2), and thereby become the Matriarch of the New Covenant, in whom Sarah finds her fulfilment in the Divine order of redemption as the Mother of all nations, whose royal Son shall rule all nations with a sceptre of justice (Ps. 2:9; Rev. 2:27).

“Hail, our desirable gladness;
Hail, O rejoicing of the Churches;
Hail, O name that breathes out sweetness;
Hail, face that radiates divinity and grace;
Hail, most venerable memory…”
St. Theodotus of Ancyra
Homily 4:3
(ante A.D. 446)

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Gird your sword upon your hip, mighty warrior!
In splendor and majesty ride on triumphant!
In the cause of truth, meekness, and justice
may your right hand show your wondrous deeds.
Your arrows are sharp;
peoples will cower at your feet;
the king’s enemies will lose heart.
Your throne, O God, stands forever;
the king’s enemies will lose heart.
Your throne, O God, stands forever;
your royal sceptre is a sceptre for justice.
You love justice and hate wrongdoing;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness above your fellow kings.
Psalm 45, 4-8

Solomon was the first king to grant his mother a high place in the administration of his kingdom, which he rightfully inherited from his father David who started his royal dynasty on Divine authority rather than by maternal privilege. He had no Queen Mother because he never inherited his throne. It was given to him by God in anticipation of the coming Messiah (2 Sam. 5:1-4). Yet, David promised his wife Bathsheba that her son Solomon would inherit his throne instead of Adonijah, the son of his other wife Abishag the Shunammite (1 Kgs. 1:28-31) and, by doing so, his royal dynasty would continue beginning with her as the guarantor of the ruling legitimacy of the king.

Again, there no longer was a maternal guarantor in line after the Jews were freed from captivity in Babylon and restored as a nation in Palestine. So, despite the interruption in the dynastic line of Davidic kings, this royal office of the Queen Mother could only be re-instituted by God Himself, if the dynasty were to continue with the Messiah inheriting David’s throne. Without the Gebirah, Jesus could still be king of his heavenly kingdom, but not of the House of David. There could be no continuing dynasty without the Virgin Mary being his Queen Mother. Our ‘Great Lady’ is indeed the trigger sign spoken of by the prophets about the restoration of the Davidic kingdom.

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The Bible does not record the name of David’s mother, but in ancient Judaic tradition the Talmud does (Baba Bathra, 91 a.). Her name was Nitzevet (Nisbeth), the daughter of Adael. The name Nitzevet derives from the Hebrew word nitzav, which means “to stand”. We find the source in the Hebrew Bible: “For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf rose [nitzbat] upright; and behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf” (Gen. 37:7). Solomon apparently was the first king to grant his mother a high place in the administration of his kingdom which he rightfully inherited from his father David. However, David’s mother accompanied him to his coronation and stayed close to him during his reign to encourage and counsel him when facing his enemies in turbulent times. Nitzevet stood up right alongside her son and never deserted him while he ruled. She served as a precursor to what would eventually become a national institution in Solomon’s reign. Her name foreshadows the deference with which even the king’s wives were to approach the Gebirah.

Hence, unlike the Queen Mother, the king’s wives were not granted the prerogatives of a counsellor and an advocate but were merely assigned the task of bearing and raising the king’s children, notably his sons who might become eligible heirs to the throne. The Gebirah was the most important woman in the kingdom of Judah and wielded the greatest influence over her son the king, more than all his wives combined. She was the sheaf which all other sheaves made obeisance to. So, sacred Scripture confirms the historic Christian tradition of the Virgin Mary’s Queenship in Heaven to be authentic. It is in Heaven where our Blessed Queen Mother continues to serve as Advocatrix and Mediatrix of all saving grace by her prayerful intercession alongside the throne of grace.

“The bright spiritual dawn of the Sun of Justice, [our Lady Mary], has gone to dwell and shine in His brilliance; she is called there by the one who rose from her, and who gives light to all things. Through her, that overwhelming radiance pours the rays of His sunshine upon us, in mercy and compassion, rekindling the souls of the faithful to imitate, as far as they can, His divine kindness and goodness. For Christ our God, who put on living and intelligent flesh, which He took from the ever-Virgin and the Holy Spirit, has called her to Himself and invested her with an incorruptibility touching all her corporeal frame; He has glorified her beyond all measure of glory, so that she, His holy Mother, might share His inheritance…“the Queen of mortal man, the most holy Mother of God.”
St. Modestus of Jerusalem
On the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God
(ante A.D. 634)

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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… The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.
Revelation 12, 1-5

The “great sign” or “Great Lady” John sees in heaven is that of the restoration of the Davidic Messianic kingdom in the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary herself giving birth to the Messiah King. The nativity of Christ is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophetic signs of the restoration. Since the child being born of the woman in the Apocalypse is our Messiah King, she must literally and historically be the Virgin Mary, though from an allegorical perspective, the woman who appears can represent Israel and the Church (Rev. 12:5; Ps. 2:9). What is striking in this vision is that the woman is crowned, and she is the mother of a male child who will “rule all nations with a rod of iron.” In the ancient Davidic kingdom, only one member of the royal court was crowned besides the king himself, that being his Queen Mother who reigned with him enthroned by his side.

The Queen Mother was a “genuine, tangible, and biological representation” of the Davidic King’s royal lineage, so not unlike the Child (Jesus) and the Dragon (Satan), the woman (Mary) isn’t some corporate symbol or representation. She’s as personal and real as the two other figures are, not only in Revelation 12, but also in Genesis 3:15 – the first Messianic prophecy. Saying “a great sign appeared in heaven” is another way of saying the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in heaven body and soul, she herself being the prophetic sign of the restoration of the Davidic kingdom by giving birth to our Messiah King (Isa. 7:14).

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Mary literally and historically gave birth to Jesus in joy in Bethlehem (Isa. 66:7-9) and figuratively in sorrow on Calvary (Jer. 4:10, etc.). In other words, it was after his crucifixion that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven to take his seat at the right hand of God. The royal authority of the male child was established after he was “caught up” into heaven (Rev. 12:5, 10). Gary G. Michuta (Making Sense of Mary: Sophia) points out that during his public ministry, Jesus spoke of Calvary as being the place where the “prince of this world” or the Devil would be judged and “cast out” from heaven as our accuser, while he himself would be “lifted up” (Jn. 12:31-33; Rev. 12:9, 12). Our Lord and King’s enthronement in the kingdom of heaven by his ascension is forever, and since the King and his Queen Mother share similar fortunes and misfortunes, his blessed Mother Mary has been also lifted up into heaven by her glorious Assumption body and soul to take her royal seat at the right hand of her Son.

Thus, it was our Gebirah who the evangelist saw in heaven wearing her royal crown. Without Mary’s throne being situated alongside the throne of her Son, our Lord and King, there can be no restoration of the Davidic monarchy and kingdom in view of God’s promise to David’s wife Bathsheba. The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Heaven has been preordained by God from of old to guarantee her Son’s eternal claim to David’s throne. This Catholic belief is confirmed in sacred Scripture: “Go forth, ye daughters of Zion, and see King Solomon in the diadem wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals” (Song of Sol 3:11).

“Must there not therefore be a Mother of God who bore God incarnate? Assuredly she who played the part of the Creator’s servant and mother is in
all strictness and truth in reality God’s Mother and Lady and Queen over
all created things.”
St. John of Damascus

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Marshal your troops now, city of troops, for a siege is laid against us.
They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Therefore, Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.
Michah 5, 1-3
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Salve Regina!

I Will Put Enmities Between Thee and the Woman

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I will put enmities between thee and the woman,
and thy seed and her seed:
she shall crush thy head,
and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.
Genesis 3, 15 (DRB)

And a great sign appeared in heaven:
A woman clothed with the sun,
and the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
Revelation 12, 1
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The Protoevangelium (First Gospel) in the Book of Genesis is the first Messianic prophecy recorded in sacred Scripture, and it is pronounced by God Himself to the serpent in the wake of the fall of Adam and Eve. The prophecy does not speak of only the Divine Messiah, but also includes the free Woman of Promise whose fulfilment is ultimately reached in the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of our Divine Lord and Saviour. In view of Eve’s transgression and her moral involvement in the fall of Adam (אָדָם “mankind”), God declares to the serpent, in allusion to Mary, that He will put her (the woman) in complete opposition and hostility with it. This enmity between Mary and Satan shall be in the same likeness with that of her Divine Son’s with the Devil’s offspring: sinful and wicked humanity.

The woman’s offspring shall not be a descendant of Adam by the seed of man, but rather by the seed of the woman. He shall be of divine origin, and his conception and birth will be supernatural, but not to the preclusion of his full humanity. Thus, we may believe in faith that this verse implies Mary’s total lack of affinity with Satan together with her Son and thereby her exemption from all stain of sin, both original and personal. There is no surer way to be in complete hostility with the devil or serpent than to be constantly in the state of God’s sanctifying grace. God ordered Mary and Satan to be in a total state of “opposition” to each other so that they should be “hostile” enemies with “hatred” for one another, which the Hebrew word for enmity (ebah/אֵיבָה) denotes. This was because Mary was chosen to be the mother of the Divine Messiah (Lk 1:31-33, 35).

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It was all part of God’s perfect plan that the Son of Man be “made of a woman” (Gal 4:4), but not so much as for becoming a man in the likeness of Adam. The Serpent, which was envious of Adam and Eve and all God’s creation, sought to destroy it. In its malevolence and shrewdness (‘aruvum), the Serpent targeted Adam to accomplish what it was bent on destroying, for our primordial father was the head of the two covenants God had established: the one between God and Adam and his female Helpmate, and the marital one between Adam and the Woman. Adam was the human representative of both covenants which were rooted in faith and trust. However, in its craftiness, the Serpent targeted Adam indirectly through his Helpmate. For its plan to be successful, the Serpent would need the Woman to co-operate with it. And this it could manage to do by enticing and deceiving her with a lie.

As we know, the Serpent did succeed in gaining the Woman’s trust by appearing to have her best interest at heart, which allowed it to get the upper hand. The Woman rebelled against God in her misplaced faith and, as a result, her friendship with God turned into enmity. By helping to bring about the fall of Adam as the Serpent’s instrument to offer him the forbidden fruit, the Woman made herself out to be an enemy of God. Thus, the Virgin Mary was chosen to be the Divine instrument to help reconcile mankind to God. It was imperative that she be at enmity with the fallen angel by co-operating with the angel Gabriel in faith and with complete trust in God, so that her Offspring could undo the fall accomplished by Adam.

“What a grand and most wise strategy against the devil! The world, which had once fallen under the power of sin because of a virgin, is now restored to freedom because of a Virgin. Through the virginal birth, a great multitude of invisible demons has been cast down to Tartarus.”
Amphilochius of Iconium
In natalitia Domini, 1
(ante A.D. 394)

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Mary would have been a friend of Satan if at any moment in her life she sinned against God and fell from His grace like Eve, which would have rendered her unworthy to be the mother of her divine Son, who was like us in all things but sin (Heb 4:15), with whom she was intimately associated to undo the evil that the devil had worked to the spiritual detriment of mankind. Eve was at enmity with God along with Adam, for they both did what was hateful in God’s sight and pleasing to the serpent by partaking of the forbidden fruit.

We have only to ask ourselves why it was that Jesus addressed his mother by calling her “Woman”. The answer lies in the Book of Genesis. Originally, Adam had referred to his wife as “woman” (Gen 2:23). It wasn’t until Eve had mortally sinned and fallen from grace that she was named Eve, which means “mother of all the living” (Gen 3:13-20). It is in this context that we can see what our Lord’s intention was by calling his mother “Woman” at both the beginning and end of his public ministry (Jn 2:3-5; 19:26-27). The Evangelist understood that Jesus was drawing a parallel between his mother and Eve. He knew that Mary was much more than the biological mother of Jesus; she was the woman of faith who God promised would be intimately associated with him in his redemptive work, and by being so, she would become the spiritual mother of all those who are alive in Christ and bear witness to him while observing God’s commandments (Rev 12:17). And what God willed with necessity was that she should be preserved free from all stain of sin.

It was Mary who God foretold would participate with her Son (the new Adam) in his work of undoing the sin of Adam and Eve and reconciling the world to Him as his “helpmate” (Gen 2:18). Moreover, by calling his mother “Woman,” Jesus was affirming her being in a perpetual state of sanctifying grace. Mary resembled Eve before her fall from grace at which time her husband still referred to her as “the woman”. We have good reason to believe, therefore, that our Lord was alluding to his mother’s Immaculate Conception and freedom from all stain of personal sins which result from the pride of life and concupiscence of the eyes and of the flesh.

“In the beginning, the Serpent, having captivated the ears of Eve, spread poison into the whole body; today Mary receives by means of the ears, the advocate of perpetual happiness. So (woman) who has the instrument of death was also the instrument of life.”
Ephraem of Syria, De devirsis, sermo 3
(ante. A.D. 373)

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Sacred Scripture confirms the ancient Catholic tradition of Mary being the spiritual mother of all the living: the new Eve who never once fell from grace (Lk 1:28), God’s re-creation of our universal biological mother. Both Eve and Mary were daughters of a covenant with God. Eve was the daughter of the first covenant between God and Adam: ‘The Lord commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for on the day you shall eat from it you will surely die.” ‘(Gen 2:16-17). The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die’” (Gen 3:2-3).

Mary was a daughter of the Sinai covenant between God and Israel: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully… I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me … For I, the Lord, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing loving kindness to thousands to those who love me and keep my commandments” (Deut 5:1-10). Both Eve and Mary were under a pledge of obedience in their covenants with God, since God had given each of them a free will to choose between life and death by either accepting or rejecting His will for them.​

Eve’s disobedience ultimately resulted in the fall of “mankind” (Adam/אָדָם). Because of the fall, all human beings are conceived and born deprived of the original justice and sanctity which Adam forfeited for his descendants by his sin. ‘The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”'(Gen 3:12-13). Mary, on the other hand, observed God’s will, and so, she brought forth the living Font of all grace who would reconcile mankind to God. Mary said: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).

“Think not, O man, that this is a birth to be ashamed of, since it was made the cause of our salvation. For if He had not been born of woman, He had not died; and if, in the flesh, He had not died, neither would He have destroyed him through death, who had the empire of death, that is, the devil.”
Proclus of Constantinople
Oratio 1Laudatio Dei genitricis mariea
(ante. A.D. 446)

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By her act of faith working through love, Mary untied the tight knot of Eve’s grave transgression. Mary’s soul “magnified the Lord”, whereas Eve’s soul was affected by her own vanity and curiosity which rendered her vulnerable to the Serpent’s deception and temptation. She knew that God had forbidden her and Adam to partake of the forbidden fruit. But, nonetheless, she decided to experience and judge for herself what was good and evil for them, despite God’s will for what was best for the couple. Adam and Eve raised their own will above God’s will by acting upon the serpent’s devious suggestion, making themselves out to be like God, but apart from God and before Him.

Fortunately, for both herself and all humanity, Mary chose “life and prosperity” rather than “death and adversity” after hearing the words of the angel Gabriel. She heard and observed the word of God as a true servant of Israel in the spirit because it was “very near to her and in her heart.” In the spirit of Daughter Zion, Yahweh’s loving and faithful spouse, our Blessed Lady humbly refused to bow down to any idol which the ancient serpent may have presented to her in his jealous hostility with the woman. (cf. Deut 30:11-12). Thus, because of her fidelity to God and desire to please Him in her covenant with Him, by her salutary consent to be the mother of our Lord and Saviour, Mary helped destroy the ravages of sin that the Serpent had managed to work in the beginning. Because she welcomed the will of God with outstretched arms in faith and love, our Redeemer chose to come into the world (Rev. 3:20). Peter Chrysologus assures us “without Mary neither death could be done away with, nor life restored” (Sermon 64).

You have heard that it deals with this, that man would return
to life by the same route by which he fell into death.”
Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 142
(ante. A.D. 450)

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“You shall be holy to me; for I the Lord am holy,
and have separated you from the peoples,
that you should be mine.”
Leviticus 20:26

Evidently, the nascent Church perceived Mary to be the exemplary personification of Daughter Zion. The faithful saw the culmination of Israel’s steadfast love and trust in God embodied in her person. St. Luke bears witness to this early Marian tradition in our Blessed Lady’s Canticle of Praise (Lk.1:46-49; cf. Isa.61:10; Zech.9:9; Zeph.3:14-15, 20; Ps.102:13; 126:1-3; 147:12-13). The connection between the election of Israel and the election of Mary in God’s plan of redemption was clear to them. As Israel was elected to be the people from whom the Messiah would come, so Mary was chosen to bring Him to birth as Saviour of the world. Both Israel and Mary had the divine privilege of bringing the Messiah into the world. And because of their common vocations, both had to be specially prepared by God.

If the people of Israel were to receive God Incarnate in their midst as one of them, they would have to be made exclusively worthy by means of a special holiness imparted by the Old Covenant. Far more was expected from the Israelites than from the people of the surrounding nations because of the holiness that was required of them in anticipation of the Incarnation. If that were true of the people of Israel, it would be even truer of Mary in whose maternal womb the holy Son of God became incarnate. How becoming it would be if she in some way received a means of a singular holiness that would separate her from sinful humanity by a special grace through God’s intervention. Mary was the living personification of faithful Daughter Zion, and not just a metaphor: “clothed in the garments of salvation” and “wrapped in a mantle of justice” (Isa 61:10).

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You have seen what I have done to the Egyptians,
how I have carried you upon the wings of eagles,
and have taken you to myself.
Exodus 19, 4

As we have seen, the Hebrew word for enmity (ebah/אֵיבָה) is derived from the verb ayab or אָיַב which means “to be hostile to.” This prim root assumes the form of the noun “enemy” ( אוֹיֵֽב ) . In Exodus 15:6, for instance, we read: ‘Thy right hand, O Lord, is magnified in strength: thy right hand, O Lord, hath slain the enemy.’ This verse is part of the Song of Moses and the Hebrew people who joyfully and gratefully praise God for having caused the Red Sea to swallow up Pharaoh’s chariots of men in their pursuit of the Israelites after their liberation from slavery and departure from Egypt. The fall of the Egyptian army is celebrated in song, for it has resulted from Pharaoh’s obstinate pride and arrogance in his opposition against God. In her Canticle of Praise, Mary proclaims: “My spirit rejoices in God my saviour; for he has looked with favour on the lowliness (humility) of his handmaid” (Lk. 1:47-48). The lord raises the lowly and casts down the mighty from their thrones (Lk 1:52; Ps 147:6). The Annunciation happened because of Mary’s humility and purity of heart. She was a friend of God.

Not unlike Moses, who humbled himself before God to be His servant and instrument of salvation, our Blessed Lady joyfully and thankfully praises God for having saved her from the clutches of the enemy, viz., the serpent or dragon which is Pharaoh’s proto-type. It was the angel Lucifer who fell from heaven because of his pride and arrogance (Isa 14:12-17). And because he opposed God in his vanity and was cast out from heaven, he wished to rally mankind against Him; whereby humanity, in its rebellion against God in league with Satan, would fall, too, from His grace and end up under the Devil’s dominion as his captives together with all the other fallen angels, enslaved to sin and subject to death in its sinful condition.

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Mary rejoices in God her saviour because He has mercifully redeemed her by a singular grace, having been chosen to be the mother of our Lord and humanity’s Saviour, who shall redeem mankind and deliver it from the clutches of the Dragon and man’s enslavement to sin. (Rev 12:10). She knows, that together with God, she has been chosen to stand in opposition to Satan to help undo his works. It is by her act of faith and love that our Blessed Lady helps turn the devil’s proud and arrogant opposition to God into his humiliating defeat. Mary’s humble state is a means by which God becomes incarnate and dashes Satan’s pride into pieces along with his rule over humanity. In her humility, Mary stands opposed to the Devil’s pride in his opposition to God. She stands with God as His faithful helpmate in His opposition to the inimical Serpent.

The free Woman of Promise becomes the Mother of the Son only because she refuses to do what is hateful to God and pleasing to the Serpent out of pride, unlike Eve who submitted to the will of God’s adversary and was cast out from paradise because of that same pride which cast the Devil out from heaven. Eve made herself out to be an enemy of God and His “adversary” by her rebellion in collaboration with the Serpent in his revolt (Ex 23:22; Isa 63:10). Mary made herself out to be a friend of God and a disciple of the Son who she would bear by faithfully assenting to the Divine knowledge that was made known to her through the message of the angel (Jn 15:15).

What God reveals to us in Mary’s canticle, therefore, is that He has put His handmaid in hostile opposition to the serpent by preventing her from being born into slavery to sin and subject to death in its dominion through the grace of her Immaculate Conception. God ordained that the enemy Satan should have no power and rule over Mary’s soul because of her election to the Divine Maternity, which carried with it a vital co-redemptive role. For her collaboration with God in His redemptive work to be perfect, God raised Mary above Eve’s low estate and that of all her biological descendants who are conceived in sin and born in guilt (Lk 1:42). Never should our Blessed Lady ever be an adversary of God. Moses, too, was providentially saved from being enslaved and drowned at birth by Pharaoh’s decree, so that one day he could serve God as His covenantal mediator in opposition to Pharaoh for the liberation of the Hebrew people from their bondage in Egypt (Ex 2:1-10).

“Truly elect, and superior to all, not by the altitude of lofty structures,
but as excelling all in the greatness and purity of sublime and divine virtues, and having no affinity with sin whatever.”
Germanus of Constantinople
Marracci in S. Germani Mariali
(ante A.D. 733)

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Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred sixty days…. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to her place where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. And the dragon cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
Revelation 12, 4-6, 14-15

There are basically four prevailing themes pertaining to wilderness in the Hebrew Old Testament. To begin, the imagery of wilderness may signify a place where one has a very close encounter with God, notably when they are called for an important task during a time of crisis. Also, for the Jewish people who were delivered from slavery in Egypt by God’s intervention, the wilderness was where they received the Torah (the Divine instructions) so that they could be set apart from all the surrounding nations to become God’s very own and be prepared as a holy nation in anticipation of the coming Messiah.

The Talmud says:

And the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai…
The azure sky encompasses the parched and barren land:
an untouched, silent vacuum devoid of mortal ploys.
No stamp of human grandeur
imprints the endless sand;
no thoroughfares are chiselled
through the undulating dunes.
Standing in the wilderness
we wait with open hearts:
we may yet tend the desert
and find our way to Eden.
(B’midbar 1:1)

The Talmud says further: “One should be as open as a wilderness to receive the Torah” (Nedarim 55a). Some Jewish commentators understand this statement to mean that God’s chosen people have been called to open themselves to God’s moral demand of living an entirely new way of life that differs from that of the pagans who do not know God, regardless of how intimidating it might be to the Israelites. In preparation for the coming Messiah, God established a covenant with His people through Moses at Sinai so that they would be a moral and godly people, unlike His adversaries. For this purpose, God gave the Israelites the Torah or moral Law. Only those who conducted their lives in accord with the moral precepts of the Divine law reached the promised land after their sojourn in the desert. The unfaithful Jews who failed to “tend the desert” or persevere in faith in the wake of many hardships and trials never found their “way to Eden”. ​

Moreover, the wilderness can be described as a place untouched by human developments and settlement. In the form of imagery, it represents a moral haven. For the Israelites, the wilderness contrasted with Egypt which was polluted with the vain grandeur of this world and the many false idols that alienated the Egyptian captors from God and even corrupted many of Abraham’s descendants while living there. The Exodus happened so that the Hebrew people would be free to worship the God of their fathers as He desired they righteously should in the land that He had initially promised to Abraham (Gen 17:7). The wilderness was where God’s emancipated people could be spiritually refined and come to know God, as to walk in his ways without any worldly distractions that might hinder them. The wilderness provided the straight path that would help enable them to become a holy nation set apart by God and consecrated to Him as worthy of begetting the promised Messiah.

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Indeed, in sacred Scripture, the wilderness is portrayed as the site of the dispensation of divine grace where God disciplines, purifies, and transforms His chosen people by imparting a singular holiness to them through His covenant. It was at the outset of the Israelites’ forty-year sojourn in the desert that God assured Moses: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Ex 33:14). On this occasion, God didn’t simply offer his chosen people guidance, but promised to guide them to the promised land Himself. The wilderness was where the Israelite’s had to learn to place their undivided trust in Divine providence. Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden for their failure in trusting God and placing all their hope in Him. The Jews who lost their trust in God and their trial of faith never made it to the promised land.

Here it was where God came down from His heavenly domain to dwell among His people and instruct them in His ways by physically manifesting His presence through the Ark of the Covenant which also served as a channel of His grace (Ex 25:8, 22; Josh 3:5-17; 6:2-5). Outside of Egypt, the Israelites could encounter a personal God who related to them in a loving and caring way and who sought nothing other than their true happiness, albeit the physical hardships they had to endure to prove themselves worthy of being in His favour. ‘The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend’ (Ex 33:11). Through Moses, God would speak to all His people by His theophanies.

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Finally, there are many passages in the Old Testament which present the wilderness as an aspect of the goodness of God’s creation which inspires awe because of its sublimity. For instance, the prophet Isaiah creates an allegory that pertains to the spiritual condition of the Hebrew nation. The language in the text expresses a moral and spiritual desolation in the life of the Jews. Such was the condition of the Judeans before God allowed the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem and take His chosen people into captivity and exile because of their apostasy and idolatry.

Still, the prophet anticipates the time that will come when the moral and spiritual wasteland the Jews had created for themselves will be restored to its former beauty which God intended, like “the glory of Lebanon” with its plush cedar trees and fertile land. The “glory of God” shall be manifested in the rejuvenation of His chosen people by His grace which restores them to a new life in the spirit (cf. Ezek 36:26-27). A “crocus” (rose) shall beautifully blossom out of what was a desolate wasteland, now that God’s judgement against His people is past and the nation redeemed of its sins through its suffering and subsequent change of heart by means of discipline (cf. Ezek 20:36-38).

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The majesty of Zion that once was will be restored, now that God’s chosen people have left that pathless desert of alienation from God and spiritual desolation which they had stumbled upon through their infidelity. The excellency of Carmel and the fertility of Sharon will now be restored by God’s grace and renewed blessings in the wasteland that Zion created for herself to her own spiritual ruin. By God’s merciful grace of forgiveness and salvation, His people will now set themselves on the right path in a land fertile with reinvigorated piety in the knowledge of God and His covenant with them (Isa 35:1-4).

We can imagine the normal characteristics of a desert: a solitary and dry place (ציה or tsı̂yâh), without springs and streams of water which doesn’t produce any verdure and cannot sustain life. But only in this desolate state can it blossom forth to new life by being restored to its original plush condition as God’s re-creation by His regenerating grace. Analogically, the spiritual plight of the ancient Hebrews points to mankind’s need of baptism and reconciliation to God by means of sanctification or justification.

Hence, when God fashioned Mary’s soul and sanctified it at the first instant of her conception in the haven of her mother’s womb, He put her at enmity with the serpent. All it had wrought at the creation of the world did not affect Mary. God preserved her from being subjected to the spiritual desolation of humanity because of original sin. Mary was God’s re-creation of mankind before the fall. She was untouched by the spiritual ruin Adam had brought upon himself and all his descendants by nature. The majesty of Eve that once was had been restored in Mary. Our Blessed Lady did not set foot upon a pathless desert of alienation from God when she was born. She did not enter this world as a “wandering daughter”. Her soul was fertile and plush in its sanctified state, as she blossomed like a rose by the power of God’s grace, which restored her to the original state of justice and holiness that Adam had forfeited for all his offspring because of his idolatry and infidelity to God.

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God set Mary apart from all the descendants of Adam and Eve who would be born in exile and slavery to sin, as to be holy and consecrated to Him in preparation for the Divine Maternity, just as He had freed the Israelites from slavery and separated them from the surrounding pagan nations to be His very own people, holy and consecrated to Him, from whom would come the Divine Messiah. “Thus, shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto to the Egyptians, and how I bear you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself” (Ex 19:3-4). God bore Mary on the wings of His grace when He kept her from being taken captive with the rest of humanity and morally subjected to having to dwell enslaved in the dominion of God’s ancient adversary. God looked with favour on the lowliness of His handmaid when he removed her from the rest of sinful humanity by bearing her away on His wings of grace to be His very own virgin bride and the mother of the Son- “clothed in the robes of salvation” and “wrapped in a mantle of justice.” The flood water could not reach and engulf our Blessed Lady Zion as it had sinful humanity at the time of Noah (Isa 61:10; Gen 6:17-18) and Pharaoh’s army of chariots.

In the spirit of the faithful remnant of the Israelites or Daughter Zion, Mary received the Divine commands and kept them in the depths of her heart and soul. She personified the renewal of Israel after having been liberated from bondage and exile by being spared enslavement to sin and the prospect of mortal corruption that plagues fallen humanity. There was no place for the vain idols of this world in her soul. How she conducted herself throughout her entire life was impeccable by the plenitudes of grace God bestowed on her. Mary observed the word of God and kept it (Lk 11:28). Not once did she profane God’s holy name by thought, word, or deed. Our Blessed Lady embodied in her person the ideal of a redeemed and resurrected people of God but in a singular and most perfect way.

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When God sanctified Mary’s soul and preserved her free from the stain of original sin and all its ill moral effects, He intended, by His almighty power, to keep her from ever stumbling and falling from His grace (Jude 1:24). God clothed His handmaid in the radiance of the light of His justice. She was enrobed with the sun of His justice. What paled in comparison within the soul of humanity lay under her feet like a waning moon. Our Blessed Lady had crushed the head of the Serpent. The Blessed Virgin Mary blossomed like a crocus among thorns and thistles in the desolate wasteland of fallen man.

God “tilled the land that was desolate” and had it “become like the garden of Eden” by restoring in Mary what Adam and Eve had reduced to a wasteland. God replanted in her what was uprooted from humanity by their transgression (Cf. B’midbar 1:1; Nedarim, 55a). God put His spirit within our Blessed Lady and a heart of flesh that would never turn to stone. And by the efficacious influence of His grace, God caused Mary, without violating her free will, to observe all His commandments and to walk in His statutes free from all abomination that infests sinful humanity (Ezek 36: 16:37). Mary was indeed the creation of God’s sublime handiwork, His greatest masterpiece of grace in all creation, who in awe all generations shall pronounce blessed. The Lord had done great things to her, for holy is His name (Lk 1:48-49).
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And I passed by thee, and saw thee: and behold thy time was the time of lovers: and I spread my garment over thee, and covered thy ignominy. And I swore to thee, and I entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God: and thou becamest mine. And I washed thee with water, and cleansed away thy blood from thee: and I anointed thee with oil. And I clothed thee with embroidery, and shod thee with violet coloured shoes: and I girded thee about with fine linen, and clothed thee with fine garments.
Ezekiel 16, 8-10
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Salve Regina!

Hail, Full of Grace!

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One is my dove, my perfect one is but one,
she is the only one of her mother,
the chosen of her that bore her…
Who is she that looketh forth as the morning,
fair as the moon, clear as the sun,
and terrible as an army with banners?
Song of Solomon 6, 9-1
 

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you.
I have called you by name, you are mine.
Isaiah 43, 1

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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κα εσελθν γγελος πρς ατν επεν
Χαρε κεχαριτωμένη κύριος μετ σο
ελογημένη σ ν γυναιξίν
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The female vocative kecharitomene (κεχαριτωμένη), literally “highly favoured by grace”, can be paraphrased as “enduringly endowed with grace”. It is because Mary was to be the mother of our Lord, that the perfect past participle does “show a completeness with a permanent result” and denotes “continuance of a completed action”. Moreover, since the expression kecharitomene is in the female vocative case, the angel is addressing Mary by identifying her as the embodiment of all that this expression denotes. When Gabriel greets her, he doesn’t call Mary by her given name, but by the complete fullness and endurance of her state of holiness. He names her perfected in lasting grace.

Here we have the morphological aspectual (not tense marked) stem of kecharitomene: ke. This is the perfect stem of the root verb charitoo (χαριτόω) which may denote a perpetuation of a completed past action (mene). The root verb is derived from (χάρις) which means “grace” or “favour”. The completed past action itself, therefore, is “having been highly favoured and made acceptable by grace”, “lovely or agreeable.”

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The perfect stem is distinguished from the aorist stem which we have in Ephesians 1:6, for example, escharitosen (ἐχαρίτωσεν): “He graced” or “has freely bestowed grace”. In this active indicative form, the aorist stem describes a completed action which has come to pass and is finished. It is temporal in aspect and a momentary result. The aorist stem does not signify a permanent state of grace. The perfect aspect, on the other hand, exclusively denotes a state which prevails after an event has taken place and which is caused by this event. ​

Catholics believe this past occurrence to be Mary’s Immaculate Conception – the first instant when God fashioned and sanctified Mary’s soul and redeemed her in the most perfect way, in view of the foreseen merits of Christ, because of her election to the Divine Maternity. By His gracious act, God redeemed Mary in the most perfect way by preserving her free from contracting the stain of original sin and all personal sins so that she would be the most acceptable and loveliest mother of the Divine Word in his humanity. For no other reason did God favour Mary with this singular grace.

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“You alone and your Mother are more beautiful than any others,
for there is no blemish in you nor any stains upon your Mother.
Who of my children can compare in beauty to these?”
St. Ephraem of Syria
Nisibene Hymns 27:8
(A.D. 361)
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The perfect may denote an action as already finished, but it may also express the continuance of the result down to the present time. Our Lord’s expression “It is written” (gegrapti/Γέγραπται) is literally “It has been written.” And what has been written remains in force beyond the present time, that being “Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word coming from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4). The perfect may implicitly include the future conceptually in its aspectual form. Ephesians 1:6 refers to our predestination to grace as opposed to glory. The active indicative aorist which modifies the root verb and is temporal in aspect indicates that not everyone perseveres in grace beyond the present time. Hence, escharitosen does not imply a permanent state of sanctifying grace for all believers. There is no such thing as “Once-saved-always-saved” in a distributive sense.

In Catholic theology, the endowment of sanctifying grace co-relates with our actions and co-operation with God’s actual graces. For this reason, St. Paul exhorts us “not to receive God’s grace in vain” (2 Cor 6:1), for the soul is justified by sanctifying grace. Sanctification is the formal cause of justification. The soul is deprived of sanctifying grace by the commission of a mortal sin resulting in spiritual death (1 Jn 5:16-17). So, the grace God had freely given to Mary endured beyond the present. God’s bestowal of grace on Mary was the permanent result of her being chosen to be the Mother of God (Isa 7:14; Lk 1:35, 43) which presupposes that she could never have committed any personal sins and thus forfeited her being in the state of sanctifying grace at any time in her life.

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“The angel took not the Virgin from Joseph,
but gave her to Christ, to whom she was pledged in the womb,
when she was made.”
St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 140
(A.D. 449)

Here are a couple of scriptural comparisons between the perfect and aorist aspects of verbs to better distinguish them.

“By grace you have been saved.”
– Ephesians 2:5

Christ’s formal redemption of the world continues. The grace of justification and forgiveness which our Lord has merited for humanity is the permanent result of his passion and death on the cross. God has reconciled the world to Himself through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (Rom 5:10-11).

“After that you believed (Aorist), you were sealed (aor.)
with the Holy Spirit.”
– Ephesians 1, 13

The believing and sealing are definite and complete acts confined to the present moment. Some of the Ephesians who believed, therefore, may eventually have lost their faith and fallen from grace. St. Paul is referring to their predestination to grace rather than glory.

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We have in the Catholic Douay Rheims Bible: ‘And Stephen, full of grace and fortitude, did great wonders and signs among the people’ (Acts 6:8). Most Protestant Bibles also have “full of grace” (pleres charitos) except three versions which read “full of faith” (pleres pistin). The King James Bible is included: ‘And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.’ (See Acts 6:5.) It is important for us to note here that most Bible versions, including Catholic Bibles, do have “full of grace”, but not in the sense in which Mary is being described. What Luke means to say is that Stephen was granted the actual graces of faith and fortitude for the performance of his salutary acts by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Of course, these actual graces do sanctify the person, but are present with the performance of the acts themselves and disappear with the end of the performance. Stephen was abounding in (“full of”/πλήρης) faith and fortitude while he was debating with the religious elders in the synagogue and performing great signs and wonders. If we look at the past tense verb ἐποίει (“was performing”) in Acts, we can place the noun χάριτος (grace) within a restricted time reference. The verb tense is imperfect past progressive, so it indicates that the action – performing great signs and wonders – is completed in the past and left there. Actual grace (faith or fortitude) aids the soul to remain habitually in the state of sanctifying grace, which itself is the quality of the soul sharing in the divine life. Stephen partook of the divine life in his apostolic zeal while evangelising in the Temple. ​

Whether Stephen remained faithful and resilient after this event is of no significance. The Evangelist isn’t concerned with the time before and after the event during which time Stephen was filled with a sufficient supply of actual graces that rendered him completely faithful and strong in his present task. But this is not so regarding Mary. Her maternal vocation extended throughout her entire existence from the time she was conceived, since she had been predestined to be the mother of the Lord. Stephen, on the other hand, wasn’t chosen by God to evangelise his entire life. Moreover, the grace that Mary is endowed with relates to the holy state and quality of her soul, not an apostolic action of hers at any present moment. The grace that the angel is referring to is the habitual grace of sanctification or justification itself which is distinguished from actual grace, though the latter does effect sanctification.

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“A virgin, innocent, spotless, free of all defect,
untouched, unsullied, holy in soul and body,
like a lily sprouting among thorns.”
St. Theodotus of Ancyra, Homily VI:11
(ante A.D. 446)

As we have seen in Luke 1:28, at any rate, the original Greek text does not read pleres charitos, but kecharitomene, which is a perfect passive participle and singular female vocative. A participle is a verb that is used to describe a subject. The perfect tense describes an action (God’s bestowal of grace) in the present with a completed result. And since this term is used as a title, the evangelist does not intend to describe Mary’s state within the restricted time frame of the present moment. He presents the angel as saying: “Hail, “completely, perfectly, and permanently endowed with sanctifying or justifying grace.” Someone completely endowed with grace is obviously “full of grace”, albeit the verbal difference. Mary’s complete and perfect endowment of grace is a completed past action with a lasting effect which identifies who she is. Mary embodies in her interior life what it requires to be the mother of God incarnate: completely and perpetually sinless with no place for any stain of sin in her soul whatsoever, grace being the antidote to sin.

When the angel Gabriel addresses Mary with the title Kecharitomene, he is not simply describing her state at a given instance of time in concurrence with any actions of hers, as Stephen is described to be in his state of grace. Nor does the angel mean any of the actual graces such as faith and fortitude, which help to sanctify the soul. The grace the angel has in mind with respect to our Blessed Lady is that of sanctification itself, which justifies her before God, making her most worthy to be the mother of the Son. The Greek singular female vocative can be paraphrased in Latin as “full of grace” (gratia plena), since Mary has been endowed with a fullness of sanctifying grace which renders her completely holy and fit to answer her divine call.

For Mary to conceive and bear the Son of God as a mother worthiest of him, the spiritual gifts of faith and fortitude, however plentiful and well-supplied these were in her soul, would not have been enough for her to meet her divine call. Mary had to be perpetually holy in every virtuous aspect – from the moment she was conceived to the time of her Dormition – to be the most fitting Mother of the Divine Son. Her Divine Maternity was lifelong, which demanded complete justice and holiness in soul and in body throughout her earthly existence (Isa 61:10; Lk 1:46-49).

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“Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace
has made inviolate, free of every stain of sin.”
St. Ambrose, Sermon 22:30
(A.D. 388)

The Greek word for grace in Ephesians 2:5, which we saw above, is charis, from which the root verb charitoo in the expression kecharitomene is derived. With respect to Mary, therefore, the grace she is endowed with is indeed the grace of sanctification or justification. God kindly bestowed this grace on our Blessed Lady when He sanctified her soul at the first instant of her conception in view of the foreseen merits of Christ. The perfect stem of the root verb charitoo (ke) indicates that her redemption is not only complete, but permanent, whose effect continues in the present at the time of the Annunciation and extends with her Divine Maternity, which itself is ever-lasting.

Mankind’s redemption was formally completed by Christ through his passion and death, but one’s personal salvation is still not guaranteed. The sanctifying or justifying grace that we have received through the Sacrament of Baptism is momentary, although habitual. Unlike the rest of us who have been baptized, but occasionally fall from God’s grace by the commission of a mortal sin, Mary’s salvation was assured, for she never committed any mortal or even venial sins, having been elected to be the mother of our Lord and Savior.

And so, Luke has Mary declare in the figure of Daughter Zion, who has been restored to grace with God in her mother’s womb: “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his handmaid” (Lk 1:46-48). Mary’s form of redemption was most perfect when God fashioned her soul upon conception, for He preserved her from contracting original sin and thus falling short of His glory by being inclined to commit actual sins (Rom 3:23). The words of the prophet Zephaniah (3:14-15) find their secondary signification in Mary’s exemption from all stain of sin, which she was subject to inherit along with mankind until God mercifully intervened by His grace:​

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 cast out your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall fear evil no more.

The Greek appellation Kecharitomene implies, that by the foreseen merits of Christ, God removed His judgment on mankind from Mary when He preserved her free from the stain of original sin. Suffering and death were no longer penalties exacted upon her because of her exemption from sin. Suffering and death entered the world on condition that all have sinned being descendants of Adam (Rom 5:12). So, Mary had no cause to fear these evils, since she was preserved free from all the moral ill-effects of original sin and remained personally sinless throughout her life by the efficacy of all God’s actual graces. She did suffer and choose to die to perfectly emulate her Son, but suffering and death were not exacted as penalties on her.

Mary had been liberated from being associated in mankind’s collective guilt by her Immaculate Conception (Gen 3:15). This explains why the angel Gabriel said to her “Fear not, for you have found grace with God” (Lk 1:30). Possessing no tendency to sin, Mary’s love of God and fellowship with her neighbour were impeccable, so she had no cause to fear the Divine justice. Fear has to do with punishment, and love drives out all fear. God had made Mary perfect in love (1 Jn 4:18). Our Blessed Lady had to be if she were to be the Mother of God.

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“She is born like the cherubim,
she who is of a pure, immaculate clay.”
St. Theoteknos of Livias
Panegyric for the Assumption, 5:6
(A.D. 650)

Hence, the basic thought of the Greek perfect tense is that the progress of an action has been completed and the results of the action are continuing in full effect. The progress of the action has reached its culmination and the finished results are now in existence. Unlike the English perfect tense which is used to express actions that began in the past and continue in the present, the Greek perfect tense indicates the continuation and present state of a completed past action. For instance, Galatians 2:20 should be translated “I am in a present state of having been crucified with Christ,” indicating that not only was Paul crucified with Christ in the past, but he is existing now in that present condition. The apostle continues: “The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The Greek perfect tense has to do with the person’s present condition or state that has resulted in the past.

And so, Luke is telling us that the grace Mary was endowed with in the past was the state of grace she continued to exist in at the Annunciation. Theologically, we may assume that Mary remained in this state of grace after the angel departed, since he left as soon as Mary consented to be the mother of the Lord, for which reason God highly favoured her with His grace (Lk 1:38). Nor was Mary endowed with this singular grace upon conceiving Christ. In Luke 1:30, the angel does say: “Fear not Mary, for you have found favour (grace) with God.” Mary’s permanent state of grace was the result of a completed past action prior to the Annunciation, which reasonably would have occurred at the instant God created her soul and predestined her to glory because of her election to the Divine Maternity. God commissioned the angel to call the Blessed Virgin Mary by the name Kecharitomene upon greeting her because of her singular and most perfect form of redemption (Isa 43:1). By the merits of her divine Son, his mediation was most perfect by exempting his blessed Mother from incurring the universal debt of sin rather than having her debt remitted. In honour of his Mother, the Lord had done “great things” for her from the first moment of her conception in the womb (Lk 1:49).

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“Today humanity, in all the radiance of her immaculate nobility, receives its ancient beauty. The shame of sin had darkened the splendour and attraction of human nature; but when the Mother of the Fair One par excellence is born, this nature regains in her person its ancient privileges and is fashioned according to a perfect model truly worthy of God…. The reform of our nature begins today and the aged world, subjected to a wholly divine transformation, receives the first fruits of the second creation.”
St. Andrew of Crete
Sermon I, Birth of Mary
(A.D. 733)

In his Apostolic Constitution, Ineffabilis Deus, 8 December 1854, Pope Pius lX cites the Divine Maternity as the “Supreme reason for the privilege” of the Immaculate Conception. We should keep in mind that when God predestined Mary to be the mother of Christ our Lord (Lk 1:43), He knew that she would pronounce her Fiat that first instant He fashioned and sanctified her soul. The perfect tense itself does not function to indicate that this state of grace will necessarily continue to exist after the present time. Paul continues to be in the state of being crucified with Christ on condition that Christ lives in him, and while he lives his life “by faith in the Son of God,” just as Mary continues to be in the state of sanctifying grace and justified before God provided she is the mother of our Divine Lord. God clothed the Mother of the Son with “garments of salvation” and arrayed her in a “robe of righteousness” so that she would be worthiest of being the Mother of God (Isa 61:10).

We should keep in mind that the expression kecharitomene is in the vocative case. Kecharitomene is the name the angel gives Mary when he first greets her. The name defines who she is in her standing before God as our Lord’s mother. So, the state of grace Mary continues to exist in at the time of the Annunciation can be of an enduring and permanent quality. In Scripture, the names God gives his servants (Abram-Abraham, Sarai-Sarah, Jacob-Israel, Simon-Peter, Saul-Paul) refer to their defining characteristics as God’s servants. The name Sarah (“exalted princess” in ancient Hebrew), for example, points to her status of being the Matriarch of the Covenant, who prefigures the Davidic Queen Mother (Gebirah) and ultimately the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven.

The epithet Kecharitomene points to something essential about Mary’s interior being and position with God. She isn’t simply described as being full of grace but is called “full of grace”; she embodies in her person what it means to be completely, perfectly and perpetually endowed with sanctifying or justifying grace. The names God gives His servants are permanent and originate from all eternity in accord with His design. Grammatically and linguistically, therefore, we must keep both the verb tense and the form of case in mind to fully understand what God is revealing to us by the designation Kecharitomene. The perfect tense is being used here in an extraordinary way that never is for any person in the Scriptures, save the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God (Isa 7:14; Lk 1:35).
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The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle,
so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness,
where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time,
out of the serpent’s reach.
Revelation 12, 14
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Salve Regina!

 

Most Blessed Are You among Women

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I will put enmities between thee and the woman,
and thy seed and her seed:
she shall crush thy head,
and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.
Genesis 3, 15 (DRB)

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
Luke 1, 41-42
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The first Messianic prophecy in the wake of the fall of Adam and Eve includes the free Woman of Promise whose fulfilment is reached in the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. In view of Eve’s transgression and her moral involvement in the fall of Adam (אָדָם / mankind), God declares to the serpent that He will put the woman in complete opposition and hostility (ebah/אֵיבָה) with it. Who God is referring to isn’t Eve, but her anti-type: a woman who God promises the serpent shall vindicate the former in her disobedience to Him by her perfect obedience to His will. And, by doing so, she will crush its head. The enmity between Mary and the serpent shall therefore be in the same likeness of that of her divine Son’s with the Devil’s offspring: sinful humanity; particularly the scribes and Pharisees (or “brood of vipers,” as Jesus calls them) who will plot against Jesus and have him put to death by the Romans because he claimed to be the “Son of God” and presumed to have “the power to forgive sins.”

Most Bible versions in English have Elizabeth declaring “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” The passage that is taken from the Catholic New American Bible has the superlative adjective “most” qualifying the past participle eulogomene which gives meaningful substance to the statement “Blessed are you among women.” The expression “blessed among women” is a Hebraism which literally means “most blessed among women” or “blessed above (all) women.” There is also no superlative in the Greek lexicon of the original text.

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We have two related examples in the Old Testament with respect to the Jewish heroines Jael and Judith who, as collaborators with God in His saving work, prefigure Mary as the promised woman in the divine order of redemption: ‘Most blessed of women is Jael…blessed among tent dwelling women…She hammered Sisera, crushed his head; she smashed, pierced his temple’ (Jdgs. 5:24-26). “Blessed are you daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth…who guided your blow at the head of the leader of our enemies” (Jdt. 13:18). What is striking in the passage from the Book of Judith is its close parallel with the Gospel of Luke in its verbal structure and theme.

​Let us examine Judith 13:18 and Luke 1:42 to see how the two passages are connected. The verse in Judith is taken from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. The evangelist wrote his gospel in Greek. What we have here is a sample of what St. Augustine has described: “The New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New” (Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount).

Then Uzziah said to her,
Blessed are you daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth;
and blessed be the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth,
who guided your blow at the head of the leader of our enemies.”
 

κα επεν ατ ᾿Οζας· ελογητ σ, θγατερ, τ Θε τ Υψστ παρ πσας τς γυνακας τς π τς γς, κα ελογημνος Κριος Θες, ς κτισε τος ορανος
κα τν γν, ς κατεθυν σε ες τραμα κεφαλς ρχοντος χθρν μν· 

“And blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

κα νεφώνησεν φων μεγάλ κα επεν Ελογημένη σ ν γυναιξίν
κα ελογημένος καρπς τς κοιλίας σου

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To understand what St. Luke means by Mary being blessed, we must examine the Greek word he uses to describe Mary’s state of grace. It isn’t the same word he uses in 1:45 which is makaria (μακαρία). Instead, the word he chooses to use here is the feminine perfect passive participle eulogemene (Εὐλογημένη), as we also have in the Deutero-canonical Book of Judith. This verb literally means “having been blessed”. The perfect action of the participle is taken to have been completed before the time Elizabeth praised Mary. How long before the action took place is unimportant, but the Greek verbal idea is that the action has already been completed, most likely at the first instant of Mary’s immaculate conception in virtue of her election to the Divine Maternity.​

This word is employed on only one other occasion in the New Testament, and that being regarding the Kingdom of Heaven: “Blessed (Εὐλογημένη) be the kingdom of our father David that cometh: Hosanna in the highest” (Mk 11:10). The word eulogemene is derived from the verb eulogeo (εὐλογέω). The evangelist is evidently drawing a parallel between Mary and the Kingdom of God to explain how it is that the mother of our Lord is blessed together with her divine Son in his humanity.

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Mary’s blessed state is intended to mean much more than having been favoured by God to be the mother of Jesus and having cause to be happy because of this divine privilege. Luke doesn’t use makaria, which literally means “happy”. Elizabeth isn’t merely praising Mary for having become the mother of her Lord. Rather, Mary’s blessedness must do with her personal affinity with her Son in a spiritual and mystical way. God rules in Mary’s soul as much as Christ’s divinity rules his humanity and takes charge of his human soul. God is the ruler of our Blessed Lady’s soul no less than He is the ruler of His heavenly kingdom.​

This is most proper considering God has chosen Mary to collaborate with Him in vanquishing Satan and bringing his dominion in the world to ruin. In response to Elizabeth’s praise, Mary does declare: “My soul proclaims the glory of the Lord” (or My soul glorifies the Lord), and my ‘spirit’ (pnuema/soul) rejoices in God my savior” (Lk 1:46-47). Both the Mother and the Son share a single enmity with the Serpent and his offspring. Neither of them are subject to him in his domain by being enslaved to sin and oppressed by the corruption of death, as all Adam’s descendants are in the state of original sin.

Thus, by Mary having been “blessed”, Elizabeth must mean that her kinswoman has been “sanctified” and “consecrated” to God in virtue of the blessed fruit of her womb, who likewise is holy and consecrated to God the Father in his humanity for serving Him as the “God who is salvation” (Yeshua) in collaboration with his blessed mother.​

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Luke also writes: “The kingdom of God is within you” (17:21). The Greek word for “within” is entos (ἐντός) which can mean either “inside” (within) or “among”. This word originates from the preposition en (ἐν) which is “in”. Since the evangelist is comparing Mary with the kingdom of God in his description of her being personally blessed, the former meaning is applicable here, and it must do with her interior state which resembles that of her divine Son’s in his humanity. This becomes more apparent when we look at the following passages: ‘Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in (en) you?’ (1 Cor 3:16); ‘Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn 2:19). By “temple,” Jesus means his body.

​​Elizabeth is pronouncing her kinswoman blessed for the quality of her soul which mirrors the justice and sanctity of her divine Son’s in his humanity. The Mother of our Lord is most blessed for having the Spirit of God dwell within her, whose sanctifying or justifying grace has made her pure as her divine Son is pure in his sacred humanity (1 Jn 3:3). She is revealed to be spiritually and bodily unblemished without any stain of sin in the likeness of her divine Son because of her collaboration with him in the redemption of mankind. God put Mary at enmity with the serpent and, by doing so, exempted her from being implicated in the sin of Adam along with the rest of humanity, as to be worthiest of being the mother of His Only-begotten Son and our Redeemer.

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“To all generations they [the prophets] have pictured forth the grandest subjects for contemplation and for action. Thus, too, they preached of the advent of God in the flesh to the world, his advent by the spotless and God-bearing (Theotokos) Mary in the way of birth and growth, and the manner of his life and conversation with men, and his manifestation by baptism, and the new birth that was to be to all men, and the regeneration by the laver [of baptism].”
St. Hippolytus
Discourse on the End of the
World
(A.D. 217)

The original Greek word eulogeo also occurs seven times in the Gospels with reference in the masculine perfect passive participle form only to Jesus. We find it in the second clause of Luke 1:42 (as in the Book of Judith referring to YHWH) and in Mark 11:9: ‘And they that went before and they that followed, cried, saying: Hosanna, blessed (eulogemenos / εὐλογημένος) is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.’ The blessed state of the kingdom of heaven where the Divine rules is in likeness the blessed state of the Lord in his divinized humanity: “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14), and in likeness of his blessed mother who has been most abundantly and supremely graced: ‘And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace (Ave gratia plena) the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women’ (Lk 1:28 DRB). The original Greek text reads kecharitomene, which means “completely and perfectly graced in the past with a permanent result.” The permanence of Mary’s Divine Maternity was established at the first instant of her conception, when God, therefore, sanctified her soul and preserved her free from the stain of original sin.

​​Hence, Jesus and Mary are described by Luke as being blessed in common by being divinely favoured with the spiritual ability to accomplish the Divine objective: the redemption of mankind. Both are consecrated to God (set apart to serve Him) and sanctified by His grace (made holy) in their shared humanity as to be fit to meet God’s purpose of satisfying His justice by undoing what the serpent has wrought from the beginning (Gen 3:14).

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“You alone and your Mother are more beautiful than any others,
for there is no blemish in you nor any stains upon your Mother.
Who of my children can compare in beauty to these?”
St. Ephraem of Syria
Nisibene Hymns 27:8
(A.D. 361)

God’s heavenly kingdom is in Mary, for in her disposition and conduct she embodies and displays its concrete manifestation amid fallen humanity with the coming of the divine Messiah and the outpouring of his regenerating grace (Jer 31:31-34; Ezek 36:24-27, etc.). In her personal relationship with God, she observes the law of the first covenant established on Sinai that is written in her heart: the natural law of love and freedom not written on stone, but declared to her by the Holy Spirit who dwells in her soul. She knows God as He should be known in His goodness and righteousness by being taught through the Holy Spirit, who enlightens her mind and transforms it by His generous gift of knowledge and understanding (Jn 14:26).

​​God has removed Mary from among sinful humanity and has given her a heart of flesh, putting His Spirit in her so that she should be careful to always follow His laws and decrees. In the sanctifying light of faith, our Blessed Lady perceives all God has taught His chosen people through Moses in its proper light. Indeed, she is a daughter of God after His heart worthy of receiving her promised inheritance, a true servant of Israel in the spirit. Mary’s covenant with God is the new and everlasting one established by the mediation of her divine Son through the outpouring of his precious blood (Lk 22:20). The blood of her Son hasn’t cleansed her of any sin but rather has preserved her from being tainted by it. This justifying blood of his which has mixed with his mother’s blood in her holy womb applies to her first and foremost in honour of her and for the establishment of her covenant with God.

Mary is the first human being to reap the fruits of the redemption in a singular way, not only because she has been graced with the divine motherhood, but more importantly because her conscience has never condemned her up to the time of her Dormition (1 Jn 3:20). There is no need for our Blessed Lady ever having to repent, for she has never broken her covenant with God at any point in her life by having committed any personal sins.​

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“As he formed her without my stain of her own,
so He proceeded from her contracting no stain.”
St. Proclus of Constantinople
Homily 1
(ante A.D. 446)

As a partaker of the divine nature, Mary is free of all the corruption in the world caused by dark human desires (2 Pet. 1:4). By the light of the Spirit who dwells within her, divinity shines in her soul. Her divine Son is reflected in her divine image. By Mary’s love of God and her charity towards humanity, the divine quality of her soul shines forth into the world. “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth” (Ps 50:2), manifesting the coming of His new kingdom on earth to His glory (Mt 5:16). The inner core of Mary’s being is undefiled and resembles the inherent righteousness of her divine Son in his humanity. By co-operating with the graces and gifts she has received from the Holy Spirit, Mary keeps herself pure as her divine Son is pure (1 Jn 3:3).

In her blessed state, Mary sees the God whom she desires to see face to face within her as she gazes upon herself with the Holy Spirit bearing testimony to the sublime quality of her soul. In her fullness of grace, she finds that the Lord she longs to see face to face is inside her sanctifying the temple of her body and the sacred sanctuary of her womb. The glory of God radiates her soul with its light, as her soul proclaims His glory (Lk. 1:46). The kingdom of God “is neither here nor there” but within Mary. She is with the Lord as fittingly as she should be in His work of redemption – at complete enmity with Satan and the powers of darkness that wreak havoc in the world within God’s providence, as much as her divine Son is in his sacred humanity.

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And to the woman were given two wings of a great
eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her
place, where she is nourished for a time, and times,
and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
Revelation 12:14

Hence, by describing Mary as “most blessed” (eulogemene), Luke presents the mother of our Lord as the free promised woman in whom the peace of the Kingdom of God reigns. The quality of her soul preludes the life of Heaven itself, since there is nothing spiritually wanting in our Blessed Lady’s state of being. Mary is unaffected by those disordered inclinations of the soul which even the faithful must strive to overcome in their daily life of unity with God because of original sin. She experiences within the depths of her interior being the joy and the peace of God’s complete dominion over her, free of all the dark passions which can disturb and blemish the soul with its vices.

Not unlike her divine Son in his humanity, by the plenitudes of grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit she has been endowed with in a singular way, Mary is totally detached from all created things that could draw a soul away from God, these vain allurements of the world which the serpent or dragon has the liberty to exploit in its quest to destroy souls by extinguishing the light of God’s glory in them (Rom 3:23). Indeed, Mary’s soul magnified the glory of the Lord, and her spirit rejoiced in God her savior, who redeemed his most blessed mother in the most perfect way (Lk 1:46-49).

​​For Mary, there never has been any transition from the state of sin to the life of grace because of her total enmity with the serpent. Grace has preceded her birth, for she has been predestined to be the Mother of God. The blessed mother of our Lord is untouched by the propensity of human nature to sin against God. Her desire to please God by aligning her will with His has never faltered. Mary is plagued by no dark imaginations that can draw her sensitive appetites towards anything that displeases God. The prince of this world holds no dominion over her. The unruly desires of the will, such as pride, envy, ambition, greed, and lust do not lie dormant within Mary, but only the supernatural virtues which God desires she should possess in His love and goodness: faith, hope, charity, chastity, kindness, patience, fortitude, wisdom, gentleness, and so on.

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The kingdom of heaven on earth isn’t a place or a terrestrial dominion, but the divine quality of the human soul sanctified by God’s grace existing in this world: a lamp set upon a hill to shed its light before others so that they will see her goodness and glorify God in return. Of all human creatures re-created by the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the light of the world par excellence who has this light to give to all those who wish to be kingdoms themselves like her by perfectly emulating her Divine Son in his humanity (Mt 5:14-16). Mary is the proto-type of the Church by being our perfect model of faith and charity in God’s grace. Most blessed is she indeed.​

And so, the Kingdom of God is within Mary, and God alone rules in her soul through the Holy Spirit, her Creator blessed. Her soul resembles an unspoiled wilderness with untilled soil untouched by the human settlement of worldly wisdom and unnatural desires that deviate from the original goodness of creation. Mary is carried aloft on the wings of divine grace over the lower region of sinful humanity. She is beyond the dragon’s reach and the raging waters of sin having escaped from landing in its clutches, for she hasn’t been born in sinful slavery within its dominion. Our Blessed Lady is the free Woman promised by God, whose holy offspring is the free Son of promise.

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As the lily among thorns
so is my love among the daughters.
Song of Solomon 2, 2

Luke characterizes Mary as a living symbol of the pneumatic Church or Kingdom of God, having no “spot or wrinkle”, but is “holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:27). She personifies the heavenly Church which is essentially the pilgrim Church on earth. He presents her as the perfect model for all the faithful who have been predestined to grace and are children of God by adoption, “chosen to be holy and without blemish before Him” (Eph 1:3-6). Our Blessed Lady embodies the highest stage of conversion that baptized Christians are called to attain, viz. the state of spiritual perfection and mystical union with God, albeit the many imperfections that remain in those who have advanced this far and are still at war with the dragon in their spiritual combat.

Mary’s blessedness is equal to the blessedness of her Son, though not by nature but by grace. And since she is preserved free from the stain of original sin by the grace of God, St. Paul’s exhortation to all the faithful, that they “put off the old nature for the new nature” does not apply to her (Eph 4:22-24). Mary is God’s re-creation of fallen humanity from the time she has been first created upon the infusion of her soul into the body.

The fullness of grace with which Mary is endowed is a singular gift from God in virtue of her Divine Maternity. She is certainly the model of spiritual perfection in her mystical communion with God, since His heavenly kingdom has circumscribed her soul. The interior life that Mary leads is complete without any spiritual imperfections. Yet she is maturing as she increases in wisdom and knowledge through life’s experiences. Mary’s soul searches for the deep things of God for greater understanding of Him, but without the slightest regression or fall from grace (1 Cor 2:10). Her soul is completely detached from the created world and united with the non-created God. She lives her life in spirit and in truth. The motto of her soul is faithfulness and abandonment. She who follows her Son walks not in darkness but possesses the light of life (Jn 8:12) by walking in the light as her Son is in the light (1 Jn. 1:7), he who has claimed to be the “light of the world.” The Holy Spirit who is love enlightens her soul in the perfection of love. She is God’s perfect creation, ever blossoming in perfection.

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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

Our Most Blessed Lady loves God with a pure and perfect love, and by loving Him, she can love her neighbour with a totally unfailing love that reflects God’s absolute love. Mary’s love of human souls derives its existence from the love God has for her (1 Jn 4:19). She understands and fully appreciates what true love really means. The love she has for others is that same eternal love she has received from God and cherishes above all temporal goods. Her love may be finite, but it is perfect; since Mary’s soul is free of all pride, ego, and selfishness. God is the supreme object of her soul before whom she humbly denies herself and thereby becomes the mother of God the Son. God raises up and exalts the humble or lowly, and so, all Christian generations shall declare the Virgin Mary blessed for all the “great things” He has done to her (Lk 1:48-49).

The Blessed Virgin Mary is God’s greatest creation, of all human creatures. God has fashioned her to be renewed unto knowledge of Him to be charitable, which is the bond of perfection. Since she has been of age, Mary has sought only “the things that are above, where her Son is, seated at the right hand of God.” She has always “set her mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,” for she has died to this world, and her life “is hidden with Christ in God.” Because Mary has been chosen and made to be the holy Mother of God, her divine Son has revealed himself within her soul which proclaims his glory. Thus, she shall be “revealed with him” in the glory of her Assumption body and soul into Heaven. All Mary has done throughout her life “in word or deed” she has done “in the name of the Lord” (Col 3:17). By the plenitudes of grace our Most Blessed Lady has received, the kingdom of God is “neither here nor there” but “within” Mary in an exceptional way (Lk 17:21).

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The Protestant theologian Karl Barth rightly stated: “Jesus himself is the kingdom, he was the kingdom, and will be the kingdom, and in him exists the entire establishment, all the salvation, all the joy of the kingdom.” “The identity between Church and kingdom,” Christoph Cardinal Schonborn says, “has its basis in Christ,” yet “there is no higher concretization of this identity for the Church than the Mother of God. It would not be possible to assert this identity if its only basis was Christ, the Head of the Church, and there was no real perfect correspondence on the side of the members of the Church (Mystical Body of Christ) … If Mary did not exist in the Church, then there would be a distance between the Church and the kingdom, because of the presence of sinners in the Church… In Mary, the most perfect member of the Church, we can contemplate the Church’s true nature… ‘As the Mother of Jesus… is the image and the beginning of the Church, which will be perfected in the world to come, so she also shines here on earth in the intermediary time until the day of the Lord comes… as a sign of sure hope and of consolation to the people of God on its pilgrim way’” (Lumen Gentium 58).

“Blessed Virgin, immaculate and pure you are the sinless Mother of your Son, the mighty Lord of the universe. You are holy and inviolate, the hope of the hopeless and sinful; we sing your praises. We praise you as full of every grace, for you bore the God-Man. We all venerate you; we invoke you and implore your aid…Holy and immaculate Virgin…be our intercessor and advocate at the hour of death and judgment…you are holy in the sight of God, to Whom be honor and glory, majesty, and power forever.”
St. Ephraem of Syria (A.D. 373)
.

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Beautiful for elevation,
the joy of the whole earth,
is mount Zion,
on the sides of the north,
the city of the great King.
Psalm 48, 2
.

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Salve Regina!

My Soul Glorifies the Lord

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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 glorifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed;
for He who is mighty has done great things to me,
and holy is His name.”
Luke 1:46-49

In Catholic theology, original sin is regarded as the general state of sinfulness, that is the absence of sanctity and perfect charity into which all human beings are born. We read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that original sin is the natural state of “deprivation of the original holiness and justice” which we inherit as descendants of Adam and Eve. It is a sin which is contracted by all human beings by natural propagation, not a sin committed by them. Because original sin is a state or condition of our human nature and not a sinful act on our part, it “does not take on the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 405).

However, we are all implicated in Adam’s sin and guilty by association, including Mary, by the fact that we are of the same human nature as our primordial Head of humanity. But because God did not hold Mary personally responsible for the sin of Adam and Eve, He could and did preserve Mary free from contracting the stain of original sin by a singular grace and privilege, in view of the foreseen merits of Christ, without negating His Divine justice in His Divine mercy. If God hadn’t intervened by His grace, Mary would have been conceived in the state of original sin, since she is a human creature and not a divine person like her Son is in his humanity acquired from her.

All Adam’s descendants are conceived and born in the state of original sin (Ps. 51:7). St. Paul tells us: “As sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men inasmuch all men sinned” (Rom. 5:12). The apostle adds: “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men” (Rom. 5:18). Physical death is a sign of spiritual death. Though physical death remains as a temporal penalty for our common sins against God, Christ restored humanity to spiritual life with God by his passion and death on the Cross. The second death – eternal damnation or separation from God – is no longer an irrevocable prospect for all human beings.

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At any rate, original sin is the state of being deprived of supernatural grace. When Adam fell from the supernatural life with God, he fell into a defective state. Having fallen from grace, the supernatural life was something that he should have possessed as God destined him to. But since he lost it, his lower natural condition is what we call the state of original sin: the deprivation of the original sanctity and justice in which Adam was originally created by God in His goodness. Since the Fall, all his biological descendants are thus inclined, as natural members in the organic body of Adam, to evil: concupiscence of the eyes, concupiscence of the flesh, and the pride of life. Not unlike their primordial father, human beings tend to want to be like God, but apart from God, before God, and not in accordance with the will of God. Human acts that originate from this attitude may constitute mortal sins which deprive the soul of sanctity and justice before God through the fall from grace.

Thus, original sin is called sin only in an analogical sense: it is a sin “contracted” and not “committed” – a state and not an act. Only one’s own personal sins carry with it the character of a personal fault and guilt. Mary’s soul, therefore, could proclaim the glory of the Lord, since she was liberated from man’s fallen state by a singular grace of God. Her human nature was unaffected by the ill moral effects of the sin we have all contracted upon our conception in the womb. Unlike the rest of us who have descended from Adam and Eve, Mary did not possess a wounded or tainted human nature which was inclined to evil. If she wanted to be like God, is was with God, as a daughter created in His image and likeness, ever-mindful of His sovereignty over her, and in perfect keeping with His will.

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In the redemption of mankind, God restored sanctifying or justifying grace to all humanity by Christ’s merits. Without this merciful act of God, man could never have retrieved that supernatural state above nature which is the end for which God destined him. The grace of redemption blots out the sin of Adam, although the moral and physical ill-effects of original sin remain after we are baptized. Dom Bruno Webb describes original sin as “some disease that has infected the original cell of the human body” which may “permeate every organ and cell of the body, as it grows forth from that [first] cell.” The original sin that we contract is like a “poison” that has “passed into every member of the human race”.

The sin of Adam, therefore, is something that belongs to each member of the human race as such and is “our common heritage.” Again, Mary was included as a fellow member of our race, but God preserved her from contracting this disease and prevented the poison from affecting her soul and body. He did this by the most perfect means of redemption ever applied to any fallen child of Adam: The Immaculate Conception. This singular privilege was granted to Mary by the foreseen merits of Christ because of her election to the Divine Maternity (Isa. 7:14; Lk. 1:35, 43).

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Unlike Eve, Mary never fell from God’s grace and lost her original innocence (Lk.1:28). Her soul glorified or magnified the Lord (Lk 1:46). This means there wasn’t a trace of selfishness or inordinate self-love within her which would have naturally led to a sinful act, this being what original sin essentially is – the sin of the heart that precedes the commission of a personal sin. The effects of original sin (concupiscence of the eyes, concupiscence of the flesh, and the pride of life) had no hold on our Blessed Lady, since God had preserved her from contracting all stain of sin. We read in the First Letter of John that “fear has to do with punishment,” whereas “love drives out fear” of God’s justice (1 Jn. 4:18). At the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel told Mary that she had no cause to be afraid, for she had found favour or grace with God (Lk. 1:30). Her love of God was impeccable, and so she had no cause to fear the Divine justice. She was in fact clothed in righteousness and justice by the infusion of sanctifying grace into her soul by the time the angel appeared to her.

Mary had cause to rejoice in God her saviour, not because she was a sinner who had been saved, but because she had been redeemed in the most perfect way – by being “clothed with the garments of salvation” and “wrapped in a mantle of justice” upon her conception in the womb, in view of the foreseen merits of Christ. As Israel was God’s restoration to grace after having been in exile, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the culmination of Daughter Zion, was God’s re-creation of humanity before the fall and enslavement to sin. By the efficacy of His sanctifying or justifying grace, God made Mary perfect in love of Him and her neighbour. If she ever had committed any personal sin and thereby tarnished the sanctity of her soul at some point in her life before the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel would not have appeared to her with the good news he brought, because she would then have been unworthy to conceive and bear God incarnate and be intimately associated with Him in his work of redemption.

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The New Adam desired a perfect helpmate in the New Eve. We read in Genesis 2:18: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Eve was formed out of Adam to start a human family or, in broader terms, to build a community in love and harmony that reflects the love and communion that exists in the Tri-personal God and has a share in that communion of love within the Holy Trinity. But, as we know, Eve failed her husband by enticing him to distance himself from God. To undo the disharmony that Eve initiated after succumbing to the words of the serpent, God promised to create a woman from whom her offspring would restore humanity to the life of grace with God (Gen. 3:15).

The woman’s offspring, therefore, would include all who have been regenerated unto God by His grace as members of his Mystical Body, of which the New Adam would be the head. The New Eve could be the mother of this re-created family and restored community, but only if she hadn’t ever fallen from grace together with her offspring and new Head of humanity (Lk. 1:42). She had to be at total enmity or complete opposition with the serpent which is the author of sin and death (Gen. 3:14). The Virgin Mary had to be the woman in her originally innocent state to be her anti-type in the Divine order of humanity’s re-creation and restoration to the life of grace with God.

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St. Paul tells us: “I see another law in my members fighting against the law of my mind and captivating me in the law of sin that is in my members” (Rom. 7:23). What the apostle is describing are the moral ill-effects of original sin. When God sanctified or justified Mary’s soul at the first instant of her conception, it was because He had made Mary in such a remarkable and mysterious way that there should be nothing wrong with her, no moral defects of any sort. Now it was not that Mary should receive this singular grace by any merit of her own, but rather that it was conferred on her because of the love the Father has for the Son (Jn. 15:20). God intervened in a hidden way so that there exists no internal rebellion within Mary’s soul or war being waged against her will by the members of her body. Her lower nature must not at any time have revolted against her higher nature, viz., divine image or proper deified self.

This dark reflection within man himself, of his primordial rebellion against God, should not be allowed to diminish or obscure the light of His glory that had permeated Mary’s soul. God exempted our Blessed Lady from being subjected to the law of sin with the rest of humanity by ensuring that there be supernatural harmony of her soul with Him. And by the plenitudes of grace God bestowed on Mary, He helped kept her from ever forfeiting this supernatural and spiritual harmony through any commission of sin, mortal or venial (Eph. 3:20; Jude 1:24-25). All the faculties of the soul which Mary possessed weren’t weakened by any lack of harmony in her physiological human nature.

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Moreover, Mary’s intellect wasn’t subject to ignorance and error either; her will never lost its perfection of command, but was always aligned with the Divine will (Lk. 11:28); it was never infected with an inherent obstinacy lurking in her soul that resisted what God desired of her in His goodness and righteousness. Her senses were never abnormally drawn to material things which could impede her intellect and will from attending to the things of God. No dark thoughts or disordered passions disfigured Mary’s soul in the least. God who is holy and perfect created her to be holy and thereby the perfect mother of the Son. For Mary to be the worthiest mother of the Son, her love of the Father, however finite, had to resemble the love the Son has had for the Father as best it could with the help of divine grace.

Thus, Catholics affirm Mary was subject to inheriting the stain of original sin and in need of being redeemed like everyone else (Rom. 5:18). Yet, by the grace of God, the Immaculate Conception is the most perfect and complete form of redemption by the foreseen merits of Christ. God intervened with His grace and fashioned her so that she wouldn’t be inclined to sin by nature. Mary was saved by being kept from falling into the mud, so to speak, while we are saved by being pulled out from it. Mary’s redemption was preservative, while ours is curative – now that we have contracted the disease started by one free errant cell in the whole organism of humanity in the beginning.

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In Romans 5:19, Paul writes: “Many (polloi) were made sinners. He isn’t contradicting himself by not using the word “all” (pantes), since what he means to say here as in verse 18 is that all people are subject to original sin, but not everyone rejects God. He certainly doesn’t mean to say in the distributive sense that everyone who has ever lived has sinned without exception, since infants and mentally disabled people cannot sin, at least not subjectively or with moral responsibility. The act of sin requires full knowledge and full consent on the part of the subject. But given the right circumstances they might sin, since they fall short of God’s glory by their very lower nature as collectively part of humanity. Infants and young children below the age of moral reason do in fact suffer and die, though they have never committed any personal sins in their short lives, because all human beings are guilty of Adam’s sin by association.

In this sense, then, Mary was included in God’s plan of redemption, but her redemption was the most perfect form that could ever be and a singular privilege granted only to the Mother of God by no natural merit of hers – by the mercy of God without the negation of His justice, since original sin isn’t a personal sin, but a collective sin or guilt by association with our natural primordial head in the figure of Adam. We are conceived and born with a lower nature deprived of the divine life of grace, albeit having been created in the divine image, which we haven’t lost by the sin of Adam. But we must supersede our wounded and defective natural state and willingly be transformed through the power of divine grace, and rise to the divine life, which God in His goodness originally intended we should possess.

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When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Psalm 126, 1-6

In a mysterious way, known only to God Himself, Mary was preserved free from being subjected to this law of sin by the grace of God. The sight of the forbidden fruit never enticed our most Blessed Lady at any moment in her life as it had Eve (Gen.3:6). She received such an abundance of efficacious grace that she always felt persuaded to want to say “Yes” to God amid all worldly allurements. Mary was at enmity with the world as much as she was with the Tempter (Gen. 3:15; Jas.4:4; Jn.15:19). Far from being an unfaithful bride, Mary never proved herself to be an adulteress in her marriage covenant with God (Jer.2:2).  Her soul magnified the Lord. Mary was free to choose between life with God and death, and she never felt compelled to say No to Him (Deut. 30:19). She is Daughter Zion par excellance – re-created and restored to God’s grace before even being subjected to the slavery of sin by birth, not unlike Moses who was born free of slavery in Egypt so that he could liberate God’s people from captivity.

The benign influence of the many graces our Blessed Lady received were overpoweringly persuasive. Mary was endowed with a fullness of grace that no other human being has ever been so that she would never want to disobey God. This was fitting because of whose mother she was predestined to be. And since God knew that Mary would consent to be the mother of the Son and never choose to sin, by the efficacy of His actual grace, when He fashioned her soul, He sanctified it upon her conception. The original holiness and justice that Adam and Eve had forfeited for both themselves and all their descendants were re-created in Mary by this singular Divine favour. The Lord had “done great things to her” by restoring in her the spiritual fortunes Adam had forfeited for all his offspring as the fountain-head of humanity (Lk. 1:49).

The Blessed Virgin Mary, our Daughter Zion in the flesh, was created “clothed with the sun” of justice and “with the moon (Heb. yareah) under her feet” (Rev. 12:1). The light of God’s glory shone forth from her soul in full radiance without ever having paled in the least. Her enmity with the Serpent or Dragon was in the same likeness of her Son’s (Gen. 3:15). The Lord had done “great things” for His blessed daughter Mary and divine mother elect, for holy is His name. Indeed, we are glad.

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How long wilt thou be dissolute in deliciousness, O wandering daughter?
for the Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth:
A WOMAN SHALL COMPASS A MAN.
Jeremiah 31, 22

In the primary context of Jeremiah’s prophecy, we find Israel having unfaithfully turned this way and that from God in her marriage covenant with Him by worshiping the false idols of the surrounding pagan nations. The prophet foretells of the time when God shall put His spirit in His virgin bride so that she will be most eager to renounce her false idols and return to Him. Daughter Zion, who metaphorically represents God’s faithful and chaste bride, will press around her husband and woo Him to restore the Israelite’s in His favour. She will be prompted by God’s spirit to contrive a way to get back into good graces with Him as His faithful spouse and, so, be delivered from captivity. In this prophecy’s secondary fulfillment, the unfaithful daughter represents in her wandering the dissolute Eve who has wandered in her unfaithfulness to God by turning this way and that ever since the Fall. It was Eve who idolized the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden and chose to replace God with it, whom she should have loved more. Ever since then, she has been in exile.

In classical Judaic theology, the woman of promise in Genesis 3:15 represents faithful Daughter Zion by whom righteous offspring shall be begotten, beginning with Abel and including the Messiah, the culmination of all the righteous. It is the Hebrew people who are removed from their original paganism or fallen state to be God’s chosen ones as His own faithful and chaste spouse and a holy nation; consecrated to God and sanctified by Him through the establishment of His covenant with them, so that from God’s chosen people the Messiah should come into the world in a becoming way, and through him all nations be blessed. Faithful Daughter Zion culminates in the Blessed Virgin Mary who gives birth to the Messiah because of her perfect fidelity to God. She woos Him to become incarnate by the beauty of her faith and purity of love despite the heartless indifference of sinful pagan humanity.

Jeremiah’s prophecy reaches its fulfilment in the Blessed Virgin Mary. Eve is re-created in her as the woman she was before the Fall. Mary is the spiritual “mother of all the living” and faithful Daughter Zion who is a mother to all God’s righteous children (Ps.87:5). God looks with favour on the lowliness of His handmaid by removing her from her lowly origin and separating her from the rest of sinful humanity to be His own faithful and chaste spouse and the mother of the Divine Messiah. God has put His Spirit in her so that the woman shall press all round Him and eagerly use all her faculties to remain in good relations with Him as His spotless bride and the mother of His Only-begotten Son.

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In Mary, the New Eve, the woman is no longer dissolute and enslaved by the allurements of this world. The fortunes of the fallen children of Daughter Zion are restored in the faithful virgin spouse of the Holy Spirit who has been delivered from subjection to the slavery of sin by God’s grace and remains in good relations with Him by hearing the word of God and keeping it in her Immaculate Heart. The Lord’s handmaid shall never be an adulteress in her marriage covenant with God, for her soul proclaims His glory, which the rest of humanity without distinction is in need of because of the many personal sins that arise from a selfish heart of stone (Rom. 3:23).

God put His Spirit in the Blessed Virgin Mary and gave her a heart of flesh, so that there should be no place for any idols in her soul. God preserves her from being born in exile when He sanctifies her soul at the first instant of her conception. And by God’s efficacious grace, our Blessed Lady never ever falls into exile or alienation from God like a “wandering daughter” straying from the right path that leads to life everlasting. And so, God shines forth out of Zion. She gives birth to a Son who is to be called Emmanuel: God with us (Isa. 7:14). A woman has compassed a man who is God in the flesh (Jn. 1:14). The Blessed Virgin Mary is the great sign foretold by the prophets and envisioned by John the Evangelist: A woman clothed with the sun and with the moon under her feet (Rev. 12:1).

“The Holy Virgin is herself both an honourable temple of God and a shrine made pure, and a golden altar of whole burnt offerings. By reason of her surpassing purity she is the Divine incense of oblation (προθσεως), and oil of the holy grace, and a precious vase bearing in itself the true nard; yea and the priestly diadem revealing the good pleasure of God, whom she alone approacheth holy in body and soul. She is the door which looks eastward, and by the comings in and goings forth the whole earth is illuminated. The fertile olive from which the Holy Spirit took the fleshly slip (or twig) of the Lord, and saved the suffering race of men. She is the boast of virgins, and the joy of mothers; the declaration of archangels, even as it was spoken: “Be thou glad and rejoice, the Lord with thee”; and again, “from thee”; in order that He may make new once more the dead through sin. ”
St. Gregory Thaumaturgus
On the Holy Mother of God
(A.D. 270)
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My dove, my undefiled is but one;
she is the only one of her mother,
she is the choice one of her that bore her.
The daughters saw her, and blessed her;
yes, the queens and the concubines,
and they praised her.
Song of Solomon 6, 9
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“We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”
Pope Pius lX, (Apostolic Constitution)
Ineffabilis Deus
8 December 1854
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Salve Regina!

The Time Came for Their Purification

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“Consecrate to me every firstborn male.
The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites
belongs to me, whether human or animal.”
Exodus 13, 2

And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
Luke 2, 22-24
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By presenting the infant Jesus in the Temple, Mary was consecrating her ‘firstborn son’ (Hebrew בְּכוֹר bəḵōr) to God. The first male offspring of every womb among the Israelites belonged to God whether it was human or a domestic animal. The expression “to open the womb” is a Hebrew idiom meaning “the firstborn male of one’s mother” or “the firstborn son of the womb.” Within the context of the law, it was the firstborn male who was dedicated to God as His servant. He was also the principal heir of his father’s estate. Further, the Mosaic law applied only to those who were born strictly in accord with the laws of nature. It embraced the full spectrum of the natural process of human procreation, from the moment of conception to the time of birth.

Jesus, however, was not conceived by the seed of Joseph, but by the immediate agency of the Holy Spirit. Nor was the birth of Jesus a normal one, as it were for all the Jews by the seed of man, being descendants of Adam. His birth was as miraculous as his conception was. If our Lord had been born normally, that is by physically opening his mother’s womb and passing entirely through the birth canal as all infants do, he would then have been made entirely subject to the laws of nature along with the rest of sinful humanity and thereby in need of purification himself.

Since Jesus was a divine person in the flesh, and not a human creature, he was in no need of being made clean and redeemed by his circumcision prior to his dedication. And because of his divinity, our Lord chose not to proceed from his mother’s womb in a totally natural way that would have rendered him ritually impure. Since his conception and birth were miraculous, therefore, he was in no need of being purified and restored to God’s grace before entering the temple for his consecration. This ritual, which our Lord freely submitted himself to when he chose to come into the world, simply served only as the sign that it was, of his being set apart from the rest of sinful humanity and consecrated to God in holiness as His servant. But unlike all other Jewish firstborn sons, Jesus was set apart from sinful humanity by his divine nature. There was no need for him to be set apart ritualistically and made holy and acceptable to God, unless he had experienced or been an effective cause of natural corruption by being born in a wholly natural way.

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“You are to be holy to me
because I, the LORD, am holy,
and I have set you apart
from the nations to be my own.”
Leviticus 20, 26

The meaning of sanctification (Qadosh) in the original Hebrew context of this ritual literally means “to leave behind and be separate from for a distinct purpose,” and being “set apart” by God to serve Him. This calls for the removal of the firstborn offspring from what is profane and his distancing from any uncleanliness, as to be acceptable to God as His chosen servant. Yet Jesus was sinless by nature; nor was he conceived and begotten in a profane way as are all human creatures since the Fall of Adam and Eve. There was nothing profane for him to ever leave behind or any uncleanliness to distance himself from, since our Lord was conceived and born through the activity of the Holy Spirit and not by the seed of man in complete subjugation to the entire birth process.

The Israelites were expected to be a holy people, since they were removed and set apart from all the other pagan nations by God, who is all-holy, to be His own people and possession. Israel was primarily set apart for bringing forth the Messiah into the world. It was for this reason that God sanctified the Hebrew people by establishing His covenant with them. Mary is the personification of Daughter Zion and as such is the free Woman of Promise who is expected to bring forth the Messiah: “I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body” (Ps 132:11; Lk 1:42; cf. Gen 3:15).

Hence, at the appointed time, she too had to be holy to God and separated from sinful humanity, but in a far more exceptional way than it was for her people, viz., her Immaculate Conception. God said to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed” (Gen 3:15). Sin and, consequently, the corruption of death are offspring of the serpent together with sinful humanity. Even the birth process is tainted with corruption because of the fall of Adam and Eve through the serpent’s wile.

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Mary was removed from her low estate when God sanctified and redeemed her soul at the first instant of her conception and thus set her apart to be the mother of our Lord. By this singular grace from God, which preserved her free from contracting the stain of original sin, she too was in no need of being ritually purified in accordance with the Mosaic Law. And being the mother of the divine Messiah, she had no need to be purified after conceiving and begetting Jesus in a supernatural way which preserved her virginal and bodily integrity.​

Now, the sin offering of a pair of two turtle doves or two young pigeons in this case would be for the unintentional infraction of the ceremonial cleanliness law, viz., giving birth to a child. The sin wasn’t a moral fault, but rather being in the state of ritual uncleanliness. The offering, which was made after one had abstained from entering the temple area because of their impure state, reinstated them into participating in regular temple service. Further, the sin offering wasn’t so much for the person who had become defiled as it was for the sanctuary which would become defiled by the person’s previous condition or state.

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Thus, if Jesus had been born completely under the natural laws of nature, he would have rendered his mother and himself impure and thereby involuntarily sinful and in no condition to enter the temple precincts, for fear of defiling the sanctuary. This would not be fitting for the Son of Mary or his mother, given his divine identity. So, Mary wasn’t required to make the sin offering, having given birth to Jesus in a supernatural way. The sin offering, meanwhile, had nothing to do with any moral transgressions Mary might have committed against the law. It does not point her out to be a sinner.

When the time came for their purification, neither the Mother nor the Son were subject to the law, since neither of them were entirely subjected to the procreative laws of nature by Divine intervention. Jesus was conceived and born by the will of the Father and not by the will of man. He was the seed of the free promised woman whose womb hadn’t been opened by the seed of man. Nor did he open his mother’s womb and cause her to go into labour and experience the pangs of childbirth, since she was exempted from the law of sin by being preserved free from the stain of original sin. Unto the woman he said, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in sorrow, you shall bring forth children; and your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule (resuth) over you” (Gen 3:16). Standing in contradistinction to this verse is Luke 1:35: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power (resuth) of the Most High will overshadow you.” The Virgin Mary was in no need of purification for having conceived and given birth to Jesus, seeing that she was the spouse of the Holy Spirit with whom she begot a divine and holy child together.

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“If a woman having received seed shall bear a man child,
she shall be unclean seven days, according to the days
of the separation of her flowers. And on the eighth day the
infant shall be circumcised: But she shall remain three and
thirty days in the blood of her purification.”
Leviticus 12, 2-4

A built-in component in the mother’s ritual impurity was the symbolic responsibility of bringing another sinner into the world. So, if Mary needed being purified after giving birth to Jesus, we can only infer that she gave birth to a potential sinner. However, it was Eve who gave birth to Cain and was subjected to the laws of nature because of her fall from grace. Mary, on the other hand, was chosen by God to bring forth the new Adam and divine Messiah who came to reconcile the world to God and regenerate mankind with His saving grace. For this reason, God put Mary at enmity with the serpent and exempted her from having to suffer the penalty for Eve’s transgression.

This divine truth is implicitly revealed in the words of her kinswoman Elizabeth: “Most blessed (eulogomene) are you among women, and blessed (eulogemenos) is the fruit of your womb” (Lk 1:42). Both the Mother and the Son are equally blessed by being set apart from sinful humanity and consecrated to God when the time comes for their purification in the Temple. Elizabeth’s cause for this benediction can be traced back beyond the birth of Mary and Jesus to our Blessed Lady’s Immaculate Conception and her Son’s Divine eternal pre-existence. The past participle “blessed” which is derived from the verb eulogeo is used in the New Testament only to describe Jesus (masculine) and Mary (feminine), along with the kingdom of heaven in the feminine form (Mk 11:10). Both the woman and her offspring are free from the captivity of sin and the corruption of death in the fallen world where the Serpent has gained dominion (Gen 3:15). Satan’s domain stands opposed to the kingdom of God.

Moreover, ritual impurity (niddah) was essentially more of a spiritual and mental condition (tumah) than a physical one which prevented the mother from entering the temple court. So, Mary did not necessarily have to discharge blood during the birth of Jesus to be rendered ritually impure. We read in the Niddah 27b: “According to the order of all the uncleanness mentioned regarding the menstruating woman (נִדָּה), she becomes unclean because of giving birth. [This is true] even if the womb opens without [any issue of] blood.” The concept of the mother’s tumah must be taken into greater account.

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Before she travailed, she brought forth;
before her pain came,
she was delivered of a man child.
Isaiah 66, 7

In any event, a ritual bath was also part of the woman’s purification preparation to re-enter the sanctuary. The Jewish Mishnah records that full immersion for both men and women in the Temple mikvah (pool for ritual purification) was necessary before entering the courtyard to offer sacrifices (Mishnah: Yoma, 3.3). Mary was expected to ritually bathe in the before presenting her purification sacrifices. What she was purified of, according to Hebrew thought, was what the issuance of blood involved, that is not having full volition to submit to the will of God and being unable to commune with Him while under the trauma of naturally giving birth. The burnt offering (olah) was an expression of desiring to commune with God. The Hebrew word implies ascending from the profane to the sacred. Procreation itself was viewed as holy and giving birth sacred, but it was also recognized as being tainted by the natural birth process which was profane inasmuch as natural corruption was involved. The physical corruption that marred natural birth was evocative of death and decay which was viewed as a penalty for sin.

Yet Mary did not conceive and bear Jesus by the will of fallen man. It was by the will of the Father and through the power of the Holy Spirit that the divine Word became man and was born into this world. Mary couldn’t have experienced tumah and needed being purified by giving birth to her divine Son while in close communion with God and by His will. Nor would God allow her to be distant from Him during the act of giving birth to His Son. By giving birth to Jesus, Mary drew even closer to God. The holy Child she bore did in fact increase her sanctification in her womb, while he himself had experienced none of the tumah (a spiritual and mental distance from God) and the physical corruption involved in a completely natural birth. The birth of Jesus was miraculous and virginal. The Psalmist foretells this with respect to our Lord’s birth and death under the law of nature: “Neither will you allow your holy one to see corruption” (Ps 16:10).

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Hence, if Jesus had been conceived and born naturally, as much as all the Jewish firstborn sons, he also would have been rendered ritually impure and in the state of tumah along with his mother Mary until his circumcision, which prepared the way for his presentation to God. We read in the Gospel of Luke that it was time for “their” purification, not only hers. The rites of purification and circumcision were intended as monuments testifying to the taint of human spiritual imperfection and sin inherited by every child descended from Adam by the seed of man.​

These rites did not necessarily apply to Jesus and Mary, but as a religiously devout Jewish mother who was obligated to observe the law, Mary humbly and devotedly submitted herself and her Son to these legal requirements under which they were born in obedience to God who instituted the Mosaic law. Mary submitted to the ritual of purification after childbirth, because as a Jewish mother she was expected to formally consecrate her Son to God. Jesus submitted to circumcision (a purification ritual symbolizing being made spiritually clean) before the angel Gabriel even appeared to Mary for the same reason (Deut 10:16, 30:6; Jer 4:4). The Son should not serve the Father in his humanity without first having consecrated himself to Him in humble human obedience to His will, albeit his natural holiness. Recall, that Jesus wasn’t even in need of baptism, but he instructed a reluctant John to baptize him to “fulfill all righteousness” (Mt 3:14-15). This was the Son’s Fiat to the Father.

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Therefore, the Lord himself shall give you a sign;
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and shall call his name Immanuel.
Isaiah 7, 14

Included with Mary’s virginal conception of Jesus is her virginal act of giving birth to him. Isaiah says that the virgin shall “bring forth a son.” The Greek word τέξεται (“bring forth” or “cause to be born”) is translated from וֹי ל דת (u·ildth: literally “one giving birth”), which is the intended meaning of the verb “to bear” (yalad) in the Hebrew Old Testament. Hence, this verse must do with two events: the conception and birth of Jesus. The conception of Jesus was virginal, since Mary’s womb hadn’t been opened by the seed of man. The act of Mary giving birth was virginal, since Christ hadn’t opened his mother’s womb when he was born. Mary was a virgin at the time of Christ’s birth as well as at his conception (cf. Isa 66:7).

Both Jesus and Mary would have needed purification if in fact she had conceived and given birth to him by Joseph’s seed, for then the law would have applied to them. Again, we see in Leviticus 12:2 of the Hebrew OT: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: If a woman conceives (כִּי תַזְרִיע ) or “receives seed” and gives birth to a male (לֵאמֹר אִשָּׁה, ) she shall be unclean for seven days; as [in] the days of her menstrual flow, she shall be unclean.’ The verb “conceives” can be paraphrased “having received seed”. In this case, the verb phrase Taz ri a תַזְרִ֔יע (“having received seed”) is derived from the 3-consonant root word zera (seed) which can mean either “offspring” or “virile semen”, the latter being the intended definition in Leviticus.

The law, therefore, applied to offspring of human paternal origin. Jesus was the seed or “offspring” of his mother (Gen 3:15), the free Woman of promise and the “trigger sign” of the restoration of the Davidic kingdom foretold by the prophets (cf. Rev 12:1). So, the law could not actually be applied to him; whereas his mother did not beget him by having received the seed (virile semen) of her husband. Joseph did not open Mary’s womb with his tainted seed. So, there should be no need for the mother of our Lord to be cleansed either. The Virgin Mary conceived and gave birth to Jesus by the will of the Father through the immediate agency of the Holy Spirit. Her womb remained closed when she conceived and gave birth to Jesus. When the time came for their purification, there was essentially no need for it according to the law.

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 , Against Heresies, 4, 33, 12
(A.D. 180-190)
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I will declare the decree:
the LORD hath said unto me,
Thou art my Son;
this day have I begotten thee.
Psalm 2, 7
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Salve Regina!

Arise, My Beloved, My Beautiful One, and Come

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My lover speaks; he says to me, Arise, my beloved,
my beautiful one, and come! For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
Songs 2, 10-11

“Behold, from henceforth, all generations shall call me blessed;
for the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.”
Luke 1, 48-49
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“Heaven and earth shall pass away,
but my words shall not pass away.”
Matthew 24, 35

No Christian can ever hope to grasp the truth of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Assumption body and soul into Heaven while failing to focus on the person of her divine Son and his Gospel message. The Divine Word made flesh embodies all that God has spoken to us in sacred Scripture and declared to His one true Church in sacred Tradition with respect to His good will and saving acts (Jn 16:12-13). While our Lord Jesus Christ dwelled among us, the divine truth was clearly and visibly manifested by his words and mighty deeds. We can know who Jesus personally and truly is in his divinity and humanity only by listening to his words in conjunction with his supernatural acts of love and compassion.

What our Lord and Saviour has thus mercifully done and accomplished for us all temporally and eternally is a sign of the goodness and righteousness of his word. Jesus could never deny and contradict himself by dismissing any of his own precepts which originate from the Father and are declared in his Person. Surely, he could never fail to do something which he morally would expect us to do in a similar circumstance. Jesus has claimed to be “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). Thus, by deeply reflecting on the divine personality of Jesus whom we have personally come to know by his words and deeds, spoken and performed in his sacred humanity, we may see and appreciate what great thing he must have done for his mother in honour of her and by his infinite love in accordance with the will of his heavenly Father.

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“For this I was born and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth
listens to my voice.”

John 18, 37

In our case, we can apply the dictum “actions speak louder than words.” But with respect to our Lord, by his divinity, it might be more accurate of us to say that his words speak louder than his actions. Every miracle Jesus performed during his public ministry out of compassion for the needy bore testimony to the truth of his divine word. Now, the supernatural deeds of our Lord mustn’t be underestimated considering his teachings, but the fact remains Jesus was condemned to death for blasphemy by the Sanhedrin and not for the performance of miracles. His death sentence was sealed, when he declared to the chief priest Caiaphas: “You have said so. But I tell you: From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mt 26:64). Our Lord was crucified for affirming his divinity notwithstanding any of his miraculous deeds which the scribes and Pharisees had already dismissed as works of the Devil (Mt 12: 22-37).

Indeed, Jesus had paved the way for his eventual arrest and conviction by alluding to his divinity when he claimed to have the authority to forgive sins. The Jewish elders were deeply offended and outraged by our Lord’s words, for they believed only God had the authority to forgive sins. They were appalled that Jesus dared to assert himself as equal to YHWH. Meanwhile, they cared little about the healing of the paralytic (Mk 2:1-12). Our Lord’s spoken word was what cast an unfavourable impression on the scribes and Pharisees, who had hardened their own hearts in their obstinate religious pride and zeal and refused to listen to the truth (Ps 69:8-9). And so, our Lord condemned them for this unpardonable sin of the soul (Jn 9:35-41).
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You stretch out your hand and save me,
your hand will do all things for me.
Your love, O Lord, is eternal.
Discard not the work of your hands.
Psalm 138, 7-8
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Jesus told his disciples that he came into the world not to do his own will, but the will of his heavenly Father (Jn 6:38). It was because of his obedience to the Father by suffering that the Son was made perfect to be the source of our salvation and designated by God to be our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek (Heb 5:8-9). If Jesus had violated any of God’s commandments and failed to align his human will with his divine will, the scribes and Pharisees would have had just cause to accuse him of performing miracles in the name of the Devil and dismiss his teachings as hypocritical, for our Lord would have compromised the credibility of his words. Healing the sick on the Sabbath did not violate, but conformed to the spirit of the law, regardless of what the religious elders believed, if in fact they meant it.

But the Gospels reveal that the Son of Man showed impeccable moral courage in what he humbled himself to do to please the Father (Mt 3:17; Lk 22:42). God’s will held top priority in our Lord’s life, especially when he had faced circumstances that ordinarily would compel the human will to follow the course dictated by natural instinct. Fortunately for us, the divine will took charge when Jesus was summoned to conform his human will to the will of his Father (Mt 26:38-39; 27:40-44). His triumphant agony in the garden and death on the Cross confirmed the constancy of the Son in doing the Father’s will and keeping His commandments (Heb 4:15).

Let us not unfaithfully suppose that our Lord could be inconstant, now that he is in Heaven where he acts as our intercessor before the Father. We should have good reason to doubt what Jesus said about his doing his Father’s works if it appears he failed to do the work of his Father, of assuming his Mother body and soul into heaven in accord with the Divine moral precepts of the Mosaic Law. We have no reason to believe in anything Jesus has said and done if in fact his mother’s body – God’s masterpiece of human re-creation – lies corrupt in a lost tomb, albeit all his purported miracles, including the claims of the Apostles of his own resurrection; since the Jesus whom we have come to know by his words and deeds could not possibly be so cold and indifferent towards his own mother contrary to the moral precept of the Law.

“Therefore, the Virgin is immortal to this day,
seeing that he who had dwelt in her transported her to
the regions of her assumption.”
St. Timothy of Jerusalem
Homily on Simeon and Anna
[A.D. 400]
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Arise, Lord, come to your resting place,
you and your majestic ark.
Psalm 132, 8
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“Even if you do not believe me, believe the works,
so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me
and I am in the Father.”

John 10, 38

Christians who believe their Lord’s claim to be con-substantially one with the Father in his divinity should do so in all honesty with less certitude of faith, unless they also believe what he must have honourably done for his mother as the Divine precept enjoins us to do – that is honour our mother. In true faith and knowledge of God, without which we cannot be united with Him, Christians must understand that Jesus owes it to Himself as God to be true to His own word, considering the essence of His divine goodness and righteousness. Our Lord, therefore, could not but obligate himself to honour the woman whom the Father had predestined to be his mother, from whom he acquired his sacred body and precious blood by the power of the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins and the redemption of humanity (Lk 1:35).

Our Lord is flesh of her flesh; the body he received from his mother in the hypostatic order of his incarnation was “bruised for our iniquities” (Isa 53:5) and his blood which mixed with her blood in his mother’s womb was “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28). Our Lord and Saviour is “one Physician both of Mary and of God” (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians, 7, c. 110 A.D.). He is no ordinary son, which makes his mother extraordinary. Jesus could not, then, exercise his power in opposition to the commandment of his heavenly Father without denying his own Divine word which proceeds from the Father in their substantial unity. To be true to ourselves, we must honestly say and do what is on our minds and in what we will to express. The Triune God-head is a con-substantial Triune of Persons: Mind or thought, Idea or Word, and Breath or Expression.

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Obviously, our Lord cannot break any of his own commandments, since he never commanded himself to obey them in the first place. But since he has commanded us to observe them, Jesus must hold the moral precepts of the Law to be worth following himself, especially since they do originate from him in his oneness with the Father whose moral attributes he possesses in their essential oneness. Our Lord refused to break the First Commandment when he rejected Satan’s proposal to bow down and worship him in return for dominion over all the earthly kingdoms. Sacred Scripture reveals our Lord’s response to the Devil: “Be gone, Satan! The Lord your God shall you worship, and him alone shall you serve” (Mt 4:10; Lk 4:8). Jesus would have offended his heavenly Father and thereby renounced his own oneness with Him had he succumbed to the Devil’s tempting offer. In other words, he would have broken his own commandment and denied himself the worship owed to him by Satan. Indeed, Jesus would have disposed of his own sovereign dignity as “Lord of all” (Acts 10:36).

Being the Divine Word or Logos of God, Jesus is the visible manifestation of the invisible God. Just as our spoken words are visible manifestations of the mental assertions of our inner thoughts and reflect what we will, so Jesus is the visible manifestation of the Father as the spoken Word of God. What the Father conceives and wills, Jesus visibly produces as His Word in their substantial oneness together with the Holy Spirit in whom God acts. The commands originating from the Father have been given to us by the Son in an undivided Tri-personal God, so the command that we honour our parents has been given to us by Jesus himself. He is the voice that manifests the mind and will of God by the act of the Holy Spirit within the Holy Trinity. Thus, in true faith, we must believe that Jesus has as much honoured the Father as he has his mother by honouring her with the privilege, by maternal right, of her glorious Assumption body and soul into Heaven.

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This Catholic dogma boils down to the honour a son must have for his mother to be true to himself in his divinity by being true to His own word or decree. Jesus could not possibly refrain from doing what he has commanded us to do unless he were not God. Nor could he act in a manner inconsonant with the moral attributes of His Own Divine essence in oneness with the Father and the Holy Spirit if he were truly God made man. There is no reason for any Christian to believe what Jesus has claimed about his relation to the Father and his Father’s relation to him, if, in fact, he has failed to do the works of the Father.

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Christians who reject the Catholic dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary might not know God as well as they think they do or who Jesus personally is well enough. The theological virtue of faith is believing in what should be in all its goodness and righteousness as a manifestation of God’s love in the Holy Spirit. Faith isn’t merely believing in what we want to accept as being real, but remains unseen. And there is no just reason for Jesus to deny his own mother the honour of her glorious assumption into heaven, so that the two of them can be fully reunited in body and soul, seeing also that she was preserved free from all stain of sin: original and personal (Lk 1:28). Mary’s Assumption body and soul into heaven is a corollary of her Immaculate Conception. Being preserved free from all stain of sin by a singular grace of God, our Blessed Lady was liberated from being subjected to the law of sin and the corruption of death (Rom 5:12, 18). Suffice it to say, God put her at total enmity (ebah/אֵיבָה) with the serpent (Gen 3:15).

Perhaps the following analogy may help us see how it is that Jesus would be dishonouring his mother by allowing her holy body, which bore him, to decay in the tomb. If our own mother, let’s say, accidentally fell into a dirt pit, Jesus would certainly expect us to rescue her out of love and respect. And our Lord would surely condemn us for having broken the Fourth Commandment by refusing to come to our mother’s aid out of indifference or even hatred. Surely, Jesus would have come to his mother’s aid under the same circumstance while they were still alive on earth. So, Jesus would be no less solicitous towards the needs and the dignity of his mother than we should be to our mothers, whether he be on earth or in heaven.

“But Mary, the glorious Mother of Christ, who is believed
to be a virgin both before and after she bore him, has,
as we said above, been translated into paradise, amid the singing
of the angelic choirs, whither the Lord preceded her.”
St. Gregory of Tours
Eight Books of Miracles, 1:8
[A.D. 584]
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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
.

“Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets.
I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”

Matthew 5, 17

Our Lord has loved his mother with absolute perfection from all eternity in view of the Annunciation. And the love he has for her is infinitely greater than the love we might have for our own mother, since he is God made flesh of her flesh. If we had the power to resurrect our mothers at the time of their deaths, we would certainly exercise it unless God forbade it and prevented us from doing so. And if that’s the case, our Lord would certainly exercise his power as well, if not more surely, since the love we have for our own dear mothers pales in comparison with the love Jesus has for his mother. Let us not presume that the love we have for our mothers is immeasurably greater than the love Jesus has for his most blessed mother Mary.

How incredible it would be for any Christian to imagine (with no reasonable explanation) that our Lord could possibly dismiss any of his own precepts, either here on earth or in heaven where he retains his sacred humanity for all eternity (Col 2:9), by exacting the penalties incurred by Adam and Eve on his own beloved mother: “In pain you shall bring forth children until you return to the ground from which you were taken. For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return” (Gen 3:16, 19). On the contrary, God said to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring” (Gen 3:15). Neither the Mother nor the Son were subjected to bodily corruption in the tomb, being equally blessed (eulogeo) by God in their shared humanity (Lk 1:42). So long as Jesus remains both God and man, Mary is his mother, and more (menoun) than just a natural mother. Our Blessed Lady is the Mother of God incarnate (Isa 7:14; Lk 1:35, 43; Jn 1:14). She is not merely the mother of a great prophet or rabbi (Lk 11:27-28).

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From earliest times, Christians believed that Mary was exempted from being made subject to the law of sin and the corruption of death together with her divine Son; since, by a singular grace, she was preserved free from contracting all stain of sin. St. Hippolytus (ante 235 A.D.) draws a parallel between Mary and the sacred Ark of the Covenant, which was made of incorruptible acacia wood and lined with the purest gold both within and without, for it was fashioned to be God’s personal dwelling place during His physical manifestations (theophanies): “He was the ark formed of incorruptible wood. For by this is signified that His tabernacle (Mary) was exempt from putridity and corruption” (Orations Inillud, Dominus pascit me). Worms and insects are averse to acacia wood. So, for this reason, God instructed Moses to fashion the ark from this durable and repugnant natural resource.

The Church Father adds that Jesus “took upon himself the holy flesh of the holy Virgin” (Treatise on Christ and Anti-Christ, 4). Both the Mother and the Son were of one flesh, so neither of them could have experienced death for having fallen short of the glory of God as the rest of humanity does in its sinful state. St. Ephraem of Syria (370 A.D.) also bears early witness to this traditional belief of the Church in Mary’s sinless being and freedom from all forms of impurity and corruption together with her Son: “Thou alone and thy Mother are in all things fair. There is no flaw in thee and no stain in thy Mother” (Nisibene Hymns, 27:8). These writings of the early Church Fathers implicitly bear witness to an early Christian belief in the Assumption of Mary and, of course, her Immaculate Conception.

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What is intriguing with respect to Mary’s freedom from all stain of sin is that Luke refers to Isaiah 61:10 in her Canticle of Praise or Magnificat (1:46-49). Mary rejoices in God her saviour, not because she is a sinner who needs to be saved like everyone else, but because she has been redeemed in the most perfect way: by being preserved free from contracting the stain of original sin in view of the foreseen merits of Christ, viz., her Immaculate Conception. God is revealing to His Church, though Luke was probably as uninformed as Isaiah was (sensus plenior), that He clothed Mary in “the garments of salvation” and covered her with “the robe of justice” by preserving her free from all stain of sin: original and personal. This is evident by the fact that the same verse applies to the just merits of Christ in his sinless humanity and the Paschal mystery. Both the Mother and the Son are revealed to be equally blessed (eulogeo) in this way. And so, neither of them are subject to the law of sin and death because of sin as is fallen humanity: Jesus by his substantial grace of union with the Father and his mother Mary by God’s intervening sanctifying grace (Jude 1:24-25).

“It was fitting … that the most holy-body of Mary, God-bearing body, receptacle of God, divinized, incorruptible, illuminated by divine grace and full glory … should be entrusted to the earth for a little while and raised up to heaven in glory, with her soul pleasing to God.”
St. Theoteknos of Livias
Homily on the Assumption
[ca. A.D. 600]
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You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
there is no flaw in you.
Song of Solomon 4, 7
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The corruption of death is an evil and a penalty for original sin which infects the bodies and souls of all Adam’s descendants who organically partake of his human nature. The guilt of Adam’s sin, nevertheless, isn’t personally imputed to his seed, so God did not negate His justice by conferring the singular grace of the Immaculate Conception on Mary in His mercy because of her unmerited election to the Divine Maternity. And so, by this singular favour, her preservation from bodily corruption upon death was just, albeit our biological association with Adam or “mankind”. God could only obligate Himself to observe His own ordinance in His righteousness, especially since Mary never lost her innocence as Eve had by committing any personal sins with the help of divine grace. The angel Gabriel greeted Mary by calling her Kecharitomene, meaning ‘perfected in grace with a lasting result’ (Lk 1:28).

The words of the early Church Fathers bring to fuller light what Elizabeth means, when she says: “Most blessed (eulogomene) are you among women, and blessed (eulogemenos) is the fruit of your womb” (Lk 1:42). This past participle is used with reference to only Jesus (masculine) and Mary (feminine), besides the kingdom of heaven (feminine), in the New Testament (Mk 11:10). Both the Mother and the Son are indeed equally blessed (eulogeo) in God’s sight by having been set apart from sinful humanity and consecrated to Him in His order of redemption. So, it is only fitting, if not just, that Mary, who carried the Divine Word in her sacred womb and was preserved free from all stain of sin by the grace of God, should have a share in her Son’s glory in anticipation of the redemption of our own bodies on the Last Day (1 Cor 15:22-23). Anyway, Jesus meant what he said about our obligation to keep the Divine Commandments, and he exemplified with impeccable humility how we are to honourably treat our parents for the sake of God’s goodness and righteousness (Lk 2:51-52).

“You are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty,
and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste, entirely the dwelling place of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into dust. Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, truly living and glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life.”
St. Germanus of Constantinople
Sermon I
[A.D. 683]
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Then God’s temple in heaven was opened,
and his ark of the covenant could be seen in his temple…
A great sign appeared in the sky,
a woman clothed with the sun,
with the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
Revelation 11, 19 – 12, 1
.

“Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass
from the law, until all things have taken place.”

Matthew 5, 18

Finally, we read in Matthew 15, 4: “For God said, ‘Honour your father and your mother.’ Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.” The Hebrew word for “honour” in this verse is kavodah, which means in the given context “to bestow glory”. It originates from the word kavod, meaning “weight” or “glory”. The truth is that the Son honoured the Father and was true to Himself as the Word of God by bestowing unprecedented glory upon the woman whom He chose to be His mother by assuming her body and soul into Heaven, as to be not only spiritually but also physically present with her in their filial bond of love for each other.

Jesus initially honoured and bestowed glory on his mother at the first instant he created her soul and sanctified it with his grace preserving her free from all stain of original sin, so that she would be most becoming of a mother to him. By denying his mother this maternal right of honour and glory, which he himself has established by His word and given to Moses in the form of a Divine command for all to heed and obey, the withholding of his mighty deed for her gives cause for us to doubt the credibility of his word, for Jesus would be dishonouring his mother by refusing to bestow upon her the highest degree of glory he possibly could in his power, if in fact he has left his mother’s body, his own sacred flesh and blood, to decay in the tomb. Yet, we the faithful, who personally know the true Jesus, believe that he could never do such a thing such as dishonour his own mother, not if he is indeed the Word of God in the flesh of her holy flesh, as we Catholic Christians rightly believe in the sanctifying light of faith.

“It was fitting that the she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped when giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father, It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.”
St. John Damascene
Dormition of Mary
[A.D. 697]
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The LORD is faithful in all His words
and gracious in all His deeds.
Psalm 145, 13
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Salve Regina!

All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed

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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

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

And Mary said:
My soul does magnify the Lord.
And my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.
For he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaid;
behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Because he that is mighty,
has done great things to me;
and holy is his name.
Luke 1, 46-49
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δο γρ π το νν μακαριοσί με πσαι α γενεαί

Sacred Scripture often confirms what belongs to Catholic Tradition using words or expressions employed by the authors of the Biblical texts under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. These help the Church in better understanding what God has intended to fully reveal to the faithful in matters of faith and morals, notwithstanding whether the authors themselves were aware of the Divine intention (sensus plenior). Sometimes the choice of words and phrases extend beyond the primary context of the matter as is the case with prophecies. Isaiah 7:14 is a prime example, which Matthew himself quotes in his gospel when bearing witness to Christ’s incarnation (Mt 1:23).

In her Canticle of Praise or Magnificat, Mary speaks prophetically when she proclaims: “Behold, from hence forth all generations shall call me blessed.” What non-Catholic Christians generally understand Mary means by being blessed (makaria) is only that she has been highly favoured to be the mother of Jesus. In its primary signification, the prophecy has been realized. Unless Mary is the mother of the Lord in his humanity, by conceiving and giving birth to him, there is no reason for Christians to rejoice in Mary’s happiness for her sake because of this singular favour which has been granted to her by God. Yet we are still left with the prophecy’s secondary fulfilment which the evangelist alludes to in the following verse: “Because the Almighty has done great things to me, and holy is His name.” These great things or privileges Mary refers to with respect to her blessed state relate to her Divine Maternity and by this singular favour extend from it.

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The original Greek word Luke uses for being pronounced blessed (makarizó / μακαρίζω) in the given context can be interpreted as meaning “to be pronounced blessed because of enjoying privileges that extend from God’s favour”, that being the Divine Maternity. Thus the “great things” which God has done for Mary are blessings that rest on her being the Mother of God (Isa 7:14; Lk 1:35, 43, etc.). Future generations of the Christian faithful shall not simply honour Mary for having been chosen from among all women to be the mother of Jesus, but they shall also rejoice with her for the special privileges she has received by being our Lord’s mother.

This Greek word for blessed is more than an honorary term. It also serves as a benediction that promotes a goodness and well-being, which Mary particularly possesses because she is the Mother of the Divine Messiah. The word connotes how she personally stands in her relationship with God in the supernatural life of grace. All future generations shall acknowledge blessings that by Mary’s maternal right exclusively belong to her in the order of divine grace. These are in fact privileges that are closely tied to Mary’s association with her divine Son in his work of redemption, for which other important reason she was chosen to be his mother. Jesus was not “made of a woman” only to acquire his humanity from her (Gal 4:4; Lk 11:28).

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Protestant Biblical scholar Donald G. Dawes, in his exegesis of Luke 1:48, informs us that this same word for blessed (makaria) is “more than a polite honorific term” and was used in Patristic literature to characterize the martyrs. He states: “The highest expression of their blessedness was in the possibility of their ascension into heaven to dwell in the immediate presence of God” (The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin in Ecumenical Perspective). In other words, the martyrs aren’t simply blessed for having sacrificed their lives for Christ in faith no more than Mary is blessed only for having consented in faith to be the mother of the Lord. What is more important from an eschatological point of view is the final consummation of these acts of faith informed by charity and grace.

In a similar vein, when Jesus prophetically says, “Blessed (makaria) are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” the highest expression of their being blessed is seeing God which results from their being pure in heart (Mt 5:8). Therefore, the gift of the Virgin Mary’s divine motherhood isn’t the highest expression of her being blessed or “happy” in the eyes of future generations of believers, though her blessed or happy state ultimately stems from her being the Mother of God and our Divine Messiah.

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This prophetic verse in the Gospel of Luke is vital to the integrity of the Catholic dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and its corollary the glorious Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary body and soul into Heaven. Here we not only see Mary’s role in the Incarnation, which is an essential part of God’s plan in the economy of salvation, but also the final consummation of her salvation in a singular way because of her Divine call and moral participation in collaboration with God. What our Blessed Lady has been graced with is something all future generations shall especially rejoice in for her sake alone, since she alone has been granted this privilege for being the Mother of God and our co-Redemptrix (Lk 2:34-35).

Mary shall not be pronounced blessed for simply having been faithful and died and gone to heaven along with all the other faithful departed. This is the hope of all Christians who die in the state of sanctifying grace. The redemption of their bodies on the Last Day is a divine truth that has been manifested and prefigured by the resurrection of Christ (1 Cor 15:20-23). Our Lady, on the other hand, is speaking prophetically about her, of a form of bodily redemption that applies exclusively to her because of the unique personal relationship she has with God in the hypostatic order of Christ’s incarnation.

Hence, the secondary fulfilment of Mary’s prophecy is eschatologically found in her Assumption. The highest expression of her being blessed is the glorious redemption of her body united with her immaculate soul in the Beatific Vision of God. All future generations shall pronounce Mary blessed for having received this pre-eminent favour that no other human being shall ever receive by God’s gratuitous grace, not only because she is the Mother of God, but also because of the other extended privilege or “great thing” God favoured her with because of her Divine Motherhood – her Immaculate Conception and freedom from all stain of sin.

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Finally, Luke 1:48 reads: “for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” In the original Greek, the word “behold” idŏu (ιδου) is a demonstrative particle, with no exact equivalent in the English language. Not unlike the equivalent Hebrew-Aramaic term hinnēh, the Greek word often serves to enliven a narrative by introducing something new or extraordinary. It is often used to emphasize the importance of something great. For the faithful, there is nothing extraordinary in the fundamental Christian belief of a saint having died and their soul gone to Heaven, at least not for them. What is extraordinary or unique, however, is the fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary has been gloriously assumed body and soul into Heaven because of her Divine Maternity and exemption from all stain of sin: original and personal. All the other departed saints in Heaven must wait until Christ returns in glory for the redemption of their bodies, while they remain in repose apart from the holy souls until the general Resurrection at the end of this age (Rev 20:4-5).​

Hence, the connotations of the word “behold” include a renewed and singular state of being for Mary rather than a change of circumstance in her life that occurs at the Annunciation. The word also carries with it the weight of a Divine ordinance and points to something of great prophetic import which God wills to draw our attention to. Thus, all generations of Christians shall not pronounce Mary blessed simply because she was chosen to be the mother of their Lord Jesus. The faithful shall also take into consideration the “great things” God has done for her, namely those privileges which extend from that one supreme privilege.

“It was fitting that the she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped when giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father, it was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honoured by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.”
St. John Damascene, Dormition of Mary
{ante A.D. 749}
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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.”
Song of Solomon 2, 10-11
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Salve Regina!

I Know Not Man

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

Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end. And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And, therefore, also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Luke 1, 31-35
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And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done,
because I know not man?
Luke 1, 34

If a fortune teller should happen to tell us that we will die of lung cancer from smoking at some indefinite future time, we might ask how this could be possible, since we don’t smoke. We may add that we never smoke, are not smoking now, and have no intention of ever smoking. We could ask the question in these words: “How shall this be, since I don’t smoke?” and add, “How could I possibly die of lung cancer? Is it because I am going to start smoking (be a smoker) after all?” Mariologist Father Rene Laurentine, in his exegesis of Luke 1:34, notes “we must recognize the present tense ‘I do not know’ as having to do with a condition rather than an instant of time. For example, if someone to whom a cigarette is offered replies, ‘I do not smoke,’ he is understood to mean ‘I never smoke’ and ‘I am not smoking now.'”

At the Annunciation, the Virgin Mary finds herself in a similar situation when the angel Gabriel announces to her that she “will conceive and bear a son.” She is perplexed no less than we would be because she is a virgin (non-smoker) and intends to be one her entire life. Not unlike a non-smoker who is concerned with what is contained inside the crystal ball, Mary anxiously asks the one who is foretelling her future: “How shall this be, since I do not know man?” And since she has no intention of having sexual relations with any man she might marry, she desires to know how it is that she will have a son. Mary must wonder whether she and her betrothed will have conjugal relations after all. In reply, the angel dispels her confusion by telling Mary that the conception and birth of the child will be supernatural; she will be overshadowed by the power of the Most High and, therefore, her Son will be of holy Divine origin (Lk 1:35).

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The original Greek text reads: andra ou ginosko (ἄνδρα οὐ γινώσκω) which literally is “man not I know” or in English “I know not man.” The Greek verb ginosko (Present Indicative Active) is in the continuous present which shows a permanent disposition to not know man. The original Greek translates what Mary says to the angel in her native tongue of Hebrew-Aramaic: ‘ki enneni yodaat ish.’ The Greek present tense used for Mary’s words in Luke 1:34 corresponds to the Hebrew Aramaic active participle (yodaat) indicating a permanent condition (cf. Manuel Miguens, The Virgin Birth: An Evaluation of Scriptural Evidence).

So, Mary has a permanent disposition to not know man, just as the man who says, “I don’t smoke” has a permanent disposition not to smoke. The verb “to know” in the Scriptures is often used as a Jewish idiom for sexual relations between a man and a woman. Idiomatically, Mary is telling the angel: “I don’t have sexual relations with man.” Now this Jewish idiom for sexual relations is subject to the same rules of grammar as any other verb is. The verb “to know” may be conjugated in the past tense. We read in Genesis 4:1 in the Septuagint: ‘And Adam knew (αὐτοῦ) his wife who conceived and brought forth Cain.’ In other words, Adam had sexual relations with Eve who, as a result, conceived and brought forth Cain. Eve conceived Cain because she had sexual intercourse with Adam.

But Mary does not have sexual relations with man, so she wonders how she will conceive Jesus. She tells the angel: “I do not have sexual relations with man.” She never has sexual relations, and she is not having sexual relations now. Mary is no different from the non-smoker. She has a permanent disposition not to have sexual relations with man, just as the non-smoker has a permanent disposition not to smoke. It is Mary’s permanent disposition and will not to have sexual relations with any man, which explains why she asks the angel how or by what manner she could ever possibly conceive and bear the Messiah, seeing she has no sexual relations with man.

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The King James Bible translation is accurate in that the verb “to know” is in the Present Indicative Active, but it is misleading with the insertion of the indefinite article “a” before “man”, which we don’t have in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate. The inclusion of this grammatical exponent can create a misunderstanding of God’s written word. The object in Mary’s statement is andra (ἄνδρα) which means “man”, or more precisely the genre of the male sex. What it does not signify is an individual male, who in this case would be Joseph. The KJB discrepancy may expand to modern readings like this one: “I do not have a husband.”

However, we read in Luke 1:27 that Mary was betrothed (espoused) to Joseph at the appointed time. The couple were already legally married, having observed the first part of the marriage ceremony (Kiddushin) which included the signing of a legal marriage contract. They were in fact husband and wife at the time of the Annunciation, which explains why Joseph could divorce Mary as soon as he discovered she was with child (Mt 1:18-19). Andra can mean “husband” in a general sense (Jn. 4:17), but Mary does not say: “I have no husband,” since she already has an individual one. The object noun andra does not refer to individual men. There is another word for them which is anthropos (ἄνθρωπός) as in Matthew 8:9.

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St. Augustine explains how it is that Mary should even contemplate asking such a question, seeing that she was betrothed to Joseph at the time the angel appeared to her and obligated to bear children within her religious culture.

“Her virginity also itself was on this account more pleasing and accepted, in that it was not that Christ being conceived in her rescued it beforehand from a husband who would violate it, Himself to preserve it; but, before He was conceived, chose it, already dedicated to God, as that from which to be born. This is shown by the words which Mary spake in answer to the Angel announcing to her conception; ‘How, saith she, shall this be, seeing I know not a man?’ which she assuredly would not say, unless she had before vowed herself unto God as a virgin.”
Of Holy Virginity

Any vow and any binding oath to afflict herself, her husband may establish, or her husband may make void. But if her husband says nothing to her from day to day, then he establishes all her vows, or all her pledges, that are upon her; he has established them, because he said nothing to her on the day that he heard of them. But if he makes them null and void after he has heard of them, then he shall bear her iniquity.
Numbers 30

The vow of a woman to “afflict herself” included abstaining from having sexual relations with her husband and having a family so that she could dedicate her life exclusively to God. Under the Mosaic Law, provisions were specifically made for such vows, although normally discouraged. A vow made by a woman like this one, however rare and frowned upon, was permissible, since the command to propagate did not apply to females. It applied only to men, which explains why there is no similar statute about vows taken by married men. If Joseph agreed to a chaste marriage, which appears most likely, it was only because he honoured the vow Mary had made before they met, when she was still a young girl serving in the temple and by the time the first part of the marriage ceremony (Kiddushin) was observed, when a contract would have been drawn up and signed making Mary his legal wife.

So, Mary basically asks how it is possible she can conceive and bear Jesus, seeing she is a virgin who intends to have a chaste marriage. She wouldn’t have asked how if she intended to fully consummate her marriage with Joseph after he brought her into his home upon the second marriage ceremony or Nisuin (Mt. 1:20, 25). And in reply to her question, the angel explains how it is she will retain her virginity and keep her vow to God despite having a child: by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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In a grammatical nutshell, Mary asserts she does not have sexual relations with man within a time frame that includes the future simple. Luke has Mary speak in the present tense, active voice, and indicative mood; since the angel does not say that she has conceived or will conceive at some specific time. The fact is she does not have sexual relations with any man, who includes her husband. Her not having sexual relations with man characterizes what she is, viz. a virgin. The verb tense signifies an on-going state (of not having sexual relations with man), not an instant of time, that extends beyond the present moment and embraces the future. Mary asserts she does not have sexual relations with man – not now or ever – despite the angel’s announcement.

Indicated by the present active voice, Mary’s condition is an objective fact which Mary asserts continues beyond the present moment and into the future, including when she is supposed to have a son. The angel’s announcement that she will conceive and bear a son conflicts with her unchanging, ongoing state. This explains her perplexity. The conjunction “since” serves as a logical connector. The Greek word epei (ἐπεί) in this case can be paraphrased as “because”: Because (since/seeing) Mary does not have sexual relations with any man, including her husband, she wonders how she will conceive and bear a son. We mustn’t presume this adolescent of marriageable age knew nothing of biological human reproduction. ​

The indicative mood of the verb ‘to know’ tells us Mary has no intention of having conjugal relations with her husband Joseph regardless of what the angel says. For this reason, she can’t possibly be the mother of the expected Messiah, unless God has other plans for her which she is presently unaware of. The angel Gabriel reveals the Divine intention to Mary in the following verses. Only then does she pronounce her Fiat without further ado and the angel depart (Lk 1:38).

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Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east;
and it was shut. And he said to me, “This gate shall remain shut; it shall not
be opened, and no one shall enter by it; for the Lord, the God of Israel,
has entered by it; therefore, it shall remain shut.”
Ezekiel 44, 1-3

Therefore, we should keep in mind that the verb “to know” in the first person (ginosko) does not have to do with an instant of time, but rather with Mary’s state itself. Mary does not tell the angel: ‘I am not having relations with a man (my husband) now’ or ‘I have not had any relations with a man until now.’ There would be no reason for her to say these things, since the angel does not tell her that she has conceived or suggest even remotely that she will conceive the child immediately or before her marriage is formally solemnized upon the second and final wedding ceremony (Nisuin). The original Greek text reads: “I do not know man.” Mary has sexual relations with no man ever – not presently, not ever. And since the verb is in the active indicative mood, there is emphasis on the progress of the negative action (to not know man) which continues when she is supposed to have the child – whenever that will be.

The Greek present tense denotes either a progressive or repetitive action. In this case, it is progressive and indicates a continuance of state which bears on a future event. So, there is emphasis on the progress of an action (to not know or have sexual relations with man) or a state (virginity) which extends into the future and affects it. The verb “to be” (estai / ἔσται) is in the simple future tense. Mary’s present state in real time is of no concern.

Konstantinos-Parthenis-Annunciation
‘ki enneni yodaat ish’

Thus, it isn’t really a question of whether she has had relations with her betrothed until now or is having relations with him when she shouldn’t be. The question is whether a woman who does not have sexual relations with any man can ever conceive and bear a son. The angel explains how in the following verse: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you.” There is something about Mary that Luke wishes to give testimony to, that perpetually she is a virgin. If ever there were a conclusive Scriptural proof-text for the Catholic dogma of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, it would have to be Luke 1:34: “How shall this be done, because I know not man?

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Therefore, the Lord himself shall give you a sign.
Behold the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and his name shall be called Emmanuel.
Isaiah 7, 14
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Salve Regina!