She Shall Crush Thy Head

0ba5d-751fe02c5709b2763dff6002c86bf5bf

inimicitias ponam inter te et mulierem et semen tuum et semen illius ipsa conteret caput tuum et tu insidiaberis calcaneo eius

God said to the serpent: ‘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}
.

Originally, an epicene Hebrew personal pronoun was used in the Protoevangelium (First Gospel) in Genesis 3:15. This pronoun has only one form to denote either male (hu) or female (hi) in the singular or the two taken together in a gender-neutral way (hem): He/She/They shall crush thy head, and thou shall lie in wait for his/her/their heel. In the Catholic tradition, both the woman and her offspring are taken in association with each other. It is not only the woman, but also her child who is at enmity or opposition with the serpent and its offspring: sinful humanity. Thus, from different theological perspectives, either the woman or her offspring can be seen striking at the head of the serpent in collaboration with each other in their respective roles.

Luke presents both Mary and Jesus to be equally “blessed” (euologomene /eulogemenos) by having absolutely nothing in common with Satan and what he has worked: sin and death (Lk 1:42). For this reason, Mary is elevated above all women, including Eve, by her association with Jesus in undoing the consequences of the fall of Adam and Eve. Both the Mother and the Son are equally blessed by having been set apart by God and consecrated to Him for undoing what the serpent started in the beginning (Gen 3:14).

607bd-th1m8tykqr
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, who guided your blow at the head of the chief of our enemies.”
Judith 13, 18

Since, in the original Hebrew text, the Protoevangelium has a dual subject (He-She), either the male or female, or even the plural rendering, of the epicene pronoun is acceptable according to one’s proper theological perspective. The Latin translation of the Hebrew female pronoun (ipsa) espoused by St. Jerome in his composition of the Latin Vulgate points to the vital role God granted Mary in His plan of salvation, brought to complete fruition by the final victory of her Son over the serpent and its seed: sin and death. The female rendering of the neuter pronoun in no way serves to denote a final victory attributed to the woman. It was God who directed Judith’s blow against Holofernes which saved her people from imminent slavery and destruction, just as it was God’s grace that preceded and prompted Mary to pronounce her Fiat at the Annunciation and fulfill her commitment in the Divine work of salvation by enduring sorrow at the foot of the Cross to temporally appease God for mankind’s sins.

In like manner, Mary victoriously crushes the head of the serpent by collaborating with God in bringing the Messiah into the world through her act of faith in charity and grace, that He may save humanity from the ravages of sin and impending death: eternal separation from God. The woman who God is referring to in His exchange with the serpent is not Eve, but a woman who He promises will vindicate our fallen primordial mother by her act of faith.

744e5-6351ee4badb71fc819fce88783902b9e

That the early Church interpreted Genesis 3:15 this way and perceived Mary to be a second Eve is evident to begin with in the apologetic writings of St. Irenaeus (189 A.D.). The Bishop of Lyons bears testimony to the Apostolic Catholic faith: “So, if Eve disobeyed God, yet Mary was persuaded to be obedient to God, in this way, the Virgin Mary might become the advocate of the virgin Eve” (Against Heresies, 5:19:1). This interpretation of who the woman in the Proto-gospel is makes more sense in Christian thought, seeing that Jesus is the Son of Mary, who vindicates our fallen primordial mother by her obedient act of faith in charity and grace.

In classical Jewish theology, the woman is seen to be Daughter Zion and her offspring: the righteous remnant of Israel, including the Messiah, through whom people of all nations shall come to know and accept God and be redeemed of their sins upon his appearance at the end of this age. At any rate, a Latin reading ipse (he) would directly announce the final victory achieved by the woman’s offspring without necessarily excluding the essential part she had to play in humanity’s redemption in collaboration with him.

d1d616da0a7943c81f0b8c6e9aefb7d6_1

St. Paul tells us that all members of the Church crush the Devil’s head by their perseverance in faith: ‘The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet’ (Rom. 16:20). In the order of grace, Mary is the pre-eminent member and proto-type of the Church, for it was by her salutary act of faith in charity and grace that her Divine offspring came into the world to save humanity from its sins and restore it to the preternatural life of grace. All who are baptized can strike Satan’s head each time they resist his temptations and observe the will of God with the help of His grace (Jas. 4:17). As the Blessed Virgin Mary is a moral channel of grace, she is united with all her Son’s disciples in their battles with the dragon through her prayerful intercession in Heaven (Rev. 12:17).

Thus, the reading “she” (ipsa) is not meant to equate Mary with Jesus by co-ordinating her merits with his. Surely, the final victory over Satan and what he has managed to work for humanity exclusively belongs to her Son in strict justice (meritum perfecta condigno) because of his divine nature and equality with the Father. His work of salvation was a theandric act. Yet, theologically, the female reading is acceptable from a correct point of view. Depending on what one wishes to emphasise, both the woman and her seed can be said to crush the serpent’s head. This isn’t an either-or, but a both-and proposition. Mary crushes the serpent’s head by her supernatural merits (meritum de congruo) or right of friendship with God in co-operation with divine grace in and through the merits of her divine Son who is the principal source of all saving grace.

God chose to become incarnate to reconcile the world to Himself, but it was by Mary’s meritorious free consent to be the mother of our Lord and Saviour in alignment with God’s will that the Incarnation happened according to His righteous design. In their respective roles, both Jesus (hu/ispse) and Mary (hi/ipsa) crushed the serpent’s head together in accord with the Divine initiative. Christ redeemed the world in his humanity, by serving as a ransom for sin paid by his blood, which he should receive with divine necessity only by Mary’s act of faith working through love in collaboration with the Holy Spirit.

0460b3d4ed0d59ee5e6ce074e548c048

Although our Blessed Lady was only a finite created being, unlike God who is infinite and uncreated, she could merit for both herself and humanity the Incarnation. This was because she acted in the state of sanctifying grace. In this state of grace, she partook of the divine life of God, sealed with the Holy Spirit (2 Pet.1:4; 2 Cor.5:17; Eph.1:13; Phil. 2:13; 1 Jn.3:7,10, etc.). Raised and transformed in her human nature, by which she could merit nothing from God apart from His efficacious grace and sharing in the supernatural life of God in His grace, God honoured her Fiat. Mary acted understanding and seeing with God’s own supernatural vision, and she loved with His own infinite and burning supernatural love in the depths of her soul which was infused with His sanctifying grace (Lk 1:46).

In Elizabeth’s declaration of praise, “Blessed (eulogmene) are you among women,” the perfect passive participle is a Hebraism meaning “most blessed among women” or “blessed above all women” or Eve (Lk 1:42). We have an example in the following passage from the Hebrew Old Testament.

תְּבֹרַךְ֙ מִנָּשִׁ֔ים יָעֵ֕ל אֵ֖שֶׁת חֶ֣בֶר הַקֵּינִ֑י מִנָּשִׁ֥ים בָּאֹ֖הֶל תְּבֹרָֽךְ׃

“Blessed of women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite
be, blessed above women shall she be in the tent.”
– Judges 5, 24

The second clause qualifies the first clause. The expression “blessed of women” implies Jael is blessed above all other women because of her singular deed in collaboration with YHWH. And how is it that Jael is supremely blessed?

She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workman’s hammer, and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head when she had pierced and stricken through his temples.
– Judges 5, 25-26

ob_5f8a70_ob-992b2f-a17d83-64ea4ab9a5c14db5bd1bd

Catholic scholars and apologists in favour of Jerome’s translation of the Hebrew Old Testament inform us that the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo (c. A.D. 40) preferred the hi/ ipsa reading, having argued from the Hebrew poetic technique known as parallel poetry (chiasmus). This form of poetry comprises three-quarters of the OT, mostly in the Book of Proverbs and the Psalms. Genesis 1:1-2:3 is chiastic in its structure as well. Although the Book of Genesis is a historical narrative written in prose, parallel poetry (the expression of one idea in two or more different ways, or the idea of one line following the idea of another line) is a literary technique that is also used when recording a spoken prophecy. Genesis 3:15 is the first Messianic prophecy found in the Bible, and it was pronounced by God Himself. Let us examine some examples of this literary device in the OT to see how concepts and ideas are structured to parallel each other in single passages. The verses below are taken from Hebrew Parallelism, by Jeff A. Benner.

Here Psalm 15:1-3 and Isaiah 6:10 are broken down into their poetic sequences. Each thought is represented by the letters A-D. Each expression of a thought is represented by the numbers 1 and 2.

A1. Lord, who may [dwell] in your [sanctuary]?
A2. Who may [live] on your [holy hill]?
B1. He whose [walk] is [blameless]
B2. and who [does] what is [righteous]
C1. who [speaks the truth] from his [heart]
C2. and has [no slander] on his [tongue]
D1. who does his [neighbour] no wrong
D2. and casts no slur on his [fellow man]
[does no wrong – casts no slur]

A.Make the [heart] of this people [fat]
B. and make their [ears] [heavy]
C. and [shut] their [eyes]
C1. lest they [see] with their [eyes]
B1. and [hear] with their [ears]
A1. and [understand] with their [heart], and return, and be healed.

ob_a3b0af_14-our-lady-of-guadalupe-rain-ririn
Our Lady of Guadalupe

Now in Genesis 3:15, a couplet (distich) parallel a following couplet:

A1. I shall put enmities between [thee] and the [woman]
B1. and between [thy seed] and [her seed]
A2. [She] shall crush [thy head]
B2. and [thou] shalt lie in wait for [her heel]

We see that line A1 corresponds with line A2, and line B1 with B2. The “woman” in line A1 refers to “she” in A2. Thus, to make the subject of line A2 “he” (ipse) or “it” (ipsum) and to say it relates to the seed in line B1, is obviously bad Hebrew poetry. Clearly, the “he” or “it” readings ruin the synonymous parallelism of this verse and so are more likely to be at variance with the author’s intention. Jerome consulted with eminent Jewish scholars while he translated the Hebrew into Latin in Bethlehem. So, he could have taken this literary device into account in his choice of pronouns.

The following pattern disrupts the rhythm of the verse by making an abrupt switch of focus between subjects:

You/woman
Your seed/her seed
He (It) shall crush your head/you lie in wait for his (its)heel

th-5

In the sacred text, it is the woman who is at enmity with the serpent, while the woman’s seed is at enmity with the serpent’s seed: wicked humanity. If we accurately observe the parallelism here, we should reasonably conclude from the first enmity announced between the woman and the serpent that the subsequent pronouns refer to the first protagonist, the woman, and the first antagonist, the serpent. The pronoun ipsa thereby refers to the female protagonist who, because of the serpent’s antagonism and her opposition against it, victoriously crushes its head by her obedience to the will of God and in collaboration with Him as His “fellow worker” (1 Cor 3:9).

A radical shift to the woman’s seed certainly does violence to the rhythm of the passage from a literary perspective, though theologically there is no conflict. As previously pointed out, the woman could be said to have crushed the serpent’s head by her act of faith, for it resulted in her giving birth to the offspring who would achieve the final victory over it by destroying its dominion on earth. Mary crushed the serpent’s head in collaboration with her divine Son in concurrence with the graces he merited for her by his passion and death. And the merit of the temporal satisfaction our Blessed Lady made to God for the sins of the world received its worth from the eternal satisfaction our Lord had made to his heavenly Father.

Still, our Lord’s eternal expiation should be completed by the obedience of a promised woman and virgin who, not unlike Eve in the fulness of grace and the state of innocence, vindicates the primordial mother of all the living by untying the knot of her disobedience while never having fallen from his grace (Lk 1:28). Eve received her name after her fall from grace. She was no longer called “Woman” once she lost her innocence. Jesus addressed his immaculate mother Mary as “Woman” in allusion to the enmity his heavenly Father had put between her and the Serpent in the wake of Eve’s transgression.

thH5BMMNIJ
And the dragon was angry against the woman:
and went to make war with the rest of her seed,
who keep the commandments of God,
and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Revelation 12, 17

In Genesis 3:15, God is speaking to the serpent about Eve’s transgression, which draws our attention to her moral contribution in the fall of mankind (Adam). It’s only reasonable, therefore, that our focus should be kept on the female protagonists in this drama and how it unfolds in the restoration of mankind through the moral contribution of the woman who God promises will undo what the serpent started by tempting Eve. The serpent aimed to ruin all that was good in God’s creation by targeting Adam, but it was through his helpmate the Woman that it brought about Adam’s fall from grace. The serpent did not speak to Adam and tempt him directly but allied with his wife to entice him and join with her in their rebellion against God.

Thus, the Woman must vindicate herself by opposing the serpent, but now this can only be accomplished by the woman who God has promised shall conceive and bear the Messiah by her act of faith, so that he may restore what Adam brought about by his sin. The Fall of mankind from God’s grace was accomplished by Adam alone. So, the Blessed Virgin Mary stands in opposition to the serpent in her covenant with God, while her offspring, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, is at enmity with the serpent’s works: fallen mankind or Adam and creation.

Christ (the second Adam) accomplished the redemption and mankind’s reconciliation to God more than enough but with his faithful and obedient helpmate who remained true to God in her covenant with Him. The Woman and her Offspring allied themselves against the serpent to undo the sin of Adam and Eve who were created to give spiritual life to their offspring before the Fall. And ever since our Lord rose from the dead and ascended into heaven to take his seat at the right hand of God, the serpent or dragon has been at enmity with the Virgin Mary and her spiritual offspring in their daily spiritual combat with him. The actual graces her children receive by her prayerful intercession are the armour they must wear in their battle with the foe.

a39f2-thz7sboedp

St. Luke does draw a parallel between the Virgin Mary and Daughter Zion in her Canticle of Praise (Lk 1:46-49) by referring to the prophets Isaiah, Zechariah, and Zephaniah and the Psalms (Isa.61:10; Zech.9:9; Zeph.3:1415, 20; Ps.102:13; 126:1-3; 147:12-13). It does appear, then, that the Ecclesia in apostolic time acknowledged Mary to be not only the new Eve, but also the anti-type of Daughter Zion because of her Divine Maternity which she acquired by her salutary obedient act of faith. Her divine motherhood would be redefined at the Cross to include redeemed humanity, but especially all her Son’s faithful disciples, her spiritual offspring (Jn 19:26-27).

Eve is the mother of all Adam’s fallen descendants. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the mother of all the new Adam’s regenerated offspring restored to the life of grace with God. Mary crushed the serpent’s head by undoing Eve’s disobedience through her obedience to the will of God. Thus, she is the mother of righteous offspring because of her righteousness in God’s grace. Eve remains to be the mother of unrighteous offspring, her firstborn son Cain being a murderer, because of her transgression and fall from grace which led to her expulsion from Eden.

068f2-thj57n2mig

So, then, who are the offspring of the serpent? We find the answer summed up in 1 John 3:10-12: ‘By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain who was of the evil one and slew his brother Abel. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s righteous.’ The seed of the serpent, therefore, are people who possess the disposition of the devil. They are consumed by pride, jealousy, and malice towards their neighbour and loathe what is righteous. And not unlike their progenitor, they hate God and all his righteous children even to the point of persecuting and putting them to death because they bear witness to the truth against them.

In the apostolic age, [Pope] St. Clement l (A.D. 98) exhorts the faithful not to conduct themselves in the manner of the serpent’s offspring: “Seeing, therefore, that we are the portion of the Holy One, let us do all those things which pertain to holiness, avoiding all evil-speaking, all abominable and impure embraces, together with all drunkenness, seeking after change, all abominable lusts, detestable adultery, and execrable pride. ‘For God,’ saith [the Scripture], ‘resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.’ Let us cleave, then, to those to whom grace has been given by God. Let us clothe ourselves with concord and humility, ever exercising self-control, standing far off from all whispering and evil-speaking, being justified by our works, and not our words” (Epistle to the Corinthians, 30).

th2BGP6RDI

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

Of all human creatures, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the most perfect “portion of the Holy One” clothed with “concord and humility”, graced with temperance and charity, and pure in heart. Rather than being proud, boastful, and judgemental, she was meek and poor in spirit. She “stood far off” from the prince and spirit of this world. The angel Gabriel came to Mary since she had “found grace with God” (Lk 1:30). The Annunciation wouldn’t have happened if she had possessed the disposition of the serpent and heeded its words as Adam’s wife and helpmate had instead. Mary had to have no affinity whatsoever with the Dragon and be completely unlike its offspring if she were to crush his head in collaboration with God for the world’s salvation.

The virgin spouse of the Holy Spirit was “a garden enclosed” and “a fountain sealed” (Songs 4:12). Not unlike the virgin bride of Christ, which is the Church, pure and unblemished in her faith by the sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary stood on a rock beyond the Devil’s reach. The serpent could never slither into the garden of her soul, which proclaimed God’s glory and through which the Messiah shone forth as the light of the world. The gates of Hell could not prevail against the blessed mother of our Lord. Meanwhile, it wasn’t the Devil whom Jesus and the prophets before him were at enmity with, at least not directly, but rather the Serpent’s offspring – that “brood of vipers” who acted as his advocates (Mt 23:29-33).

immaculate-heart-of-mary_3

Finally, John envisions the Dragon lying in wait for the Woman to give birth to her Son. But he is snatched up to his throne in Heaven before it can devour him, as the Woman keeps waging war against the Dragon with her other offspring – those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus Christ. It is she, the Virgin Mary and spiritual mother of all the living, who Satan is at enmity with because of her dual maternity. By her faith working through love, she gave birth to the Messiah and from the same womb regenerated humanity for persevering in faith beneath the Cross, thereby crushing his head. In other words, the serpent could no longer boast before God because of its victory over Eve. Mary’s moral participation perfected and completed God’s plan.

Yet our Blessed Mother’s pierced Immaculate Heart shall finally triumph at the end of time leaving the Devil to carry the weight of his humiliation for all eternity. Only an innocent woman who never fell from grace could shatter his pride once and for all. If the Virgin Mary hadn’t crushed the serpent’s head with her immaculate foot, not only would it hold a trophy or prized possession for all eternity, but she – the woman – would be at enmity with it forever. The Fall would never be finally and fully resolved. The redemption, then, could not be a perfect and complete reciprocation of what had transpired in the Garden of Eden.

“For Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the word of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy, when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her: wherefore also the Holy Thing begotten of her is the Son of God; and she replied, ‘Be it unto me according to thy word.’ And by her has He been born, to whom we have proved so many Scriptures refer, and by whom God destroys both the serpent and those angels and men who are like him; but works deliverance from death to those who repent of their wickedness and believe upon Him.”
St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 100
(155 A.D.)

thBBUCYBRY
And you, O tower of the flock, hill of the daughter of Zion,
to you shall it come, the former dominion shall come,
kingship for the daughter of Jerusalem.
Micah 4, 8
.

Coat of Arms of Pope Pius IX - Roman Catholic Church in England - Peter Crawford

“These ecclesiastical writers in quoting the words by which at the beginning of the world God announced his merciful remedies prepared for the regeneration of mankind — words by which he crushed the audacity of the deceitful serpent and wondrously raised up the hope of our race, saying, “I will put enmities between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed”[13] — taught that by this divine prophecy the merciful Redeemer of mankind, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, was clearly foretold: That his most Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, was prophetically indicated; and, at the same time, the very enmity of both against the evil one was significantly expressed. Hence, just as Christ, the Mediator between God and man, assumed human nature, blotted the handwriting of the decree that stood against us, and fastened it triumphantly to the cross, so the most holy Virgin, united with him by a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with him and through him, eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with her immaculate foot.”

Pope Piux lX (Apostolic Constitution)
Ineffabilis Deus
[8 December 1854]
.

40288062_261784844463687_2012067220397490176_n
Salve Regina

Behold the Handmaid of the Lord

thEELVC7AM

“I, your servant, have never eaten at the table of Haman, nor have I graced the banquet of the king or drunk the wine of libations. From the day I was brought here till now, your servant has had no joy except in you, Lord, God of Abraham. O God, whose power is over all, hear the voice of those in despair. Save us from the power of the wicked, and deliver me from my fear.”
Esther 4, (C) 28-30 (NAB)

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Luke 1, 38
.

The Catholic doctrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary being the new Eve – the spiritual “mother of all the living” – appears to have been universally accepted among the faithful by the second century as part of the Apostolic Tradition of the Church. This teaching certainly wasn’t just a theological opinion held by a few early religious thinkers, seeing that the Church Fathers Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, in their bearing witness to the faith, referred to Mary as Eve’s anti-type in their apologetic works against the claims of non-believers, Jews and Gnostics respectively. The Patristic Fathers of the first millennium consistently taught and elaborated on what was handed down to them from the apostles as part of the deposit of faith concerning our Blessed Mother’s essential role in the divine order of redemption.

The idea of Mary being the new Eve, the free woman who God promised from the beginning would by her faith undo what Eve had unfaithfully wrought by heeding the words of the serpent, most likely arose from reflecting on Paul’s teaching of Jesus being the second Adam (1 Cor 15:20-23, 25). The early Church Fathers apparently placed the apostle’s words in the context of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace, the promise of redemption, and the final victory over Satan, which included his humiliating defeat by the faith and charity of an immaculate woman. They believed that the Incarnation could only have resulted from Mary’s free consent to be the mother of the Lord and Saviour. With her moral participation hanging in the balance, the Devil’s dominion over souls on earth might now finally be destroyed with the coming of the divine Messiah through his chosen mother’s obedient act of faith (Gen 3:15).

985de-ob_51e6dc_ob-cf34ef-th3ijrekrd
[Jesus] became man by the Virgin so that the course which was taken by disobedience in the beginning through the agency of the serpent might be also the very course by which it would be put down. Eve, a virgin and undefiled, conceived the word of the serpent and bore disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy when the angel Gabriel announced to her the glad tidings that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her, for which reason the Holy One being born of her is the Son of God. And she replied, ‘Be it done unto me according to your word.”
St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 100
(155 AD)

The infant Church mostly consisted of Hebrew converts to the Christian faith who were well versed in the Pentateuch, and so, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they must have perceived a connection between the forbidden fruit which Eve presented to Adam (Gen 1:6-8) and the fruit which Mary had brought to mankind from her blessed womb (Lk 1:42). The difference was that Eve’s offering resulted in mankind’s alienation from God and subjection to death, both physical and spiritual; whereas Mary’s offering reconciled the world to God and gave hope of eternal life with Him.

We know from sacred Scripture that Eve was meant to be Adam’s “helpmate” (Gen 2:18) but, unfortunately, she failed him miserably. What she proposed to her husband led to his fall from grace and consequently the fall of humanity (Gen 3:6, 8-13). Mary, on the other hand, collaborated with God as his helpmate in the redemption of mankind (Lk. 1:42). The Lord’s handmaid received the word of the angel Gabriel with “faith and joy”, unlike Eve who fell prey to the deception of the fallen angel. Mary had no joy except in God, while Eve sought joy in the vain allurements of this world, a weakness of hers which the Devil exploited. The Serpent saw how appealing the forbidden fruit was to Eve’s eye.

Thus, by her “faith working through love” (Gal 5:5-6), Mary did have an active, causative role to play in mankind’s redemption. Being in the state of grace and always willing to please God, she could mediate the coming of the Redeemer into the world. Only the fruit of her womb could obtain the grace of justification and forgiveness for mankind and regenerate human souls unto life with God in the Spirit by his just merits, but not without Mary’s free consent to be the mother of our Lord and Saviour which God willed with necessity.

00130-the_lamb_of_god_christ_mother_virgin_mary_hd-wallpaper-1433801

Mary’s role in the divine order of redemption wasn’t merely a physical one; nor was it completely passive by any means. Our Blessed Lady wasn’t chosen by God simply to serve as a physiological means to an end with absolutely no regard to her human dignity and having been created in the divine likeness (Gen 1:27). Surely, God’s sovereign omnipotence couldn’t negate His goodness and righteousness. The eternal Divine Word could just as easily have become man and be as human as we are by being formed out of the clay of the earth as Adam had been (Gen 2:7), but instead He chose to be “made of a woman” (Gal 4:4).

The truth is that God had something more important in mind for Mary other than being a natural mother when He fashioned her soul and sanctified it upon her conception, preserving her free from all stain of sin (Lk 1:28). Our heavenly Father willed with necessity that Mary’s motherhood should be moral in nature; she was predestined to be intimately associated with the Son in His redemptive work. Her collaboration with God in His grace was necessary, since Eve had freely disobeyed God to fall from His grace. Eve’s transgression had to be blotted out in the most perfect way: by means of reciprocation. The incarnation wouldn’t have occurred by default without the Virgin Mary’s salutary free consent to be the mother of our Lord and Saviour – the unblemished Lamb of God. In the words of Melito de Sardis from his Easter Homily (A.D. 170):  “He was born of Mary the fair ewe.”

8a800-innocence
“And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’ Eve disobeyed God, yet Mary was persuaded to be obedient to God. In this way, the Virgin Mary might become the advocate of the virgin Eve. And thus, as humanity fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so it is rescued by a virgin. Virginal disobedience has been balanced in the opposite scale by virginal obedience. For in the same way, the sin of the first created man received amendment by the correction of the First-Begotten”
St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5:19:11, 38
(180-189 AD)

The coming hope of the world’s salvation rested on our Blessed Lady’s obedient act of faith in charity and grace. This was only fitting, in keeping with God’s goodness and righteousness, since Eve contributed morally to the fall of Adam (mankind) by succumbing to the serpent’s temptation. It may have been because of her egoism that Eve sinned against God. Not unlike the fallen angel Lucifer who appeared to her in the form of a serpent, Eve refused to obey God because of an inordinate love of self which comes with pride and is concomitant with an inordinate desire for created things which she valued more than God the Creator. She did lose her faith in what Adam had told her about God’s command of abstaining from the forbidden fruit on the Tree of Knowledge. In fact, by receiving the words of the Serpent, she wished to be equally like God in her selfish pursuit of happiness by making herself out to be the measure of her own existence; to be like God but before God and apart from God in accordance with her own will (“radical self-deification”).

th

Mary, on the other hand, morally contributed to mankind’s reconciliation with God by humbly accepting the proposition of the angel Gabriel in humility and in perfect love of God. What she willed for herself was what God willed for her, since she had no joy and peace except in the God of Abraham. Mary aligned her will with God’s will because she esteemed His will over her own in steadfast love and unfaltering trust in Him: the essence of faith in Judaic thought. God was the measure of her life. She acknowledged Him as her Creator on whom she ultimately depended and in whom she placed all her confidence. There could be no true life for Mary apart from God. The vain pleasures of this world did not appeal to her.

Considering Eve’s transgression, Mary’s act of faith in charity and grace temporally appeased the Divine justice and pleased God to become incarnate. God could now turn His gaze away from Eve’s infidelity and turn it towards Mary’s faithfulness and love, albeit the unworthiness of sinful humanity. Moreover, the Son of God could now in turn undo the sin of Adam by emptying himself and humbly taking the form of a slave in our humanity, even by accepting his debasing death on a cross, because of the absolute love He had for the Father and His perfect obedience to His will (Phil 2:5-8). Mary had to have the same “mind-set” as that of her divine Son, if he were to come into the world and reconcile mankind to God. She had to have liberty of will and a moral responsibility to God if He were to become incarnate.

1eee5-3fae1-maryhiddenchild
But we must consider another marvelous aspect of the comparison between Eve and Mary. Eve became for men the cause of death, because through her death entered the world. Mary, however, was the cause of life, because life has come to us through her. For this reason, the Son of God came into the world, and, ‘where sin abounded grace super-abounded’ (Rom. 5:20). Whence death had its origin, thence came forth life, so that life would succeed death. If death came from woman, then death was shut out by him who, by means of the woman, became our life.”
St. Epiphanius of Salamis, Against Heresies, 87
(ante A.D. 403)

Hence, God wouldn’t have come into the world any other way, but by the faith and charity of a woman who should reciprocally undo Eve’s indifference and disobedience which eventually alienated mankind from God. Mary’s acceptance of God cancelled out Eve’s rejection of Him. Mary’s Fiat at the Annunciation invited God back into the world so that He could undo what Adam had wrought by Eve’s suggestion. Eve’s participation paved the way for mankind’s spiritual and physical death, while our Blessed Lady’s participation provided the hope of salvation to all who must emulate her faith and charity in God’s grace if they hope to be saved.

By having vindicated Eve, Mary became the maternal advocate of the entire human race. In this sense, she truly is our spiritual mother, whose womb has provided regeneration unto life with God because of her faith and love. The blessed fruit which she has provided to all mankind can now be partaken of from the Tree of Life (Gen 3:24) by her congruous merits in and through the condign merits of her divine Son, the living Font of all grace. The promise of eternal life has rested on the blessed fruit in the palms of Mary’s extended hands ever since she joyfully consented to be the mother of our Lord and Saviour in charity and grace.
.

0a71ac4f571484784de83d8204543c84
Cry aloud to the Lord! O wall of daughter Zion!
Let tears stream down like a torrent day and night!
Give yourself no rest, your eyes no respite!
Lamentations 2, 18
.

The Virgin Mary had rejoiced in the good news that was brought to her by the angel Gabriel, when she declared: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” She responded in a spirit of gladness, despite whatever trials she might have to endure by being the mother of the expected Messiah. As our Blessed Lady joyfully contemplated on the divine favour that was granted to her by God in His infinite mercy, she knew that she would eventually have to sacrifice her maternal rights to fulfill whatever purpose lay in her Divine motherhood. Being the mother of Jesus (in Hebrew, Yeshua: “God is salvation”) certainly entailed much more than the natural state of being a mother. Mary was chosen to nurse and raise a son who was destined to be much more than a carpenter (Lk 1:31-33). He was in fact God who became incarnate to save mankind from sin and death: a king-priest like his royal ancestor David. Indeed, Mary’s maternity was a supernatural divine calling and a spiritual vocation that God preordained for the benefit of all human souls. God’s handmaid was chosen to render humanity a spiritual service because she had found favour with God (Lk 1:30).

Mary was aware that the patriarch’s, judges, and prophets were called to serve God life-long, so she understood that her saving office shouldn’t come to an end once she had completed raising Jesus upon his reaching manhood; nor would it preclude any hardships for her. Still, in the obscurity of faith, which demanded her full trust in God, our Blessed Lady could only imagine what might lay in store for her. She must have thought that her Son’s birth entailed a life-long mission, too, along with hers and that the two of them would somehow be associated together in a work of great personal sacrifice until God’s plan should be fulfilled.

dd8f0-ob_4b5367_untitled

The Lord’s faithful handmaid would finally come to see the fullness of this divine mystery of the Incarnation on Calvary beneath the Cross while enduring her terrible sorrow because of the world’s sins. The Annunciation marked the beginning of her journey in faith under the shadow of the Cross which loomed before her, a journey she was valiantly prepared to take like the Hebrew heroes and heroines who had gone before her because of her love of God and humanity. Conversant with Judaic tradition, Mary understood that the time of the new exodus had arrived with the coming of the long-awaited Messiah who, as foretold by the prophets, would redeem not only Israel, but all humanity of sin, and by doing so, liberate man from bondage and re-create the world. Mary’s faith and trust in God gave her the moral courage she would need to endure the many trials that should come her way for the salvation of the whole world and entry into the new promised land of God’s eternal kingdom.

By pronouncing her Fiat, Mary had dedicated herself to the spiritual service of mankind all because of humanity’s fall from grace and its need to be restored to God’s favour. Working together with God in the salvation of souls required that Mary should suffer for the sins of the world together with her Divine Son (Col 1:24). In true faith, our Blessed Lady was willing to accept all the trials she might have to face as the mother of God’s anointed One. Her flight into Egypt with the infant Jesus was the first of several tremendous sorrows she would have to endure as the Lord’s handmaid (Matt 2:13-23). And so, she was prepared by the power of divine grace to renounce her maternal rights and make satisfaction to God for the sins of the world by offering His gift to her back to Him ultimately on Calvary in the faithful spirit of Abraham (Gen 22:9-10).

It was beneath the Cross where our sorrowful Lady understood all too well how the child she had joyfully conceived and borne was in His Divine Person the ultimate and final propitiation for sin; that he alone could accomplish once and for all what any of the paschal lambs of the Old Covenant could never do: achieve an eternal atonement for the people’s sins through only one, single sacrifice of himself (Heb 9:11-14, 23-26). Our Lord’s handmaid acted believing with all her heart that all the suffering she might have to endure because of her love of God and Son, who was God in the flesh, would be for the greater good (Gen 22:15-18). Thus, on behalf of Israel and the entire world, Elizabeth praised her kinswoman for her faith, when she declared: “Blessed are you who believed, that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk 1:45).

7e6c0-mother-of-all-nations-fragment

The Lord’s Handmaid begot us in Christ Jesus by having received the Gospel message in the depths of her heart (1 Cor 4:15). Mary became our spiritual mother once she accepted the word of the angel in good faith, despite all the suffering that might entail for her but remained obscure. And so, she could have asked herself as she stood at the foot of the Cross: “Was it I who conceived all this people? Was it I who brought them forth, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries a nursing infant,’ to the land which You swore to their fathers?” (Num. 11:12). Mary became the spiritual mother of all the living – the new Eve – and the mother of all nations because she believed and acted on the word of God as Abraham had to become the father of many nations.

Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only beloved son Isaac foreshadowed Mary’s sacrificial offering of her only beloved Son Jesus when, in the shadow of the Cross, she presented her infant Son in the Temple partly as an act of consecration to his heavenly Father in commemoration of Abraham’s great act of faith (Lk 2:22-36). On this occasion, Simeon alluded to the greater soteriological importance of Mary’s maternal role in the economy of salvation, when he prophesied to her: “And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts shall be revealed” (Lk 2:35).

4b8ec-caravaggio-the-presentation-in-the-temple

Although Mary couldn’t have envisioned the scene on Golgotha that would take place about thirty-three years later, the time would arrive when the Mother should stand at the foot of the Cross to witness the horrible suffering and death of her precious Son at the hands of ungrateful sinners and there recall not only the prophetic words of Simeon, but also those piercing words of the prophet Isaiah, which the Jews never associated with the expected Messiah (53:3-5). Along with Simeon, Mary was the first to know who the Suffering Servant was, but how he was to suffer, this she must experience in her pierced soul as the maternal participant and protagonist in the drama of salvation envisioned by Isaiah. Perhaps our sorrowful Lady drew the connection between Jesus and the Suffering Servant at some point afterwards while pondering in her heart what Simeon had portentously said to her. Isaiah, too, must have included her standing beneath the Cross in his vision when he prophesied the passion and death of Jesus:

“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely, he took up our pain and bore our suffering yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Yet, in steadfast faith and trust in God, Mary would receive consolation atop Golgotha in the prophet’s extended vision, which reveals a higher expression of the filial bond between the Woman and her Offspring in their shared enmity with the Serpent and collaboration in bringing its kingdom on earth to ruin.

“For the Lord will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.”

Thus, Mary came to fully realize through her sorrowful experience in the Paschal mystery that her motherhood was essentially more entwined with her Son’s suffering and death than it was with his birthing and nurturing (Lk 11:27-28). The relationship that existed between Mary and Jesus, from the time of his nativity to the inauguration of his public ministry at the wedding feast in Cana, where he performed his first miracle at the wedding feast upon his mother’s request, mattered little in comparison in the Divine plan for her. The Lord’s handmaid was predestined to be much more than the natural mother of Jesus. She was chosen to be the spiritual mother of redeemed humanity. By pronouncing her Fiat, Mary acquired a dual maternity which was eschatological in scope and continues to this present day and shall continue with the end of time.

thEXSEGIMC

​Being the new Eve and promised woman, the Virgin Mary had no offspring other than Jesus, the new Adam. Her sacred womb was meant to produce the fruit of eternal life. By having conceived our Lord and Saviour physiologically, and borne the Font of all saving grace, Mary conceived and bore spiritually all who have been regenerated unto God in Christ her Son and bear fruit that lasts to eternal life. This required that she give birth to redeemed humanity in painful labour beneath the Cross. As Mary sorrowfully gazed upon her suffering and dying son, “she was pregnant and she cried out in her birth pangs, in the anguish of her delivery” (Rev 12:2).

Our joy and gladness in this wilderness and wasteland of a fallen world originally has its raison d’ etre in our Blessed Mother’s faith working through love. Mary became our spiritual mother at the Annunciation, for she first conceived Jesus in her heart before conceiving him in her womb, so St. Augustine has said. Without Mary, the Incarnation would not have taken place, and thereby there would be no hope of salvation; since there would be no Calvary without the Lamb of God. This was all part of God’s perfect plan when He sent the angel Gabriel to an innocent fourteen-year old girl and “fair ewe” in Nazareth by the name of Mary who, not unlike Eve in her innocence, was expected to place all her faith in Him over and against any willfulness of hers. Eve’s unfaithfulness led to Adam’s fall from grace and banishment from Eden; Mary’s faithfulness resulted in the new Adam being raised from the dead and taken up to Heaven to sit on his throne at the right hand of God where he has cast out the Serpent or our accuser by the just merits of his precious blood (Rev 12:5, 10).

708eb-ob_4f235b_th45t6603i

Mary’s motherhood was meant to be redefined at the first instant she said: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.” Of course, Mary may not have imagined this at the time she gave her consent to be the mother of our Lord and Saviour, but Mary was predestined to become the mother of all the living. Being the spouse of the Holy Spirit, by His overshadowing her (Lk 1:35), God’s faithful handmaid and chaste virgin bride was predestined, in the order of grace, to become a mother of a spiritual kind. It was for this reason that God sent His Son to be “made of a woman” (Gal 4:4) and her Son called her “Woman” – notably from the Cross in the presence of the Disciple whom our Lord addressed as her own son (Jn 19:26-27).

Mary was called to suffer as the mother of our Lord to “make up for what was lacking” in her Son’s suffering for the redemption of mankind. Unless she did suffer in her maternal agony because of her love of God who was offended by sin and her love of the Son who was nailed to the cross because of sin, her Divine motherhood couldn’t have been redefined at all. Our Blessed Lady’s spiritual motherhood received its raison d’être in her association with Jesus in mankind’s redemption, which could be achieved only through reparatory suffering and dying to self. Jesus ratified Mary’s universal motherhood of mankind from the Cross in view of her participation in his passion by which it must be validated. Mary gave birth in agony of labour to redeemed humanity for she was willing to take up and lovingly embrace her cross in union with her Son. The Cross which bore her precious offspring and on which she rested her watery cheek was hers as well. In spirit, Mary was nailed to the Cross. The nails that were driven into her Son’s flesh had pierced her soul, too. Both the Mother and the Son were crucified together that dark but promising day for the sins of the world just as Simeon had foretold.

ec974-ob_abd646_maryatcross

Mary gave birth in agony of labour to redeemed humanity for she was willing to take up and lovingly embrace her cross in union with her Son. The Cross which bore her precious offspring and on which she rested her watery cheek was hers as well. In spirit, Mary was nailed to the Cross. The nails that were driven into her Son’s flesh had pierced her soul, too. Both the Mother and the Son were crucified together that dark but promising day for the sins of the world just as Simeon had foretold. Perhaps our sorrowful Mother thought to herself in the words the apostle Paul wrote in his Letter to the Galatians (2:20): ‘I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.’

Indeed, Mary sacrificed her maternal rights by faithfully offering the fruit of her womb over and against a mother’s natural instinct for the sins of the world. She made temporal satisfaction to God in union with her beloved Son’s satisfaction. God honoured her peace offering for the reconciliation of sinful humanity to God, for her Son lived in her by her supernatural act of charity and grace. The Lord was with his Blessed Mother and she with Him. The full force of the angel’s words at the Annunciation pierced her soul as she caressed the Cross in her mother’s anguish. Because of this sacrifice of hers, Mary rightfully became the spiritual mother of all who her Son lives in. Our sorrowful ‘mother with the Redeemer’ truly is our Blessed Queen Mother by being our co-Redemptrix (Rev 12:1-2).

2779b-thlsx5gxfw

Hence, only through sorrow because of sin could Mary give birth to descendants of hers regenerated in the life of grace. Her sacred womb, in which she bore the Head and Body of all her Son’s members is the proto-type of his Mystical Body, which is the Church (Eph 4:4-13), her maternity being dual in aspect. Mary is our heavenly Mother by the fact she conceived and gave birth to Jesus, who is both head and body of the Church, whose members we are. By her Divine Maternity, we are conceived in the Church and reborn in the Spirit when baptized. Spiritually and mystically, all validly baptized Christians (visible and separated invisible members) are conceived in Mary’s womb and brought forth from it through the sacrament of initiation by which they receive the grace of justification and forgiveness. Our Lord’s faithful handmaid is Mother of the Church.

Our Lord implies this when he calls his Blessed Mother “Woman” from the Cross in allusion to Eve before her fall from grace and banishment from Eden to become the mother of all Adam’s fallen descendants. All Christ’s faithful disciples are made of Mary and are as much her sons and daughters as Jesus is her offspring, though not biologically or physically. Jesus is our “brother”, so this must be true. ‘For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters’ (Rom 8:29).

2cde9-ob_c32f1d_thkukp3z0n
Now, why art thou drawn together with grief?
Hast thou no king in thee,
or is thy counsellor perished,
because sorrow hath taken thee as a woman in labour?
Micah 4, 9

As Mary sorrowfully stood beneath the Cross because of the world’s sins, her heart and soul were pierced with immeasurable anguish. What motherly agony she felt made temporal reparation for all the sinful pleasures man obstinately indulges in with no thought given to an offended God. Mary emptied herself and took the form of a slave together with her divine Son in his humanity to help restore the equity of justice between God and mankind. Suffice it to say, our Blessed Lady’s great personal sacrifice counter-acted Eve’s selfish act. Her interior suffering, therefore, made temporal satisfaction to God, for she willingly suffered by her love of God whom she wished to appease for the sins that offended Him and by her love for the Son who suffered because of sin.

Mary’s maternal sacrifice was a peace offering to God for the sake of mankind, also, which was ravaged by sin. In harmony with the Divine will, she desired that humanity be liberated from slavery to sin and the oppression of death wrought by Adam and Eve’s transgression. Her temporal satisfaction to God was made together with her Son’s temporal and eternal satisfaction. Both the sorrowful Mother and the bruised divine Son aligned their human wills with the will of the Father so that He would be both temporally and eternally propitiated for the sins of the world. Temporal satisfaction for sin had to be made first before Christ should open the gates of Heaven. And this he willed to do only in union with his most blessed Mother.

Indeed, as the Mother of the Son, and to be our spiritual mother, Mary was called to “make up for what was lacking” in her Son’s afflictions in her own interior suffering (Col 1:24) to “untie the knot of Eve’s disobedience.” Without Mary’s moral participation, the redemption would be rendered imperfect and incomplete, since Eve significantly contributed to the fall of mankind by her own free will in union with the Serpent.  Mankind’s reconciliation to God could not be fully resolved without the woman crushing the head of the Serpent in her enmity with him by her act of faith in charity and grace (Gen 3:15).

c8fb9-283d7715969e36b2818b9ac1250e260b
For I heard a cry as of a woman in labor,
anguish as of one bringing forth her first child,
the cry of daughter Zion gasping for breath,
stretching out her hands,
“Woe is me! I am fainting before killers!”
Jeremiah 4 31

I believe it is St. Paul who tells us: “For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Heb 12:10). The apostle’s words reflect what he implicitly tells us in Colossians 1:24, that what is “lacking in Christ’s afflictions” refers to the debt of temporal punishment. He means to say that we can “complete” the eternal expiation for sin Christ has made for humanity by offering up our suffering in union with his suffering for the temporal remission of our debt of sin.

God requires this redemptive form of suffering because it restores sinners to the equality of justice in their relationship with Him through sanctification or justification, as to be worthy to enter heaven. God demands that such temporal satisfaction be made on our part in union with Christ’s eternal satisfaction, “for the Lord is a God of justice” (Isa 30:18), and “he judges the people with equity” (Ps 9:8). The Blessed Virgin Mary endured temporal punishment as a satisfaction for the past, present, and future sins of the world in union with her divine Son’s temporal and thereby eternal satisfaction. Having been preserved free from the stain of original sin, she could help restore the friendship and equality of justice between God and mankind, thereby completing what was lacking in her Son’s afflictions in his redemptive work. Her Son had taken up his cross, and so should she carry hers to complete and perfect God’s saving work in accord with His decree. The handmaid of the Lord endured her suffering as our new maternal representative so that we might reign together with the Lord (2 Tim 2:12). We, too, must take up our cross along with her if we hope to benefit from what our Blessed Mother Mary gained to our credit by her congruous merits in union with her Son.

8fbeb-thalkvfbd8

The woman from Nazareth undid the transgression of the woman in Eden by being radically unlike her. In charity and grace, Mary chose a painful loss to counter-balance Eve’s selfish pursuit of personal gain. Mary loved God to the extent of dying to her maternal self, whereas Eve loved herself more than God to the point of being totally indifferent towards Him. Thus, it took the Blessed Virgin’s pleasing sacrifice to temporally appease God for the virgin’s sin. Mary’s sacrifice was acceptable, for it was informed by love and mercy (Hosea 6:6). Meanwhile, Jesus sacrificed himself more for his mother’s sake than for ours because of her willingness to unite her suffering with his in charity and grace. The formal redemption of mankind (objective redemption) would be incomplete unless it were instrumentally applied – initially through the sorrow of a loving mother (subjective redemption) who has shown us what we must do to reap the fruit she has provided and be saved: take up our cross in union with her Son and follow him.

There can be no greater sacrifice than that of a loving mother who offers the life of her beloved offspring to God, and no greater sorrow to appease the Divine wrath than the sorrow of a mother who sacrifices her beloved child because of the offenses against Him. Being the Lord’s handmaid was a divine call for Mary to help reconcile the world to God in union with her divine Son by personal sacrifice, not in co-ordination with his merits, but in co-operation with them. Her divine motherhood was intended to be something that should extend to the whole world and embrace all God’s fallen created children. Having vindicated fallen Eve by persevering in grace and denying herself in faith and love, Mary rightfully became the mother of redeemed humanity: the mother of all who have been restored to new life with God in and through the merits of her beloved Son.
.

thi3y78ifw
Enlarge the place of thy tent,
and stretch out the skins of thy tabernacles,
spare not: lengthen thy cords,
and strengthen thy stakes.
For thou shalt pass on to the right hand, and to the left:
and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles,
and shall inhabit the desolate cities.
Isaiah 54, 2-3
.

Only in union with the sorrow of the Mother in obedience to the will of God would the Son justify fallen man by the outpouring of his blood and merit the grace of forgiveness that leads to his spiritual regeneration. Our valiant Handmaid was prepared by the grace of God to make personal sacrifices for the redemption of Israel and the whole world before the Incarnation would occur pending her consent. True, Jesus offered to lay down his life freely to eternally atone for mankind’s sins, that he might rescue all from the evils of sin and death (Jn 10:18; Gal 1:4), but only on condition that his Mother should decide to deny her maternal rights and carry her cross after him (Lk 9: 23-24). Mary precisely did this when she pronounced her Fiat by the prompting of the Holy Spirit with whom she co-operated in the obscurity of faith.

As the spiritual mother of the world, our Blessed Lady stood morally courageous in the culmination of her sorrow by having to face the terrible agony of gazing upon her beloved Son from beneath the Cross and losing him, all because of her great love for humanity which had been ravaged by sin, and insofar that she wished to align her will with God’s desire that “everyone be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:1-4). As the mother of all people, and in the figure of Mother Zion, Mary acted as any mother normally would by interceding for her children in solicitation of their needs. And because she acted in charity and grace in observance of the Divine will, God honoured His handmaid’s sacrifice and blessed it as he had Abraham’s offering of Isaac.

And so, Mary became the mother of our Lord and Saviour by her free consent in collaboration with the Holy Spirit and cooperation with divine grace. It was the grace of the Holy Spirit which conferred true merit on her. By His prompting, Mary acted in the only way acceptable and pleasing to God. She could not conceive Jesus physically unless she had first conceived him in her heart. Nor could she be the worthy mother of the Son unless she were willing to unite herself to him in his redemptive work in perfect oneness of love for God and human souls and hatred for sin and its ravaging. ‘In burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘See, I have come to do your will, O God’ (Heb 10:6-9). Mary’s consent was as important as her Son’s should be in accord with the Father’s wisdom and righteousness. Her consent to bring the Messiah into the world could be honoured by God only because it conformed to His will, just as the Son’s consent to come into the world was honoured by his Father because it conformed to His will.
.

thO253L8FK
Your sun will never set again,
and your moon will wane no more;
the LORD will be your everlasting light,
and your days of sorrow will end.
Then all your people will be righteous
and they will possess the land forever.
They are the shoot I have planted,
the work of my hands,
for the display of my splendor.”
Isaiah 60, 20-21
.

Mary’s faithful assent to the will of God had to follow through her entire life, just as the Son of man’s assent to the will of the Father had to in his life on earth. Jesus became the source of our salvation through his perfect obedience to the will of the Father. His heavenly Father did designate him to be our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek because he was perfected by learning obedience through suffering for the sake of His love and goodness (Heb 5:8-10). Mary had to be perfected in the same way as her Son was in his humanity for God to redefine her motherhood and designate her Mother of the Church. (Lk 11:27-28; Jn 19:26-27).

Mary conceived and bore the Divine Messiah because she was willing to do any good work that God may have prepared in advance for her to do (Eph 2:10). Only by her good works of mercy in charity and grace could Mary become the spiritual mother of us all. We, her children, must follow in her footsteps, if we hope to conceive Christ in the womb of our souls and be saved. Mary willed in a way that God had wanted her to freely will with the help of His grace in conformity to His will which conferred supernatural merit on her act of faith. Her consent to the will of God eradicated Eve’s consent to the will of the Serpent. “[Mary’s] Yes to God undid the No of sinful Eve” (Text: Alma Redemptoris). By her Fiat, Mary crushed the serpent’s head with her heel, and by her virtuous act of faith, not only did she humiliate the Devil after what he had done to Eve so as to reach Adam, but God’s saving light shone forth into the world. All this because God’s light had shone forth from our Blessed Lady’s soul, which magnified His glory (Lk 1:46).

“There is a great mystery here:
that just as death comes to us through a woman,
life is born to us through a woman.”
St. Augustine, Christian Combat 22.24
(A.D. 396)
.

ob_e5e4ad_ob-fa6d49-th
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God hath shined forth.
Psalm 50, 2
.

40288062_261784844463687_2012067220397490176_n
Salve Regina!

Be It Done to Me

ce704-annunciation1

Establish thy word to thy servant, in thy fear.
Psalm 119, 38

And Mary said:
Behold the handmaid of the Lord;
be it done to me according to thy word.
And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1, 38
.

What was essential in the Divine plan of salvation was that the Blessed Virgin Mary should have the freedom to decide whether to be the mother of our Lord and Saviour. It was necessary that her liberty of will be honoured for the sake of all righteousness in harmony with the Divine essence. God desired that Mary should say Yes, and only then would He become incarnate to redeem the world in the Person of the Divine Word.

​In Catholic theology, there is a marked difference between what God desires and what God decrees. What God desires is His antecedent will, and what God decrees is His consequent will. God desires that everyone be saved (Ezek 18:23; 1 Tim 2:4; 1 John 2:2, etc.), but He decrees that unrepentant souls must be cast into the everlasting fire of Hell in eternal expiation for their grave sins (Matt 25:41; Lk 13:3, etc.). So, God desired that Mary should say Yes to His will before He would become man. What God desired (antecedent will) would not have been realized if Mary had said No to His messenger. But God’s decree (consequent will) that Mary should have the freedom to choose to be the mother of His Only-begotten Son would have been fulfilled whether she said Yes or No to Him.

th_16

​If God has decreed or determined that we all say Yes to Him with no qualification or condition, then no human soul could possibly perish. Nor could we be at liberty to choose God and accept His will for the sake of His love and goodness above all else. If we choose to say No to God, the negative consequence of being alienated and separated from Him is something we bring upon ourselves (Deut 30:19; 2 Tim 2:12, etc.). God has willed with necessity that we have the freedom to say Yes or No to His will, for He desires that we truly love Him to make our abode with Him (Jn 14:23).​

God desires that we say Yes instead of No, and so, He has given each of us the liberty to decide for ourselves. He does not determine that we say Yes to His will, or else our love for God and our faithful obedience to Him, because of our love, become non-sequitur. In the same vein, neither did God determine or coerce Mary to say Yes to the angel Gabriel. God willed with necessity that our Lady have the freedom to choose Him over any natural desire of hers. This liberty of will that God decreed Mary should have entailed consequences not only for her, but also humanity.

At the Annunciation, Mary led our way to God in the order of grace by helping make our pilgrimage of faith possible. By her free consent to be the mother of our Lord and Saviour, Christ came into the world to save us from our sins and to exemplify in his humanity what we must do to be saved in concurrence with his own spiritual disposition. Without free will, we couldn’t possibly possess the supernatural virtues that justify the soul before God and unite it to Him. Fortunately for us, Mary was full of grace when the angel appeared to her in the month of Nisan.

th_42

When God fashioned Mary’s soul at the first instant of her conception, He knew that she would freely say Yes just by having created her without having to peer into the future to discover for Himself what her answer to the angel would be (scientia media). It’s like someone who can know an entire story from beginning to end by just looking at the cover of a book. The only reason Mary couldn’t have said No was because God infallibly knew in the immediate eternal present that she would say Yes to Him. And since He knew Mary would say Yes, she would then have had to. Thus, neither did God have to depend on her Fiat to become incarnate, though He desired that she freely say Yes before He would.​

For God it wasn’t a question of will she or won’t she say Yes. God didn’t rely on other possible options either, if she should say No. There is nothing outside of God that can constrain Him, for He infallibly knows all things that do or shall exist. But God may freely will to obligate Himself to do what is righteous in concurrence with His moral attributes. What God decreed with necessity, therefore, was that He send the angel Gabriel to Mary for her free consent so that all people might be saved as He desired, knowing that she would say Yes to Him according to His will. Elizabeth, too, could then praise her kinswoman for her obedient act of faith to our Lady’s merit (Lk 1:45).

untitled_29

God could only have coerced Mary to say Yes if He did not know for certain what her reply would be or if He knew she would say No. There is nothing glorious about God imposing His will on anyone created in His image and acting like a benevolent tyrant or a patroniser. And, of course, God sent His Son into the world because of His absolute love for us, not because He had to. A Calvinist will tell us that God decreed Adam should sin so that the Son could save the Elect from the bondage of sin and damnation for the glory of God. However, we in turn must freely reciprocate our heavenly Father’s love by being obedient to Him if we hope to be saved and make our eternal dwelling with Him as He desires.

Our relationship with God is covenantal from the time He first created Adam who sinned by his own free will, or else there could be no such thing as original sin in the first place and no need for a redeemer and saviour. Indeed, Mary proclaims in her Magnificat: “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour” (Lk 1:46-47). Without her Fiat, our Blessed Lady would have no cause to rejoice. God’s glory is proclaimed by the supernatural quality of our souls through co-operation with His saving grace. Our righteousness must be our very own in collaboration with the Holy Spirit for us to enter the kingdom of heaven. At the Annunciation, Mary led our way to God in the order of grace by helping make our pilgrimage of faith possible. By her free consent to be the mother of our Lord and Saviour, Christ came into the world to save us from our sins and to exemplify in his humanity what we must do to be saved in concurrence with his own spiritual disposition. Without free will, we couldn’t possibly possess the supernatural virtues that justify the soul before God and unite it to Him. Fortunately for us, Mary did.

th_45

That the Son of man should suffer for our transgressions and die as an expiation for our sins wasn’t an option for God either. Jesus himself said: “Was it not necessary for the Messiah to endure these things and to enter into his glory?” (Lk 24:26). So, what was also necessary was that our Lord be “made of a woman” who had the liberty to accept or reject the will of God, as much as Eve had, as to fulfill all righteousness (Gal 4:4). God didn’t depend on Mary’s reply to the angel, but the Incarnation did. Nor did God depend on Eve to cast her and her husband out from Eden. Adam and Eve had themselves banished from paradise by freely disobeying God. They weren’t predetermined to sin or to act like a planet in orbit around the Sun. Their disobedience, therefore, could be undone only by the obedience of Jesus and Mary in their filial love for the Father and complete willingness to propitiate His justice.

So, our Lord didn’t have to become man to expiate sin, but in His love and mercy for mankind, God willed to reconcile the world to Himself by the sacrifice of the Son, provided a woman should humbly and lovingly receive Him into the world (Rev 3:20). That Mary should say Yes was as necessary as it was for her divine Son to suffer and die to atone for the sins of mankind, since the Father graciously willed her moral participation and decreed it should be enough. The sacrifice Jesus made of himself in the person of the Son was his humble and loving Yes to the Father in his humanity (Jn 14:31). God would have it no other way, or else the angel Gabriel wouldn’t have appeared to the Virgin Mary at all.

d69c1-th-8

Thus, God desired that Mary say Yes to His will and decreed that she shouldn’t decide to say No, if she hoped to be saved with the rest of humanity. Our Blessed Lady’s Yes to God temporally preceded her Divine Son’s Yes to the Father and brought the Lamb of God into the world so that his Yes may redeem humanity (Jn 1:29). Mary freely chose what God desired, since she desired nothing but what He desired. For this reason, the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, and she conceived and bore God’s holy Son (Lk 1:35).​

Mary sought the fulfillment of their shared desire so that it would redound to God’s glory. Whatever reward she might merit for her obedient act of faith was secondary in value to her. What mattered to her above all, apart from her compassion towards fallen humanity, was that in justice God should be appeased for the sins of the world because of His infinite love and goodness. The handmaid of the Lord proved to be the ideal model of what it means to have the saving theological virtue of faith in charity and grace, without which no person can ever hope to be saved.

“O, how marvellous it is! She acts as a mediatrix
between the loftiness of God and the lowliness of the flesh
and becomes Mother of the Creator.”
St. Andrew of Crete
Homily 1 on Mary’s Nativity
(740 A.D.)

95dde-a17d83_ef3237a9fbf64b01ae4798039c168176257emv2_d_1922_3000_s_2
γένοιτό μοι κατ τ ῥῆμά σου

The angel Gabriel departed upon Mary’s Fiat as instantly as when he appeared to her. The purpose of his visit had been accomplished as expected when Mary humbly decided to align her will with God’s will so that what the angel said to her should be fulfilled. The original Greek text is transliterated genoito moi kata to rhēma. What our Lady declared to the angel in Aramaic, therefore, was, “Be it to me what you have said.” In other words, seeing that the angel was God’s messenger, Mary said, “May it be for me in accordance with God’s will.” Our Lady’s response was an act of faith working through love (Gal 5:5-6).

The expression genoito (γένοιτό) or “be it” indicates that our Blessed Lady did not merely act in passive submission like a slave who has no choice but to submit to her master’s command in dreadful fear. Rather, she responded freely and appreciatively in a spirit of great joy. This Greek word is a form of the verb ginomai (γίνομαι) or “to come into being”. God’s word found fulfilment and the Incarnation happened because Mary found no true joy in this world except in God. The Divine Word or Logos would not come into the world unless He were joyfully and lovingly received by the young maiden he chose to be His mother.

08dc8-thgyfduw0j

What gave Mary much cause to rejoice was the thought that what God had decreed from all eternity should come to be through His chosen handmaid. Mary freely chose to do God’s will by giving her salutary consent because she cherished the spirit of the Torah and yearned for God’s justice and mercy to be visibly manifested in a wicked world. She constantly sought the Lord throughout her life, understanding and appreciating everything that pleased God. The Annunciation happened because, in her humility and poverty of spirit, Mary sought nothing for her own glory, owning that only God Himself could exalt her by looking with favour on the lowliness of his handmaid (Lk 1:48).​

The Annunciation happened because of Mary’s love of God and her poverty of spirit. Eve helped alienate mankind from God because of her pride and vanity. The Lord’s chosen handmaid was called not only to undo Eve’s disobedience, but to do so in a reciprocal way, that is by being of a radically opposed disposition. God’s goodness and love required no other path than this one in His plan of redemption. Through Mary’s faith and love should the Son undo the sin of Adam and conquer the serpent once and for all. Mary was called to be more of a faithful helpmate than a physically nurturing mother of the new Adam (Gen 2:18; Lk 11:27-28).

Thus, what happened was that the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with a Divine proposition. She wasn’t commanded to be the mother of our Lord in the least. The angel simply revealed God’s plan to her, which Mary was at liberty to either embrace or reject. Now the angel speaks of the conception and birth of a son, whom Mary is to call Jesus, as being definite future events. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that Mary had no choice but to be the mother of the Lord. God’s foreknowledge doesn’t determine our actions. Rather, God knew from all eternity that His faithful handmaid would find no joy in this world except in life with Him. And so, our Blessed Lady would joyfully choose to say Yes to His will without any hesitation.

76a21-rp528-2l

God knew that by the efficacious influence of His actual grace and the prompting of the Holy Spirit that Mary would never want to say No to Him. Perhaps the apostle Paul had the mother of our Lord in the back of his mind when he wrote: ‘For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them’ (Eph 2:10). And since “God desires that everyone be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth,” He sent His angelic messenger to the woman who He foretold to the serpent would crush its head by her act of faith in charity and grace which bore the redemptive fruit of her womb.

The Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary because He was already dwelling in her soul. The angel appeared to her since she was a pure and chaste temple of God, worthiest of all young maidens to be the mother of the Lord (1 Cor 3:16). Mary understood through the Spirit’s gift of wisdom and humbly accepted in faith that she was God’s creative handiwork, and as such she was not “her own” but belonged primarily to God her Creator Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14), for Mary’s soul “magnified the Lord” (Lk 1:46). Being “the temple of the living God,” there were no worldly idols in her soul that could defile her. Mary was chosen to be the mother of God because she was a true servant of Israel in the spirit – God’s chosen daughter who had no affinity with sinful humanity (2 Cor 6:16).

untitled

God had put His Spirit in Mary when He fashioned and sanctified her soul at the first instant of her conception and preserved her free from contracting the stain of original sin, so that His handmaid would always walk in His statutes and observe His ordinances without ever falling from His grace. Without violating Mary’s liberty of will, but being exceptionally persuasive, God caused her to never want to say No to Him by the efficacy of His actual graces and the gifts of the Holy Spirit which enabled her to refrain from committing any personal sins in either thought, word, or deed (Ezek 36:27; Lk 1:28).​

​Our Blessed Lady “guarded the treasures” of the Holy Spirit that were entrusted to her as His gifts throughout her entire life (2 Tim 1:14). She would have had to, or else God wouldn’t have sent His messenger to her with His proposal. The mother of God must never fall from grace but should always find favour with Him (Lk 1:30). Mary had no cause to fear the Divine justice, having been preserved free from all stain of sin. The Annunciation happened because she bore the fruit of the Spirit in conducting her life: “love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” – and I should add humility and poverty of spirit (Gal 5:22). Our Lord’s faithful and chaste handmaid lived her life “not in the flesh, but in the spirit.” She conceived Christ because His Spirit dwelled in her. Mary could be his mother, for she belonged to him, having been pledged to her Divine Son by the grace of God in her own mother’s womb (Rom 8:9). Mary received a singular anointing from Him, who would be her Son, upon her Immaculate Conception, so that she would always abide in him, as to be a mother worthiest of him (1 Jn 2:27).

“Mary was more blessed in receiving the faith of Christ than in conceiving the body of Christ…. Her motherly closeness to Christ
would have meant nothing if she had not carried Christ more happily
in her heart than in her womb.
St. Augustine, Sermon 215, 1
(391-430 A.D.)

7a5d7-ob_a7145c_40b1e2c3ce5fac42682ba836ca3c355d

“You have knowledge of all things, and you know that I hate the splendor of the wicked and abhor the bed of the uncircumcised and of any alien. You know my necessity—that I abhor the sign of my proud position, which is upon my head on days when I appear in public. I abhor it like a filthy rag, and I do not wear it on the days when I am at leisure. And your handmaid has not eaten at Haman’s table, and I have not honored the king’s feast or drunk the wine of libations. Your handmaid has had no joy since the day that I was brought here until now, except in you, O Lord God of Abraham. O God, whose might is over all, hear the voice of the despairing, and save us from the hands of evildoers. And save me from my fear!”
Esther [C] 14, 14-19 

In the spirit of Queen Esther, the Virgin Mary possessed a steadfast love of God and trust in His mercy. She felt sorrowful compassion for humanity in exile no less than the Jewish heroine had for her people in their captivity. Mary’s Fiat rose to heaven as sweetly as Esther’s prayer had risen to God, that He may deliver His people from slavery to sin and the clutches of impending death. Mary understood that God desired to be merciful to mankind and offer sinful humanity its redemption with the coming of the promised Messiah. She desired as much that God’s justice be manifested so that the enemies of mankind, viz., suffering and death, could be destroyed once and for all.

When our Blessed Lady declared “Be it done to me,” she wished to relieve the world of its distress that was brought about by its sinful condition. She believed that only God could deliver the world from the powers of darkness through His Messiah, if it were His good will. Mary saw, by the sanctifying light of faith, that her Yes to God would contribute in casting the prince of darkness from his throne and bring permanent ruin to his dominion on earth along with his wicked seed who have cause to fear the Divine justice. God’s hatred for sin would now be turned against the author of sin for the love and tender compassion He had for His people (Gen 3:14). God would honor Mary’s consent, for His beloved handmaid was a daughter after His heart.

f3c2e-ob_327bf5_ob-1d35dc-th

Mary couldn’t possibly want to say No, for the child that she shall bear will inherit the throne of his father David and establish his heavenly kingdom on earth upon deposing the dark ruler of this world (Lk 1:31-33). It was “in the presence of the lion” which prowled around in the world to devour vulnerable souls that Mary freely consented to be the mother of the divine Messiah. God honored her decision by becoming incarnate, since her will aligned with His. Her soul “magnified the Lord” being unaffected by pride and inordinate desires. There was no place for alluring idols in the depths of her soul. Mary “never graced the banquets of earthly kings or drank the wine of libations” to any idols, for the God of Abraham was her only true joy.​

​Indeed, the Messiah was forever her King and Saviour, in whom her spirit rejoiced (Lk 1:46-47). In him she had hoped to find refuge and receive strength in a wicked world. It was He who she always yearned would finally come to satisfy the righteous in their hunger for justice and send away the wicked empty along with their vain riches. Mary couldn’t resist the joy of bearing the One who she desired would rule the world with a rod of iron or justice (Rev 2:27; 19:15). From his throne, he would “scatter the proud in their conceit, cast down the mighty from their thrones, and lift up the lowly” (Lk 1:50-51).

ob_f60e10_94e437fe709f4c12b38000c60aef6bca

Mary was blessed above all women for having been chosen to be the Mother of God, but unless she first found joy in helping to accomplish what God desired, she would never have been graced with the joy of being His mother; nor could there be any explanation for Mary’s joy if she were nothing more than a subjected slave who had no choice but to submit to her master’s command in fear of his wrath. The angel assured our Blessed Lady that she had no cause to fear his presence, and that was because she had found favour with God by having observed His word throughout her life (Lk 1:30). And he implicitly assured her that she would remain in God’s grace from that time on, or else she wouldn’t have been chosen to be the mother of the Lord (Lk 1:28). Jesus himself would affirm that his mother Mary was more (menoun) blessed for her faith and impeccable obedience to God than she was for being a natural mother to him (Lk 11:27-28).​

​The Lord’s handmaid heard the word of God and kept it treasured in the depths of her immaculate heart, not because she feared the Divine wrath, but rather because she loved God more than any created thing. So, she had no cause to fear His wrath, unlike the wicked. ‘There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment’ (1 Jn 4:18). God’s grace went before the Virgin Mary from the first instant of her conception, through her birth, and until her Dormition; since she was predestined to be the Mother of God (Isa 7:14; Lk 1:35, 43). She was infallibly made and kept pure of heart and inviolate in body and soul by the power of divine grace which our Blessed Lady was exceptionally endowed with, and opened her soul to, because of her election to the Divine Maternity. Now to Him who could keep Mary from falling and to present her before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy, be glory, power, majesty, and authority through Jesus Christ our Lord (Jude 1:24-25).

untitledBBIXNM5Q

From the time God first promised Abraham that He would make him the father of many nations, at the time God established His covenant with His chosen people through Moses at Mount Sinai, during the reign of the Davidic kings, and through the time of the prophets, all things were hastening towards the day when the Holy Spirit would come, bringing the light of life and fire from heaven. Ezekiel envisioned the coming of the Paraclete whom Christ would send as he promised he would after his resurrection and ascension into heaven: “Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and k bring you into the land of Israel. “Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. “I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land” (Ezek 37:12-14). And again: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek 36:26; cf. Acts 2:17).

It was on Pentecost that the Scriptures were fulfilled. On this day, the Mystical Body of Christ, that is the Church, was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came down in the upper room while all the disciples were “persevering with one mind in prayer with the women, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:14). Mary was placed at the centre of this small company of disciples when the Holy Spirit came down upon them in a rush of wind and with fire because of her association with Him in the hypostatic order of Christ’s incarnation. The Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and the disciples present there since He had already come upon Mary. By the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Church was born. The word of God was conceived by all the faithful in the upper room in the womb of their souls as the living Word of God had been conceived in the womb of his most Blessed Mother because of her immaculate heart.

4d0f6-thcyjwvtou

All this came to be starting with the Blessed Virgin Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, when the angel Gabriel appeared to her in the month of Nisan to give her the good news of salvation. Mary conceived the Divine Word in her womb, for she had found favour with God, who had put His spirit within her at the first instant of her conception. The Spirit came into her heart and filled her soul with full abundance of His grace. And, so, she physically conceived Jesus, as the Apostles and all the disciples would spiritually conceive him, for the Church to be born. There could be no Church if it weren’t for her spotless and unblemished proto-type: The Blessed Virgin Mary. No bride of Christ could have been born without the personal spouse of the Holy Spirit who has sanctified the Church by His presence only by having first sanctified Mary’s womb. Our Blessed Lady represents in her person the nuptial union between Christ and his Church.

What was fulfilled on Pentecost in the heart and soul of mankind was anticipated in the heart and soul of Mary. She was the first member to have formed the mystical Body of Christ with her Son as Head. Our Blessed Lady pronounced her Fiat because the charity of God was poured forth into her heart by His sanctifying grace through the Spirit who was given to her (Rom 5:5). She received the Spirit of adoption as a daughter of God whereby she could joyfully cry “Abba Father” (Rom 8:15): “May it be done to me according to thy word.” There could be no Pentecost without the Incarnation, no incarnation without the Virgin Mary. Her Fiat or loving consent was her “I do.” The Annunciation was Mary’s wedding day. Her marriage with the Divine Bridegroom in the Holy Spirit was consummated the first instant she conceived him in her womb so that he would be conceived in the womb of the virgin Church and born into the world through the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments – signs of our new life with God.

thAQHCP7EV

Perhaps we could say the Church was born at the Annunciation. The Incarnation did occur within the sanctuary of Mary’s immaculate heart. Her innermost being was where her Divine Son was initially conceived before he should physically enter his mother’s sacred womb. Mary the immaculate mother was in her person the “holy and unblemished bride” of her Son – a living symbol of the Church (Eph 5:27). The Holy Spirit overshadowed and filled her with an abundance of even more grace, since she was trusting and obedient to God whom she loved and adored above all created things. The heart of Mary was a redeemed heart of flesh which foreshadowed the upper-room where redeemed man would be gathered waiting for the promised Spirit.

The mystery of the heart of the Church was originally manifested in the heart of Mary when she joyfully consented to be the mother of God incarnate and our Divine Bridegroom. She kept God’s words and signs, pondering them in her heart all her life, and even more fervently since the angel appeared to her. (Lk 2:19, 51). The Holy Spirit came down in the upper room because Mary had persevered in faith to the end. By her perseverance in faith, conversions of the heart in living souls would take place from the day the Church was born (Acts 2:41). Mary truly is the Mother of the Church, our mother in virtue of our marriage covenant with her divine Son (Jn 2:2-11).

​​Thus, Mary represents the Church her Son has established – the New Jerusalem come down from heaven – as the proto-type of all faithful believers. Because of her faith working through love, God’s only Son became man by the power of the Holy Spirit. By her salutary consent, many sons and daughters were to be born to God from the womb of the Church by the power of that same Holy Spirit who overshadowed her. All the prophecies were fulfilled in Mary, Isaiah’s sign of the restoration, for the Holy Spirit had breathed life into her soul, this same Spirit who shall change the world in the last age in collaboration with her.

“And so, brethren, may it be granted to us to adore with deep humility the indivisible Trinity. And then let us praise with songs of joy Mary ever-virgin, who herself is clearly the holy Church, together with her Son and most chaste spouse. To God be praise forever.”
St. Cyril of Alexandria, Council of Ephesus
(431 A.D.)

394c4-ob_381b7d_th4kze9lva
I delight to do Your will, O my God;
Your Law is within my heart.
Psalm 40, 8

What Ezekiel envisioned with other prophets was God’s establishment of His New Dispensation which would replace the Old and include the Gentiles, who together with the faithful remnant of Israel would constitute His heavenly kingdom, the Church of the New Testament. The Christian ethic was not to be found in a collection of commands and norms, but was to be the Holy Spirit Himself, who in essence and act is love. Mary was the first of God’s newly chosen people who were to be moved and motivated by the Holy Spirit as God is in His deeds.

Mary is the proto-type of the Church: the living members of Christ’s mystical Body in virtue of their baptism and adherence to the one true faith. She conceived the living Word of God in her womb because she faithfully collaborated with the Holy Spirit, who prompted her to live in the same way as God in emulation of her Divine Son. God looked with favor on His handmaid because she opened her heart and soul to the Spirit that was given to her. Mary was chosen to be the mother of God incarnate because she lived her life in accordance with the spirit of the law, the natural law of love and freedom which God had inscribed in every human heart but became obscure. This law is love, which is the person of the Holy Spirit, our instructor. By following this single command, Mary could abide in God as all her Son’s faithful disciples do by fulfilling their baptismal commitments (Mt 22:37-40; 1 Jn 4:16).

428a8-th-3

Our Lord and Savior came into the world because the maiden he had chosen to be His mother was filled with the Holy Spirit, specially prepared by God to receive Him in her holy womb. He had filled her soul with His sanctifying grace and regenerated her heart in anticipation of sanctifying her womb and His personal dwelling place. There was a unity and harmony between the Holy Spirit and Mary who was a true daughter of God and His covenant with her people. Unlike most of the Jews in her time, she was in no dire need to be solely dependent upon the religious instructions of her elders and kept in rein. God Himself was her counsellor whom she heeded with spiritual perfection.

​Indeed, Mary was free of the curse of the law, for the Holy Spirit dwelled inside her and ruled her soul instructing her how to live. Not once did she ever commit a personal sin, for her heart was totally pure and untainted. Mary abided in God’s love, for the door to her heart was always left open to Him. She joyfully received all she was taught in the depths of her heart and soul (1 Jn 2:27) just as she had the words of the angel in humility and poverty of spirit. The Annunciation happened because Mary was like a little child who depended on her father for all her spiritual needs. In humble silence, Mary pondered all His words and kept them in her heart. The Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary because she allowed Him to lead her in doing what He desired. In this sense, she was truly free, being completely personalized in the divine image she was originally created in (2 Cor 3:17).

12866-15884183457_aff6ed4f2d_b

Hence, Mary conceived and bore the Divine Word made man because she desired only what God desired of her. The Spirit Himself bore witness with her spirit (which rejoiced in God her savior) that she was truly a daughter of God after His own heart (Rom 8:16). And so, the Church was born when Mary joyfully declared: “May it be done to me according to thy word.” The mystery of Mary is the same mystery of the Church, whose existence is grounded in the faith and love she possessed as the result of the Spirit’s presence (the life-giving water of Christ that draws us to the Father) within her (Rev 22:17), without which Christ would not have been conceived in her womb and entered the world for our redemption.​

Our Blessed Lady and Handmaid of the Lord was the first labourer to joyfully work in her Son’s vineyard for the salvation of souls in faith working through love by consenting to be his mother and following him all the way to the Cross on Calvary (Mt 20:1-16). Without her presence at the foot of the Cross, no blood (justification) and water (regeneration) would have flowed from our Lord’s side to give birth to the Church as one visible corporate entity united in faith, for there could be no Calvary unless Mary faithfully stood beneath the Cross uniting her interior suffering with her Son’s anguish because of sin. Without the Blessed Virgin Mary, there could be no Disciple standing there with her as a fellow pilgrim of faith rejoicing in God’s salvation despite the great trials.

“Raised to heaven, she remains for the human race an unconquerable rampart, interceding for us before her Son and God.”
Theoteknos of Livias, Assumption 291
(ante A.D. 560)

thYK9FGQOF
Shall not Zion say:
This man and that man is born in her,
and the Highest himself hath founded her?
Psalm 87, 5
.

40288062_261784844463687_2012067220397490176_n
Salve Regina!