I Will Put Enmities Between Thee and the Woman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Talmud says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hail, Full of Grace!

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

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

And the angel being come in, said unto her:
Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee:
blessed art thou among women.
Luke 1, 28
.

κα εσελθν γγελος πρς ατν επεν
Χαρε κεχαριτωμένη κύριος μετ σο
ελογημένη σ ν γυναιξίν
.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sing aloud, O Daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you,
he has cast out your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall fear evil no more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Most Blessed Are You among Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:

“Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah 3, 14-18

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

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

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

“Blessed Virgin, immaculate and pure you are the sinless Mother of your Son, the mighty Lord of the universe. You are holy and inviolate, the hope of the hopeless and sinful; we sing your praises. We praise you as full of every grace, for you bore the God-Man. We all venerate you; we invoke you and implore your aid…Holy and immaculate Virgin…be our intercessor and advocate at the hour of death and judgment…you are holy in the sight of God, to Whom be honor and glory, majesty, and power forever.”
St. Ephraem of Syria (A.D. 373)
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Beautiful for elevation,
the joy of the whole earth,
is mount Zion,
on the sides of the north,
the city of the great King.
Psalm 48, 2
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Salve Regina!

My Soul Glorifies the Lord

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Time Came for Their Purification

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Word will become flesh,
and the Son of God the son of man–
the Pure One opening purely that pure womb,
which generates men unto God.”
St. Irenaeus , Against Heresies, 4, 33, 12
(A.D. 180-190)
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I will declare the decree:
the LORD hath said unto me,
Thou art my Son;
this day have I begotten thee.
Psalm 2, 7
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Salve Regina!