Something about Mary

You are kindly invited to explore and discover the Scriptural and Traditional Virgin Mary
in the Catholic faith.

.

.

“Humility is a passive virtue: it is a readiness to accept what is born not of blood, nor of the flesh, nor of man’s will; a readiness to welcome God who comes down.”
Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

.

.

A garden bower in flower
Grew waiting for God’s hand:
Where no man ever trod,
This was the Gate of God.
The first bower was red -—
Her lips which “welcome” said.
The second bower was blue -—
Her eyes that let God through.
The third bower was white -—
Her soul in God’s sight.
Three bowers of love
Now Christ from Heaven above.

-— LAWRENCE HOUSMAN

.

“Behold, from henceforth shall all generations call me blessed;
For the Almighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.”
Luke 1, 48-49

+

I Will Put Enmities Between Thee and the Woman

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

And a great sign appeared in heaven:
A woman clothed with the sun,
and the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
Revelation 12, 1

.

The Protoevangelium (First Gospel) in the Book of Genesis is the first Messianic prophecy recorded in sacred Scripture, and it is pronounced by God Himself to the serpent in the wake of the fall of Adam and Eve. The prophecy does not speak of only the Divine Messiah, but also includes the free Woman of Promise whose fulfilment is ultimately reached in the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of our Divine Lord and Saviour. In view of Eve’s transgression and her moral involvement in the fall of Adam (אָדָם “mankind”), God declares to the serpent, in allusion to Mary, that He will put her (the woman) in complete opposition and hostility with it. This enmity between Mary and Satan shall be in the same likeness with that of her Divine Son’s with the devil’s offspring: wicked humanity.

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

.

.

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

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

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

.

.

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

We have only to ask ourselves why it was that Jesus addressed his mother by calling her “Woman”. The answer lies in the Book of Genesis. Originally, Adam had referred to his wife as “woman” (Gen. 2:23). It wasn’t until Eve had mortally sinned and fallen from grace that she was named Eve, which means “mother of all the living” (Gen. 3:13-20). It is in this context that we can see what our Lord’s intention was by calling his mother “Woman” at both the beginning and end of his public ministry (Jn. 2:3-5; 19:26-27). 

The Evangelist understood that Jesus was drawing a parallel between his mother and Eve. He knew that Mary was much more than the biological mother of  his; she was the woman of faith who God promised would be intimately associated with him in his redemptive work, and by being so, she would become the spiritual mother of all those who are alive in Christ and bear witness to him while observing God’s commandments (Rev. 12:17). And what God willed with necessity was that she should be preserved free from all stain of sin.

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

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

.

.

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

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

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

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

.

.

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

Fortunately, for both herself and all humanity, Mary chose “life and prosperity” rather than “death and adversity” after hearing the words of the angel Gabriel. She heard and observed the word of God as a true servant of Israel in the spirit because it was “very near to her and in her heart.” In the spirit of Daughter Zion, YHWH’s loving and faithful spouse, our Blessed Lady humbly refused to bow down to any idol which the ancient serpent may have presented to her in his jealous hostility with the woman. (cf. Deut. 30:11-12).

Thus, because of her fidelity to God and desire to please Him in her covenant with Him, by her salutary consent to be the mother of our Lord and Saviour, Mary helped destroy the ravages of sin that the serpent had managed to work in the beginning. Because she welcomed the will of God with outstretched arms in faith and love, our  Redeemer chose to  come  into  the  world  (Rev. 3:20). Peter Chrysologus assures us “without Mary neither death could be done away with, nor life restored” (Sermon 64).

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

.

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

.

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

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

.

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

.

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

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

.

.

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

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

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

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

.

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

.

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

The Talmud says:

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

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

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

.

.

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

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

.

.

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

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

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

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

.

.

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

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

.

.

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

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

God “tilled the land that was desolate” and had it “become like the garden of Eden” by restoring  in  Mary  what  Adam  and  Eve  had  reduced  to  a wasteland. God replanted in her what was uprooted from humanity by their transgression (Cf. B’midbar 1:1; Nedarim, 55a). God put His spirit within our Blessed Lady and a heart of flesh that would never turn to stone. And by the efficacious influence of His grace, God caused Mary, without violating her free will, to observe all His commandments and to walk in His statutes free from all abomination that  infests sinful humanity (Ezek. 36: 16:37). Mary was indeed the creation of  God’s sublime handiwork, His greatest masterpiece of grace in all creation, who in awe all generations shall pronounce blessed. The Lord had done great things to her, for holy is His name (Lk. 1:48-49).

.

“And I passed by thee, and saw thee: and behold thy time was the time of lovers: and I spread my garment over thee, and covered thy ignominy. And I swore to thee, and I entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God: and thou becamest mine.
And I washed thee with water, and cleansed away thy blood from thee: and I anointed thee with oil. And I clothed thee with embroidery, and shod thee with violet coloured shoes: and I girded thee about with fine linen, and clothed thee with fine garments.”
Ezekiel 16, 8-10

.

http://www.catholicproductions.com

 

 

 

 

+

She Shall Crush Thy Head

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).

.

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.

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.

.

.

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. 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 by 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.

.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

.

Although our Blessed Lady was only a finite created being, unlike God who is infinite and uncreated, she could merit for both hers elf 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.). Transformed and elevated in her 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” (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

.

.

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.

.

.

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. 

Following the rhythm of the text in threefold idiomatic fashion it reads as follows:

You/woman 
Your seed/her seed
She shall crush your head/ you lie in wait for her heel

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

.

.

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: sinful 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 3:15).

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. Yet 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). 

.

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

.

Hence, 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.

The Woman must vindicate herself by opposing the serpent, but now this could only be accomplished by the woman who God promised shall conceive and bear the Messiah, so that he could restore what Adam brought about by his sin. The Fall of mankind from God’s grace was accomplished by Adam alone. If he hadn’t succumbed to his wife’s suggestion, only she would have been banished from Eden and barred from the Tree of Life in her spiritual death. Meanwhile, God would have provided another female helpmate for Adam who would bear righteous offspring for her husband in the life of grace, if she proved to be faithful to him in their nuptial covenant by believing him instead of the Serpent in what he told her about God’s command not to eat the forbidden fruit on the Tree of Knowledge.  

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 and creation, which he has come into the world to restore by regeneration and re-creation.  And this Christ (the second Adam) did accomplish more than sufficiently because of 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.

.

.

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 disciples, her spiritual offspring (Jn 19:26-27).

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).

.

.

Of all human creatures, the Blessed Virgin Mary was 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 its 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, 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 in its re-creation. Nor could the gates of Hell 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 its advocates (Mt 23:29-33).

“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.)

.

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

3183c-coatofarmsofpopepiusix-romancatholicchurchinengland-petercrawford

“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]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

+

Hail, Full of Grace!

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

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

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

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

.

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

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

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

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

.

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

.

The perfect may denote an action as already finished, but it may also express the continuance of the result down to the present time. Our Lord’s expression “It is written” (gegrapti/Γέγραπται) is literally “It has been written.” And what has been written remains in force beyond the present time, that being “Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word coming from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4). The perfect may implicitly include the future conceptually in its aspectual form. Ephesians 1:6 refers to our predestination to grace as opposed to glory. The active indicative aorist which modifies the root verb and is temporal in aspect indicates that not everyone perseveres in grace beyond the present time. Hence, escharitosen does not imply a permanent state of sanctifying grace for all believers. There is no such thing as “Once-saved-always-saved” in a distributive sense.

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

.

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

.

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

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

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

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

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

.

.

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

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

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

.

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

.

As we have seen in Luke 1:28, at any rate, the original Greek text does not read pleres charitos, but kecharitomene, which is a perfect passive participle and singular female vocative. A participle is a verb that is used to describe a subject. The perfect tense describes an action (God’s bestowal of grace) in the present with a completed result. And since this term is used as a title, the evangelist does not intend to describe Mary’s state within the restricted time frame of the present moment. He presents the angel as saying: “Hail, “completely, perfectly, and permanently endowed with sanctifying or justifying grace.” Someone completely endowed with grace is obviously “full of grace”, albeit the verbal difference. But Mary’s complete and perfect endowment of grace is a completed past action with a lasting effect which identifies her person. Mary embodies in her interior life what it requires to be the mother of God incarnate: completely sinless, grace being the antidote to sin.

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

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

.

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

.

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

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

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

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

The Greek appellation kecharitomene implies, that by the foreseen merits of Christ, God removed His judgment on mankind from Mary when He preserved her free from the stain of original sin. Suffering and death were no longer penalties exacted upon her because of her exemption from sin. Suffering and death entered the world on condition that all have sinned being descendants of Adam (Rom. 5:12). So, Mary had no cause to fear these evils, since she was preserved free from all the moral ill-effects of original sin and remained personally sinless throughout her life by the efficacy of all God’s actual graces. Mary had been liberated from being associated in mankind’s collective guilt by her Immaculate Conception (Gen. 3:15).

.

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

.

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

And so , Luke is telling us that the grace Mary was endowed with in the past  was the state of grace she continued to exist in at the Annunciation. Theologically, we may assume that  Mary remained in this state of grace after the angel departed, since he left as soon as Mary consented to be the mother of the Lord, for which reason God highly favoured her with His grace (Lk. 1:38). Nor was Mary endowed with this singular grace upon  conceiving Christ.  In Luke 1:30, the angel says: “Fear not Mary, for you have found favour (grace) with God.” Mary’s permanent state of grace was the result of a completed past action prior to the Annunciation, which reasonably  would have occurred at the instant  God created her soul and predestined her to glory because of her election to the Divine Maternity. God commissioned the angel to call the Blessed Virgin Mary by the name Kecharitomene upon greeting her because of her singular and most perfect form of redemption (Isa. 43:1).

.

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

.

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

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

The name Kecharitomene points to something essential about Mary’s position with God. She isn’t simply described as being full of grace, but is called “full of grace”; she embodies in her person what it means to be completely, perfectly and perpetually endowed with sanctifying or justifying grace. The names God gives His servants are permanent and originate from all eternity in accord with His design. Grammatically and linguistically, therefore, we must keep both the verb tense and the form of case in mind to fully understand what God is revealing to us by the designation Kecharitomene. The perfect tense is being used here in an extraordinary way that never is for any person in the Scriptures, save the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God (Isa 7:14).

.

The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach.
Revelation 12, 14

.

http://www.blessedaboveallwomen.org

http://www.catholicproductions.com

+

The Lord Is With Thee

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

And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.
Luke 2, 34-35

.

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

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

.

.

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

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

.

.

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

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

.

.

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

Yet, Mary’s meritorious act of faith in charity and grace conferred a right to a supernatural reward for mankind, even though she didn’t herself produce it. Christ’s perfect merits, by his substantial grace of union with the Father, have produced our temporal rewards of grace and our eternal reward of salvation. Still, by Mary’s Fiat, what her Divine Son has gained for humanity is now something we can all hope for and receive provided we persevere in faith just as our Blessed Lady did (2 Jn 1:8-9, etc.). Mary heard the word of God and kept it (Lk 11:28). And so, she had cause to proclaim: “My spirit rejoices in God my saviour!” (Luke 1:47).

.

.

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

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

.

.

The initial grace of justification and forgiveness, which Christ alone has merited for us as the God-man, marks the beginning of our journey in faith towards life ever-lasting (Eph 2:8-10). This has all been prepared for us by God in the beginning (Gen 3:15). Mary is the sign of humanity’s restoration to the life of grace because of her charitable act of faith (Isa 7:14). By her Fiat, our salvation is nearer than it was. Following our Blessed Lady’s example, she who precedes us in the order of grace, we mustn’t slumber, now that we do believe (Rom 13:11). Saving faith is an active faith. Our salvation is something that we must “work out in fear and trembling” because of our deficiencies of love for God and neighbour. Mary opened her heart to God, and for that she had found grace with Him (Lk 1:30) and helped gain the grace her Son had produced for all human souls by his life and death on the cross as his “fellow-worker” (1 Cor 3:9). The Incarnation wouldn’t have happened by default if Mary had been deficient in love of God and humanity. Nor could she have endured the road to Calvary together with her Son without the fire of the Holy Spirit’s love kindled in her heart.

Divine grace is a supernatural asset which we are expected to invest by collaborating with the Holy Spirit in the life of charity and grace for our increase in sanctification or justification. Grace is added to grace, as St. Paul puts it, by our bearing fruit (merit) through faith in God’s grace. The holding of our spiritual gifts of grace, beginning with faith working through love, is a co-operative enterprise between God and us. We must invest our share in what our Lord has contributed for our salvation in his humanity by his just merits, if we hope to reap the eternal benefits which he alone has produced for us. It isn’t enough for us to accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior while passively doing nothing and leaving all the labor up to him as we sit idly by, if we hope to be saved. This being the case, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary in the month of Nisan (Lk 1:27).

.

.

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

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

.

.

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

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

.

.

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

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

.

.

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

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

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

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

.

.

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

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

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

.

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

.

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

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

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

.

.

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

However, Our Blessed Lady didn’t receive the grace that was bestowed upon her in vain, but invested it in the salvation of souls which required that she suffer in union with her Son’s suffering and anguish of soul for the ungratefulness of sinners. Mary’s first trial of faith came so soon after Jesus was born, when she and her infant Son were forced to flee into Egypt because of King Herod’s decree (Mt 2:13-23). The shadow of the Cross assimilated Mary in Bethlehem where her pilgrimage of faith enshrouded in obscurity began.

Mary’s association with her Son required that she too suffer and die to her maternal self.  For the redemption to be completed, Mary had to willingly endure all the sorrow which only a loving mother could for her offspring. And to make temporal satisfaction to God for the sins of the world, her love was the only means by which God’s justice could be fully appeased. Our Blessed Lady was called through the angel to make up for what was lacking in her Son’s afflictions in her own afflictions (Col 1:24).

Jesus would make both temporal and eternal satisfaction to the Father for mankind’s sins, but not without the temporal satisfaction his mother must make to repair man’s broken relationship with God. Mary satisfied God, for she suffered in filial love of God who was offended by sin, with a motherly love for her Son who suffered and died because of sin, and with the love our heavenly Father has for all humanity which was ravaged by sin ever since the fall of Adam and Eve.

.

.

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

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

It was by means of suffering “that man should not perish, but have eternal life.” By Christ’s death on the cross, spiritual death has been conquered and the second death is no longer an irrevocable prospect facing mankind. Suffering and death are in themselves evil in character, but our Lord and Saviour has made them a basis of something good. Suffering involves pain and loss because of sin, but when offered to God in union with Christ’s suffering and death, it can serve to reconcile us to God.

Whenever we suffer or face death, we can give back to God that which we denied Him, viz., our love for the sake of His love and goodness. Those who have truly acknowledged their guilt before God and are contrite in spirit, accept their suffering and death to this world which temporally appease the Divine justice and renders the eternal satisfaction Christ has made for them personally applicable (Dan 12:10; Sirach 2:5; Zach 13:8-9; 1 Cor 3:15-17; Jude 1:23, etc.). The Virgin Mary was sinless from the time God created her and endowed her with a fullness of sanctifying grace, but she could congruously merit for us temporal satisfaction to God for our sins, because she accepted her pain and loss and offered her sorrow to God for them on our behalf. In our stead, she was sorry for the sins that had offended God and willing to make reparation for them because of her love of God who was grieved by our sins. God was pleased with her spiritual sacrifice and accepted it as a sweet oblation which was sufficient to temporally restore the equity of justice between Him and mankind in union with Christ’s temporal satisfaction in his humanity. Being the new Eve and helpmate of the new Adam, Mary is our co-Redemptrix: “Mother with the Redeemer.”

.

.

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

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

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

.

.

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

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

.

.

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

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

.

.

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

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

.

.

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

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

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

.

.

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

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

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

.

“Sing, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband,”
says the Lord.

“Enlarge the place of your tent,
stretch your tent curtains wide,
do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
strengthen your stakes. 

“For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
your descendants will dispossess nations
and settle in their desolate cities.”
Isaiah 54, 1-3 

.

http://www.blessedaboveallwomen.org

http://www.catholicproductions.com

+

I Know Not Man

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

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

.

And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done,
because I know not man?
Luke 1, 34

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

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

.

.

The original Greek text reads: andra ou ginosko (ἄνδρα οὐ γινώσκω) which literally is “man not I know” or in English “I know not man.” The Greek verb ginosko (Present Indicative Active) is in the continuous present which shows a permanent disposition to not know man. So, Mary has a permanent disposition to not know man, just as the man who says, “I don’t smoke” has a permanent disposition not to smoke. The verb “to know” in the Gospel or Scriptures is a Jewish idiom for sexual relations between a man and a woman. So idiomatically, Mary is telling the angel: “I don’t have sexual relations with man.” Now this Jewish idiom for sexual relations is subject to the same rules of grammar as any other verb is. The verb “to know” may be conjugated in the past tense. We read in Genesis 4:1 in the Septuagint: ‘And Adam knew (αὐτοῦ) his wife who conceived and brought forth Cain.’ In other words, ‘Adam had sexual relations with Eve who, as a result, conceived and brought forth Cain.’ Eve conceived Cain because she had sexual intercourse with Adam.

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

.

.

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

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

.

.

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

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

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

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

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

.

.

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

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

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

.

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

.

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

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

.

andra ou ginosko

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

.

Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son,
and shall call His name Immanuel
Isaiah 7, 14

.

http://www.blessedaboveallwomen.org

http://www.catholicproductions.com

+

The Power of the Most High Shall Overshadow Thee

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.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).

.

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 realise how much she needed him rather than the false idols she had placed before Him in violation of their indissoluble covenant. Yet 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).

.

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

.

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 kadash 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.

.

.

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. 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, according to Jewish tradition. 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.

.

.

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. 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.

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.

.

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

.

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.

.

.

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 intended to have conjugal relations and children of their own.

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 solemnise the marriage and take his wife into his home in fear of violating the moral law so long as the couple live together, but remain continent.

.

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 “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” a woman (resuth) 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. 

.

.

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).

.

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 effected 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).

.

.

Further, 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, 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 carry and nourish the holy Son of God.

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 (Gen 3:15). 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 (Rom 8:29; 1 Cor 11:12; Rev 12:17).

.

.

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).

                                                                                  .

“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

.

http://www.blessedaboveallwomen.org

http://www.catholicproductions.com

+

Behold, the Handmaid of the Lord

“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).

.

“[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.

.

.

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.

.

“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 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”).

.

.

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 couldn’t 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.

.

“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.

.

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.

.

.

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 went 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).

.

.

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 mother once she accepted the word of the angel in good faith, despite all that it 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 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).

.

.

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, 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.”

Mary came to fully realize through her sorrowful experience 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.

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 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 wilfulness of hers.

.

.

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 son.

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. Both the Mother and the Son were crucified that day for the sins of the world just as Simeon had foretold. 

.

.

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 or 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 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).

.

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 sorrow. 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.

.

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 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.

.

.

What Christ accomplished in his passion and death was more than sufficient and super-abundant, but his most Blessed Mother’s collaboration perfected and completed his heavenly Father’s plan of undoing the Fall entirely by reciprocation. Satan should have no cause to boast of his triumph over Eve or a human creature over and against the new Adam’s triumph over him. God decreed the Serpent’s humiliation soon after it deceived the woman, as to indirectly seduce her husband to rebel against God. The Devil’s disgrace could only be achieved by the Lord’s humble and faithful handmaid. And only then could her Offspring undo the sin of Adam and the fall of mankind completely.

The maiden 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 God. 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.

.

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 Blessed Lady 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.

Hence, 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 (antecedent) will 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.

.

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 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.

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 merit on her act of faith informed by charity in grace. 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, but God’s saving light shone forth into the world. All this because God’s light shone forth from our Blessed Lady’s soul, which magnified His glory (Lk 1:46).

.

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

.

http://www.blessedaboveallwomen.org

http://www.catholicproductions.com

+

May It Be Done to Me

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.

If God has decreed or determined that we all say Yes to Him, 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.

God 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.

.

.

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 look 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 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). 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 in that, especially if He had acted like a benevolent tyrant or a patroniser. 

.

.

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. Their disobedience could be undone only by the obedience of Jesus and Mary in their love for the Father and complete willingness to propitiate His justice. 

Moreover, 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 sufficient.  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.

.

.

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 it. (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. What mattered to her above all, despite 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 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.)

.

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 word 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 for being his mother.

.

.

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.

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).

.

.

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).

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).

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 dwelt 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.)

.

“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 honour Mary’s consent, for His handmaid was a daughter after His own heart.

.

.

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 honoured 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 long 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).

.

.

Of course, 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 blessed for her faith and impeccable obedience to God than she was for being a natural mother to him (Lk 11:27-28).

Mary 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 (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).

.

.

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.  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.

.

.

All this came to be starting with Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, when the angel Gabriel appeared to her in the month of Elul 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 a 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.

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): “Be it done to me according to thy word.”

.

.

Perhaps we could say that the Church was truly 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 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 her and filled her with an abundance of even more grace, because 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 manifested in the heart of Mary when she joyfully consented to be the mother of God incarnate. 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).

Mary represents the Church her Son shall establish – 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, for the Holy Spirit had breathed life into her soul, this same Spirit who shall change the world in the last age.

“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
(A.D. 431)

.

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 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 (Mt 22:37-40; 1 Jn 4:16).

.

.

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 by His physical presence in his divinity. 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  the rest of her people, she was in no dire need to be solely dependent upon the religious instructions of her elders and kept in rein.

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. God abided in her, so she joyfully received all that she was taught in the depths of her heart and soul (1 Jn 2:27). In humble silence, Mary pondered on 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 after the divine image she was originally created in (2 Cor 3:17).

.

.

Hence, the Blessed Virgin 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: “Be it 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 sorrow.

“Holy and wise in all things was the all-blessed Virgin; in all ways peerless among all nations, and unrivalled among women. Not as the first virgin Eva, who being alone in the garden, was in her weak mind led astray by the serpent; and so took his advice and brought death into the world; and because of that hath been all the suffering of saints. But in her alone, in this Holy Virgin Mary, the Stem of Life hath shot up for us. For she alone was spotless in soul and body.”
St. Gregory Thaumaturgus
On the Holy Mother of God
(262 A.D.)

.

You are the exaltation of Jerusalem, you are the great glory of Israel, you are the great pride of our nation! You have done all this single-handed; you have done great good to Israel, and God is well pleased with it. May the Almighty Lord bless you forever!” And all the people said, “So be it!”
Judith 15, 9-11

.

“Indeed, at the Annunciation Mary entrusted herself to God completely, with the ‘full submission of intellect and will,’ manifesting ‘the obedience of faith’ to him who spoke to her through his messenger. She responded, therefore, with all her human and feminine ‘I,’ and this response of faith included both perfect cooperation with “the grace of God that precedes and assists” and perfect openness to the action of the Holy Spirit, who “constantly brings faith to completion by his gifts.’

“The word of the living God, announced to Mary by the angel, referred to her: ‘And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son’ (Lk. 1:31). By accepting this announcement, Mary was to become the ‘Mother of the Lord,’ and the divine mystery of the Incarnation was to be accomplished in her: ‘The Father of mercies willed that the consent of the predestined Mother should precede the Incarnation.’ And Mary gives this consent, after she has heard everything the messenger has to say. She says: ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word’ (Lk. 1:38). This fiat of Mary-‘let it be to me’-was decisive, on the human level, for the accomplishment of the divine mystery. There is a complete harmony with the words of the Son, who, according to the Letter to the Hebrews, says to the Father as he comes into the world: ‘Sacrifices and offering you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me…. Lo, I have come to do your will, O God’ (Heb. 10:5-7). The mystery of the Incarnation was accomplished when Mary uttered her fiat: ‘Let it be to me according to your word,’ which made possible, as far as it depended upon her in the divine plan, the granting of her Son’s desire.

“Mary uttered this fiat in faith. In faith she entrusted herself to God without reserve and ‘devoted herself totally as the handmaid of the Lord to the person and work of her Son.’ And as the Fathers of the Church teach-she conceived this Son in her mind before she conceived him in her womb: precisely in faith! Rightly therefore does Elizabeth praise Mary: ‘And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.’ These words have already been fulfilled: Mary of Nazareth presents herself at the threshold of Elizabeth and Zechariah’s house as the Mother of the Son of God. This is Elizabeth’s joyful discovery: ‘The mother of my Lord comes to me’!”

Pope St. John Paul ll, Redemptoris Mater
(25 March 1987)

.

http://www.blessedaboveallwomen.org

http://www.catholicproductions.com

 

+

Most Blessed Are You Among Women


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

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
Luke 1, 41-42 (NAB)

.

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

Most Bible versions in English have Elizabeth declaring “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” The passage that is taken from the Catholic New American Bible has the superlative adjective “most” qualifying the past participle eulogomene which gives meaningful substance to the statement “Blessed are you among women.” The expression “blessed among women” is a Hebraism which literally means “most blessed among women” or “blessed above all women.”

.

.

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

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

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

καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῇ ᾿Οζίας· εὐλογητὴ σύ, θύγατερ, τῷ Θεῷ τῷ ῾Υψίστῳ παρὰ πάσας τὰς γυναῖκας τὰς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, καὶ εὐλογημένος Κύριος ὁ Θεός, ὃς ἔκτισε τοὺς οὐρανοὺς καὶ τὴν γῆν, ὃς κατεύθυνέ σε εἰς τραῦμα κεφαλῆς ἄρχοντος ἐχθρῶν ἡμῶν·

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

καὶ ἀνεφώνησεν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ καὶ εἶπεν Εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξίν καὶ εὐλογημένος ὁ καρπὸς τῆς κοιλίας σου

.

.

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

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

Mary’s blessed state is intended to mean much more than having been favoured by God to be the mother of Jesus and having cause to be happy because of this divine privilege. Luke doesn’t use makaria, which literally means “happy”.  Nor is Elizabeth merely praising Mary for having become the mother of her Lord. Rather, Mary’s blessedness must do with her personal affinity with her Son in a spiritual and mystical way. God rules in Mary’s soul as much as Christ’s divinity rules his humanity and takes charge of his human soul. God is the ruler of our Blessed Lady’s soul no less than He is the ruler of His heavenly kingdom.

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

.

.

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

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

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

.

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

.

The original Greek verb eulogeo also occurs seven times in the Gospels with reference in the masculine perfect passive participle form only to Jesus. We find it in the second clause of Luke 1:42 (as in the Book of Judith referring to YHWH) and in Mark 11:9: ‘And they that went before and they that followed, cried, saying: Hosanna, blessed (eulogemenos / εὐλογημένος) is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.’ The blessed state of the kingdom of heaven where the Divine rules is in likeness the blessed state of the Lord in his divinized humanity: “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14) and in likeness of his blessed mother who has been most abundantly and supremely graced: ‘And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace (Ave gratia plena) the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women’ (Lk 1:28 DRB).

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

.

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

.

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

God has removed Mary from among sinful humanity and has given her a heart of flesh, putting His Spirit in her so that she should be careful to always follow His laws and decrees (Lk 11:28). In the sanctifying light of faith, our Blessed Lady perceives all God has taught His chosen people through Moses in its proper light. Indeed, she is a daughter of God worthy of receiving her promised inheritance, a true servant of Israel in the spirit. Her covenant with God is the new and everlasting one established by the mediation of her divine Son through the outpouring of his precious blood (Lk 22:20).

.

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

.

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

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

.

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

.

Hence, by describing Mary as “most blessed” (eulogemene), St. Luke presents the mother of our Lord as the promised woman in whom the peace of the Kingdom of God reigns. The quality of her soul preludes the life of Heaven itself, since there is nothing spiritually wanting in our Blessed Lady’s state of being. Mary is unaffected by those disordered inclinations of the soul which even the faithful  must strive to overcome in their daily life of unity with God because of original sin. She experiences within the depths of her interior being the joy and the peace of God’s complete dominion over her, free of all the dark passions which can disturb and blemish the soul with its vices. Not unlike her divine Son in his humanity, by the plenitudes of grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit she has been endowed with in a singular way, Mary is totally detached from all created things that could draw a soul away from God, these vain allurements of the world.

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

The Kingdom of God is within Mary, and God alone rules in her soul through the Holy Spirit, her Creator blessed. Her soul resembles an unspoiled wilderness with untilled soil untouched by the human settlement of worldly wisdom and unnatural desires that deviate from the original goodness of creation. Mary is carried aloft on the wings of divine grace over the lower region of sinful humanity. She is beyond the dragon’s reach and above the raging waters of sin, having escaped from its clutches, for she hasn’t been born in slavery within its dominion. Of all human creatures, Mary has never had any need to repent of a personal sin. Our Blessed Lady is the free woman promised by God, whose holy offspring is the free Son of promise.

.

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

.

St. Luke characterizes Mary as a living symbol of the Church or Kingdom of God, having no “spot or wrinkle”, but is “holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:27). She personifies the heavenly Church which is essentially the pilgrim Church on earth. He presents her as the perfect model for all the faithful who have been predestined to grace and are children of God by adoption, “chosen to be holy and without blemish before Him” (Eph 1:3-6). Our Blessed Lady embodies the highest stage of conversion that baptised Christians are called to attain, viz. the state of spiritual perfection and mystical union with God, albeit the many imperfections that​ remain in those who have advanced this far and are still at war with the dragon in their spiritual combat. Mary’s blessedness is equal to the blessedness of her Son, though not by nature but by grace. And since she is preserved free from the stain of original sin by the grace of God, St. Paul’s exhortation to all the faithful, that they “put off the old nature for the new nature” does not apply to her (Eph 4:22-24). Mary is God’s re-creation of humanity.

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

.

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

.

Our Blessed Lady loves God with a pure and perfect love, and by loving Him, she can love her neighbour with a totally unfailing love that reflects God’s absolute love. Mary’s love of human souls derives its existence from the love God has for her (1 Jn. 4:19). She understands and fully appreciates what true love really means. The love she has for others is that same eternal love she has received from God and cherishes above all temporal goods. Her love may be finite, but it is perfect; since Mary’s soul is free of all pride, ego, and selfishness. God is the supreme object of her soul before whom she humbly denies herself and thereby becomes the mother of God the Son (Lk. 1:48).

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

.

.

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

“There is one who is called both a mother and a virgin,
And my joy is to call her by the name of the Church.
Christ’s body she nurtures by the power of the Word,
The people reborn, for whom on the Cross
Hung in agony, lovingly cradling as children~
And wrapping them deep in the blood of His Godhead.”
St. Clement of Alexandria, Paidagogos 1, 6, 42
(A.D. 202)

.

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

.

http://www.blessedaboveallwomen.org

http://www.catholicproductions.com

+

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

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?
Luke 1, 43

.

The word ‘type’ comes from the Greek word tupos (τύπος) which means an impression. The word 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. In 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.

.

.

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 fulfilment in the person of Mary. Let us see how the Blessed Virgin and the Ark correspond to each other.

.

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 YHWH 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 gold 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). 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 law (Lev 16:2-4).

.

.

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 (ante A.D. 235)

.

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 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; John 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 was 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 holy womb.

.

.

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 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.

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

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 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

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 Obededom into the city of David with joy. And there were with David seven choirs, and calves for victims.
– 2 Samuel 6, 14

.

.

In the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Septuagint has the word 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 so 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.

καὶ εἰσελθὼν ὁ ἄγγελος πρὸς αὐτὴν εἶπεν Χαῖρε κεχαριτωμένη ὁ κύριος μετὰ σοῦ εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξίν

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

14 Χαῖρε σφόδρα, θύγατερ Σιών, κήρυσσε, θύγατερ ῾Ιερουσαλήμ· εὐφραίνου καὶ κατατέρπου ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας σου, θύγατερ ῾Ιερουσαλήμ. 15 περιεῖλε Κύριος τὰ ἀδικήματά σου, λελύτρωταί σε ἐκ χειρὸς ἐχθρῶν σου· βασιλεὺς ᾿Ισραὴλ Κύριος ἐν μέσῳ σου, οὐκ ὄψῃ κακὰ οὐκέτι. 16 ἐν τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ ἐρεῖ Κύριος τῇ ῾Ιερουσαλήμ· θάρσει, Σιών, μὴ παρείσθωσαν αἱ χεῖρές σου

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

.

.

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

καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ ἄγγελος εἶπεν αὐτῇ Πνεῦμα Ἅγιον ἐπελεύσεται ἐπὶ σέ, καὶ δύναμις Ὑψίστου ἐπισκιάσει σοι· διὸ καὶ τὸ γεννώμενον ἅγιον κληθήσεται Υἱὸς Θεοῦ.

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

καὶ οὐκ ἠδυνάσθη Μωυσῆς εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν σκηνὴν τοῦ μαρτυρίου, ὅτι ἐπεσκίαζεν ἐπ᾿ αὐτὴν ἡ νεφέλη καὶ δόξης Κυρίου ἐνεπλήσθη ἡ σκηνή.

.

.

Finally, the Greek word ‘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

καὶ ἀνεφώνησεν κραυγῇ μεγάλῃ καὶ εἶπεν Εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξίν, καὶ εὐλογημένος ὁ καρπὸς τῆς 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).

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

καὶ ἔταξε κατὰ πρόσωπον τῆς κιβωτοῦ διαθήκης Κυρίου ἐκ τῶν Λευιτῶν λειτουργοῦντας ἀναφωνοῦντας καὶ ἐξομολογεῖσθαι καὶ αἰνεῖν Κύριον τὸν Θεὸν ᾿Ισραήλ·

.

“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. Ambrosii
(ante. A.D. 397)

.

.

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 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 pure 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.

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), for the Lord was with her. She had no cause to fear the Divine Justice, for she had found favour with God (Lk. 1:30).

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 (Lk 1:46-49).

.

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 dogmas, our fuller understanding of Mary’s role in the economy of salvation serves to better illuminate our understanding and deepen our appreciation of 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: “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 concurs: The Ark of the Covenant is truly fulfilled in the holy Virgin Mother, “gilded within and without,” having “received the treasure of sanctification.” 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.”

.

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

.

In honour of our Blessed Mother on the Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary
22 August 2017
Fatima, Portugal

.

http://www.catholicproductions.com

 

+

The Voice of Thy Salutation

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

And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Luke 1, 43-44

.

Grace originates from God the Father and is produced by the merits of God the Son through his passion, death, and resurrection. The distribution of divine grace is appropriated to God the Holy Spirit. By her divine motherhood and mystical union with the Holy Spirit as His chaste spouse, the Blessed Virgin Mary has acquired a universal maternal role in the dispensation of all actual graces in collaboration with the third Person of the Holy Trinity. Since it was through Mary’s salutary co-operation with divine grace in faith and love that the living Font of all grace came into the world, her Son willed to continue coming to us through his most Blessed Mother’s mediation (Jn 2:2-8), and he continues to reach out to us through her until the end of this age (Jn 19:26-27).

Vatican 2 Council explains:

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

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

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

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

.

.

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

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

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

.

.

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

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

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

.

.

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

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

.

.

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

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

.

.

Thus, one can draw an analogy between Mary and the sacraments as moral and physical channels of divine grace respectively, through which the Holy Spirit operates. When we are baptized as adults or hold to our baptismal commitment as Christians who were baptized when infants, we place our faith in Christ who instituted the Sacrament of Initiation. And by doing so, we efficaciously receive the spiritual benefits of grace communicated to us by the Holy Spirit through the supernatural cleansing property of water that purifies and regenerates the soul (Titus 3:5; 1 Pet 1:3).

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

We have testimony from early sacred Tradition:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

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

And Mary abode with her about three months;
and she returned to her own house.
Luke 1, 5

.

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

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

.

.

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

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

.

.

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

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

.

.

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

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

.

.

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

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

.

.

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

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

.

.

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

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

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

.

.

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

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

.

Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring-those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.
Revelation 12, 17

.

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

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

.

.

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

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

.

.

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

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

.

.

The pilgrim saints on earth have a far greater chance of growing and persevering in grace, and attaining their salvation, if they petition their Queen Mother daily in true filial devotion. Our Lord and King knows all our needs even before we present our petitions, either directly to him (but not without the other member’s awareness in his Body) or indirectly, by asking his Blessed Queen Mother and our Mother, the pre-eminent member of Christ’s Body, to put in a good word for us while we pray. This is because our Lord Jesus desires that we, stewards of grace, pray for one another in mutual, filial love as fellow members of God’s family. Our relationship with God is a filial one between a father and his adopted children. It certainly isn’t an impersonal legal relationship between a magistrate and defendants which is what we essentially have in Protestantism and why the Virgin Mary is a stumbling block for our non-Catholic Christian friends.

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

.

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

.

In honour of our Blessed Mother Mary
on the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary.
(7 October 2016)

.

http://www.catholicproductions.com

http://www.blessedaboveallwomen.org