The Power of the Most High Shall Overshadow Thee

a17d83_0362deb4061f44289bce7a2ccdb207a2mv2-1

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.
Ezekiel 16, 8

And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou amongst women… And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end. And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Luke 1, 26-35
.

The intimate union between the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin Mary is redolent of a marriage in a spiritual and mystical sense, no less than the relationship between YHWH and Israel is. Though God calls Israel his servant (Isa 41:8), the relationship between YHWH and His chosen people is far more intimate than one between a lord and his servant, no less than the relationship between God and his handmaid is. In the Old Testament, we find that the relationship between YHWH and Israel was essentially a covenantal one indicative of the moral union between a husband and a wife, which foreshadows the espousal between Mary and the Holy Spirit and, of course, Christ the Divine Bridegroom and his virgin bride, the Church.

A type of wedding vow was made between YHWH and the Hebrews at the time Moses received the Divine laws on Mount Sinai for the people of Israel (Ex 19:5-8). At this moment in the history of the Hebrews, Israel became God’s virgin bride. Being her husband’s chaste spouse, she was committed to remain faithful to him. First and foremost, she was not to have other gods before YHWH (Ex 20:1-3). Israel’s occasional infidelity toward her husband was in principle a violation of their wedding vow, and her worshipping of false gods was tantamount to acts of adultery in the eyes of God.

God had to send many judges and prophets to declare His word to Israel and remind her of the covenant relationship He established with His bride. Jeremiah was called to admonish the Israelites for having ignored and persecuted the prophets that God had sent to them because of their infidelity towards Him (Jer 24:4-6). By this time, the husband’s patience towards His spouse had run out to the extent that God, however reluctantly, presented Israel with a writ of divorce. This was after God had pleaded with His chosen people for seven centuries to heed His voice and return to Him and be a faithful and loving spouse. But they would not listen as they should in keeping with their marriage covenant with God. “And I saw, when for all the causes for which backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also” (Jer 3:8).

bride1
For your Maker is your husband;
the LORD of hosts is his name;
and your Redeemer the Holy One of Israel;
The God of the whole earth shall he be called.
Isaiah 54, 5

The decree of divorce did not in any way annul the marriage covenant between YHWH and Israel. It did not liberate the nation from observing the terms of their covenant relationship with God. His intention was to compel the Israelites to come back to Him by removing His protection over them from the surrounding hostile nations and allowing Israel to be taken into bondage because of her infidelity. The people of the Northern Kingdom or House of Israel ended up in Assyrian captivity, followed by the southern kingdom of Judah which fell to the Babylonians and resulted in the destruction of the first Temple.

If God’s writ of divorce was still in effect, His bride couldn’t return to Palestine or, in other words, her husband’s house. The writ served as a means of discipline exacted from an offended husband to his wife to enable her to realize how much she needed him rather than the false idols she had placed before Him in violation of their indissoluble covenant. It was because of His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God had no intention to disown, but to restore Israel and renew His covenant with her despite her unworthiness. God willed to take Israel back into His house, notwithstanding her adulterous past, provided she dissolved her marriage with the false gods of Assyria and Babylon and willingly came back to Him (Ezek 20:33-37; Jer 31:31-33).

22f18-ea6c3c00a79ded821962c6ffcbbcca74
And you shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy,
and have separated you from other people,
that you should be mine.
Leviticus 20, 26

The Old Testament frequently depicts Israel as God’s bride, who is expected to be pure and chaste in her nuptial relationship with Him: faithful and loving. As the virgin bride of YHWH, nothing more is required of her than to place all her hope (hasah) and trust (galal) in her husband in a spirit of “steadfast love” which all the six aspects of faith embrace in Judaism. It is God who espouses Israel, removing her from her lowly origin, her fornication and prostitution, and purifying her to be His worthy spouse.

That God should renew His covenant with Israel is best explained by the fact that Israel was elected to be the people from whom the Divine Word would take his flesh. And since 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. Both Israel and Mary had the divine privilege of bringing the Messiah into the world. Because of their common roles, both had to be specially prepared by God: set apart from the rest of humanity and consecrated to Him as His chaste and faithful bride. 

Behold, the days come, said the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; my covenant which they broke, although I was a husband unto them, says the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Jeremiah 31, 31-33

ob_60c315_the-annunciation-luc-oliver-merson-1
And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee,
called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Mary.
And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou amongst women.
Luke 1, 27-28

Various translations of Luke 1:27 have Mary “betrothed” or “espoused” to Joseph at the time of the Annunciation. Either term means that the couple were legally married, although their marriage hadn’t been consummated yet. Mosaic law provided a two-part marriage ceremony. It began with the betrothal or espousal (Kiddushin) in which Joseph would have given Mary a marriage document and a token of monetary value, usually a ring. The Hebrew word for “betrothed” is kiddush, which is derived from meaning “holy, consecrated, and set apart” as Israel is described to be in her marital relationship with God. In Jewish practice, this is the central moment of the initial wedding ceremony at which time a contract is signed making the couple legally married.

Now the second part of their marriage would have followed a year after the first wedding ceremony. By this time, Joseph was expected to be able to provide for Mary. And if both were happy with each other and remained faithful to each other, the second and final wedding ceremony (Nisuin) would solemnly take place. The ketubah (contract) was the focal point of the second wedding ceremony. Here Joseph would have formally accepted the responsibilities of providing food and shelter, clothing for his wife, and attending to her emotional needs. After the ketubah was signed by Joseph and the two witnesses, and presented to Mary, the marriage was solemnized. Assured of her marital rights, Mary could now move into her husband’s home and consummate their marriage.

6b46d-ob_dfdc9d_betrothal-of-mary-and-joseph

However, according to early Christian tradition, Mary and Joseph agreed on having a chaste marriage before the first marriage ceremony took place because of a vow of continence she had made to God as a young girl while living and serving in the temple. That Joseph should agree to such an arrangement isn’t at all implausible considering Numbers 30:

Vows taken by a married woman
“And if she is married to a husband, while under her vows or any thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she has bound herself, and her husband hears of it, and says nothing to her on the day that he hears; then her vows shall stand, and her pledges by which she has bound herself shall stand. But if, on the day that her husband comes to hear of it, he expresses disapproval, then he shall make void her vow which was on her, and the thoughtless utterance of her lips, by which she bound herself; and the LORD will forgive her.”

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

Torah scholar Jacob Milgrom informs us that the woman’s vow “to afflict herself” meant fasting and abstaining from sexual relations to ancient Jews. Judith may have made such a vow after her encounter with God. She never remarried at her young age after her husband died and left her childless, probably because of her close nuptial type of communion with God. And the fact she never remarried presupposes that such a vow must have been permanent. Moses himself remained continent in his marriage for the rest of his life once God summoned him to lead the Israelites to the promised land, and so did the seventy elders abstain from their wives after they received the call to produce the Septuagint. Eldad and Medad did likewise after the spirit of prophecy came upon them, according to ancient Jewish tradition (Midrash Exodus Rabbah 19; 46.3; Sifre to Numbers 99 sect. 11; Sifre Zutta 81-82, 203-204; Aboth Rabbi Nathan 9, 39; Tanchuman 111, 46; Tanchumah Zaw 13; 3 Petirot Moshe 72; Shabbath 87a; Pesachim 87b, Babylonian Talmud). Provisions such as these were made under Mosaic law. Vows like these which were taken by women were permissible, since the command to propagate strictly applied to men under ordinary circumstances.

ob_44bc9d_presentation-of-the-bvm-3-1

If Joseph agreed on having a chaste marriage with his wife Mary, it would be because he chose to honour her vow which was made before they had met, when she was a girl serving and residing in the Temple from an early age. Meanwhile, there was no statute that condemned a man for having sinned by honouring his intended wife’s vow. Nor was there any directive for him to abort the initial wedding ceremony upon hearing of the vow. Joseph did have the option to either cancel or go through with the Kiddushin after hearing of Mary’s vow. He would have sinned if he had first accepted the vow and then tried to nullify it after they were legally married. Mary would have sinned if she had sprung the news on Joseph after they became espoused or betrothed. Anyway, this provision in the Mosaic law does help explain how Mary and Joseph could have wed, albeit her vow of chastity in her personal covenant with God.

dce88-thrxlty3sg
But after he had considered this, an angel of the LORD
appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what
is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
Matthew 1, 20

The angel Gabriel spoke to Joseph in a dream after he discovered Mary was with child to reassure him that his wife hadn’t done anything unfaithful, but that the child she was carrying was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit (Mt 1:18-25). Until then, Joseph had the legal right to file for divorce on the ground of his wife’s apparent promiscuity. In fact, he had the right to publicly condemn her and have her stoned to death for having committed adultery (Deut 22:22-29). But upon the angel’s visit the table had turned. Now Joseph had to reconsider whether he had any legal and moral right to go through with the second wedding ceremony, since his wife Mary had conceived a child by another person.

We know that Joseph was a just man who faithfully observed the precepts of the Mosaic law (Mt 1:14). Under Mosaic law, according to Louis M. Epstein (Marriage Laws in the Bible and the Talmud: Cambridge), if a man’s wife or betrothed was found to be pregnant by another man (person), the husband was forbidden to have conjugal relations with her from that point on. A woman who had known relations with another man, even if by force, was considered no longer fit to be visited by her husband (Gen 49:4; 2 Sam 20:3, 16:21-22).

True, God did not make physical contact with Mary in the natural way, but in her passivity, she was physically affected by the power of the Holy Spirit. And, of course, the two did have a child together. When Adam and Eve were created, God sanctified marriage and decreed that a man and a woman should have children together only on condition that “the two become one flesh” (Gen 2:23-24). In His absolute righteousness, God could never dismiss His own moral law. This is obvious by the fact that the angel appeared to Mary with the good news just before it was time for her husband to take her into his home, which explains why the Jews who knew him regarded our Lord to be the “carpenter’s son” (Mt 13:55). Moreover, God chose to beget a child together with a woman who was a virgin and had no children of her own, not even daughters. Morally Mary belonged to God as his virgin bride which Joseph, being a religiously devout Jew, would have keenly understood in principle.

untitled-8

The angel relieved Joseph of his fear when he instructed him to take Mary into his home as his lawful wife, but not to normally co-habit with her: “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife” (Mt 1:20). In the Greek translation of the original Hebrew, the prepositional phrase “to take home as your wife” reads paralambano gunaika. This shows that there was no need for the angel to tell Joseph that he shouldn’t be afraid to “come together” with his wife (bo-e-lei-ha imma) or “lay with” her (vai-yish-kav imma) (Gen 30:3, 16-17), since the couple had already agreed on having a chaste marriage. And since Mary didn’t commit adultery, Joseph was permitted by law to “take her home” as his lawful wife, regardless of whether the couple had intended to have conjugal relations and children of their own. Anyway, the original Greek phrase does not refer to having conjugal or sexual relations, unlike the Hebrew phrases above.

If Mary and Joseph had intended to have children of their own by the time of the Annunciation, the angel would have told him not to fear “coming together” or “laying with” his wife in the conventional marital sense. But Joseph should be assured that their marriage was still morally valid before God, because not only did Mary conceive Jesus by the Holy Spirit, but also the couple shall not have conjugal relations and any children of their own. Thus, Joseph mustn’t be afraid to formally solemnize the marriage and take his wife into his home for fear of violating the moral law so long as the couple live together but remain continent.

676f0-764632479f4738c87228e74546f1297d
And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Luke 1, 34-35

God conducted Himself with Mary as a husband with his wife no less honourably and righteously as He had with Israel in their mystical marriage covenant. The spiritual and moral marital relationship Mary had with God was fully consummated at the precise moment she was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. As the personification of Daughter Zion, Mary was divinely declared to be kiddush or “holy, consecrated, and set apart” for God when she vowed to enter a personal marriage covenant with Him while still a young temple virgin. Yet she couldn’t have fathomed at the time that she felt compelled to make such a vow by the prompting of the Holy Spirit because she was predestined to be the mother of the divine Messiah.

And so, the nuptial covenant between God and Mary was forever ratified when she faithfully and lovingly consented to be the mother of our divine Lord and permitted the Holy Spirit to cover her nakedness by laying His cloak over her and covering her with His shadow: “Let it be done to me, according to your word” (Lk 1:38). The angel told Mary that she would be “overshadowed by the power of the Most High.” In ancient Jewish culture, a man’s “laying his power over” (resuth) a woman was a euphemism for having marital relations. Similarly, for a man to “overshadow” a woman or “spread his cloak or wing over her” was a euphemism for having conjugal relations in the holy bond of matrimony.

1b146-a17d83_72bd9355a82047bd920295baf2df2cd8257emv2

Ruth intended to have conjugal relations with her lord Boaz when she replied: “I am your handmaid Ruth. Spread the corner of your cloak over me (“cover me with your shadow”), for you are my next of kin” (Ruth 3:9). Rabbinic scholar and Hebrew convert to the Catholic faith Brother Anthony Opisso, M.D., tells us that the word “cloak” (tallith), literally “wing” (kannaph) is derived from the word tellal, meaning “shadow”. Jesus referred to Israel as his bride when he said: “How many times I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her children under her wing” (Lk 13:34).

As a chaste and religiously devout Jewish woman, Ruth refused to lay with her lord Boaz unless they were morally joined as husband and wife. It was after Boaz had lain with Ruth as his lawfully wedded wife that God permitted her to conceive and bear a son, whose name was Obed, the grandfather of King David, who prefigures Christ as the royal head of God’s kingdom (Ruth 3:9; 4:13). Likewise, Mary was not merely God’s servant when the Holy Spirit came upon her, but His morally united spouse, who conceived and gave birth to our divine Lord and King, whose “kingdom is not of this world,” and who “shall rule all nations with a sceptre of justice” or “rod of iron” (Jn 18:36; Rev 2:27).

f5837-e77cb51e043a12b65513e29406ece790
The Lord loveth the gates of Zion above all the tabernacles of Jacob.
Shall not Zion say: This man and that man is born in her?
and the Highest himself hath founded her.
Psalm 87, 2, 5

The early Latin and Greek Fathers of the Catholic Church implicitly perceived Mary to be the spouse of the Holy Spirit in two fundamental ways which reflect the unitive and procreative aspects of conjugal love. First, they portrayed Mary as having been spiritually united with the Holy Spirit and having something supernaturally in common with Him by her interior disposition. The quality of her soul was affected by His sanctifying grace, so that she could worthily be His spouse and the mother of our divine Lord. Our most Blessed Lady had to have a perfect share in His divine nature, seeing she was chosen to conceive and bear the Holy Begotten of God.

St. Hippolytus refers to the Virgin Mary as “the tabernacle” of our Lord and Saviour, and being this “she was exempt from all putridity and corruption” (Orations Inillud, Dominus pascit me). Origen pronounces this “Virgin Mother of the Only-begotten Son of God” to be “worthy of God, the immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one” (Homily 1). Indeed, as the most chaste spouse of the Holy Spirit and most worthy Mother of God, in Mary “all things are fair” and, as St. Ephraem adds,” there is “no stain” in the Mother just as there is “no flaw” in her divine Son in his humanity (Nisibene Hymns, 27:8).

Further, St. Athanasius calls Mary the “noble Virgin” who is “greater than any other greatness” and who no human soul “could equal in greatness” since she had been chosen and prepared to be “the dwelling place of God”. He addresses the Virgin Mary as God’s “Covenant”, being “clothed with purity instead of gold”; she is “the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna … the flesh in which Divinity resides” (Homily on the Papyrus of Turin, 71:216). St. Ambrose concurs Mary was “a Virgin, not only undefiled, but a Virgin whom grace had made inviolate, free of any stain of sin” (Sermon 22:30). So, for St. Augustine “Mary was the only one who merited to be called the Mother as the Spouse of God” (Sermon 208).

77909-4f8726b2-4bd8-4026-bdc6-7861a7c5a1ac

Mary was perceived to be the spouse of the Holy Spirit by not only having begotten Jesus together with Him through supernatural means, but also by having cooperated with Him in providing spiritual life to the human race. They cooperated as all husbands and wives do in giving life to their children. By consenting to conceive and bear Jesus through the activity of the Holy Spirit, Mary brought the living Source of all grace into the world. The early Church Fathers perceived Mary to be the new Eve, the spiritual “mother of all the living.” Concerning the incarnation and virgin birth, St. Irenaeus writes: “The Word will become flesh, and the Son of God the son of man: The Pure One opening purely that pure womb, which generates men unto God” (Against Heresies, lV.33.12). Mary’s womb was made pure by the Holy Spirit, for it was selected to physically carry and nourish the holy Son of God, and spiritually His brethren (Rom 8:29). We who are regenerated through the baptismal water in the womb of the font are a new creation and children of the new Adam by being the seed of the free promised woman (Gen 3:15).

​Thus, as the new Eve and spouse of the Holy Spirit, Mary couldn’t have conceived other children in sin and borne them in guilt by having conjugal relations with her legal husband Joseph. The only child she was predestined to conceive, and bear, would be of her seed alone. Mary’s womb was meant to provide humankind with the “blessed fruit” which was Jesus (Lk 1:42). In moral union with the Holy Spirit, Mary was chosen to exercise her maternal role of nourishing the human race with the divine Word and the regenerating graces only He could have merited for us in his humanity. All who are baptized in Christ are of the seed of the Woman in hostility with the seed of the serpent or dragon, sinful and wicked humanity ( 1 Cor 11:12; Rev 12:17).

eaa01-thq26nfmzx

Finally, the early Church Father St. Cyril of Jerusalem believed that Mary’s chastity and purity of heart reached the culminating point of her virginity when the Holy Spirit had overshadowed her, and she carried Jesus in her womb for nine months. And so, these nine months redounded to her glory and made her the perfect model of virginity. All her children who are reborn in Christ through the cleansing and regenerating water of baptism must emulate that immaculate heart of their mother in their lives. For by doing so, they emulate the purity and righteousness of her firstborn Son and their brethren Jesus. St. Cyril writes: “It became Him who is most pure … to have come forth from a pure bridal chamber” (Catechetical Lecture 12).

The Church Father implicitly taught that all those who are born of the Spirit are Mary’s offspring as well, having come forth from a pure bridal chamber together with Jesus. “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (Jn 3:6). Mary would have defiled the bridal chamber if she had had marital relations with her husband Joseph. His seed, tainted by original sin, would have desecrated the holy sanctuary of her womb – the sacred dwelling place of God incarnate (Isa 7:14).​

All Jesus’ brethren, who proceed from the same pure womb untouched by the seed of Adam and are born of the Spirit, shall not perish as new creations in Christ. It is the Spirit who gives birth to spirit and new life to all who are re-created in the Spirit through Mary’s pure womb. All Mary’s offspring must weave for themselves the holy flesh of their Virgin Mother by cooperating with the Holy Spirit and His divine grace. This is all part of the creative aspect of the conjugal union between the Holy Spirit and our Blessed Mother. St. Epiphanius reminds us that “the whole human race proceeds from Eve; but it is from Mary that Life was truly born to the world, so that by giving birth to the Living One, Mary might also become the Mother of all the living” (Against Eighty Heresies 78, 9).

8091e-thmf9gclng
“And I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice,
and in love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness;
and you shall know the Lord.”
Hosea 2,19-20
.

40288062_261784844463687_2012067220397490176_n
Salve Regina!

The Time Came for Her to Be Delivered

thSBDC4354

Before she was in labor she gave birth;
before her pain came upon her she was delivered of a son.
Who ever heard of such a thing, or who ever saw the like?
Can a land be brought forth in one day,
or a nation be born in a single moment?
Yet Zion was scarcely in labor when she bore her children.
Shall I bring a mother to the point of birth,
and yet not let her child be born? says the LORD.
Or shall I who bring to birth yet close her womb?
says your God.
Isaiah 66, 7-9

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Luke 2, 4-7
.

The Perpetual Virginity of Mary is one of the four Marian dogmas of the Catholic Church. Not unlike the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary body and soul into Heaven, this de fide doctrine derives its integrity from the first Marian dogma of Mary being the Mother of God, in virtue of her first-born Son’s divinity in his single person hypostatically united with our humanity. Mary is the mother of God or the Divine Logos incarnate (Isa. 7:14; Lk. 1:35, 43; Jn. 1:14). So, the dogma of Mary ever-virgin basically holds that the mother of our Lord remained a virgin her entire life in view of the Divine Maternity, albeit her marriage with Joseph and the Jewish religious and cultural norms of the time.

Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus, during his birth, and after she gave birth to him. Moreover, Catholics have always believed since earliest time that Mary’s union with the Holy Spirit was redolent of a marriage in a spiritual sense, as the relationship between YHWH and Israel was, and thereby moral in nature. If Mary chose to remain chaste her entire life and stay continent in her marriage with her legal husband, whoever that might be, it was by the prompting of the Holy Spirit at an early age, whose virgin spouse in a spiritual and mystical sense she was chosen to be from all eternity (Lk. 1:35).​

thIJ7END39

God willed that a matrimonial type of covenant should exist between Him and His handmaid Mary with all the dignity contained in the sacrament. It was becoming, therefore, that a partnership, which reflected that of the whole of life and which was ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation of offspring and nurturing them, should exist between the two. As a man and a woman should become one flesh in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony to meet the Divine purpose of consummating their marriage, so too should the Holy Spirit and Mary become morally one in spirit in their quasi-physical union in accord with the Divine moral law for the same Divine purpose.

​In a sense, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, God proposed to Mary when she was a young girl living and serving in the Temple. He claimed her as his own virgin bride and possession, not only so that they should beget the holy Child together, but also that through their consummation they might beget all His children who would be regenerated unto God by being reborn in the Spirit (Jn. 3:3; Rom. 8:29). All members of Christ’s Mystical Body are the only other children Mary begot following the birth of her divine Son, who belong to the spiritual family of God that transcends all blood ties in the natural world (Mk. 3:31-35) and are the seed of the free promised woman (Gen. 3:15; Rev. 12:17).

untitled

By the influence of divine grace, Mary felt compelled to remain chaste her entire life so that she could devote herself to God entirely in body and spirit. Once she became the mother of our Lord, she could focus all her attention on her divine Son and, in union with God, raise and nurture him until it was time for his public ministry to begin, on which occasion Mary’s motherhood would be spiritually redefined and extended to all humanity (Jn. 2:3-8; 19:26-27).

​Indeed, Mary had consecrated herself to God when she was still a young girl without really knowing all the implications that her sublime act involved. She could hardly have imagined that she was predestined to be the mother of her Lord. Yet God had preordained to single His handmaid out from fallen humanity and establish His covenant with her, as He had with Israel, before she was even conceived in her mother’s womb. For this reason, God preserved Mary free from all stain of original sin and its ill moral effects: concupiscence of the eyes, concupiscence of the flesh, and the pride of life. God sanctified Mary’s soul at the first instant of her conception and endowed her with a perfect and complete abundance of lasting grace (kecharitomene), so that she would be worthiest of being the mother of His Only-begotten Son and the unblemished bride of the Holy Spirit (Lk. 1:28). Her marriage covenant with God required a shared moral and spiritual disposition which presupposed that she lives a supernatural life of grace raised above the natural state of fallen humanity (Lev. 20:26; Ezek. 16: 8-14).

thYHJGT74P

Luke portrays Mary as the antitupos of the pure and undefiled Ark of the Covenant by referring to the Book of Exodus and the Second Book of Samuel among other Old Testament texts. The Ark was so holy by Divine consecration, that if any common man should touch it without first having had himself ritually purified, despite any good intention, he would certainly die (2 Sam. 6:6-7). God sanctified the Ark of the Covenant by His physical manifestation, as it was constructed by His specifications to serve as His sacred dwelling place. Nothing profane was permitted to touch it.

St. Thomas Aquinas explains that Mary’s womb was a sacred shrine infused by the Holy Spirit (Shekinah) and a personal dwelling place of God the Son made man, so it was unfitting that this holy sanctuary of the Lord be used to gestate and bring forth common sinful offspring by the tainted seed of man (Summa Theologica, lll, Q.28, a. 3.). As a devout Jew, Joseph must have revered Mary’s womb as much as he would have revered the Ark and the holy Temple in Jerusalem. Certainly, he wouldn’t have dared enter the Holy of Holies. Mary’s sacred womb was God’s personal sanctuary – not his “foot-stool” (Isa. 66:1).

th36UIAHX3

Having conjugal relations within the holy bond of matrimony isn’t sinful by any means. A marriage blessed by God is intrinsically good, whereas pre-marital and extra-marital sexual relations deeply offend Him by violating His will for what is good for a man and a woman. A jewel chest is a good thing to have for one who is in possession of many valuable jewels. But to put these jewels inside the Ark of the Covenant for safe keeping would amount to sacrilege. Joseph knew that he would not only have committed sacrilege, but also adultery in a moral sense, if he had had marital intercourse with Mary and opened her womb with his tainted seed after his wife had been overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and conceived the holy Son of God by Him without opening her womb with tainted seed.

Morally, Mary was espoused to God as His virgin bride. She was “overshadowed” by “the power” or authority (resuth) of the Most High God: a Hebrew euphemism for having conjugal relations. Thus, Mary was under God’s rule and authority as a wife is under her husband by Divine ordinance. As God’s spouse, she morally belonged exclusively to him, as Eve had under the rule or authority (resuth) of her husband Adam (Gen. 3:16).
.

62144-ob_1843bd_a17d83-584c98e953724caabff17ccfbd98880
And the angel of the Lord appeared to him
in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush;
and he looked, and lo, the bush was burning,
yet it was not consumed.
Exodus 3, 2
.

The Catholic dogma of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary simply stated means that our Blessed Lady was “ever-virgin”. She was a virgin (virgo) before (ante-partum), during (in partu), and after (post-partum) the birth of Jesus. With respect to Mary being a virgin before and after the birth of Jesus, our conventional understanding of the word virgin should come to mind. We take it to mean that Mary had no sexual relations with her husband Joseph before and after our Lord’s birth. However, when Catholics speak of Mary as having been a virgin during the birth of Jesus, they don’t mean that she abstained from having conjugal relations with her husband during the time of her pregnancy or at the time of her Son’s birth.

Rather, what the Catholic Church has traditionally believed and taught from earliest time is that when Mary gave birth to Jesus, her physical virginal integrity remained intact. There was no breaking of the hymen, no physical pain or discomfort that is normally experienced by a woman in labour, no issuance of water and blood, and no placenta and umbilical cord. Mary’s bodily integrity remained inviolate in harmony with her chaste spiritual integrity. There was no profane element of anything natural or any form of physical corruption in her giving birth to Jesus that could violate the purity of her soul and her exemption from all stain of original sin, nor anything wholly natural at all that could defile and render impure her holy Child. Both the Mother and the Son were exempted from experiencing the corruption associated with original sin.

Thus, the birth of Jesus was as supernatural and miraculous as his conception was by the power of the Holy Spirit. The entire creative process of the Son of man proceeded from no seed (zera) of man who descended from fallen Adam. So, all that was profane in the natural process of procreation, from the time the male seed opens a woman’s womb to the time of the offspring’s birth, as the result of Eve’s transgression and the fall of man, was kept at bay by Divine intervention. The appointed time that Mary should be delivered and give birth to her Son was set by God to be “before” she would naturally go into physical labour.

thD6OKFQ36

The holy presence of God in Mary’s sanctified womb couldn’t have defiled or violated her virginal integrity in any way. Nor could her Divine offspring have been subjected to the corrupt elements of the birth process because of sin, which would have rendered him ritually impure for his presentation in the Temple and subject to the ceremonial law of circumcision. The Virgin Mary was the bride of YHWH (the Divine Bridegroom) in the flesh who had put His bride at enmity with the Serpent and all its works (Gen. 3:15). Both the Mother and the Son shared a single enmity (Lk. 1;42).

There is absolutely no affinity between the sacred and the profane, or between the Divine holiness and corruption itself in all its forms because of sin. The burning bush was alight in flames but was not consumed and turned into ashes because of God’s immediate presence. What God sanctifies merely by His presence cannot be subject to putridity and corruption. Rather, it is made holy. Indeed, God commanded Moses to remove the sandals from his feet before he could approach the burning bush, for even the earth that surrounded it was made holy by God’s physical manifestation (Ex. 3:5). The soil on the soles of his sandals was implicitly declared to be impure.

The Divine Logos, Jesus, sanctified his mother’s womb while He was present there, and He preserved the sanctity of her body at the appointed time when the Father willed that he be born. All forms of physical corruption in creation are the result of Adam and Eve’s sin, by which they forfeited the original grace of holiness and justice for humanity. The Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved free from all stain of original sin by her Immaculate Conception. She was exempted, therefore, from the law of sin which Eve brought down upon women, because she was chosen to be the mother of the Divine Messiah and Bridegroom (Gen. 3:16). Most blessed was the mother of the Lord among women and blessed was the fruit of her womb (Lk. 1:42).

th

The Virginitas In Partu (virginity during the birth) has belonged to the Apostolic Tradition of the Catholic Church from the beginning. What the Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church have taught about Mary’s virgin birth has been handed down by faithful transmission (paradosis) from the Apostles through the oral tradition. St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, was a student of Bishop St. Polycarp of Smyrnaea, who in turn was a disciple of the Apostle St. John, with whom Mary lived the rest of her life until c. A.D. 48 (Jn. 19:27). This is what Irenaeus (180-190 A.D.) has written as a living testimony to the Apostolic Faith: “The Word will become flesh, and the Son of God the son of man—the Pure One opening purely that pure womb, which generates men unto God.” [Against Heresies 4, 33, 12].

Meanwhile, in his Gospel, John the Evangelist writes: ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt (eskenosen) among us, …’ (1:14). The root word for this Greek verb is skene, which means “tent” or “tabernacle, such as the portable tent or tabernacle that housed the Ark of the Covenant until the First Temple was completely built by David’s son, King Solomon. Where else, but in the most sacred womb of his Blessed Mother did our Lord “tabernacle” himself among us? His blessed mother’s womb was a sanctuary and personal dwelling place of God as sacred, if not more, than the inner sanctuary of the Temple. For God’s incarnation took place there by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary’s husband Joseph could no more open her womb with his tainted seed after the birth of Jesus than the High Priest could enter the Temple sanctuary that housed the Ark but only once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) or be struck dead. God’s absolute personal holiness was not to be taken for granted.

thYSBML6KY

Irenaeus certainly knew his Isaiah very well, and so, in a Christian context, he could interpret the verse as Messianic. He speaks of the Virgin Mary as being the anti-type of Yahweh’s virgin bride, Daughter Zion, from whose blessed womb redeemed offspring are born regenerated in spirit unto God after having been liberated from captivity in sin or Babylon. God shall suddenly and in an unexpected manner come into the world through his virgin bride without inflicting birth pangs and injury to the mother herself. He who is to come into the world to heal mankind of the malady of sin shall not be the cause of the effects of sin. Nor can he who offers himself as the only remedy for sin have his mother, the new Eve, be made subject to what Eve wrought for all women by her transgression. The Virgin Mary is “most blessed among women” (Lk. 1:42).

Further, Irenaeus drew a perfect analogy between Adam and Jesus – the New Adam – to show the Gnostics (who believed Jesus only appeared to be human in the flesh) how God intended to redeem humanity in the most perfect manner; that is by way of recapitulation, which required that the Redeemer be as much man as Adam was, but not from tilled soil. So, to be fully human, the Divine Word had to virginally assume his flesh and blood from a woman. Up to the time of the Incarnation, Mary was that virgin, of whose untilled and virgin flesh Jesus would be formed by the power of the Holy Spirit, just as God had originally made Adam from untilled and virgin soil – not through paternal seed as his fallen descendants would be after the fall.

Thus, Jesus was fully God and fully man born of the Virgin Mary. Mary’s pure womb provided the source of untilled virgin flesh her Son would take from her by his virginal conception, for up to that time she had had no relations with Joseph, just as the soil was still untilled and virginal at the time Adam was created before the fall. Neither Adam nor Jesus had earthly fathers but, nevertheless, they were both fully human. Jesus was no more an appearance of man than Adam was. The implication here is that Mary couldn’t have begotten Jesus by naturally going into painful labour, since her Son wasn’t conceived in sin by the seed of man. Both Mary’s conception and birth of Jesus were virginal. [cf. Against Heresies 3: 21.10: A Vindication of the Prophecy in Isaiah (VII. 14) Against the Misinterpretations of Theodotion, Aquila, the Ebionites, and the Jews. Authority of the Septuagint Version; arguments in Proof that Christ Was Born of a Virgin].
.

th124jf1z7_1
Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, facing the east; but it was closed. He said to me: “This gate is to remain closed;
it is not to be opened for anyone to enter by it; since the Lord,
the God of Israel, has entered by it, it shall remain closed.”
Ezekiel 44, 1- 3
.

The Universal Magisterium of the Catholic Church has infallibly defined as a de fide doctrine that “at the appropriate time, Jesus left his mother’s womb through the natural channels, but in a miraculous way, just as he had entered it without the least diminution of her virginal integrity” (Lumen Gentium, 57). Jesus was born without in any way opening his mother’s womb, just as the Holy Spirit had overshadowed Mary without opening it. In other words, there was no dilation of the birth canal, no opening of the vagina, and no breaking of the virginal hymen. Jesus passed through the birth canal and entered the world like he had entered the room where his disciples were gathered with the doors locked (Jn. 20:19).

In defense of the miraculous and painless birth of Christ, St. Thomas Aquinas drew the analogy of light passing through glass without damaging it (Summa Theologica, III, Q. 28, a. 2. ). With this imagery in mind, he argued that Jesus passed through his mother’s womb without opening it and without any harm to her physical virginal seal. This was only fitting because Mary was the pure and perfect tabernacle of Christ, who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. The birth of her Son ought to have been an experience that drew her into closer spiritual communion with God rather than one that could have momentarily distanced her soul from God because of physical distress. St. Augustine contended that he who was the light of the world and “came to heal corruption” should not “by his advent violate integrity” (Sermon 189).

Jesus came to save and re-create mankind and renew the state of the world. His mother’s pure womb was his first work of re-creation in the physical order. The miracle was an eschatological sign of the restoration and renewal of creation with the coming of the Messiah: a long-awaited hope of the Jews. Therefore, it was fitting that his mother’s virginal integrity be preserved intact and he be born in new conditions raised above the state of fallen man and creation.

3018e-th

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (350 A.D.) implicitly taught Mary’s virginal integrity remained inviolate when she brought forth her divine Son. He writes in his Catechetical Lecture Xll.25: “For it became Him who is most pure, and a teacher of purity, to have come forth from a pure bride-chamber.” Clearly, the pure bride-chamber refers to Mary’s moral union with the Holy Spirit in begetting Christ together free from the taint of sin. In the same lecture, he speaks of Mary’s virginity and chastity as finding its culmination during the nine months she carried Jesus in her womb. The height of Mary’s spiritual and bodily purity was reached when God became incarnate in her womb and sanctified it with His presence, as much as His theophanies sanctified the tabernacle of the Ark and the Temple in Jerusalem. We can recall how grievously Jesus reacted to the mercenary activities of the merchants and money changers in the Temple precincts (Mt. 21:12-13).

The Divine Maternity was Mary’s singular and personal glory because of her virginal state, the purity of her body and soul. And this glory of hers should always last for her to be the worthy mother of our Lord. She had to be perpetually chaste and preserved free from all forms of the taint of sin and corruption to be the worthiest of all mothers for our Lord. Mary’s purity in body and soul had to completely conform to the inviolate purity of her Son in the fullness of his humanity.

Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. She was God’s virginal bride. Jesus came forth from “a pure bridal chamber”, exempted from putridity and corruption. Mary was God’s virginal and “holy bride” whose “nuptial pledges” were made to Him in their marriage covenant. The glory of Mary’s chastity would have been extinguished if she had given birth to Jesus in the natural way as all women do by the seed of sinful man. Cyril acknowledged two essential things about Mary: She was the “Virgin Mother of God” and she was God’s “holy bride” throughout her life, being the mother of His Divine Son. In verse 32 of Lecture Xll, Cyril states that our Lord’s “birth was pure, undefiled” which indicates he believed, along with the other Church Fathers and Doctors who explicitly taught the Virginitas In Partu, that Mary’s physical virginal integrity continued beyond the miraculous conception of Jesus and the months she had held him in her sacred womb. Mary was ever-virgin.
.

ee7e5-df14e2638243fbb5f64b80be23a0fa6b
Therefore, the Lord himself shall give you a
sign: the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and shall call his name Immanuel: God with us.
Isaiah 7, 14

And while they were there,
the time came for her to be delivered.
Luke 2, 6
.

That Jesus would be born miraculously just as he had been conceived by the will of God, and Mary remain a virgin during the birth of Jesus, was foretold by the prophet Isaiah: ‘Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall “conceive” (παρθένος) in the womb, and shall “bring forth” (τέξεται) a son, and thou shalt call his name Emmanuel.’ (7:14). This passage from the Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew OT. The Hebrew word harah can mean either conceive (become pregnant) or be pregnant (be with child). Isaiah means “to become pregnant”. The Septuagint, which Matthew cites in his gospel (1:23) to show that Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ real father, verifies this. The meaning of the Greek word εννοώ is “to conceive” strictly in the sense of “becoming pregnant” or “cause to be pregnant.”

Since virgins do not naturally conceive offspring, it follows that the prophet is speaking of a supernatural conception. Included with Mary’s virginal conception of Jesus is her virginal act of giving birth to him, which virgins naturally don’t give. Isaiah says that a 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 OT. Hence, this verse must do with two miraculous 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. This is confirmed by another Zion prophecy of Isaiah (66:7): ‘Before she travailed (ta hil), she brought forth (ya-la-dah); before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child. It appears Luke confirms what God has intended to fully reveal (sensus plenior) through the words of the prophet.

thI2JSP1GY

What Isaiah says in 7:14 about the Virgin Birth reflects what God intends to reveal in 66:7: Mary’s virginal integrity is never violated on either occasion, neither when she conceives Jesus nor when she gives birth to her Divine Son. We read in the English version of the Septuagint – the Greek translation from the Hebrew: ‘Before she that travailed brought forth, before the travail-pain came on, she escaped it and brought forth a male.’ (Isaiah 66:7). The original Hebrew expression for “she was delivered” is malat (maw-lat’), also meaning “she escaped it” as we have in the Greek translation. The above passage sheds light on the full meaning and implications of the Hebrew phrase חֵ֛בֶללָ֖הּ וְהִמְלִ֥יטָה זָכָֽר׃ (she was delivered) in Isaiah 66:7 found in the Masoretic Text. The Virgin Mary escaped the experience of having to go into labour before giving birth, as all mothers ordinarily must, by Divine deliverance. She didn’t deliver her child (active voice) but was delivered (passive voice) of her child at God’s appointed time and by His intervention.

Any woman who has given or gives birth (active voice) is delivered from or has been released from the travails of the act of child birth (passive voice). She causes this release or escape from travail by giving birth. So, what the Hebrew phrase implies is that Mary has escaped from going into labour and experiencing pain before she should when giving birth. The Alexandrian Jews who translated the Hebrew into Greek understood the connotations of this expression. Thus, we have: “she escaped it and brought forth.” The woman is the physical cause of giving birth (active voice), but God’s intervention is the cause of when she shall give birth – that is before she goes into labour and is delivered from the natural pangs of childbirth (passive voice).

th7GO7LK7G

Mary miraculously gives birth to the male child by Divine intervention. God releases her from the prospect of going into labour and experiencing the pangs of childbirth, which she can have no control over and is unable to escape from causatively until she gives birth, unless God causes her to give birth beforehand. Moreover, the Hiphil stem can be used to express a causative type of action with an active voice. It is causative of the Qal stem of a verb. In other words, the subject causes the action of the verb, but the subject does not directly perform the act. In many instances, we can take the Qal form of the verb and precede it with ‘to cause to’ or ‘to make to’. For example: ‘David reigned over Israel.’ (Qal stem with David as the subject of the verb); ‘God caused David to reign over Israel (Hiphil stem of the same verb with God as the subject).’

Mary, therefore, causes the action of giving birth, but she does not directly perform the action of giving birth before her time comes. It is God who directly performs or causes the act of her giving birth before she goes into labour and experiences pain. It is by a miracle and Divine intervention that the Virgin shall not only conceive, by no seed of man, but also give birth to a Son with her womb unopened like a gate that must remain shut, that is before she naturally goes into labour and her pains set in. Not even the Prince of peace shall open it, let alone any offspring of Joseph, so Ezekiel prophesies. The Virgin neither conceives nor bears a Son in a completely natural or normal way. Isaiah’s sign points to a miracle that comprises the entire process of procreation from conception to birth, which points to the divinity of the coming Messiah King who shall inherit the throne of his father David and restore his royal dynasty. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the trigger sign or great sign in heaven of this eternal restoration (Rev. 12).

th0TMVATM2

In the first half of the 5th century, the great doctrinal controversies in the Christian world all revolved around the hypostatic union of the divine and human natures of Christ and how Christ’s divinity and humanity were related in him. The Council of Chalcedon presents us with the definitive dogmatic resolution to these controversies, which holds even today as the profession of the Catholic Church’s faith. The basis for this conciliar definition was a letter that Pope Leo I sent in advance to the Patriarch of Constantinople. Pope Leo’s letter, commonly known as the Tome of Leo, was originally written in Latin in 449 A.D. but was translated into Greek for use at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

The following excerpt is the English translation from the Greek text, since the Conciliar Greek text is more authoritative than the Latin one. The Tome is primarily Christological in its topic, but the Church’s profession of faith in Mary being “Ever-Virgin” is equally ratified, though secondary in importance with respect to the dogma of the Incarnation. The words in the Tome of Pope St. Leo the Great include: “He was conceived from the Holy Spirit inside the womb of the virgin mother. Her virginity was as untouched in giving him birth as it was in conceiving him. So, without leaving his Father’s glory behind, the Son of God comes down from his heavenly throne and enters the depths of our world, born in an unprecedented order by an unprecedented kind of birth.”
.

59710a3a7c1f615e63d6f1577c1057e2
I will declare the decree:
the LORD hath said unto me,
Thou art my Son;
this day have I begotten thee.
Psalm 2, 7
.

40288062_261784844463687_2012067220397490176_n
Salve Regina!

Whence Is this to Me, that the Mother of My Lord should Come to Me?

ob_7125d8_99fac-arkofthecovenant

The cloud covered the tabernacle of the testimony, and the glory of the Lord filled it. Neither could Moses go into the tabernacle of the covenant, the cloud covering all things and the majesty of the Lord shining, for the cloud had covered all.
Exodus 40, 34-35

And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Luke 1, 35

And David was afraid of the Lord that day,
saying: How shall the ark of the Lord come to me?
2 Samuel 6, 9

And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.

Luke 1, 43-44
.

The word ‘type’ is derived from the Greek word tupos (τύπος) which means an impression. The Biblical term anti-type originates from the Greek word antitupos (ἀντίτυπος). This word is defined as meaning being typical of, representing by type or pattern, and corresponding to an image. An anti-type corresponds to or fulfills a type: a predictive symbol. Overall, the word tupos is thought of as an image, pattern, model, figure, or an example. Throughout sacred Scripture, we find what are called theological types.

For instance, although the Old Testament does not explicitly mention Christ, he is spoken of figuratively and allegorically. Abraham’s son Isaac and David are fulfilled in our Lord. The former represents Jesus who is the propitiation for our sins, while the latter prefigures our Lord’s victorious Davidic kingship and rule over all nations in the new and everlasting Kingdom of God. The Suffering Servant spoken of by the prophet Isaiah also foreshadows Christ in his passion and death. Moreover, the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea, after God has miraculously parted it, is perceived to represent Baptism; the Holy Eucharist is seen to have been foreshadowed in the manna which comes down from heaven daily during the Israelites’ forty-year sojourn in the desert, after they have been liberated from slavery in Egypt. Noah’s ark prefigures the Church, and so on.

850c0-ob_69ada9_a17d83-3c0a9e51b1274104816e970976498c1

Biblical typology is a literary device which the authors of the sacred texts were inspired by the Holy Spirit to use for communicating the fullness of God’s revelation and His plan of salvation in human history. Typology is a means by which God reveals Himself and His thoughts to us, so that we come to better understand what it is He desires we should know to fully relate to Him. By means of types, God intentionally captures our attention so that we focus on what they point towards. This way, we can come to see the consistency and continuation of His salvific plan and grasp its import with respect to the salvation of souls.

Of course, Biblical typology also includes reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary to draw our attention to her place and role in the Divine order of redemption. There is something about Mary in the economy of salvation which God desires to draw our complete attention to, since it is an integral part of His plan to redeem the world and a moral benefit to us. In the OT, we have Marian types in the figures of Sarah, Judith, and Esther among the other Hebrew Matriarchs who prefigure the mother of our Lord in some significant way. And even more remarkably, we find the Ark of the Covenant reaching its fulfillment in the person of Mary. Let us see how the Blessed Virgin and the ark correspond to each other.

cc0ee-untitled-5-1
But Josue rent his garments and fell flat on the ground before the ark of the Lord
until the evening, both he and all the ancients of Israel:

and they put dust upon their heads.
Joshua 7, 6

In ancient Judaism, the Ark of the Covenant was the only religious relic (along with the Bread of the Presence that was kept in the tabernacle of the Temple) that was venerated and even prostrated before, since it was regarded to be intrinsically holy, being the medium by which Yahweh physically manifested Himself in the glory cloud. The ark was God’s personal dwelling place in the world, as was the Temple in Jerusalem, having no relation to anything that was regarded to be profane. The purpose for which the ark was constructed rendered it sacred.

This holy object that was sanctified by God was made of the purest natural materials; incorruptible acacia wood (shittim) as well as pure and unblemished gold (tahor) that covered the ark without and laced it within. The golden wreath which decorated the ark added the final touch. The ark was so holy, in fact, that if anyone were to touch it without having first been ritually purified, they would be struck dead, albeit any good intentions (2 Sam 6:6-7). For this reason, the ark was carried by using two poles overlaiden with gold which were slipped through two golden rings on each side (Exodus 25:10-22). The ark was first kept in the Tent of Meeting (a portable temple or tabernacle) in the time of Moses and eventually housed in the Holy of Holies (inner sanctuary) in the Temple which was built by King Solomon: a perfectly clean place where the Jewish high priests could enter only once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) according to their sacred law (Lev 16:2-4). The ark was so sacred that even a high priest would be struck dead if he dared to enter the inner sanctuary on any other day of the year.

ob_a5ac6d_a17d83-896e4e18c69b4b64a0194a2361aaac8.png

Further, the ark held the two stone tablets on which were inscribed the Ten Commandments, the budded rod of the high priest Aaron, and a golden jar of the manna that came down from heaven during the Israelites’ sojourn in the desert. When the ark was carried in procession, it was accompanied by joyous singing, the playing of several musical instruments, and the wearing of religious vestments. The procession was an occasion for celebrating being blessed by God and receiving the grace of His faithful covenant (2 Sam. 6:3).​

​The ark was also associated with God’s providential care. For instance, in the Battle of Jericho, the ark was carried round the city’s walls seven times (figuratively the number of days God created the world) until they came tumbling down (Josh 6:11-17). And as the Levitical priests carried the ark in procession, God caused the water of the Jordan to recede and provide a path for His chosen people, so they could cross into the Promised Land (Josh 3:2-4, 17). It was here where Joshua set up the Twelve Stones which the Israelites had to pass by to enter their new homeland. These stones themselves prefigure the twelve Apostles who were Christ’s first ministers of the sacrament of Baptism and initiation into the Church. Thus, when the Israelites venerated the ark, they were in fact worshipping and praising God, for it was associated with the Divine Presence and the dispensation of His grace.

“At that time, the Savior coming from the Virgin, the Ark, brought forth His own Body into the world from that Ark, which was gilded with pure gold within by the Word, and without by the Holy Ghost; so that the truth was shown forth, and the Ark was manifested…. And the Savior came into the world bearing the incorruptible Ark, that is to say His own body.”
St. Hippolytus, In Daniel Vl
(c. A.D.205)

5da5a-ob_cea346_p-txt
And the temple of God was opened in heaven: and the ark of his testament was seen in his temple, and there were lightnings, and voices, and an earthquake, and great hail. 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 11, 19… 12, 1

Since earliest time, the Catholic Church has venerated the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant. The first converts to the Christian faith were Jews, as were most of them in the first century during the Apostolic age. Because of their Judaic heritage, they naturally perceived Mary to be the anti-type of the Ark of the Covenant and saw its culmination in her. The parallel was so clear to them that it became a sacred tradition of the Church, one that has lasted in the Church to this present day. Just as the Israelites venerated the ark until its disappearance prior to the Babylonian captivity in the 6th century B.C., so did the first Christian Ecclesia revere the mother of the Lord because of her personal association with the physical manifestation of God’s presence on earth in the hypostatic order of Christ’s incarnation.

Further, the faithful acknowledged Mary’s exceptional holiness and separation from all that was profane and even sinful, for it was she who was chosen to conceive the Divine Word made flesh in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:35; Jn 1:14). Her body could be compared not only to the incorruptible acacia wood that framed the ark, but also to the holy Temple where the ark was eventually kept, and her womb to the sacred sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, where the ark was particularly concealed within the holy place. The stainless gold of the ark drew their attention to the purity of Mary’s soul (Lk 1:46).

The connection became clear. As the mother of our Lord, Mary held not only the Divine Word, but also in his person the High Priest in the order of Melchizedek (Heb 5:8-10), and the “true manna come down from heaven” – the “Bread of Life” (Jn 6:35, 51). Mary held within her the anti-type of these sacred Christological relics. Since they find their ultimate fulfillment in the holy person of the Divine Son, so too the ark that held them must culminate in the holy person of the Blessed Virgin Mary who conceived and bore him in her sacred womb which was his personal dwelling place.

43d3c-mary

That this nascent Marian tradition of the Church did in fact exist is undeniably certain. In his Gospel, St. Luke draws a parallel between Mary and the ark by alluding to persons and events found in the Book of Exodus, the Second Book of Samuel, 1 Chronicles, 1 Kings, and Zephaniah. All that the evangelist has written by Divine inspiration is drawn from what has been handed on through the Apostolic Tradition of the Church. Everything recorded in his Gospel comes from the first witnesses and servants of the spoken word or oral tradition (Lk 1:1-4).​

Keeping this in mind, let us now examine what Luke has penned, as we continue to critically examine this nascent Marian tradition of the Church. Let’s see how he draws a comparison between Mary and the Ark of the Covenant in many ways by referring to persons and events in the Old Testament. We cannot help but remark the parallelism in the evangelist’s Gospel. What we are about to see is by no means just a coincidence. Rather, what we have is a fine example of Biblical typology. There is something very significant about Mary that God wants us to pay close attention to in His written word, only it isn’t mentioned explicitly or in a purely literal sense (sensus plenior). To make sense of Mary, we must read the Scriptures in more than one sense. This includes the spiritual sense (allegorical, analogical, and moral).

ebcab-coverpage

To begin, Mary arises and goes to the hill country of Judea to stay with her kinswoman Elizabeth for three months. David arises and goes to the same hill country to stay with the ark for three months. It is in Ein Kerem where Elizabeth lives. Abu Ghosh, where the ark resides, is only a short walk apart. Mary and the Ark are both on a journey to the same hill country of Judea (2 Sam 6:1-11; Lk 1:39, 56).

John the Baptist leaps for joy in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s greeting. King David leaps for joy as he dances before the ark.

And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost.
– Luke 1, 41

And when the ark of the Lord was come into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul, looking out through a window, saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord: and she despised him in her heart.
– 2 Samuel 6, 16 

Elizabeth deferentially asks Mary how it is that the mother of her Lord (Adonai) should come to her. Being reverential to the Lord (Adonai), David asks how it is that the ark should come to him.

And whence is this to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
– Luke 1, 43

And David was afraid of the Lord that day, saying:
How shall the ark of the Lord come to me?
– 2 Samuel 6, 9

Mary stays in the house of Elizabeth for three months to look after her. The ark is kept in the house of Obededom for three months. The Lord blesses his house and all his possessions because of the ark’s presence. Elizabeth’s house is blessed the first instant her infant leaps in her womb at the sound of Mary’s voice. Both Mary (the new Ark of the Covenant) and the Ark of the Covenant respectively serve as moral and physical channels of divine grace.

And Mary abode with her about three months;
and she returned to her own house.
– Luke 1, 56

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

Finally, Mary returns home from visiting Elizabeth and eventually goes to Jerusalem to present her infant Jesus to God in the Temple. The ark leaves the house of Obededom and is taken to Jerusalem, where eventually the presence and glory of God is manifested in the newly built Temple. There the ark is resting in the sacred sanctuary of the Holy of Holies.

And after eight days were accomplished, that the child should be circumcised, his name was called JESUS, which was called by the angel, before he was conceived in the womb. And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord.
– Luke 2, 21-22

And it was told king David, that the Lord had blessed Obededom, and all that he had, because of the ark of God. So David went, and brought away the ark of God out of the house of Obededo into the city of David with joy. And there were with David seven choirs, and calves for victims.
– 2 Samuel 6, 14

And the ark of God remained in the house of Obededom three months: and the Lord blessed his house, and all that he had.
– 1Chronicles 13, 14

adc9e-ob_f241e9_mary-pregnant-with-jesus-orig

In the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Septuagint has the salutation chairo (χαρῆτε) for “sing aloud”. The word can mean “to be full of cheer” or “rejoice” as we have it in St. Luke’s Gospel. The reason for Mary to rejoice and be full of cheer is that God is in her midst, just as He was for Israel in the figure of Daughter Zion. But Mary’s cause for rejoicing is the fact that God has favoured her to conceive and bear His Only-begotten Son. God is personally in her midst much more by being physically present in her womb. The Hebrew word for God being in Israel’s midst is qereb (keh’-rev) which literally translated means “in the womb”. Further, the same word is used elsewhere in the Hebrew OT to describe how God dwells amid His people through the ark in a physical sense.​

And coming to her the angel said, “Rejoice, O, favoured by grace!
The Lord is with you.”
– Luke 1, 28 14

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

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.
– Zephaniah 3, 14-16

Χαρε σφδρα, θγατερ Σιν, κρυσσε, θγατερ Ιερουσαλμ· εφρανου κα κατατρπου ξ λης τς καρδας σου, θγατερ Ιερουσαλμ. 15 περιελε Κριος τ δικματ σου, λελτρωτα σε κ χειρς χθρν σου· βασιλες ᾿Ισραλ Κριος ν μσ σου, οκ ψ κακ οκτι. 16 ν τ καιρ κεν ρε Κριος τ Ιερουσαλμ· θρσει, Σιν, μ παρεσθωσαν α χερς σου

76bfc-ob_adeff0_ob-86185c-jesus-in-mary-womb1

Further, we read in the Septuagint version of the Book of Exodus that the Lord covered the tabernacle where the ark was kept and filled it with His glory. This refers to the bright glory cloud (Shekinah) which the Jews believed to be a physical manifestation of God’s overshadowing spiritual presence and His word. Luke tells us in his Gospel that the power of the Most High shall “overshadow” Mary. He uses the same original Greek word episkiazo (ἐπισκιάζω) for the word ‘overshadow’ in the future tense: episkiasei (ἐπισκιάσει). It was the Holy Spirit who came upon Mary and “covered” her with His shadow, by whose power she conceived the Divine Word in the flesh. The sanctuary of her womb was filled with the glory of God, as He enveloped the temple of her body by His physical incarnation.

And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
– Luke 1, 35

κα ποκριθες γγελος επεν ατ Πνεμα γιον πελεύσεται
π σέ, κα δύναμις ψίστου πισκιάσει σοι· δι κα τ γεννώμενον γιον κληθήσεται Υἱὸς Θεο.

And Moses was not able to enter into the tabernacle of testimony, because the cloud overshadowed it, and the tabernacle was filled with the glory of the Lord.
– Exodus 40, 35

κα οκ δυνσθη Μωυσς εσελθεν ες τν σκηνν το μαρτυρου,
τι πεσκαζεν π᾿ ατν νεφλη κα δξης Κυροs νεπλσθη σκην.

Gary G. Michuta (Making Sense of Mary: Grotto Press) cites Zechariah 2:10 to connect the verse with John 1:14. In the prophecy, God says, “I am coming to dwell among you.” The author informs us that the Greek word for “dwell” is kataskenoso, whose root word for “tent” or “tabernacle” is skene, viz., the portable tent or tabernacle that housed the Ark of the Covenant before Solomon built the Temple. In the Gospel of John (1:14), the Greek word for “dwelt” is eskenosen which is derived from the same root word skene. So, the evangelist is literally saying, “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.” This occurred when Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and conceived our Lord. God’s incarnated presence filled the temple of her body and the sanctuary of her womb in which He personally dwelled and filled with His glory as He had the Ark of the Covenant.

74b3b-mary-and-elizabeth

Last but not least, the Greek word anephōnēsen / ‘ἀνεφώνησεν’ (“lift up the voice” / “cry out with a loud voice”) rarely appears in sacred Scripture. In the New Testament, it appears only once and with respect to Mary, that being in Luke 1, 42:

And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
– Luke 1, 42

κα νεφώνησεν κραυγ μεγάλ κα επεν Ελογημένη σ ν γυναιξίν,
κα ελογημένος καρπς τς κοιλίας σου.

There are only five instances in which this word is employed in the Septuagint, and on these occasions, it is in association with the ark and temple worship (1 Chron. 15:28; 16:4,5, 42; 2 Chron. 5:13). For instance:

So they brought in the ark of God, and set it in the midst of the tabernacle which David pitched for it…  And he appointed before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, Levites to minister [and] lift up the voice, and to give thanks and praise the Lord God of Israel.
– 1 Chronicles 16, 1-4

κα ταξε κατ πρσωπον τς κιβωτο διαθκης Κυρου κ τν Λευιτν λειτουργοντας ναφωνοντας κα ξομολογεσθαι κα ανεν Κριον τν Θεν ᾿Ισραλ·

e896a-virgin_pregnantlight

Hence, the parallelism that we have in the Gospel of Luke clearly confirms this nascent Marian tradition of the Church which was an offshoot of Judaic belief among the first Christian faithful who received the oral word of God from the Apostles themselves. The designation of Mary being the Ark of the New Covenant is another instance of the Old Testament being fulfilled in the New Testament. Only those who are ill-acquainted with the OT and ancient Judaic tradition can easily fail to see the connection.​

As we have seen, the Ark of the Covenant was specifically created by God to carry His overshadowing presence in this world. Similarly, God created Mary to carry the Divine Word in the flesh through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. For the same reason, both the Ark of the Old Covenant and Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, were made intrinsically holy by Divine mediation. As the ark was made of the purest and cleanest gold within and without and of incorruptible acacia wood (which cannot be consumed by worms and insects) because it was designed to serve as God’s personal dwelling place on earth, so too God sanctified Mary’s soul when he fashioned it upon her conception and preserved her flesh free from all stain of original sin and ensuing bodily corruption because of sin.

“The prophet David danced before the Ark.  Now what else should we say the Ark was but holy Mary?  The Ark bore within it the tables of the Testament, but Mary bore the Heir of the same Testament itself. The former contained in it the Law, the latter the Gospel.  The one had the voice of God, the other His Word.  The Ark, indeed, was radiant within and without with the glitter of gold, but holy Mary shone within and without with the splendor of virginity.  The one was adorned with earthly gold, the other with heavenly.”
St. Ambrose, Serm. xlii. 6, Int. Opp., S. Ambrosiiz
(ante. A.D. 397)

3428f-ob_ea90a8_ob-3214ed-th
Arise, O Lord, into thy resting place:
thou and the ark, which thou hast sanctified.
Psalm 132, 8

Besides the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, the Marian dogma of the Immaculate Conception and its corollary the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary body and soul into Heaven find their integrity in Mary’s designation of being the Ark of the New Covenant. We read in Luke 1:28, that Mary was called completely and perfectly sanctified or justified by divine grace with a permanent result (kecharitomene). She had no cause to fear the Divine Justice, for she had found favour with God (Lk. 1:30; cf. Isa 61:10). Not unlike a restored Daughter Zion, Mary was “clothed with a robe of salvation” and “wrapped in a mantle of justice” (Isa 61:10). God had looked upon the lowliness of His handmaiden and did great things to her because she was chosen to be God’s personal dwelling place in His physical manifestation, her body being His holy Temple and her womb His sacred sanctuary. Thus, all generations shall call the Virgin Mary blessed, for God has done great things to her, and holy is His name (Lk 1:46-49).

As with all Catholic Marian doctrines and dogmas, our fuller understanding of Mary’s role in the economy of salvation serves to better illuminate our understanding and deepen our appreciation for her divine Son. Mary’s role as the Ark of the New Covenant underscores the divine truth of who Jesus Christ is: one divine Person in the flesh with both a divine and a human nature hypostatically united, but nonetheless distinct from each other.

In the words of St. Hippolytus (200 A.D.): “For whereas the Word of God was without flesh, He took upon Himself the holy flesh (the true manna come down from Heaven) by the holy Virgin.” Mary was made holy by the grace of God, for she was predestined to be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and carry the Divine Presence in the sanctuary of her womb. She truly is the New Ark who was “overlaid with pure gold with the Word within and the Holy Spirit without.” St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (c. A.D. 260) concurs: The Ark of the Covenant is truly fulfilled in the holy Virgin Mother, “gilded within and without,” having “received the treasure of sanctification.” St. Dionysius of Alexandria testifies in accord with this sacred Tradition of the Church: “As Christ our Priest was not chosen by the hand of man, so neither was His tabernacle framed by men, but was established by the Holy Spirit; and by the power of God is that tabernacle protected” from all putridity and corruption, “to be had in everlasting remembrance, Mary, God’s Virgin Mother.”

40288062_261784844463687_2012067220397490176_n
And Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant
and pass on before the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant
and went before the people.
Joshua 3, 6

Dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima

 

She Shall Crush Thy Head

0ba5d-751fe02c5709b2763dff6002c86bf5bf

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

God said to the serpent: ‘I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.’
Genesis 3, 15 {DRB}
.

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

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

607bd-th1m8tykqr
Then Uzziah said to her, “Blessed are you daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, who guided your blow at the head of the chief of our enemies.”
Judith 13, 18

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

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

744e5-6351ee4badb71fc819fce88783902b9e

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

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

d1d616da0a7943c81f0b8c6e9aefb7d6_1

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

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

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

0460b3d4ed0d59ee5e6ce074e548c048

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

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

תְּבֹרַךְ֙ מִנָּשִׁ֔ים יָעֵ֕ל אֵ֖שֶׁת חֶ֣בֶר הַקֵּינִ֑י מִנָּשִׁ֥ים בָּאֹ֖הֶל תְּבֹרָֽךְ׃

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

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

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

ob_5f8a70_ob-992b2f-a17d83-64ea4ab9a5c14db5bd1bd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

th-5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a39f2-thz7sboedp

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

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

068f2-thj57n2mig

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

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

th2BGP6RDI

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

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

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

immaculate-heart-of-mary_3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

40288062_261784844463687_2012067220397490176_n
Salve Regina

Behold the Handmaid of the Lord

thEELVC7AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

00130-the_lamb_of_god_christ_mother_virgin_mary_hd-wallpaper-1433801

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

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

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

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

th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dd8f0-ob_4b5367_untitled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

thEXSEGIMC

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

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

708eb-ob_4f235b_th45t6603i

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

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

ec974-ob_abd646_maryatcross

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

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

2779b-thlsx5gxfw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8fbeb-thalkvfbd8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

40288062_261784844463687_2012067220397490176_n
Salve Regina!

Be It Done to Me

ce704-annunciation1

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

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

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

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

th_16

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

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

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

th_42

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

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

untitled_29

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

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

th_45

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

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

d69c1-th-8

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

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

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

95dde-a17d83_ef3237a9fbf64b01ae4798039c168176257emv2_d_1922_3000_s_2
γένοιτό μοι κατ τ ῥῆμά σου

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

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

08dc8-thgyfduw0j

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

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

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

76a21-rp528-2l

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

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

untitled

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

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

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

7a5d7-ob_a7145c_40b1e2c3ce5fac42682ba836ca3c355d

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

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

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

f3c2e-ob_327bf5_ob-1d35dc-th

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

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

ob_f60e10_94e437fe709f4c12b38000c60aef6bca

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

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

untitledBBIXNM5Q

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

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

4d0f6-thcyjwvtou

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

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

thAQHCP7EV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

428a8-th-3

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

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

12866-15884183457_aff6ed4f2d_b

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

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

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

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

40288062_261784844463687_2012067220397490176_n
Salve Regina!

Blessed Are You Who Believed

thDAZ8OZX8-1

Already you knew my soul;
my body held no secret from you
when I was being fashioned in secret
and moulded in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw all my actions;
they were all of them written in your book;
every one of my days was decreed
before one of them came into being.
Psalm 139, 14-16

Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”
Luke 1, 45
.

Since apostolic time, Christians have believed that, as an essential part of His plan of redemption, God preordained from all eternity to create the Blessed Virgin Mary and work with her for the salvation of mankind. The Judeo-Christians of the nascent Church in Palestine were aware of the vital significance of Mary’s role in the economy of salvation, and so the faithful felt devoted to the mother of their Lord in a lively spirit of gratitude and praise reminiscent of the dedication lavished upon Judith by Uzziah and God’s chosen people for having faithfully helped deliver the Israelites in the besieged city of Bethulia from oppression and the prospect of enslavement at the hands of their Assyrian enemy.

Elizabeth’s praise of her kinswoman Mary echoes the admiration the Israelite’s had for their heroine who slew the Assyrian general Holofernes: “Blessed (eulogomene) are you daughter, by the Highest God, above all women of earth; and blessed (eulogemenos) be the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth, who guided your blow at the head of the chief of our enemies. Your deeds of hope will never be forgotten by those who tell of the might of God” (Jdt. 13, 18-19; Lk 1:42). All Hebrew generations have called Judith blessed together with the Lord (eulogeo) for her heroic exploits, just as all Christian generations have called the Virgin Mary blessed for her valiant deed of faith in God’s grace in the economy of salvation (Lk 1:48).

Thus, St. Luke acknowledges a Marian tradition that naturally sprouted as an offshoot of the Judaic heritage in the infant Christian Ecclesia. In the voice of Elizabeth, Mary is praised for having believed in the words of the angel and consenting to be the mother of the divine Messiah. Now all the nations on earth have found blessing because of Mary’s meritorious act of faith working through love in a spirit worthy of Abraham, the father of faith (Gen 22:16-18).

02b8f-maratta-madonnachild

God predestined Mary to be the mother of the Redeemer, knowing that she would freely observe His will and please Him by consenting to conceive and bear His Only-begotten Son (Lk 1:38). Only by the faith of a humble and charitable young maiden should the divine Word become incarnate in mutual consent and loving communion to free the world from the slavery of sin and impending death through his sacrifice on the Cross. Having pronounced her Fiat, Mary crushed the head of the serpent with her heel as fatally as Judith had valiantly cut off the head of Holofernes with her sword in collaboration with God for the salvation of the world (Gen 3:15).

Indeed, God saw all that Mary would do in life even before He fashioned her soul and sanctified it with His grace. Foreseeing all her actions, every one of them written in the Book of Life, culminating on Calvary at the foot of the Cross, God decreed that Mary should come into being to collaborate with Him in redeeming fallen man. It was by His grace that God worked through Mary “both to will and to work” together with Him “for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13), for “God desires that everyone be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4).

70ad1-ob_ddd9f0_the-presentation-of-our-lord-in-the-te

Since Mary’s body held no secret from God while she was being molded in the depths of her mother’s womb, God could appear to Abraham and tell him to sacrifice his only son upon the altar in the land of Moriah. God saw His handmaid offering up her own body – the fruit of her womb – as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to Him (this being her true spiritual worship) in the Temple and on Golgotha, while He was even speaking to Abraham (Rom 12:1-2). Abraham’s offering up of Isaac in faithful obedience to the will of God prefigures Christ’s offering of himself on Calvary, but not without his mother’s maternal sacrifice as an essential component. Our Lord’s Cross stood atop the same mountain on which Abraham had built his altar. Yet God would send no angel to Our Lady of Sorrows to deliver her only beloved Son from the altar of holocaust.

Unless Mary freely declared, “Be it done to me according to your word” in faith and charity, she would have had no fruit to provide from her maternal womb as a burnt sin offering for mankind most pleasing and acceptable to God. But every one of Mary’s days was decreed before even one of them came into being. God saw how valiant a woman she would be just by having created her. If Abraham were willing to consecrate his only beloved Son to God and offer him back as a pleasing sacrificial offering in faith, it was only because Mary would give her assent to the will of God in faith, despite all the obscurity. Jesus would take the place of Isaac and offer himself to atone for the sins of the world, since his mother was first willing to die to her maternal self and offer the fruit of her womb back to God for mankind’s redemption.

ob_aff46e_a17d83-89b7f8db00ea48468ad0883a2c95c04

Everything that began in salvation history with Abraham and Isaac and reached its completion with Mary and Jesus rested on that climatic moment when the angel Gabriel appeared to the young maiden in the month of Nisan (March). How all creation must have held its breath in anxious suspense at that pivotal moment. Since Mary believed what was spoken to her by the Lord through His messenger and obeyed God, the promise made to Abraham could be fulfilled: that he become the father of many nations which should include the Gentiles. This blessing Abraham received from God for having believed and obeyed Him was validated by the Divine oath God swore in view of Mary’s obedient act of faith in charity and grace.

Because of her salutary consent to be the mother of the Messiah, even Isaiah could infallibly prophesy the virgin birth (7:14), since every one of Mary’s days was decreed by God, meaning all that He infallibly knew of Mary, His handiwork, shall be. What God infallibly knows will be cannot be otherwise. Indeed, even the creation of Adam and Eve rested on Mary’s Fiat in view of their fall from grace to the detriment of humanity. An even greater good than the original paradise that was lost was the purpose of the creation of mankind. This could only come about by the incarnation of Christ and his death and resurrection. But there could be no incarnation without Mary, the promised free woman, whom God put at enmity with the serpent as His collaborator.

abf45-th8faq7mii

Hence, God knew that Mary would freely and meritoriously give her consent in a spirit of joy before she would even declare her Fiat. That is why He sent the angel Gabriel to her, having first prepared His faithful handmaid with a fullness of grace (Lk 1:28). Mary’s Son was to be the Father’s ‘suffering servant’ who would restore the lost house of Israel (Jacob) and bring back the faithful remnant to Himself (Isa. 53). And her Son was to be made “a light for the Gentiles” that God’s “salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Isa. 49:6), but by being conceived and born of the faithful and humble Virgin.

If Elizabeth had understood all this by the sanctifying light of faith, it’s no wonder that she joyfully praised Mary for having believed what was spoken to her by the Lord. Not even her husband Zechariah could have celebrated God’s oath to Abraham or echoed the Messianic prophet’s words unless Mary had first become the mother of their Lord by her free salutary consent in the purity of her “faith working through love” (Lk 1:68-79; Gal: 5-5-6). How deeply reverential and grateful Elizabeth was towards her kinswoman when she asked: “Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43).

“Hail, Mary, you are the most precious creature in the whole world; hail, Mary, uncorrupted dove; hail, “Mary, inextinguishable lamp;
for from you was born the Sun of justice…
through you, every faithful soul achieves salvation.”
St. Cyril of Alexandria
Homily 11, Council of Ephesus
(A.D. 431)

eb7ef-thq7a7no9m
Enlarge the place of thy tent,
and stretch out the skins of thy tabernacles,
spare not: lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes,
for thou shalt pass on to the right land, and to the left:
and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and shall inhabit
the desolate cities.
Isaiah 54, 2-3

The primary signification of Isaiah’s prophecy concerns Israel in the metaphor of Mother Zion. The secondary fulfilment is reached in Mary, the mother of our Lord and Saviour and the anti-type of Mother Zion (the virgin bride of YHWH) whose children are liberated from captivity and regenerated unto God. It is from the Cross that Jesus redefines Mary’s motherhood in the biblical sense as she stands beneath it in great sorrow because of man’s slavery to sin: ‘Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.’ (Jn 19, 26-27). Jesus’ words to his mother Mary and the Disciple entrust her with a new and larger family which should include the Gentiles. Because of Mary’s faith in charity and grace beneath the cross, her sorrow shall be replaced with boundless joy; she must now make room “in her tent” after her ‘cords have been lengthened’ and her ‘stakes strengthened’ for the entire body of believers, who the beloved Disciple corporately represents as the Church.

The Divine Maternity is the result of the Incarnation, but this gift God has granted Mary carries with it further blessings for her because of her faith. The Divine Maternity itself is not the highest expression of her being blessed (makaria/ μακαρία) or “happy,” in the words of Elizabeth. When Jesus says, “Blessed (makaria) are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8), the highest expression of their being blessed isn’t being pure of heart, but rather seeing God which results from being pure of heart. They are not simply blessed for being pure of heart. So, to see how it is that Mary is blessed, rather than by only being the mother of Jesus, because of her faith, we must look to the prophet Isaiah.

0b3cd-jesus_and_mary_manger_by_bnw20401

In the figure of Daughter Zion, Mary is further blessed for becoming the mother of all nations rather than for simply being the natural mother of Jesus, and all because of her persevering faith in the face of darkness that brought her to the foot of the Cross. Just as Abraham becomes the father of many nations because of his persevering faith, so too Mary becomes the mother of all nations because of her faith. Abraham isn’t blessed simply because God has given him a son by Sarah as promised. Being the father of Isaac isn’t the fullest expression of Abraham’s blessed state; nor is Mary’s divine motherhood. It is on Mount Moriah where God redefines Abraham’s fatherhood, and it is on that same mount also known as Golgotha where God incarnate redefines Mary’s motherhood from the Cross.

We read in the Gospel of Luke (11:27-28) that a woman in the crowd which was following Jesus raised her voice and said to him: “Blessed (makaria) is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!” This woman obviously thought Mary was blessed for being the mother of such a great prophet and teacher. She had no idea that Jesus was God incarnate. Because of her ignorance, she failed to see how Mary was truly blessed and the higher expression of her blessedness. Thus, Jesus corrected her in allusion to his mother by saying: “Blessed (makaria) rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” The Greek word for “rather” is menoun (mενοῦν) which means “more” or “further”.

4e971-21c87-tumblr_ohzggsq4zt1vkxjbwo1_500

What our Lord implicitly told the woman, then, was that his mother wasn’t simply blessed for having borne and nursed him, but more so for having borne him because of her faith; she was more blessed for her faith in the word of God than she was for being his biological mother, since he came into the world to redeem it by her obedient act of faith in charity and grace. And for being a woman of faith, Mary was not only the natural mother of Jesus, but more importantly, the spiritual mother of all the living. It was in allusion to Mary’s redefined motherhood that Jesus called her “Woman” from the wood of the Cross, just as Adam had called his wife before they both fell from grace (Gen 3:12-13). If only the woman in the crowd knew what kind of fruit Mary had brought to mankind from her blessed womb, she whom the serpent couldn’t beguile.

Thus, Jesus must have alluded to the Annunciation when he spoke his words. The woman in the crowd couldn’t have imagined that Mary’s motherhood involved the appearance of an angel and her salutary consent to be the mother of someone greater than a prophet or any rabbi, one who was in fact the Son of God foretold by the prophets and who came into the world to save mankind from sin and death by suffering and dying on the cross. This woman should know that our Lord’s mother was not simply blessed for being the mother of Jesus, but more importantly because she had crushed the head of the serpent with her heel by her act of faith in collaboration with God to undo Eve’s transgression and become her advocate or vindicator. And this meant that she, too, would have to suffer much sorrow and die to her maternal self in union with her Son for the redemption of humanity.

e9fdd-d9ee6d28f7b60cb712b900e83810f55f
“But the Lord Christ, the fruit of the Virgin, did not pronounce the breasts of women blessed, nor selected them to give nourishment; but when the kind and loving Father had rained down the Word, Himself became spiritual nourishment to the good. O mystic marvel! The universal Father is one, and one the universal Word; and the Holy Spirit is one and the same everywhere, and one is the only virgin mother. I love to call her the Church. This mother, when alone, had not milk, because alone she was not a woman. But she is once virgin and mother–pure as a virgin, loving as a mother. And calling her children to her, she nurses them with holy milk, viz., with the Word for childhood.”
St. Clement of Alexandria
Paedagogos, I:6
(A.D.202)

The early Church Father, St. Clement of Alexandria (d. 216 A.D.) perceived the glorious splendour of the Church reflected in the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. We see in the Paedagogos (Instructor), he writes that “it is his joy to call her by her name of the Church.” Mary’s spiritual motherhood of all the members of Christ’s body is the proto-type of the motherhood of the Church. The Church is a mother in that she nourishes all the reborn with God’s grace through the sacraments and the word of God belonging to the deposit of faith. As Mother of the Church, our Blessed Lady is the caretaker of her children’s souls; she nourishes her offspring with her Son’s grace that efficaciously sanctifies or justifies them before God, having carried the One living Word in her womb and bringing him forth into the world to “to preach to the meek, to heal the contrite of heart, and to preach a release to the captives, and deliverance to them that are shut up” (Isa 61:1; Lk 4:18). The sacraments of the Church are physical instruments of divine grace, whereas the Virgin Mary is the moral channel of her divine Son’s grace by her prayerful intercession, which initially includes her Fiat. All saving grace, including the grace that is conferred through the sacraments, proceeds first and foremost from the Son through our Blessed Mother and unblemished spouse of the Holy Spirit in and through Christ.

This prerogative has been bestowed on her by God in honour of her Divine Maternity and perseverance in faith for the redemption of humanity. She who merited to bring the Font of all grace into the world should rightly be the divinely constituted chief-steward of her Son’s grace. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pet 4:10; cf. Jn 2:2-11). The Divine Maternity is the greatest gift any person may ever receive from God in the order of grace. Being the greatest gift any woman or person could ever possibly receive from God in this life, the divine motherhood carries with it the greatest prerogatives for any servant of the Lord. She who is God’s handmaid and spouse of the Holy Spirit is more than a servant by being the Queen Mother and Advocatrix of our Lord and King in his Davidic heavenly kingdom and mystical body. Blessed indeed is the Virgin Mary for having believed!

af243-thc3r0soda

Further, the Bishop of Alexandria says that “this mother, when alone, had not milk, because alone she was not woman.” In other words, Mary could not provide us with spiritual nourishment unless she were the mother of our Lord and brother (Rom 8:29). The woman in St. Luke’s gospel who pronounced the breasts of Mary to be blessed was mildly rebuked by Jesus for having said that. Jesus did not merely regard his mother to be blessed for having nursed him when he was an infant. Rather, she was more blessed for being called to provide milk that ordinary mothers do not have for their children: “the word for childhood” who in the flesh is the Son of the Virgin Mary, “pure as a virgin and loving as a mother” because of the purity of her faith working through love (Gal 5:5-6).

Our Blessed Lady tangibly represents in her person the “unblemished bride of Christ,” which is the Church,  sanctified by the presence of the Holy Spirit who ensures the purity of her faith as the guarantor of the divine truth (Eph 5:25-27; 1 Tim 3:15). The woman in the crowd pronounced Mary’s breasts to be blessed, but Jesus implicitly went further by presenting his holy mother to himself as “glorious” because there was no “stain or wrinkle” in her soul. The Holy Spirit was ever-present in Mary’s life preserving her from being tainted by any personal sin and ensuring her perfect sanctity.

Hence, because of her meritorious act of faith at the Annunciation, Mary was further blessed by being more of a mother in her likeness to the Church whose holy milk would be something of a nourishing spiritual substance: “the Word for childhood.” From Mary’s womb comes the Divine Word incarnate, from the Church’s womb comes forth the written and unwritten word of God: sacred Scripture and sacred Tradition. Our Blessed Lady is no ordinary mother who by physical nature has milk to give to her offspring, for she is a mother of a spiritual kind. In and through Mary, the Church has been conceived and begotten by her participation in the hypostatic order of Christ’s incarnation and his redemptive work. In turn, Christ is conceived in the womb of the Church and brought forth into the world by the faithful preaching of the Gospel in the sacred liturgy and administration of the sacraments (Mt 28:19).

ob_dd8de9_download
And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
Revelation 12, 2-5

Mary “is once virgin and mother” who nourishes her offspring with spiritual milk in the form of God’s Word and His grace, so that they can grow in conformity to the image of her divine Son. The Church is a virgin in the purity of her faith no less than she is, and so the Bride of Christ can nourish humanity with the truth of God’s word and His redeeming grace. Only Mary can provide what Eve had lost for her children: communion with God and the life of grace. And because of Mary, the Church can, too. In this sense, then, our Blessed Mother is a living symbol of the Church and the ideal model for all her members who serve Christ and bear witness to him in their lives, so that others may enter into communion with God through the womb of the Church as his adopted children, regenerated unto Him in the Holy Spirit through the merits of our Blessed Lady’s divine Son.

God has ordained that Jesus should redeem the world and regenerate mankind in association with his mother and our spiritual mother. Alone Mary is not “woman” who has milk to provide for our spiritual sustenance. Her universal maternal role depends on her divine Son being the new Adam and Head of humanity – “our life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:45). The Virgin Mary isn’t only the mother of Christ’s mystical Body, but also Mother of the redeemed world, being the new Eve and helpmate of her Son, the new Adam. Jesus declared: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to me” (Jn 12:32). Our Lord kept his promise by rising from the dead after his crucifixion and death, which his sorrowful mother was drawn into to help restore mankind to God’s grace. Thus, he draws all people to himself through the maternal patronage of his Blessed Mother whom he has given to the world from the Cross as her reborn offspring in the life of grace by her sorrowful anguish beneath the Cross (Jn 19:26-27; Rev 12: 2-5).

5b973-thyhhi71zw

The early Church Father, St. Irenaeus (180-190 A.D.) bears witness to this divine truth which the Church has grasped by the sanctifying light of faith: “The Word will become flesh, and the Son of God the son of man—the Pure One opening purely that pure womb, which generates men unto God” (Against Heresies, 4, 33, 12). St. Ambrose of Milan concurs two centuries later, only in different terms, while preserving the substance of the content passed on by way of Apostolic Tradition: “It was through a man and a woman that flesh was cast from Paradise; it was through a virgin that flesh was linked to God…. Eve is called mother of humanity, but Mary Mother of salvation” (Epistle. 63, 33). St. Augustine elaborates more by identifying the mystery of the Church with the mystery of the Blessed Virgin Mary: “Mary’s Son, spouse of the Church! He has made his Church like to His mother, He has given her to us as a mother, He has kept her to Himself as a virgin (pure in faith). The Church, like Mary, is a virgin ever spotless and a mother ever fruitful (bearing sons and daughters of God). What He bestowed on Mary in the flesh, He has bestowed on the Church in the spirit: Mary gave birth to the One, and the Church gives birth to the many, who through the One become one” (Sermo 195, 2).

Mary’s Fiat is evocative of Judith’s prayer to God (Ch.9), that He should intervene and save the Israelite’s from impending death and enslavement at the hands of the Assyrian forces which are besieging the city of Bethulia. YHWH hears and answers her prayer, because she has placed her faith in His providence. God’s response, however, requires that Judith collaborates with Him to save the Israelites from imminent destruction and captivity in a foreign land. The name Judith means “Jewish lady” or “woman”, which is fitting given our theme, since she is one of the several matriarchs of the Hebrew people who prefigures Mary in anticipation of the coming Messiah and her intimate association with him in the work of deliverance from evil and eternal death.

Jesus calls his mother Mary “Woman” at the wedding feast in Cana, where he begins his public ministry in the shadow of the Cross (Jn 2:1-11), and on Calvary from the Cross, beneath which her dual maternity is forever established (Jn 19:26-27). On both pivotal occasions, his blessed mother acts as his collaborator in the redemption (co-Redemptrix), just as Judith acted centuries before to save the Israelites from imminent destruction and death. Judith culminates in the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is more importantly the maternal guardian of our souls in our spiritual battle against Satan and the dark principalities and powers that rule in this world (Rev 12:17). St. Paul warns us that our battle isn’t against “flesh and blood” or our fellow man (Eph 6:12).

84e37-cd6579dd57051fb429bed479723f5a44

Our very own Judith or “Great Lady” and Queen Mother (Gebirah) appeals on behalf of all exiled and enslaved humanity “born in guilt and conceived in sin” (Ps 51:7). By having first consented to be the mother of the Divine’ Messiah, who shall “preach the good news to the poor and set captives free” (Isa 61:1; Lk 4:18), Mary has become our spiritual mother in the order of grace in our spiritual battle against Satan and his dark legions which besiege our souls. She is our Lady of Perpetual Help who mediates her Son’s graces to us with which we can armor ourselves against the enemy. Since Mary was a woman of faith, and thus had found favour with God (Lk 1:30), He validated her consent by overshadowing her through the creative power of the Holy Spirit. Our Blessed Lady’s prayer, which was expressed by her simple Fiat, in that it contained all that she had prayerfully desired up to the Annunciation on our behalf, was answered. And so, blessed are we, who are besieged by the dragon and its offspring, because she believed and has come to us as our patroness. We, too, can leap for joy in the womb of holy Mother Church because of the sweet sound of our heavenly Mother’s prayers which never escapes from the ears of her divine Son.

The Blessed Virgin Mary – Daughter of Zion – has been raised as a spiritual fortress and a place of refuge for sinners in their spiritual combat with Satan and his legions of fallen angels. She especially protects those who implore her help and prayerful intercession, so that they may abide with her Son in his love and goodness by his saving grace. Our Blessed Mother is a spiritual and moral haven for all who wander in the spiritual wilderness of this world and wish to stay on the right path while having to face the ferocious onslaught of the dark “principalities and powers” that rule in this desolate world, seeking to “devour” human souls like a “prowling lion” (1 Pet 5:8-9). Let us hope and pray that our Blessed Mother Mary will come to our aid, as we implore her maternal intercession, so that we won’t wander off the straight path that leads us back to Eden or promised land during our exodus from captivity, worked in and through the liberating merits of Christ her Son and our Lord.

And if the God-bearing flesh was not ordained
to be assumed of the lump of Adam,
what need was there of the Holy Virgin?”
St. Basil
To the Sozopolitans, Epistle 261
(A.D. 377)

thLF738GTW
Shall not Zion say:
This man and that man is born in her,
and the Highest himself hath founded her?
Psalm 87, 5
.

40288062_261784844463687_2012067220397490176_n
Salve Regina!

Behold Thy Mother

thCV6RPK1U

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

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

When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son.  After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.
John 19, 26-27
.

Of all the enigmatic statements contained in sacred Scripture, the one made by Jesus to his beloved disciple from the Cross is no less mysterious and challenging to interpret or understand. Our Lord says to the Disciple: “Behold your mother.” By the word mother, Jesus has more its biblical sense in mind. His act of entrusting his mother to the disciple rests on the status and importance of motherhood in Israelite society. For the Jews, motherhood was more a social edifice than a biological expedient. Biblically, we can see it was redefined as something that embraced all of God’s chosen people, given the historical circumstances surrounding their covenant with God and his promise to Abraham.

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

6337e-74025-ruthandboaz

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

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

ob_3e1ac5_ob-d465f8-ob-3d64fc-31118-000-011-01-1

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

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

00fe8-ob_496d95_a17d83-d08c36b4bada4d9ab085b3baac59246

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

thAX0V2JOX

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

89429-ob-5f8a70-ob-992b2f-a17d83-64ea4ab9a5c14db5bd1bd

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

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

0ba5d-751fe02c5709b2763dff6002c86bf5bf

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

6709b-aimage_225_image-faith-of-queen-esther

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

immaculate_heart_of_mary

Being Esther’s anti-type, Mary, alone of her race, isn’t subjected to the corruption of physical death and the dark prospect of eternal spiritual death because of original sin, brought about by the machinations of the Devil (Gen. 3:14). God has exempted her from being born under the law of sin and death by preserving her free from the stain of original sin, so that she shall be the worthiest of mothers for the Son and assist Him in defeating the world’s chief enemy Satan as to deliver mankind from its slavery to sin and impending death. Through the Fiat of the faithful and valiant daughter of God the Father, the King of kings claims the final victory over the chief enemy of God’s people and his works (Rom 8:37; 1 Cor 15:57; 2 Cor 2:14, etc.). Now in Heaven, Mary dons her crown and reigns enthroned as Queen together with our Lord and King, as the faithful continue to make war with the Dragon in their spiritual battle against him together with her (Rev 12:17). Our Lady has been chosen by our Lord and King because she is the fairest woman of our race (Lk 1:28, 42).
.

a4018-blakecrucifixion

Behold thy Son – Behold thy Mother
.

When Jesus addresses his sorrowful mother from the Cross, he calls her “Woman.” Jewish men of his time honourably called their mothers “Emah”, especially in public in observance of Mosaic law. However, Jesus refers to his mother Mary as being a mother to someone, when he says to the Disciple: “Behold your mother.” So, Jesus isn’t thinking of Mary as being simply his natural mother when he speaks to her and then to the Disciple, but rather as a genuine mother to others as well in a spiritual sense. Our Lord is addressing his most blessed mother in a Biblical sense. The truth is when Jesus calls his mother “Woman”, he is alluding to her as being the free Woman of Promise foretold to the serpent by God Himself in the Garden of Eden, she who shall crush its head by her faith working through love for the spiritual benefit of humanity (Gen 3:15; Lk 11:27-28).

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

37020-220px-n-s-dos-passos-19

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

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

1346c-b9ff661cf28d97dcd2a4f868f3a7cbd9

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

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

dc013-thgkx6oax6

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

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

thPZKW0VC6

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

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

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

b480c-ob_2850f3_wedding-feast-of-cana-2

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

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

th8W8R1CHS

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

The more reasonable explanation of the Disciple’s presence must be that he represents the entire Christian community of believers or the Mystical Body of Christ. Such an idea rests on a biblical mind-set that scholars call “corporate personality” which originated from Biblical scholar Wheeler Robinson in 1907. The beloved disciple is a corporate representation of the Church which shall include even the Gentiles, just as Jacob is a corporate representation of all the faithful people of Israel who prefigure the faithful citizens of the New Jerusalem come down from heaven (Rev 12:1; 21:2). In the Biblical sense of motherhood, then, the Disciple is as much a son of Mary as Jacob is a son of Sarah, the mother of Isaac who prefigures Christ, and the Israelites the sons and daughters of Mother Zion – the second Eve in classical Jewish theology. Yet, for the early Hebrew Christians, the mother of their Lord wasn’t their spiritual mother in merely a metaphorical sense. She was someone whom they could personally relate to as much as they could her divine Son. Mary was much more to them than a symbol or representation (Lk 1:43).
.

4f27a-thchooddod
For I heard a cry as of a woman in labor,
anguish as of one bringing forth her first child,
the cry of daughter Zion gasping for breath,
stretching out her hands,
“Woe is me! I am fainting before killers!”
Jeremiah 4, 31
.

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

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

0b22f-dd179cebe03492c4ad678ef856ecdc90
Now, why art thou drawn together with grief?
Hast thou no king in thee,
or is thy counsellor perished,
because sorrow hath taken thee
as a woman in labour?
Micah 4, 9
.

The imperative “Behold” (Heb. hinneh) is sometimes used as a “predicator of existence”, something that looks to a new state of being (the redefinition of Mary’s motherhood). The hinneh clauses emphasize the immediacy of the situation (the crucifixion), and they may be used to point things out for the sake of clarification. For instance, “Behold (here is) Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and that I too can have a family by her” (Gen 30:3). Significantly, most hinneh clauses occur in direct speech. They introduce a fact or something actual on which a subsequent statement or command is based and must be closely observed. What Jesus said to the Disciple was “Here is your mother,” meaning she was as much of a mother to him with necessity as Bilhah was a servant of Rachel – and Mary the handmaid of the Lord: “Behold, I am (here is) the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38).

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

11801-ob_e74ea7_th67s8dary

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

Further, the word “Behold” was often used in ancient time as an introduction to a prophetic announcement of judgement pointing to God’s intervention and stood in the immediate context of the messenger formula (Jer. 6:21; 9:6; 10:18). By using this term, Jesus was in fact making a prophetic announcement of eschatological importance that related to his heavenly Father’s intervention back in the Garden of Eden. Jesus wished that it be made known and observed that his mother – the free Woman of promise – was to be the Mother of his one Apostolic Church and of all nations from that point on. It was the Disciple who was placed in his spiritual mother’s care. The redefinition of Mary’s motherhood in the Biblical sense points to a universal state of being that embraces all human souls who exist in the life of grace under the mantle of her maternal patronage and protection from the dark forces of evil (Rev 12:17).
.

ob_9c8ce4_ob-d66fc8-ob-565bd1-theyftrm0o
Your sun will never set again,
and your moon will wane no more;
the LORD will be your everlasting light,
and your days of sorrow will end.
Then all your people will be righteous
and they will possess the land forever.
They are the shoot I have planted,
the work of my hands,
for the display of my splendor.
Isaiah 60, 20-21
.

Finally, we have the statement “Behold your mother” occurring in Matthew 12:47 and Mark 3:32. The theological theme in these two verses resembles that which we have in John 19:25-27. Both deal with what it means to be a “brethren of Jesus”. The crux of these passages is that the ties of obedience to the will of God take precedence over those of blood kinship. Although Jesus does not deny or intend to belittle his kinship with his mother, he nonetheless subordinates it to a higher bond of kinship that transcends all biological ties. Jesus regards Mary as his genuine mother more for her faith in God than for their physiological ties, since it is a greater blessing to her (Lk 11:27-28).​ Our Lord tacitly has the Annunciation and Crucifixion in mind when he answers the crowd after his attention is drawn to the presence of his mother and kin outside. They represent the extension of boundaries and point to the inclusion of the Gentiles in the New Dispensation of grace. Our heavenly Father’s family was never intended to be confined in Israel and consist of only the Jews.

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

th4BOZSWAS

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

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

“For if Mary, as those declare who with sound mind extol her, had no other son but Jesus, and yet Jesus says to His mother, Woman, behold thy son,’ and not Behold you have this son also,’ then He virtually said to her, Lo, this is Jesus, whom thou didst bear.’ Is it not the case that everyone who is perfect lives himself no longer, but Christ lives in him; and if Christ lives in him, then it is said of him to Mary, Behold thy son Christ.’”
Origen, Commentary on John, I:6
(A.D. 232)
.

ob_454339_ob-940692-untitled-png
So, the ransomed of the LORD shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Isaiah 51,11
.

40288062_261784844463687_2012067220397490176_n
Salve Regina!

The Disciple Took Her to His Own

th263Y72Y6

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

When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour,
the disciple took her to his own.
John 19, 26-27 (DRB)
.

All true disciples of Christ, those who faithfully keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus in their lives, take their Blessed Mother Mary to their own, or accept her as their own mother in the depths of their hearts, as she leads the way in the order of grace, taking them by the hand to their heavenly home. Mary must have assured John that she would never leave his side while his soul lived. She likely took him by the hand and led the way to his home never to separate herself from him during his apostolic ministry until her dormition. The Gospel of John bears testimony to the traditional belief of the infant Church that our Lord entrusted his mother to his faithful bride, which is the Church.

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

virgin1305589796715

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

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

68f88-thlfwzfp4v

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

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

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

469af-ob_c480ff_painting-in-our-lady-of-togo-church-ho

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

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

6f4c6-ob_65abbb_our-lady-paintinglores1

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

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

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

jesus-on-cross
λαβεν μαθητς ατν ες τ δια.

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

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

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

e934c-th1x51fcrr

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

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

fb6d2-thnbbhsjlv

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

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

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

d8167-th77zpspi0

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

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

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

8b535-mother-mary-1

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

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

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

a2e72-th5n84zufi

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

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

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

“The Church is a virgin. Perhaps you will say: If she is a virgin, how can she beget children? Or, if she does not bear children, how can we claim to be born from her womb? My answer is: She is both virgin and mother; she is like Mary who gave birth to the Lord. Was not Mary a virgin when she gave birth, and did she not ever remain a virgin? But the Church also gives birth and yet remains a virgin… she gives birth to Christ Himself, for all who receive baptism are His members. Does not the Apostle say: ‘You are the body of Christ, member for member’? If then she gives birth to Christ’s members, she is in every way like Mary.”
St. Augustine, Tract 1, 8
(ante A.D. 430)
.

th02B79IWL
Who has heard of such a thing?
Who has seen such things?
Shall a land be born in one day?
Shall a nation be delivered in one moment?
Yet as soon as Zion was in labor
she delivered her children.
Isaiah 66, 8
.

40288062_261784844463687_2012067220397490176_n
Salve Regina!

My Spirit Rejoices in God My Savior

thFMKPCGFG

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

And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
Behold, from henceforth shall all generations call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.”
Luke 1, 46-49
.

The Catholic Church has always taught that God alone infallibly knows who His elected are and who have been predestined to glory. And although Catholics believe that Mary’s salvation must have been assured, especially since she was predestined to be the Mother of God and, by a singular Divine favour, was preserved free from contracting the stain of original sin in view of her Son’s foreseen merits, our Blessed Lady couldn’t possibly have presumed that her individual salvation was guaranteed just by pronouncing her Fiat (Lk. 1:38). This is evident by the fact she conceived Jesus because of her poverty of spirit and deep humility. In her Canticle of Praise, Mary owns that God has looked upon the lowliness (humble estate) of his handmaiden (Lk. 1:48).

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

1f1f3-88f94a489a1ee06717c8cb4076dccc5e
Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.
Isaiah 12, 2

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

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

bde2a-th641wdgqc

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

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

373c7-th5io4dipb
O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt You,
I will give thanks to Your name;
for You have worked wonders,
Plans formed long ago,
with perfect faithfulness.
Isaiah 25, 1

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

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

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

d9f67-thnwb0f4ql
And it will be said in that day,
“Behold, this is our God
for whom we have waited
that He might save us.
This is the LORD for whom we have waited;
Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”
Isaiah 25, 9

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

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

b6d53-749e257dff1775d52f3628f44c7f33f6
Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments,
Your neck with strings of beads.”
Song of Solomon 1, 10

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

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

b1f73735c30f25cd7d9c67b12d1e48ff_orig
And my soul shall rejoice in the LORD;
It shall exult in His salvation.
Psalm 35, 9

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

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

2b703-ob-0a6cf3-a17d83-cc18049d557a4014a91dddf5a754e6f_2
She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth…
And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth,
so that when she bore her child, he might devour it.
Revelation 12, 2-4

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

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

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

ob_781bf2_thh980y15p

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

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

61e54-tho0366qqm

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

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

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

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

8d3d3-a17d83-73f8dfde2bdf4f1a98a00193453c45a2257emv2
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah 3, 16-18

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

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

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

ob_d8d32a_thyz74lqn4

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

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

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

2e50a-tht6abejds
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live,
but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live
by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Galatians 2, 20

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

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

ob_3fc11e_b83837e4af2025c009b38335870569a6
A faithful saying: for if we be dead with him,
we shall live also with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him.
2 Timothy 2, 11-12

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

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

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

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

a904e-th9067ea32
Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion,
for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst,
declares the Lord.
Zechariah 2, 10
.

40288062_261784844463687_2012067220397490176_n
Salve Regina!