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Blessed Are You Who Believed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our “Great Lady” or Queen Mother (Gebirah) appeals on behalf of all exiled and enslaved humanity “born in guilt and conceived in sin” (Ps 51:7). By having first consented to be the mother of the ‘divine’ Messiah, who shall “preach the good news to the poor and set captives free” (Isa 61:1; Lk 4:18), Mary has become our spiritual mother in the order of grace in our spiritual battle against Satan and his dark legions which besiege our souls. She is our Mother of Perpetual Help who mediates her Son’s graces to us with which we can armor ourselves against the enemy. Since Mary was a woman of faith, and thus had found favour with God (Lk 1:30), He validated her consent by overshadowing her through the creative power of the Holy Spirit. Our Blessed Lady’s prayer, which was expressed by her simple Fiat, in that it contained all that she had prayerfully desired up to the Annunciation on our behalf, was answered. And so, blessed are we, who are besieged by the dragon and its offspring, because she believed.

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

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

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

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My Soul Glorifies the Lord

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,

and my soul shall be joyful in my God:

for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation:

and with the robe of justice he hath covered me,

as a bridegroom decked with a crown,

and as a bride adorned with her jewels.

Isaiah 61, 10

And Mary said,

“My soul glorifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.

From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed;

for He who is mighty has done great things to me,

and holy is His name.”

Luke 1, 46-49

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,

we were like those who dreamed.

Our mouths were filled with laughter,

our tongues with songs of joy.

Then it was said among the nations,

“The Lord has done great things for them.”

The Lord has done great things for us,

and we are filled with joy.

Psalm 126, 1-6

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

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

The Lord had done great things to Mary by restoring in her the spiritual fortunes Adam had forfeited for all his offspring as the fountain-head of humanity (Lk. 1:49). The Blessed Virgin Mary, our Daughter Zion in the flesh, was created “clothed with the sun” of justice and “with the moon (Heb. yareah) under her feet” (Rev. 12:1). The light of God’s glory shone forth from her soul in full radiance without ever having paled in the least. Her enmity with the Serpent or Dragon was in the same likeness of her Son’s (Gen. 3:15). The Lord had done “great things” for His blessed daughter Mary and divine mother elect, for holy is His name. Indeed, we are glad for her.

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How long wilt thou be dissolute in deliciousness,

O wandering daughter?

for the Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth:

A WOMAN SHALL COMPASS A MAN.

Jeremiah 31, 22

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

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

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

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

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

“The Holy Virgin is herself both an honourable temple of God and a shrine made pure, and a golden altar of whole burnt offerings. By reason of her surpassing purity she is the Divine incense of oblation (προθσεως), and oil of the holy grace, and a precious vase bearing in itself the true nard; yea and the priestly diadem revealing the good pleasure of God, whom she alone approacheth holy in body and soul. She is the door which looks eastward, and by the comings in and goings forth the whole earth is illuminated. The fertile olive from which the Holy Spirit took the fleshly slip (or twig) of the Lord and saved the suffering race of men. She is the boast of virgins, and the joy of mothers; the declaration of archangels, even as it was spoken: “Be thou glad and rejoice, the Lord with thee”; and again, “from thee”; in order that He may make new once more the dead through sin.”

St. Gregory Thaumaturgus

On the Holy Mother of God

(A.D. 262)

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My dove, my undefiled is but one;

she is the only one of her mother,

she is the choice one of her that bore her.

The daughters saw her, and blessed her;

yes, the queens and the concubines,

and they praised her.

Song of Solomon 6, 9

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My Spirit Rejoices in God My Savior

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my soul shall exalt my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Isaiah 61, 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We can be sure that if Mary boasted in anything, it would have been in her weaknesses that required the aid of divine grace for the power of her divine Son to impel her (2 Cor. 12:9). It was by her co-operation with the abundance of grace God bestowed on her that our Blessed Lady merited to be the mother of the Divine Messiah and the gift of salvation for all humanity in the incarnation. She first had to conceive Jesus in her heart, as St. Augustine puts it, before she could conceive him in her womb.

Grace preceded Mary in her collaboration with God in His work of redemption; so, unless she united her spirit with the Spirit of God by acceding to His prompting, there could be no salvation for her or anybody. Mary must not receive the grace of God in vain if His work had to be accomplished first in her before it should be in the world by His anointed One (2 Cor. 6:1). Fortunately for us, as well as for Mary, she sought to exalt God when she pronounced her Fiat. This was more important to her than any eternal reward she might receive because of her faith.

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

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

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Mary did not simply rejoice in her salvation, though she had good reason to, seeing that it meant enjoying eternal life with God in heavenly bliss. But despite how joyful she must have been with the prospect of this great blessing – the Beatific Vision – presented before her, Mary rejoiced first and foremost in the Divine Messiah himself from the depths of her soul in faith and love. That she should have been chosen to bring the living Source of salvation into the world as a daughter of Zion was cause enough for her to be overjoyed in God’s mercy and love. For this, Mary was thankful that God should look upon her humble state as to manifest His infinite glory in a fallen world.

Yet, our Blessed Lady understood, that before the Holy Spirit should come upon His chosen bride and cover her with His shadow, she had to have adorned herself with the jewels of divine grace by allowing it to supernaturally transform her heart and mind in the depths of her soul; she would have had to array herself with the garments of salvation by “putting on” the holy child she might bear (Rom. 13:14), and only then could she become His mother.

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

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“Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments,
Your neck with strings of beads.”
Song of Solomon 1, 10

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The apostle Paul teaches us that our “perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53). Only then can our redemption and resurrection from the dead be personally realized. Mary saw herself in God’s plan as a woman who should be removed from sinful humanity, as Israel was separated from the surrounding pagan nations, if the formal redemption of the world were to be accomplished by the promised Messiah through the untilled soil of her virgin womb.

Mary’s spirit could rejoice in God her saviour, since it conformed to His Spirit and the Spirit of the Son whom she would bear. Not unlike the holy Child she would be the mother of, Mary made no provision for the flesh or gratified any vain desires that would offend God; she had a compassionate heart, she was kind, humble, meek, and patient; holy and beloved by God because of her faith in charity and grace (Col. 3:12). Her interior disposition attested to what it meant to be saved. Mary rejoiced in God’s salvation by her virtuous living. A wicked spirit has no cause to rejoice.

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

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

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Mary’s spirit rejoiced in God her saviour because her soul magnified the Lord. The supernatural quality of Mary’s soul proclaimed His glory in a fallen world. She embodied in her person what it takes to be saved and enjoy eternal life with God. Mary never presumed that her personal salvation was guaranteed, but the state of her soul attested that it was, but provided she should persevere in God’s grace. If her heart did not condemn her, Mary had confidence before God. Mary’s spirit could rejoice in God her saviour, for it was perfected in love of God and neighbour.

The Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary because of her perfect love which conformed to the love God has for all His created children. This pleased God (1 Jn 3:21-22). By joyfully pronouncing her Fiat, Mary essentially begged God to come into the world as its salvation. Her prayer was answered, since her spirit rejoiced in what pleased God, “that everyone might be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Mary’s spirit was united with the Spirit of God; her joy was what pleased God and what he desired of her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Incarnation happened because Mary did not doubt God. She wasn’t like “the wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind, being double-minded and unstable in every way.” And, so, she could expect to “receive anything from the Lord” both for her and the human race (Jas. 1:2-8). Her spiritual work of mercy completed her faith by animating it. Our Blessed Lady couldn’t have appeased God’s justice and make temporal satisfaction to God for the sins of the world if her faith had been nothing but a mental construct. Mary could rejoice in God her saviour only by possessing a living and active faith (Jas. 2:14-25). Her faith anticipated the faith of the Church: a faith that sought what she could do for God rather than what God could do for His bride.

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

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

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

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God would never have chosen Mary to be the mother of His Son if He knew that she would prove to be unfaithful at the hour of His Son’s perfect obedience to His will. Her spirit must rejoice in God her saviour, which could be expressed by nothing less than Mary should accept her sorrow and unite her interior suffering with the suffering of her Divine Son for the remission of sin. Christ used suffering as a means by which he merited the grace of redemption for the entire world. He sanctified suffering by his Passion. What was once an evil effect of original sin and a penalty for it was given a “quasi-sacramental” value, by which we might be saved if offered to God in union with our Lord and Savior (cf. Dom Bruno Webb, Why Does God Permit Evil? ).

As the second Adam and new Head of humanity, our Lord merited grace for us, so that by our suffering in union with him, grace can be transmitted to us and even to others. By Mary’s willingness to suffer in union with her Son, our Lord suffered in her to complete his act of redemption. Thus, her suffering had supernatural value and could merit an increase of the grace of sanctification or justification on behalf of the world in and through the merits of her divine Son. Our Blessed Lady understood this by the sanctifying light of faith, and she knew by the Holy Spirit’s gift of knowledge, that she had no cause to rejoice in God her Savior unless she were willing to suffer for God her “spiritual worship”. Her salvation, not unlike ours, meant offering herself as a living sacrifice to God holy and pleasing to Him (Rom. 12:1-2).

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A faithful saying: for if we be dead with him,
we shall live also with him.
2 Timothy 2, 11

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

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

Our sorrowful Mother understood what the Apostles hadn’t until Pentecost, that she could rejoice in being alive with her Son in the Resurrection only by dying to self and being buried with him in his death through suffering (2 Tim. 2:11). Hence, despite her sorrow at the foot of the Cross, Mary had cause to rejoice and be glad in God’s plan of salvation. Mary perceived, by the sanctifying light of faith, as she looked upon her suffering and dying Son, that our salvation may be attained only if we suffer and die to self and to this world in obedience to God in union with Jesus in perseverance to the end (Rom. 6:5-8).

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

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All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed

At that time, I will bring you home,
at the time when I will gather you together;
yea, I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes, says the Lord.
Zephaniah 3, 20

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

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

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δο γρ π το νν μακαριοσί με πσαι α γενεαί

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My beloved spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me.
See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.”
Song of Solomon 2, 10-11

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“Actually, God, who from all eternity regards Mary with a most favourable and unique affection, has “when the fullness of time came” put the plan of his providence into effect in such a way that all the privileges and prerogatives he had granted to her in his sovereign generosity were to shine forth in her in a kind of perfect harmony. And, although the Church has always recognized this supreme generosity and the perfect harmony of graces and has daily studied them more and more throughout the course of the centuries, still it is in our own age that the privilege of the bodily Assumption into heaven of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, has certainly shone forth more clearly.”

Pope Pius Xll, (Apostolic Constitution)
Munificentissimus Deus
(1 November 1950)

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The Time Came for Her to Be Delivered

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

The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my son,
this day have I begotten thee.
Psalm 2, 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mary’s chastity was intrinsically connected with her exemption from all stain of sin. Being a virgin allowed Mary to totally consecrate herself to God both in body and in spirit. She had to be both spiritually and physically pure by the sanctifying grace of God to be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and have a family in which God was at the centre as head of the household. Her exterior and bodily purity had to reflect the interior purity of her soul. Only then could Mary conceive the holy Child of God. The sacred should not intermingle with the profane. Nothing pertaining to the flesh that is tainted by sin should ever come between God and His virgin bride.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rather, what the Catholic Church has traditionally believed and taught from earliest time is that when Mary gave birth to Jesus, her physical virginal integrity remained intact. There was no breaking of the hymen, no physical pain or discomfort that is normally experienced by a woman in labour, no issuance of water and blood, and no placenta and umbilical cord. Mary’s bodily integrity remained inviolate in harmony with her chaste spiritual integrity. There was no profane element of anything natural or any form of physical corruption in her giving birth to Jesus that could violate the purity of her soul and her exemption from all stain of original sin.

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

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

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

The Divine Logos, Jesus, sanctified his mother’s womb while He was present there, and He preserved the sanctity of her body when the Father willed that he be born. All forms of physical corruption in creation are the result of Adam and Eve’s sin, by which they forfeited the original grace of holiness and justice for humanity. The Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved free from all stain of original sin by her Immaculate Conception. She was exempted, therefore, from the law of sin which Eve brought down upon women, because she was chosen to be the mother of the Divine Messiah and Bridegroom (Gen. 3:15-16). Most blessed was the mother of the Lord among women, and blessed was the fruit of her womb (Lk. 1:42).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Since virgins do not naturally conceive offspring, it follows that the prophet is speaking of a supernatural conception. Included with Mary’s virginal conception of Jesus is her virginal act of giving birth to him, which virgins naturally don’t give. Isaiah says that a virgin shall “bring forth a son.” The Greek word τέξεται (“bring forth” or “cause to be born”) is translated from וֹי ל דת (u·ildth: literally “one giving birth”), which is the intended meaning of the verb “to bear” (yalad) in the Hebrew OT. Hence, this verse must do with two miraculous events: the conception and birth of Jesus. The conception of Jesus was virginal, since Mary’s womb hadn’t been opened by the seed of man. The act of Mary giving birth was virginal, since Christ hadn’t opened his mother’s womb when he was born. Mary was a virgin at the time of Christ’s birth as well as at his conception. This is confirmed by another prophecy of Isaiah (66:7): ‘Before she travailed (ta hil), she brought forth (ya-la-dah); before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child. I believe Luke confirms what God has intended to fully reveal through the words of the prophet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Time Came for Their Purification

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

And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
Luke 2, 22-24

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By presenting the infant Jesus in the Temple, Mary was consecrating her ‘firstborn son’ (Hebrew בְּכוֹר bəḵōr) to God. The first male offspring of every womb among the Israelites belonged to God whether it was human or a domestic animal. The expression “to open the womb” is a Hebrew idiom meaning “the firstborn male of one’s mother” or “the firstborn son of the womb”. Within the context of the law, it was the firstborn male who was dedicated to God as His servant. He was also the principal heir of his father’s estate. Further, the Mosaic law applied only to those who were born strictly in accord with the laws of nature. It embraced the full spectrum of the natural process of human procreation, from the moment of conception to the time of birth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Word will become flesh, and the Son of God the son of man
—the Pure One opening purely that pure womb,
which generates men unto God.”
St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4, 33, 12
(A.D. 180-190)

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

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And Thy Own Soul a Sword Shall Pierce

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

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

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Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Mt 11:28-30). Our Lord is citing the Book of Sirach 51, 23-30: ‘Come to me, all you that need instruction, and learn in my school. Why do you admit that you are ignorant and do nothing about it? Here is what I say: It costs nothing to be wise. Put on the yoke and be willing to learn. The opportunity is always near. See for yourselves! I have not studied very hard, but I have found great contentment. No matter how much it costs you to get Wisdom, it will be well worth it. Be joyfully grateful for the Lord’s mercy, and never be ashamed to praise him. Do your duty at the proper time, and the Lord, at the time he thinks proper, will give you your reward.’ Jesus also says, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt 26:24).

By citing Sirach, Jesus is identifying himself with the eternal wisdom: The Divine Logos of God. Our souls can find rest only by learning how to be like Jesus was in his humanity: humbly and meekly obedient to the will of God and perfected in obedience by willingly suffering for the sins that offend our heavenly Father. Jesus produced our eternal reward for us, but if we hope to merit this reward, we must be willing to take up our cross after him. No matter how much it physically and emotionally costs us to follow the road to Calvary in our Lord’s footsteps, our love of God and hope in His promised reward should relieve us of our burdens (Rom 8:18).

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By trusting God and surrendering our burdens to Him, as we faithfully carry out our duties of discipleship with Christ’s yoke taken upon us, He will be faithful to us in return and provide the patience and fortitude we need to endure our yoke with the help of these actual graces (Rom 5:2-3; 2 Cor 12:9-10). God’s actual grace is efficacious in that it has the power to inspire and influence us to do what pleases Him over and against our natural instincts. By opening ourselves to the Divine persuasion with the knowledge and understanding we have received from the Holy Spirit (the sanctifying light of faith), we can acquit ourselves of the temporal debt of sin by offering our suffering to God in reparation for our sins.

Without faith and uniting our sufferings with Christ’s, the trials we have and the burdens we carry hold no redemptive value. Nor could they ever be lightened if we focus strictly on ourselves and fail to look at Christ our paschal victim. Trying to remove these burdens altogether would be ignorant of us and unwise, for without them we could never be buried with our Lord into death and be raised with him to new life with God. We who have been predestined to grace or adopted as children of God are co-heirs with Christ on condition that we unite our sufferings with our Lord’s suffering in temporal expiation for our sins to appease God’s anger or justice. St. Paul teaches us: ‘And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God and joint-heirs with Christ; yet so, if we suffer with him, that we may be glorified with him’ (Rom 8:17).

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Jesus suffered and died first and foremost to redeem humanity by making eternal expiation for sin. The primary purpose of his self-sacrifice was to gain forgiveness of sin for the whole world and remove mankind’s eternal guilt. So, we as Christians do not unite our suffering and dying to self with Christ’s temporal satisfaction to God for sin exclusively to increase in sanctification for the individual allotment of heavenly rewards, now that we have been assuredly saved by professing our faith in our Lord and Saviour’s just merits – a Protestant presumption. Rather, our predestination to glory or the attainment of our salvation rests on whether we have sufficiently expiated our temporal debt of sin before gaining admittance into Heaven with no stain of the remnants of sin on our souls. Nothing unclean may pass through the gates that lead to the marriage feast of the Lamb. Those who have been invited (predestined to grace) must don white and spotless apparel by having suffered and died to self in union with Christ to be worthy of attendance in the first place (Rev 2:7; 7:14; 21:27; Mt 22:1-14).

Our cross stands at the forefront of our baptismal commitment (Jn 12:24; Rom 6:4; Col 2:12). St. Paul preached a “Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23). For unbelievers, the cross is a scandal and something foolhardy to take up. The wisdom of this world is totally indifferent to it. Yet, as heirs with Christ, we shall be glorified with him, but only after we have temporally suffered for our sins (Rom 8:17). Jesus did not eradicate suffering and death by his passion and death, because these evil effects of original sin are means by which we can make temporal reparation and expiation for our personal sins to amend our broken relationship with God. Our Lord and Savior gave suffering redemptive value, making it the necessary means to redeem mankind. So, unless we accept and unite our suffering and death with the passion and death of our Lord because of our daily sins and offer our suffering to God in reparation for our sins in union with him, we are unworthy to reap the fruit Christ alone gained for us: eternal life with God (Phil 3:10).

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Every sin involves some sort of inordinate pleasure which is indulged in against God’s laws. So, in sin there are pleasure and disobedience. What violates God’s laws is indulging in forbidden pleasure. To blot out sin and the debt we have incurred by having sinned through vice, there must be something to counter-balance the sinful pleasure (gluttony-fasting / greed-alms-giving / unchasteness-abstinence, etc.) to fully compensate God for our offenses and restore the equity of justice. The two essential components of forgiveness and reparation for sin are repentance and penance which require pain and loss.

Pain and suffering have no moral and spiritual value if divorced from repentance. Conversely, repentance is incomplete if the debt of sin remains in the balance. God forgave David his mortal sins of murder and adultery after he sincerely repented with a contrite heart. But to off-set his transgressions and restore an equity of justice, God took the life of the child David conceived in his act of adultery with Bathsheba for having murdered her husband Uriah: an innocent life for an innocent life, or an eye for an eye. And God also permitted the rape of David’s wives for his act of adultery (2 Sam 12:9-10, 14, 18-19). Only then could David’s broken relationship with God be fully amended, provided he accepted his pain and loss as a temporal punishment for his sins to restore the equity of justice in his relationship with God.

Now, one might object that this was required of David because Christ hadn’t died for his sins yet in real time. However, if our Lord and Saviour’s just merits hadn’t been applied to David, God wouldn’t have forgiven him to begin with. He, nor even Abraham, couldn’t have been reckoned as righteous before God because of his act of faith. His several days of fasting and lying on the ground in sack cloth covered with ashes would be non-sequitur if Christ’s foreseen merits did not apply to him at this time. But what Jesus accomplished on Calvary transcends historical time and space. His merits extend to all three dimensions of time: past, present, and future. If this weren’t the case, all the righteous in Hades of Old Testament time would still be there forever. Yet, they were liberated by Christ after he had died on the cross and rose from the dead.

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Thus, the debt of sin can be remitted only by having to do penance for it. Doing acts of penance, whose pain and loss counter-balance the sinful pleasure one is heartily sorry for or accepting the pain and loss that God permits because of our sins, completes the temporal redemptive process. Christ did not suffer and die so that we should no longer owe God what is His rightful due for having offended His sovereign dignity (Mt 5:17; Job 42:6; Lam 2:14; Ezek 18:21; Jer 31:19; Rom 2:4; Rev 2:5, etc.). If this were so, then there would be no need for us even to repent, besides doing penance. Our Lord and Saviour made eternal expiation for sin on behalf of mankind (Adam). We cannot reap the fruits of his merits unless we make temporal expiation for our own personal sins in union with his temporal and thereby eternal propitiation for sin, now that he alone has unlocked the gates of heaven for us as our ultimate paschal sacrifice.

This is from Jesus himself: “No, I say to you: but unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish”(Lk 13:3); “Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance” (Mt 3:8). True repentance for the forgiveness of sin calls for fruit worthy of our act of contrition. Our outward acts (alms-giving/fasting) must conform to our inner disposition or spiritual reality (charity/temperance) to off-set our vices and sins (greed/gluttony) which have been forgiven through the act of repentance pending full temporal restitution.

Hence, the best way to learn from Jesus is to look to him and try to be like him: meek and humble of heart. Only then can we have the patience and fortitude to carry our cross. It is the proud of heart who can’t bear carrying the cross and regard it as a personal affront. By being inordinately self-appreciative, they see their trials as having no positive value, since they’re too focused on themselves and on what they feel they don’t deserve but deserve better. But as Christians, we mustn’t forget that the crosses we bear have redemptive value. By offering our suffering to God as an oblation for our sins, in acknowledgement of them, we can make temporal satisfaction to God in union with Christ’s eternal satisfaction and thereby remit our personal temporal debt to God for our past sins, regardless of whether God has already forgiven us, yet because He already has by our humble act of contrition in a true spirit of repentance.

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Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake,
and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ
in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.
Colossians 1, 24

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Temporally, we are still indebted to God for our offenses against Him and are required to make restitution for the remittance of our debts. The purpose of satisfaction is to repair the offense offered 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. This is what is meant by commutative justice, that virtue whose object is to render to everyone what belongs to him. When we sin against God, we deny Him what He is supremely entitled to, viz., our love and obedience. So, saying sorry isn’t enough to restore a balance of equity in our relationship with God. This requires that we show our love for Him which we have denied Him. By accepting our sufferings or making personal sacrifices and offering them to God as means of reparation for our offenses against Him, equity is restored, as the pain or loss counters the vain pleasure of selfish gain which is the object of our sins.

By his passion and death, our Lord gained the grace of forgiveness and the removal of guilt for all humanity because of man’s implication in the sin of Adam. But the temporal damage that remained because of man’s personal sins still had to be covered on his part, and this had initially been done by the Blessed Virgin Mary on behalf of all mankind. She was chosen to help restore mankind to the life of grace, since Eve morally contributed to its loss. Her interior suffering counter-balanced Eve’s pursuit of vain pleasure and repaired the offense our primordial mother had committed against God’s sovereign dignity by enticing her husband to join her with the Serpent in common rebellion (Gen 3:6).

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The sin Eve committed was an irrational movement towards a mutable good, which Satan was aware of when he deceived Eve to put her faith in him. So, only Mary’s obedient act of faith in God could have provided the contrary movement needed to undo Eve’s transgression. And this required that she willingly suffer to appease God in His justice. Only then could the equity of justice be restored between mankind and God, on condition that our Blessed Lady united her suffering with the suffering of her Son in and through his merits. The Mother made finite temporal satisfaction in union with the Son’s infinite temporal satisfaction in his sacred humanity, pending the eternal satisfaction to God for sin he alone could make in his divine nature, but not without temporal satisfaction.

God willed that eternal satisfaction be made on condition that it be completed and perfected by man’s temporal satisfaction. Both Jesus (the second Adam) and Mary (the second Eve) did this in their shared humanity, having learned obedience to God and been made perfect through suffering. If temporal satisfaction weren’t needed, God would have redeemed humanity without having to become man. Our Lord’s theandric (Divine and human) act would be superfluous.

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The eternal satisfaction Jesus made for our transgressions by his afflictions could be completed only by the temporal satisfaction our Blessed Lady made by her sorrow in union with her divine Son’s suffering for the forgiveness of sins in reparation for Adam’s transgression which alone produced the Fall. What our Lord super-abundantly gained for us by his just merits – mankind’s reconciliation to God – was completed by the Virgin Mary, whose participation rendered God’s plan of salvation perfect. The Serpent mustn’t be able to gloat, not even over half of what he accomplished by seducing Eve to rebel against God with him, now that the sin of Adam would be undone by her Son – the God Man.

God ordained that a sword should pierce Mary’s soul so that the temporal satisfaction she should make would complete the eternal satisfaction made by her Son in human unity together. What Jesus accomplished in his passion was mankind’s objective redemption. What his mother Mary gained for mankind as its spiritual and maternal representative was subjective redemption. By carrying her cross in union with her Son, Mary offered penance to God for all the sins of Adam’s descendants and thereby helped remit the debt of sin through her act of temporal reparation. Her sorrow for the loss of her beloved Son temporally expiated mankind’s sins so that her Son’s eternal expiation would be complete.

Christ chose to be “made of a woman” primarily for this reason (Gal 4:4), which is why he called his mother “Woman”, viz., the New Eve, at the beginning and end of his public ministry – in the shadow of the Cross and from the Cross (Jn 2:2-5; 19:26-27). Adam called his spouse and helpmate “the woman,” though she wasn’t much help to him. By her instigation, we who are descended from Adam are “conceived in sin” and “born in guilt” by association (Ps 51:5). Mary’s moral participation contributed to our reconciliation with God and restoration to the life of His grace. Her sorrow beneath the Cross temporally restored a measure of balance on the scales of the Divine justice by counteracting Eve’s selfish pursuit of vain glory.

“For it was necessary Adam should be summed up in Christ, that mortality should be swallowed up and overwhelmed by immortality; and Eve summed up in Mary, that a virgin should be a virgin’s intercessor, and by a virgin’s obedience undo and put away a virgin’s disobedience.”
St. Irenaeus
Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching
(A.D. 190)

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But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead,
they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his
side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.
John 19, 33-34

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The Greek translation for “and a sword shall pierce your own soul” is ψυχὴν διελεύσεται ῥομφαία. The nominative noun ῥομφαία (a sharp blade) can be taken both literally and figuratively. Thus, we have a play on words in this verse. Just as the Son’s body was pierced by a sharp blade when the soldier struck his side with his spear, so also should the Mother’s soul or heart be pierced by a sharp blade. Luke’s message is clear: God desired Mary to participate in her Son’s suffering to complete His plan, though Christ’s suffering alone was more than sufficient to make reparation for the sins of the world. The nominative noun is a metaphor for the shared anguish of the Son and the Mother which was required for the redemption to be perfect in the Divine order.

What Jesus, therefore, merited in strict justice, Mary merited by her maternal right and friendship with God. Unless the Mother would make temporal satisfaction for the world’s sins against God, the Son would not make eternal satisfaction. So that the hearts of many shall be revealed, a sword should pierce Mary’s soul – and not only the side of her deceased Son. Mary’s participation cannot be excluded. The truth of this revelation is emphasized by the juxta-positioning of the Son’s rejection and physical suffering and the Mother’s internal suffering in verses 34-35 of Luke’s gospel.

“She stood before the Cross and looked up full of pity
to the wounds of her Son, because she expected not the death
of her Son but the salvation of the world.”
St. Ambrose
De Institutione Virginis
(c. A.D. 392)

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And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you,
though the more abundantly I love you,
the less I am loved.
2 Corinthians 12, 15

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In His wisdom and justice, God chose Mary to associate her with His dispensation of grace for the salvation of souls in and through the merits of Christ. Our heavenly Father acted purely on His own initiative, which was then followed by Mary’s free act of faith working through love in collaboration with the Holy Spirit. In the Christian life, the merit of our good works done in grace is first attributed to the grace of God and only then to the faithful “whose good works proceed in Christ” by cooperation with divine grace (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2008). And since we are created in the image of God and have free will, we can either accept or reject God’s grace (Acts 7:51).

The application of the salvation formally gained for us by our Lord and Saviour by his merits more than sufficiently ultimately depends on how well we respond to His grace. Our salvation is conditional. And despite our having been forgiven and our collective guilt removed, temporal reparation is still required of us individually to completely satisfy God’s justice, and this often requires spiritual works of mercy done in charity and grace (Eph 2:8-10). His righteousness demands it. ‘He shall judge the world in equity, he shall judge the people in justice’ (Ps 9:8).

With the fall of Adam, mankind incurred eternal punishment or separation from the Beatific Vision of God. And in consequence of the fall, man needed a satisfaction to God for his sins of infinite value to be released from this eternal debt of sin. Of course, only God Himself could make such infinite satisfaction, which he did in the person of Jesus Christ, the Divine Word made man. Nevertheless, temporal satisfaction for sin is still required of us for the temporal remission of the debt of sin and the conferral of sanctifying or justifying grace. This finite satisfaction of ours has supernatural value and confers supernatural merit provided it is joined with Christ’s eternal satisfaction to the Father in and through his merits. Mary made this satisfaction on behalf of humanity when she united her interior suffering with the suffering of her divine Son in his Passion.

“Eve brought in sin by means of a tree;
Mary, on the contrary, brought in Good by means
of the tree of the Cross.”
St. Gregory of Nyssa
Sermon on the Nativity of Christ
(A.D. 395)

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But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering
on the sacrifice and service of your faith,
I am glad and rejoice with all of you.
Philippians 2, 17

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Sin is a transgression against the order of the Divine justice with which God rules the universe. He has arranged all things by measure. Thus, Christ had to counter-balance the eternal consequences of sin and restore the equality of justice between God and mankind. But our Lord had no intention of acting entirely alone (sola Christo). God willed with necessity that his blessed mother should counter-balance the temporal consequences of sin by uniting her suffering with his to restore the equality of friendship and justice between God and man. God required a just measure of satisfaction from her on behalf of humanity to restore equilibrium in His Divine order of creation.

The infinite satisfaction made by Christ made Mary’s finite satisfaction possible, since she had acted in union with him in charity and grace. When Adam sinned against God, he did not sin as an individual person, but as the natural head of an organic whole, viz., humanity. The human race is like a human body: Once the head falls of, all the lower members are destroyed with it. So, when Adam sinned against God and fell from the supernatural life of grace, the whole human race fell with him. We are all members of this single organic whole, and as such, we have all fallen from grace in Adam. And as members of this one organic whole, we have all inherited the penalties of Adam’s sin, suffering and death, inasmuch as we all have sinned (Rom 5:12).

Nevertheless, although God has allowed us to suffer and die because of our fallen humanity and membership in this one diseased organic whole, so, too, God has allowed us to merit an increase in grace through suffering and dying to self because of our membership in the Mystical Body of Christ, our Head and new Adam. (Rom 5:18). As members of this one organic Mystical Body, we live by the supernatural life of grace that is transmitted to us by our Head in and through His merits. Christ has identified Himself with all the lower members of his Mystical Body.

In the order of grace, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the “neck” that joins us with our Head. She is the Second Eve and Dispensatrix of Grace who channels the grace that proceeds from Christ and flows to the members of his body. Through Mary’s maternal mediation, we receive the life of grace which our primordial mother Eve lost for all her offspring. Mary’s obedience and her being made perfect through suffering for the sake of appeasing an offended God in His grace counter-balanced and undid Eve’s rejection of God and disobedience in her fall from grace by an inordinate love of self in the pursuit of selfish gain. The Virgin Mary appeased the Divine justice by acting contrary to her natural maternal instinct, that is by joyfully offering her Son back to God in faith despite her sorrow for the salvation of the world. She “rejoiced” in God our saviour in the depths of her pierced soul and wounded heart.

“The cross and nails of the Son were also those of his Mother;
with Christ crucified the Mother was also crucified.”
St. Augustine
Of Holy Virginity
(c. A.D. 401)

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Wherefore I pray you not to faint
at my tribulations for you,
which is your glory.
Ephesians 3, 13

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Mary’s divine vocation was much more than being a natural mother of Jesus. As a member of her Son’s Mystical Body, Mary was called to participate with her Son in his redemptive work, which required that she, too, suffer to repair the offense mankind committed against God and amend its broken relationship with Him. The suffering Mary endured drew its supernatural value from the suffering her Son had to endure in his passion. Only by suffering would Christ merit the grace of redemption for mankind. And since her Son suffered to provide this channel of grace, Mary’s suffering could also serve as an instrument of the dispensation of grace by being joined with her Son’s suffering. As Head of his Mystical Body, of which Mary was a member of, Christ could suffer in his blessed mother. As one member of a body suffers, so too, the other members are affected.

It was by his own suffering as Head of his Mystical Body that our Lord merited redemptive grace for humanity. So, by suffering, Mary could also merit grace as a member of her Son’s Body and being joined with him. This grace that she merited for mankind was channelled to her from her divine Son. Her willingness to suffer had a supernatural effect for mankind, for she participated with her Son in his redemptive work as a member joined with the Head in one Mystical Body. St. Paul tells us:

‘As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable, we treat with special honor.’
1 Corinthians 12:20-23

Since ancient time, the Catholic Church has honoured Mary for her vital contribution in the dispensation of redemptive grace as a member of Christ’s Mystical Body. Presently, she is the neck that transmits all the signal graces from the Head to all the lower members of the body. As the mother with the Redeemer, the Blessed Virgin Mary is our co-Redemptrix. Being both Head and Body, Jesus desired his mother Mary, the most vital member, to collaborate with him, simply because he chose it to be this way in concurrence with the will of his heavenly Father. All members of his Mystical Body serve the Head in some capacity in the order of grace, each according to their spiritual gifts (See 1 Cor. 12). Mary’s gift is the Divine Maternity which belongs to the higher hypostatic order of Christ’s incarnation. Her co-operation in and through the merits of her divine Son, by her pleasing love for God, immeasurably exceeds that of any of his apostles in the redemption. Our Blessed Lady is the spiritual mother of all Eve’s offspring in her co-redemptive participation with her Son – the new Adam. Jeremiah prophesies: “A woman shall compass a man” (Jer. 31:22).

“Oh, womb so holy that welcomed God,
womb in which the writ of sin was torn up.”
St. Basil of Seleucia
Homily 39 on the Annunciation
(ante A.D. 460)

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Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1, 2-4

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Mary co-operated in the principal act of Christ’s priesthood when she consented to the sacrifice of the Cross. She offered up her Son to God spiritually in her wounded love for Him as his loving mother. True, the priestly power effectively rested with Jesus, but the oblation and immolation of her Son which she acceptably offered in her motherly sorrow bestowed on her the character or spirit of the priesthood. Mary offered up her Son to God in conformity with his suffering, by the interior suffering of hers because of a mother’s love for her Son – the God-man. Spiritually, our sorrowful Mother was the first among the royal priesthood of believers to offer up the Eucharistic sacrifice to God in union with our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek and sacrificial victim.

Indeed, her presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple was a pre-presentation of her sacrificial offering for the expiation of sin on Calvary in union with her Son’s pre-presentation of his self-sacrifice on the Cross at the Last Supper. The fruit of Mary’s womb (her offering of peace and reconciliation) was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. Jesus offered himself as the ultimate propitiation of sin, but he chose to do so in union with his blessed mother. Our Lord chose to be “made of a woman” so that she should have an active priestly role to perform as a member of his mystical Body.

Thus, her sorrow for the God-Man temporally appeased God’s justice. It was under the shadow of the cross that Mary consecrated her firstborn and only Son to God when she presented the infant Jesus in the Temple in commemoration of Abraham’s consent to offer up Isaac as a fragrant oblation (Gen 22:1-19). Fittingly, it was on this occasion Simeon prophesied that a sword would also pierce her soul. The prophecy was fulfilled at the instant the soldier pierced Jesus’ side with his lance, drawing out blood and water, which represent justification and regeneration, symbolically marking the birth of the Church (Jn 19:34). This incident on Golgotha happened after Jesus had redefined Mary’s motherhood from the Cross and designated her Mother of the Church, just before he drank the fourth (hallel) Passover cup of the sacrificial wine of his wedding banquet on the Cross, which he deferred from drinking at the Last Supper, and gave up his spirit, having consummated the new nuptial covenant between God and redeemed humanity (Jn 19:26-30).

“The Virgin after giving birth to her Son, was never separated from Him in His activity, His dispositions, His will… When He suffered, not only was she everywhere present beside Him and even realized especially then His presence, but she even suffered with Him.”
St. John the Geometer
The Life of Mary
(A.D. 989)

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For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God,
one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit
is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when
you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in
the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
1 Peter 2, 19-21

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God willed that His Only-begotten Son be “made of a woman” rather than be formed out of the clay of the ground, as the first Adam had been at the time of creation, partly so that a woman could make temporal satisfaction to Him in view of Eve’s transgression. Mary had, in fact, vindicated the entire human race by her faith working through love. Together with the infinite satisfaction that the Son alone made in strict justice, since its value and dignity was derived from his divine Person, Mary offered for us a satisfaction of becomingness and friendship with God, whose value rested on her obedient act of faith and charity in God’s grace in and through Christ’s merits. The immeasurable love she had for her divine Son – the God-man – could only please God, without which the merits of our Lord’s sacrifice should not be formally applied to the human race in the Divine plan.

What our Lord and Saviour accomplished in his passion and death was more than sufficient and super-abundant, but his work would have lacked perfection and completeness without his blessed mother’s moral participation. Mary, on the other hand, would have lacked perfection and completeness in God’s grace if she had lost faith in God beneath the Cross. The collaboration between the Mother and her Son had to be faultless and lacking in nothing for God’s plan of salvation to be fulfilled.

“Through Mary we are redeemed
from the curse of the Devil.”
St. Modestus of Jerusalem
PG 86; 3287
(ante A.D. 630)

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Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the
surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my
Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all
things and count them as rubbish, in order that I
may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a
righteousness of my own that comes from the law,
but that which comes through faith in Christ, the
righteousness from God that depends on faith—
that I may know him and the power of his
resurrection, and may share his sufferings,
becoming like him in his death, that by any means
possible I may attain the resurrection from the
dead.
Philippians 3, 8-11

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In Catholic theology, Mary made a satisfaction de convenientia, whose value was derived from the dignity of her divine motherhood and the plenitudes of grace she was endowed with. Thus, her interior suffering made satisfaction to God on our behalf, since she suffered in proportion to her love for her crucified Son who was also God – a human love which was perfect in that it held supernatural value. As the Mother with the Redeemer, Mary was intimately united with him in his work of redemption by her perfect command of the will in conformity with the Divine will, her poverty of spirit, and suffering for the sake of God’s infinite love and goodness in emulation of her Son in his loving obedience to the Father. Both the Son and the Mother suffered to propitiate God the Father who was offended by sin and for humanity which was ravaged by sin. “God desires that everyone be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). The Mother and the Son also suffered in unity so that God’s antecedent will might be fulfilled, for “God so loved the world” (Jn 3:16).

Moreover, Mary made a temporal satisfaction of becomingness on our behalf through her obedience to God’s will. The aim of making satisfaction to God is to repair an offence against God and make him favourable to us again. This can only be achieved by suffering pain or loss and being in the state of grace. Mary’s consent to be the mother of our Lord was a meritorious deed, since it was made in charity and grace. But what made it a means of satisfaction and temporal expiation was the suffering that would be involved. Her satisfaction was perfect, since it proceeded from a love and oblation which was more pleasing to God than the sin of Eve was displeasing to Him. It was made by a woman who was full of grace and with the Lord as His fellow worker in the vineyard (Lk 1:28; 1 Cor 3:9).

“Her toil is in her manifold birth-giving and in her distress of sighing. Hers are the pains as of ‘a woman in labour.’ Her loving care is for the holy children, whom she conceived by the Holy Spirit, for them the warmth of her love, for them her motherly concern and untold sorrow over the dangers and temptations which assail them.”
Adam of Perseign, Sermo 5
(ante A.D. 1221)

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Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 4, 12-13

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Hence, Mary’s interior suffering had the character of satisfaction in that like her divine Son and in union with him she suffered because of sin and the offence it offers to God. As the late Catholic theologian, Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange tells us: “Her suffering was measured by her love of God whom sin offended, by her love of her Son who was crucified for our sins, and her love towards those who do sin.” God honoured her suffering in accord with her state of grace and the affinity which had existed between them. It was through Jesus that the inner thoughts of many might be revealed, but only if it involved the wounded love of his sorrowful mother because of sin. So that the inner thoughts of many might be revealed, a sword should pierce her heart. Mary’s participation in her Son’s suffering was ordained by God. She had to stand before the Cross and feel the pangs of tremendous sorrow to vindicate Eve and her fallen offspring and make temporal restitution for the sins of the world together with her Son’s eternal expiation which undid the sin of Adam and opened the gates of Heaven.

In this sense, the Blessed Virgin Mary is our Advocatrix of grace. She shouldered the moral responsibility of humanity for its sins and temporally restored the equality of justice by her act of reparation, which universally relieved mankind of the temporal debt of sin, forgiven by the merits of Christ through his passion and death on the Cross. Since God judges the world in equity, he shall judge the world in justice. Mary had to stand beneath the Cross and feel its full weight upon her on behalf of all Eve’s children, which was indebted to God for its sins, if her Son were to be crucified on the Cross for the dispensation of the grace of justification and forgiveness.

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And so, God decreed with necessity that our sorrowful mother take up her cross together with her Son’s for mankind’s redemption. Mary helped reveal the glory of the Lord for all mankind by sharing in her Son’s suffering. This she did by making up for what was lacking in her Son’s afflictions in her sorrow and anguish through the Cross. Our Blessed Lady suffered the loss of her maternal right so that the world might gain Christ and be restored to the life of grace.

Mary’s endurance in suffering for the sake of God’s love and goodness, which had been violated against, was a gracious thing to God, and so He honoured her suffering and was propitiated by it insofar He could forget about mankind’s unworthiness to be forgiven because of her faith and love. Mary’s obedient act of faith counter-balanced mankind’s infidelity and disobedience, thereby temporally restoring the equality of justice between God and man by her act of reparation. And temporally she made expiation for mankind’s sins by suffering because of them and for them, so that God may be fully appeased for the sin of both Adam and Eve.

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Thus, by showing herself to be worthier than Eve, Mary made temporal satisfaction to God for our sins with a strong appeal to the Divine justice and mercy which her love and sorrow satisfied to completion. She, being a human creature, concretely represented the human race as worthy of being redeemed by the blood of the Cross in strict justice. Unlike the rest of humanity, Mary was not alienated from God, having never fallen from grace. So, for his mother’s sake more than for ours, Jesus delivered himself into the hands of ungrateful and unworthy sinners, through which act he designated her Mother of the Church and redeemed humanity because of her perseverance in faith together with him in his obedience to the will of the Father, despite all the suffering they should bear for the sins of the world.

As Eve prompted Adam to disobey God, so Mary encouraged her Son in his suffering humanity to fulfil the will of his heavenly Father by standing sorrowfully by his side and enduring suffering together with him so that the grace of redemption could be channelled to the world and mankind be reborn. Both the human wills of the Mother and the Son were aligned with the Divine will, albeit the suffering that was required of them to appease God who was greatly offended by the sins of humanity.

“She is a ship laden with priceless treasures,
which has brought heavenly riches to the poor.
The dead have received gifts from her,
who had carried life itself within her.”
St. Epiphanius
Hymn to the Virgin Mary, 2
(A.D. 370)

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A great sign appeared in heaven:
a woman clothed with the sun
with the moon under her feet
and a crown of twelve stars on her head.
She was pregnant and cried out in pain
as she was about to give birth.
Revelation 12, 1-2

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They Have No Wine

In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen…
the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
and all the hills will flow with it.
Amos 9, 11, 13

And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine… and all the stream beds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord.
Joel 3, 1

AND the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage. And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine. And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? my hour is not yet come. His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye. Now there were set there six water-pots of stone, according to the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three measures apiece. Jesus saith to them: Fill the water-pots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And Jesus saith to them: Draw out now, and carry to the chief steward of the feast. And they carried it. And when the chief steward had tasted the water made wine, and knew not whence it was, but the waiters knew who had drawn the water; the chief steward calleth the bridegroom, And saith to him: Every man at first setteth forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse. But thou hast kept the good wine until now. And saith to him: Every man at first setteth forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse. But thou hast kept the good wine until now.
John 2, 1-11

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Catholics profess Jesus Christ to be “the one Mediator between God and man” (1 Tim. 2:5), by which St. Paul means He is the one who has redeemed the world and has reconciled all humanity to God by serving as a ransom for sin which was paid through the outpouring of his most precious blood (2:6). However, our Lord’s principal mediation in his humanity does not preclude the mediation or intercession of the faithful in and through His merits by prayer and sacrifice “so that everyone might be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

In other words, the apostle has no intention of emphasizing that Jesus is the “one and only mediator” in the economy of salvation. The Christian faithful are indeed called to participate in our Lord’s mediation as active and living members of His Mystical Body who partake of the divine life (1 Pet. 2:5; 2 Pet. 1:3-4). This prerogative is conferred on these members by right of adoption as sons and daughters of God, who participate in Christ’s divine nature; since it is in his humanity – not divinity – that Christ as Head of His Mystical Body intercedes for us all before the Father as both eternal High Priest and sacrificial victim. The Letter to the Hebrews best describes how it is our chief High Priest mediates or intercedes for us continuously in the heavenly sanctuary “not made by human hands” in perpetuation of his sacrifice on Calvary, pre-presented in the sacrificial meal of the New Passover at the Last Supper and re-presented in the unbloody holy sacrifice of the Mass in expiation for our daily sins.

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Exegete Manuel Miguens has pointed out that translated from the Greek v.5 should read: “There is one and the same God for all, and there is one and the same mediator for all.” In other words, The Father’s merciful love and the Son’s obedient act of atonement are for both Jew and Gentile alike. In v.5, the Greek word for “one” is heis (εἷς) which denotes “a sameness of function, commonality, or universality.” If Paul had meant that numerically there is only one mediator in the whole economy of salvation, he would have chosen the word monos (μόνος) instead, for it “signifies ‘only’ in the sense of exclusive uniqueness,” but not in a “sameness of function.”

So, Paul isn’t saying that Jesus is the one and only mediator in the economy of salvation. Rather, he means Jesus is the one principal mediator between God and man by having ransomed all humanity from sin and death. Jesus intercedes for us before God in a way no human creature can ever do by being equal to the Father in his divine nature. We, on the other hand, are called by our baptism to intercede for others, but in a different and subordinate capacity as participants in Christ’s principal mediation in and through his merits being members of his Mystical Body (Eph. 2:8-10).

The covenantal mediation of Moses in the Old Dispensation is fulfilled in Christ who has established the New Covenant by the outpouring of his blood in the Paschal mystery. This is what is unique about Christ’s mediation which is necessary for the forgiveness of sins. All baptized Christians, however, may participate in it in and through our Lord’s merits, but not necessarily. God has graciously called them to have a sufficient share in his sacrificial act of love and dispensation of grace as members of His Son’s Mystical Body and “fellow workers with God” (1 Cor. 3:15).

Hence, Jesus is the one principal Mediator between God and man in a singular and necessary way, but he is not the one and only mediator per se in the Divine plan of salvation. As members of a royal priesthood, in and through the merits of Christ, all baptized Christians can sufficiently participate in their Lord’s principal mediation in accord with the function of being priests (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6; 5:10). They can intercede for others by their prayers and acts of personal sacrifice. And by doing so, they can congruously merit actual graces for others so that they might be saved. In his gospel narrative of the Wedding Feast at Cana, John presents Mary, the mother of our Lord, as such a factual mediator who participates in the mediation of her divine Son and the dispensation of his grace.

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St. John’s theology has been described as deeper than that of the authors of the Synoptic Gospels, which explains why his gospel has much more of a mystical flavour to it. In his narrative of the wedding feast, he allegorically characterizes Mary as the universal mediatrix of grace who is associated with her Son in his saving work. Throughout Scripture, grapes or any fruit of the vine represent God’s favour towards His children and spiritual regeneration. Being deprived of grapes symbolizes having fallen from God’s grace and the loss of the true happiness which can only be attained by living a life wherein God rules in the soul. The absence of grapes in the vineyard after they have been gleaned at the harvest signify the absence of grace and holiness in the souls of those who have reached spiritual ruin by rejecting God and replacing Him with false idols.

Spiritual famine is the result of losing one’s faith (steadfast love and trust) in God by falling prey to the machinations of the devil whose purpose is to plunder the soul of all its grace without which it cannot partake of the divine life. In the words of the prophet Micah (7:1): “Woe is me! For I have become as when the summer fruit has been gathered, as when the grapes have been gleaned; there is no cluster to eat, no first-ripe fig that my soul desires.” And Obadiah (1:5): “If thieves came to you, if plunderers came by night – would they not steal only enough for themselves? If grape gatherers came to you, would they not leave gleanings?

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Deprived of grace, the soul suffers nothing but calamity and misery, pending its destruction. Divine grace gladdens the heart and cheers the soul, since God’s love showers it with His blessings. God’s grace purifies and refreshes the soul by removing all stains of darkness which may cause unhappiness and despair. Divine grace invigorates the soul and sustains its strength by nourishing it with true happiness and real peace, albeit the trials and tribulations one may have to experience in this world. The Psalmist affirms: “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart” (Ps. 104:14-15).

Grace enables us to bear more fruit as we grow in holiness and righteousness. Without grace, the soul cannot enjoy eternal life with God who is the true source of our happiness and lasting inner peace. In allusion to God’s chosen people, the Israelites, Jeremiah assures us of how important it is for us to persevere in faith and be restored to God’s grace each time we fall into grave sin, if we hope to reap all the Divine blessings: “Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant and enjoy the fruit.” (31:5). The exile of the ancient Hebrews evokes the fallen state of the entire human race because of original sin and its need to be reconciled with God and restored to the life of grace through the blood (sacrificial wine) of the Cross.

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You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace
that was given to me for your benefit.
Ephesians 2, 3

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Jesus uses a familiar Jewish expression when he asks his mother Mary: “What is that to us, woman?” At first, it may appear to us that our Lord is addressing his mother abruptly. We may have the impression that what concerns Mary is of no concern to her Son. However, both the Mother and the Son share one vital concern, ever since Mary consented to be the mother of the Messiah: the salvation of Israel and the Gentiles included. Thus, in the Greek text of John’s Gospel, we have a Hebraism used by Jesus that reads te emoi kai soi: literally “what to thee and to me”. This idiom denotes a close personal relationship between the one who is asking the question and the one who is being asked and carries with it a mark of respect and denotes a sharing of interests. The Greek word for “Woman” is gynai which in a respectful and polite way is “Madam” or “My Lady” in English. Yet Jesus uses the title in a theologically significant way, as we shall see.

The closest equivalent to this form of expression in English is “What is that between friends (mother and son)?” In the Hebrew NT, this expression reads mah-liy walak isah: “what is there to me and you”. In other words, “What would you have of me, woman?” This is the polite form of asking ‘What would you have me do, woman?’ and it implies that the speaker already has an idea of what she would like him to do. Jesus is implicitly asking his mother a rhetorical question which is more an affirmative declaration: “What concern is this matter of the wine to us?” (2 Kg. 3:13; 2 Chron. 35:21; 2 Sam. 16:10). This wine, in the meantime, is the object of interest, but not in a practical and mundane sense. Both Mary and Jesus know it signifies something immeasurably more important in a spiritual sense and is connected to Jewish eschatology. What concerns Mary does in fact concern Jesus, too, and affects him.

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By asking his mother how her concern might affect him, Jesus is drawing her closer into association with him in his divine work of salvation. He is implicitly asking whether she is willing to go through with what he is about to do, for their relationship to each other will no longer be the same if he does; she will have to let go of her Son and have him be subjected to cruel and humiliating suffering and even death at the hands of ungrateful sinners. So, when Jesus addresses his mother, he is mindful that they share a similar interest far from beneath their common dignity; a concern much more important to them than the replenishing of wine for the wedding guests. Mary expects Jesus to perform a miracle and begin his public ministry, knowing full well what the implications are and that the time has arrived for him to make his entrance.

On this occasion, both the Mother and the Son desire that he begins his public ministry for the spiritual benefit and salvation of Israel and all humanity. Still, Jesus wants his mother to affirm whether she is prepared to follow this objective together with him despite the sorrow that will eventually pierce her soul (Lk. 2:35). Mary’s concern affects Jesus, since it conforms to his Divine will which has taken charge in alignment with his human will. The miracle is inevitable. Our Lord’s hour has indeed come in the form of a sign in the shadow of the Cross. Thus, there are no further words from Jesus, but from Mary to the servants in the capacity of the head steward who customarily acted on behalf of the bridegroom and host: “DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU.”

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Expecting her Son to perform that first miracle which will inaugurate his public ministry on earth in the shadow of the Cross, Mary faithfully approaches him with her tacit request. Here we must note the rich symbolism that exists in this circumstance of the lack of wine, without which the wedding feast is rendered a disaster in ancient Jewish culture. The wine is evocative of the blood of the new and everlasting Covenant (Mt.26:27-28). The elements of wine and blood are identified with each other at our Lord’s paschal supper with his apostles on the eve of his passion and death at the Jewish Passover.

The wedding feast at Cana allegorically represents the eschatological wedding feast of the Lamb in celebration of the marriage between the Divine Bridegroom and his Bride (the Church) by the sacrificial outpouring of his blood (Rev. 19:6-9). Our Lady mediated on humanity’s behalf when she consented to become the mother of the divine Messiah, and she continued to intercede on its behalf by beckoning her Son to begin his mission which would eventually result in the shedding of his precious blood in atonement for the sins of the world and mankind’s redemption.

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Hence, Mary acted as God’s (the Divine Bridegroom’s) chief steward when she managed the distribution of the restorative grape of life made substantial in the precious blood of our Lord and Saviour. Her mediation prompted the changing of the water into wine so that the latter should be substantially transformed into the redemptive blood of Christ at the Last Supper. It was by his suffering through obedience to his Father’s will that Jesus was perfected and, as a result, designated by God as High Priest in the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5:5-8). Having entered the more perfect tabernacle not made by human hands by his own blood, he became the mediator of a new covenant, having died once for all as a ransom for the sins of the world. (Heb. 9:11-27). Because of her obedience to the will of God, which should also involve much suffering, that is in the depths of her soul, rendering her perfect in His sight, Mary was designated to be the Mother of all people to intercede on the world’s behalf by offering her beloved Son (the sacrificial fruit of her womb) for the grace of redemption (Lk. 1:42).

Indeed, our Blessed Lady acted as our chief steward in the distribution of an infinitely superior wine by addressing her concern to the Bridegroom, that being the blood of her Son which supersedes the blood of goats and bulls of the first covenant. In the spirit of the priesthood, Mary sacrificed her maternal rights for the sake of appeasing the Divine justice when she solicited her Son to perform his first miracle for something she understood was immeasurably far more important than the replenishing of wine at a family wedding. By Mary’s solicitation, which her Son quietly anticipated as an affirmation of her faith and charity, the wedding day of the Lamb had been heralded. The bride, which is the Church, was to make herself ready to celebrate the marriage feast with her groom in his heavenly kingdom (Rev. 17:7,9).

In the narrative of the Wedding Feast at Cana, John is characterizing Mary as a factual mediator who participates in the mediation of her divine Son. The Evangelist is affirming this Marian tradition of the nascent church by allegorically portraying Mary as our universal mediatrix who serves the Lord by morally channelling all the graces we might need through her solicitation and prayerful intercession. All these graces are ordained to pass through her from the Son in virtue of her Divine motherhood and intimate association with him in his redemptive work.

“From her we have harvested the grape of life;
from her we have harvested the seed of immortality.
For our sake, she became Mediatrix of all blessings;
in her God became man, and man became God.”
St. John Damascene
Homily 2 on the Dormition
(A.D. 749)

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Every man has received grace,
ministering the same to one another:
as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
1 Peter 4,1

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In the order of grace, among all the faithful and righteous in the Mystical Body of Christ, Jesus has honourably conferred this pre-eminent prerogative on his most blessed mother. In honour of his mother, the Son himself has designated her as the chief participant in his principal mediation. The beloved disciple, moreover, is affirming that Jesus never intended to act alone in the Divine work of salvation, but willed that his mother should collaborate with him in saving impoverished souls through the dispensation of his grace, as all faithful disciples of his are called to do as “stewards of grace” in keeping with the spiritual gifts they have received from the Holy Spirit. The Divine Maternity is the greatest gift any disciple of Christ could receive on earth, since it belongs to the hypostatic order of our Lord’s incarnation.

If Mary had no active salvific role in her Son’s first and most important miracle, one with profound eschatological significance and prompted by her solicitation, John wouldn’t have included her involvement in the development of the story to its climax. He could have simply just left it at this: ‘On the third day, a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding (vv.1-2) …Jesus had noticed (not his mother) that the wine was gone’… Nearby stood six stone water jars…. Jesus said to the servants (without Mary having first adjoined them to obey her Son) … “Fill the jars with water…”’ (vv.6-11). Yet, instead, we have Mary mediating on behalf of the wedding guests (vv.3-5).

This action of hers isn’t purely incidental. Nothing is incidental in Scripture or even in a well-written piece of literature; not even the failing of the wine on this occasion, seeing that the wine is more than just ordinary wine in a spiritual sense. Mary is a principal character with a significant role to play in this story, one which has a powerful impact on its anticipated climax: God’s establishment of His New Covenant through the outpouring of the Son’s blood (sacrificial wine) on the Cross. Our Lord’s sacrificial wedding ceremony begins at the Last Supper in anticipation of his sacrificial offering of himself on Calvary where the new nuptial covenant between God and redeemed humanity is consummated: “It is finished!” (Jn. 19:30). His mother Mary sorrowfully stood beneath him at the foot of the Cross, having fulfilled her participatory role and assuming a new one, of being the Mother of all peoples, belonging to this new dispensation of grace.

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Thus, God Himself is implicitly telling us something deeply important about Mary (sensus plenior) through the literary technique of His co-author. Our Blessed Lady is a major character in the story with a significant role to play. She is, in fact, first mentioned being present at the wedding feast followed by Jesus and his disciples. This is because the Evangelist wishes to draw our attention to Mary before he proceeds with the miracle that is performed by Jesus at his mother’s behest. Mary has an essential role in the performance of her Son’s first and most important miracle which serves as a sign that the Divine Bridegroom is about to consummate His marriage covenant with His bride Israel and all peoples of the world included. As the mother of our Lord, she is giving her Son away in marriage.

If Mary’s presence weren’t meaningful with respect to her moral contribution in the Divine dispensation of grace, and all the author was concerned with was the miraculous event and what it resulted in, the mother of our Lord would not have been included in the events leading up to the miracle and the start of Jesus’ public ministry in the shadow of the Cross. Literary protocol presupposes this. Mary’s participation is an affirmation of the nascent church’s perception of her active collaboration with the Son in the redemption of mankind. Traditionally, Mary was understood to be the Mediatrix of Grace. In the Old Testament, as we have seen, the fruit of the vine (grapes/olives/figs) does symbolize God’s grace and the need to be rejuvenated by it. “Woe is me! For I have become as when the summer fruit has been gathered, as when the grapes have been gleaned; there is no cluster to eat, no first-ripe fig that my soul desires” (Micah 7:1). Anagogically, the Jews’ fall from grace and exile parallel mankind’s need for redemption and restoration to the life of grace.

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

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It’s very likely that the wine ran out during the fifth of seven stages of the week-long family wedding ceremony, the chuppah or “canopy”. The chuppah would have been a decorated piece of cloth held aloft as a symbolic home for the new couple. It was usually held outside, under the stars, as a sign of the blessing given by God to the patriarch Abraham, that his children shall be “as the stars of the heavens.” The groom would be accompanied to the chuppah by his parents and usually wore a crown and a white robe, (kittel) to indicate the fact that for the bride and groom, life was starting anew with a clean white slate, since they were uniting to become a new entity, without past sins. While the bride followed and came to the chuppah with her parents, a cantor would sing a selection from the Song of Songs (an allegory of the marriage between Christ and his Church in Christianity), and the groom would pray that his unmarried friends find their true partners in life.

When the bride arrived in joyful procession at the chuppah, she circled the groom seven times with her mother and future mother-in-law, while the groom continued to pray. The groom’s mother danced with the bride and her parents as a gesture of uniting the two families. The bride, too, wore a crown, and like Christ’s bride in the Apocalypse, she wore a gown made of pure white linen. Under the chuppah, an honored Rabbi or family member then recited a blessing over wine, a blessing that praised and thanked God for giving them laws of sanctity and morality to preserve the sanctity of family life and of the Jewish people. The bride and groom then drank from the wine. The blessings were recited over wine, since wine was symbolic of life.

In view of the traditional Jewish wedding, John could be envisioning Mary as meeting the family of her Son’s bride (the Church) and dancing with her as she is about to put her past sins behind and start with a clean slate by uniting with the groom. The wine that he serves, of course, isn’t merely symbolic of life, but in the transformed substance of his blood is the source of eternal life with God. So, to understand the meaning of this Gospel narrative, we must look through the Jewish lenses of the Evangelist and see his story in a Jewish context.

Indeed, we read at the end of this story that our Lord’s “disciples believed in him” after he performed the miracle. It wasn’t so much that they were impressed by what had happened but, rather, put the entire affair into its Jewish religious context. The disciples saw that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah of the Divine Bridegroom YHWH who would offer the sacrificial wine of salvation to Israel and the peoples of all nations at the coming of God’s heavenly kingdom to the world: the Jewish eschaton, but with a new twist, that the Divine Bridegroom would be the Messiah himself. Eventually, the apostles would see that Jesus himself was the Divine Bridegroom.

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In Jewish eschatology, it was (and still is) expected that when the Messiah came he would cause manna to fall once again from heaven and lead the sacrifices consisting of the Bread of the Presence and miraculous sacrificial wine for undoing the sin of Adam and Eve in the (restored) Temple at Jerusalem in the order of the priest-king Melchizedek in which his forefather David belonged. During the periods of the two Temples, the priests would perform unbloody sacrifices for the temporal forgiveness of sins with the holy bread and wine every Sabbath. The Bread of the Presence or Face of God was kept in a tabernacle in the holy sanctuary in the Temple. This bread signified God’s merciful love for the people of Israel and was a sign of His providential presence.

At any rate, Mary’s participation is an affirmation of the nascent church’s perception of her active collaboration with the Son in the redemption – by being his mother. John does not say that Mary was at the wedding feast, but that “the mother of Jesus was there” out of due reverence for her maternal prerogatives in the order of grace. It was the groom’s mother who met his bride and her parents to unite their families as one during the traditional wedding ceremony by dancing with them. Mary has assumed this mediary role in the marriage between Christ and his Church. It is she who formally unites us the human family with her Son at our wedding banquet in the kingdom of heaven.

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In the traditional Passover meal, there are four phases in which one cup of wine is served for drinking; that is four separate cups altogether. The first cup of wine (kiddush) is mixed with water and then served during the introductory rite. Here the father of the family leads a prayer of thanksgiving and blesses the food. The appetizers are consumed in this part of the meal. In the second stage, the second cup of wine (haggadah) is also mixed with water, but not consumed, for the son asks his father questions about the original Passover night and the Israelite’s exodus from Egypt, while the father replies by citing passages contained in the Pentateuch of the Old Testament.

However, in the Gospels, Jesus is shown to have skipped the first and second cups of wine, having started with the mixing and serving of the third cup (berekah) which is served after the main meal (unleavened bread and the flesh of the sacrificed Passover lamb) has been eaten. With this third cup, Jesus is traditionally blessing and thanking God for having brought forth bread and the fruit of the vine on the earth (Lk. 22:14-20). So, it appears that our Lord is establishing a renewed paschal sacrificial meal, of bread and wine by appearance, while starting it by looking towards the future instead of recollecting and reliving the past.

One can only imagine how the apostles must have reacted from this break with Jewish tradition. I doubt they even ate the traditional Passover meal between the serving of the second and third cups, since Jesus was taking the place of the lamb and looking towards his self-sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. His sacrifice of himself began at the Last Supper as a pre-presentation of Calvary, when he blessed the bread and the wine and substantially transformed these species into his body and blood for the apostles to consume instead of the flesh of the traditional lamb. This was still a sacrificial meal, albeit the break from Jewish tradition and protocol, but of the new Passover.

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Further, it is important to note, as Dr. Brant Pitre points out in his insightful book Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, that at the Last Supper Jesus refrains from mixing and serving the fourth and final cup of wine (hallel) while he and his disciples are singing hymns (the hallel Psalms of David: 113-118) of praise and thanksgiving to God who is their “salvation” and the provider of “the bread of the earth and the fruit of the vine.” This is because he is extending the sacrificial meal of his body and blood by joining it to his passion and the immolation of himself on Calvary for the sins of the world. Dr. Pitre explains why Jesus left the traditional Passover meal unfinished on the eve of his passion and death. Jesus “has just celebrated the Last Supper in which he identified his own body as the sacrifice of the new Passover. He has also identified one of the cups of wine with his own blood, about to be poured out for the forgiveness of sins… Jesus implicitly identified himself as the new Passover lamb… By the time this new Passover is finished, Jesus will be dead… When the meal is finished and the final cup drunk, it will mean his own death has arrived.”

Dr. Pitre goes on to explain that it is when Jesus is nailed to the Cross that he drinks from this last fourth hallel cup of wine of salvation at the time he receives the vinegar mixed with wine (or sour wine) extended to him on a hyssop (a branch used in the Levitical sacrifice for sin), since it is by his death on the Cross that our Lord establishes the new marriage covenant between God and redeemed mankind in place of the covenant of the Old Dispensation. The new Passover meal is “finished” when Jesus bows his head and gives up his spirit right after he has consumed the mixed wine of the fourth cup. His hour, which he first alludes to at the wedding feast in Cana, is now over, having begun at the Last Supper, and his disciples have already eaten his flesh and drunk his blood in the transubstantiated species of bread and wine. In the traditional Jewish Passover meal, the flesh of the sacrificed lamb must be eaten, or the sacrifice is rendered fruitless (Jn. 6:54).

Thus, the Last Supper is more of a wedding banquet than a traditional Jewish Passover meal. As the Divine Bridegroom, Jesus serves the “best wine” (his own blood) to his disciples for the forgiveness of sins. Our Lord’s perpetual sacrifice and offering of himself in love of his bride begins at the Last Supper, which is a prelude to the sacrificial heavenly wedding banquet of the Lamb that shall begin following his resurrection and ascension into heaven. The Apostles (except Judas who has already absented himself before the start of the meal) have drunk from the third cup of mixed wine and will also share the fourth cup of the wine of salvation with Jesus in the Eucharistic sacrifice of Holy Mass (1 Cor. 10:16).

O Lord, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the child of your handmaid.
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice
and call on the name of the Lord.
Hallel Psalm 116, 16-17

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‘And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine. And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? my hour is not yet come. His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye.’

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We should keep in mind that the narrative of the Wedding Feast at Cana is a literary work, and as such all the characters in the story have a significant role to play, including the servants. Nothing further is said of the disciples after their attendance is recorded. What is intriguing, though, is that John presents the servants at the wedding feast as types of disciples. We read: His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). Instead of using the Greek word duolois for “servants” in the ordinary sense, the Evangelist uses diakonois, the Greek word used for Jesus’ true disciples in the NT. For instance: “If anyone serves (diakonei) me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant (diakonoi) be also” (Jn. 12:26). Hence, John is presenting Mary as the mother of all her Son’s disciples who faithfully follow and serve him. And the first thing she must say to all her children as Mother of the Church is: “Do whatever he tells you.” As their loving mother and caretaker of their souls, our Blessed Lady is encouraging them to live their lives in perfect obedience to her divine Son (Jn. 19:26-27; Rev. 12:17). So, John’s gospel is far more mystical in flavour than are the Synoptic Gospels. The narrative of the Wedding Feast at Cana is indeed allegorical in aspect.

When Jesus asks his mother how it is that the wine concerns them, he is implicitly referring to the Last Supper and Calvary, which is where he will publicly designate Mary Mother of the Church. In the context of the traditional Jewish ceremony, the wedding feast is a prelude to the New Jerusalem come down from heaven by the blood of the new and everlasting covenant, the marriage between the Bride Groom and his bride, which is the Church. Mary must formally unite her Son to his bride to become her mother and Advocatrix of grace in and through the merits of her divine Son. Her mediation is a formal act of uniting God with redeemed humanity which now begins with a clean slate and the sin of Adam put behind.

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Mary’s maternal prerogative is most efficacious by merit because of her salutary consent to be the mother of our Lord. It was by her faith working through love that the divine Word became incarnate not only to redeem the world, but also to justly merit the dispensation of divine grace, without which we cannot be regenerated and personally justified before God. So, it is only fitting that she who brought the living Source of all grace into the world should continue to act in a primary mediatory capacity as the neck that connects the Head to all the members of Christ’s Mystical Body through the dispensation of his signal graces.

No miracle of Jesus was ever performed through the solicitation of any apostle, including those who were present at the marriage feast. Mary approached her Son expecting a miracle. She did not suggest that the wedding feast should now come to an end and the guests return home, unlike the apostles who suggested to Jesus that the crowds be sent away for want of food (Mt. 14:15-21). The miracle of the loaves and fishes is a prelude to our Lord’s Bread of Life discourse in John 6 in anticipation of the Last Supper when Jesus institutes the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist by miraculously transforming the substance of the bread and wine into his body and blood.

Mary did not approach the bridegroom with her concern, though it was his responsibility to provide enough wine for a one-week celebration. She simply and confidently said to her Son: “THEY HAVE NO WINE.” Mary approached Jesus because she knew that her Son was the long-awaited Bridegroom who would come into the world to provide the wine of salvation for the redemption of Israel and mankind. This was the “best wine” flowing in abundance, as foretold by the prophets. Jesus produced over one hundred gallons of wine from the water that was held in the six stone jars, water that was used for domestic purification rituals. John tells us in his First Epistle (5:6) that Jesus came into the world “not by water only” (regeneration/baptism) but “by water and “blood” (justification/the Eucharist).

“Meanwhile, no more sadness, because I have brought joy to the world. For it is to destroy the kingdom of sorrow that I have come into the world: I full of grace … Then curb your tears; accept me as your mediatrix in the presence of him who was born from me, because the author of joy is the God generated before all ages. Remain calm; be troubled no longer: I come from him, full of grace.”
Romanos the Singer
On Christmas 2,10-11
(ante A.D. 560)

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

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All the unmerited graces we receive originate from Christ, who is Head of his Mystical Body. Yet they sufficiently flow through Mary, its neck. It is for the sake of his mother above all else and out of his perfect love for her that signal graces are given to us despite our unworthiness. John’s allegorical narrative of the wedding feast illustrates this intimate association between the Mother and the Son in the dispensation and application of divine grace in our lives. Being our spiritual mother, by having conceived and borne Jesus so that we may be reborn in the Spirit and have new life with God, the Church has designated Mary to be the New Eve. By being the second Eve, Mary is Mother of the Church, and as such the culmination of Mother Zion in whom the Church is symbolized as the sacrament of grace for the entire world. It is in the heavenly sanctuary that the Lamb of God intercedes for us all through the merits of his precious blood. The grace he has produced for us by his infinite merits is dispensed first and foremost through our Blessed Mother by whose mediation we are formally united to Christ our Divine Bridegroom.

That John perceived Mary to be Eve’s anti-type, the spiritual “mother of all the living” by her association with the Son, the New Adam, is evident in how he constructs his Gospel from the beginning up to the narrative of the marriage feast at Cana. The Evangelist begins with a type of creation story that in its day-by-day format remarkably parallels the Story of Creation in Genesis 1. What follows in the Gospel is a seven-day model of the new creation of the world which culminates in the inauguration of Jesus’ public ministry in the shadow of the Cross and Mary’s vital participation with him in undoing the sin of Adam and Eve. Remarkably, the Evangelist presents us with a New Creation story.

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Day 1

In the beginning, God created heaven and earth.
Genesis 1, 1

That was from the beginning, that which we have heard,
which we have seen with our eyes; that which we contemplated,
and our hands handled, concerning the word of life;
John 1, 1

And he called the light Day, and the darkness Night;
and there was evening and morning one day.
Genesis 1, 5

And the light shineth in darkness,
and darkness did not comprehend it.
John 1, 5

Day 2

 And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God moved over the waters.
Genesis 1, 2

The next day, John saw Jesus coming to him,
and he saith: Behold the Lamb of God, behold
him who taketh away the sin of the world.
John 1, 29

And John gave testimony, saying: I saw the Spirit coming
down, as a dove from heaven, and he remained upon him.
And I knew him not; but he who sent me to baptize with water,
said to me: He upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending,
and remaining upon him, he it is that baptizes with the Holy Ghost.
John 1, 32-33

Day 3

And he said: Let the earth bring forth the green herb, and such as may seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, which may have seed in itself upon the earth. And it was so done. And the earth brought forth the green herb, and such as yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that beareth fruit having seed each one according to its own kind. And God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1, 11-12

The next day again John stood, and two of his disciples. And beholding Jesus walking, he saith: Behold the Lamb of God.
When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.
John 1, 35-3

In this is my Father glorified; that you bring forth very much fruit and become my disciples.
John 15, 8

Day 4

And God made the two great lights: a greater light to rule the day; and a lesser light to rule the night: and the stars. And he set them in the firmament of heaven to shine upon the earth. And to rule the day and the night, and to divide the light and the darkness.
And God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1, 16-18

On the following day, he would go forth into Galilee, and he findeth Philip. And Jesus saith to him: Follow me… Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him: and he saith of him: Behold an Israelite indeed,
in whom there is no guile.
John 1, 43-4

Again therefore, Jesus spoke to them, saying: I am the light
of the world: he that follows me, walks not in darkness,
but shall have the light of life.
John 8, 12

Day 5

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
John 1, 29

Day 6

 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 
When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
John 1, 35-36

Day 7 

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip,
he said to him, “Follow me.”
John 1,43

God also said: Let the waters bring forth the creeping creature having life, and the fowl that may fly over the earth under the firmament of heaven. And God created the great whales, and every living and moving creature, which the waters brought forth, according to their kinds, and every winged fowl according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And he blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the waters of the sea: and let the birds be multiplied upon the earth.
Genesis 1, 20-22

Jesus is journeying to Cana in Galilee, while John continues to baptize people in the Jordan, many of whom will follow Jesus and have the light of life through the regenerating baptismal water: men and women of every kind, the great and the small alike. Up to three thousand people were baptized on the first Pentecost Sunday (Acts 2:41). The Second Creation story begins in Chapter 2 of John’s Gospel with the marriage feast in Cana and the New Adam and his helpmate the New Eve present there.

The wine mourns, the vine languishes, all the merry-hearted sigh… No more do they drink wine with singing… There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine; all joy has reached its eventide;
the gladness of the earth is banished.
Isaiah 24, 7, 9, 11

On this mountain (Zion), the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a feast of fat things, a banquet of aged wine – of fat things full of marrow, of fine wine well refined. And he will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the covering that is cast over all nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth.
Isaiah 25, 6-8

AND the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee:
and the mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited,
and his disciples, to the marriage.
John 2, 1-2

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And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude,
and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of great thunders, saying, alleluia: for the Lord our God the Almighty hath reigned. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give glory to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath prepared herself. And it is granted to her that she should clothe herself with fine linen, glittering and white. For the fine linen are the justifications of saints. And he said to me: Write: Blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith to me: These words of God are true.
Revelation 19, 6-9

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St. John’s account of the new creation culminates in the wedding feast at Cana, the seventh day on which our Lord does not rest but, on the contrary, begins his work of salvation (Gen. 2:2-3). This is the second creation story whose principal characters are Jesus, the New Adam, and Mary, the New Eve. The narrative is rife with literary and theological symbolism. The first of Jesus’ miracles, by no coincidence through his mother’s solicitation, is to turn water into wine, just as the first miracle of Moses was to turn water into blood. Jesus turns the water into the blood of the grape, as it is called in Genesis 49, as to turn the wine of salvation into the substance of his own blood at the Last Supper or the new Passover sacrificial meal of the heavenly wedding banquet.

Recall on Day 2 of the new creation: ‘John saw Jesus coming to him, and he saith: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sin of the world.’ (Jn. 1:29). John 2 opens with the Lamb of God, who is attending a wedding feast with his mother and disciples. This wedding feast points to the eschatological wedding banquet of the Lamb in the new order of creation which John envisions in the Apocalypse. What allegorically takes place at the wedding feast in Cana is celebrated in the New Jerusalem that has come down from heaven (Rev. 21:1-5). This invisible reality is made visible in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist which in union with the wedding banquet in heaven has been celebrated in Holy Mass (the re-presentation of Calvary) in the pilgrim Catholic Church since Apostolic time (1 Cor. 10:16).

Suffice it to say, the Evangelist is drawing our attention to a deeper divine mystery than what first meets the eye. He mentions Mary and constructs the dialogue she has with Jesus in a way that is intended to illustrate their close association in the Divine work of salvation. Mary’s presence at the wedding feast together with that of her Son’s is of providential design, no less than the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary is in the Gospel of Luke. Nothing is merely incidental in the Scriptures. By the time his Gospel was to be written, the author could draw from a Marian tradition that was flourishing in the nascent Church: That it is first and foremost through the mediation of the faithful Mother that we receive the blessings of the faithful Son. It is at the celebration of the wedding feast of the Lamb that Mary, as mother of the Son, has passed him on as groom to the bride, which is the Church and sacrament of divine grace for the entire world (Rev. 21:1-2, 9-22).

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So, why didn’t Mary appeal to the bridegroom instead of addressing her Son when the wine failed? After all, it was his chief responsibility to provide for his guests. As we have seen, the answer lies in ancient Judaic tradition which Mary herself was well acquainted with through the teachings of the religious elders or rabbis. The answer is she understood the eschatological meaning of the prophets who describe Israel’s desire for the wine that shall be poured out at the Messianic wedding banquet at the end of this age, when the groom YHWH shall consummate His marriage covenant with Israel and all nations. When the Messiah comes, people of all nations will come to the Temple on Mount Zion to worship God and offer unbloody sacrifices of holy bread and miraculous wine to Him (Deut. 33:19).

The Jews long expected this banquet to be universal, for both Israel and the Gentile nations. It would be a sacrificial wedding banquet of wine. Isaiah speaks of “fat things” and “fine wines”, which refer to the fat of the sacrifices and fine wine that were offered to God as bloody and unbloody sacrifices in the Jewish Temple (Lev. 3:16; 23:13). And, finally, this sacrificial wedding banquet hosted by the Messiah would undo once and for all the ill-effects of the sin of Adam and Eve. It would “destroy the covering that is cast over all peoples” and “swallow up death forever… God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from the earth.”

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In the time of Jesus and his mother Mary, the Jews believed that this eschatological wedding banquet, which shall celebrate the consummation of the spiritual marriage covenant between YHWH the groom and Israel the bride, including all nations, would be a kind of return to the Garden of Eden before the fall of Adam and Eve. Here the righteous would drink miraculous wine and feast on the Beatific Vision of God. So, Mary’s words “They have no wine” express the Jewish hope for the wine of the Bridegroom YHWH at His banquet – the wine of salvation. This is what the mother of Jesus meant by wine, “the best wine saved for last” in the transubstantiated form of her divine Son’s blood (Jn. 2:10).

Not unlike John the Baptist, Mary knew that her Son was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world by offering himself as a living sacrifice. What she did, then, by making her request, was implicitly ask him to provide the sacrificial and supernatural wine of salvation spoken of by the prophets and long-awaited by the Jews. The Jews expected the groom YHWH to send his Messiah to lead the unbloody sacrifices of bread and wine for the forgiveness of mankind’s sins on Mount Zion, though they had no idea that the celebration on Mount Zion would take the form of the holy sacrifice of the Mass in the Catholic Church or New Jerusalem as a visible sign of the invisible heavenly marriage banquet until the end of this age. In union with the pilgrim Church on earth, the bread and wine offered by our High Priest in the order of Melchizedek would actually in appearance be the substance of his own body and blood.

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Mary understood that the sacrificial victim would be the Divine Groom Himself in the person of her Son Jesus by the outpouring of his blood: the wine of the new and everlasting covenant. His bride would be forgiven humanity and his Church. The Groom’s gift to his bride would be the giving of himself in his sacrificial act of love: the regenerating water and justifying blood that poured out from his pierced side upon the consummation of their eternal marriage covenant (Jn. 19:28-35). On this occasion, a sword would also pierce Mary’s soul (Lk. 2:34-35). Therefore, Mary approached Jesus as she normally would have the bridegroom of the wedding feast at Cana who was responsible for the provision of the wine. Mary did not expect her Son to sacrifice himself at the wedding feast, but she understood that it was time for him to begin his public ministry in the shadow of his self-immolation for the forgiveness of sins. Our Lord knew that his mother knew (what to thee and to me) and so he told her: “My hour has not yet come.”

In other words, Jesus implicitly said to his mother that the Last Supper or sacrificial wedding banquet still lay three years ahead together with the consummation of the marriage between God and forgiven mankind on the Cross, upon his receiving the sour wine that would be extended to him on a hyssop branch: the fourth hallel cup which concluded the traditional Passover meal. (Jn. 19:28-30). The wedding guests at Cana shall have their wine for the feast, but as a sign that the Divine Bridegroom did come to host the sacrificial wedding banquet of salvation and consummate his new marriage covenant with redeemed humanity, in fulfilment of the prophecies, he shall honour his mother’s request. In a Jewish religious context, therefore, Mary was asking her Son to reveal himself as the long-awaited Divine Bridegroom YHWH and to provide the wine of salvation (his own blood) for the redemption of humanity by saying, “THEY HAVE NO WINE.”

In conclusion, as the New Eve or spiritual mother of all the living, Mary prompted her Son upon the seventh day of the New Creation to provide the best wine, viz., the wine of salvation to undo the sin of Adam, so that all people might return to the Garden of Eden as it was before mankind’s fall from grace. Thus, since the time the Blessed Virgin Mary consented to be the mother of our Lord, she has never laid her saving office aside as our universal Mediatrix of Grace. By her glorious Assumption body and soul into Heaven, Mary’s maternal responsibilities have rather increased in the dispensation of actual graces, produced by the body and blood of Christ, for the sake of her children’s spiritual growth towards perfection in the new Exodus and their reaching the new promised land, which is Heaven.

With the Mediator you are the Mediatrix of all the world.”
St. Ephraem of Syria
Syri opera graeca latine, v.3
(A.D. 373)

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“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, come with me.
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth,
the time for pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom,
give forth fragrance.
Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come!”
Song of Solomon 2, 10-13

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http://www.catholicproductions.com

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Behold Thy Mother

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Behold thy Son – Behold thy Mother

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

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

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

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

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The couplet “Behold your son – Behold your mother” bears prophetic and eschatological significance. Every prophetic utterance in the Scriptures must do with the Divine promise of salvation. Moreover, the ancient beliefs surrounding the spoken word (dabar) lends this couplet a special power. In ancient literature, the recorded words of a dying man have bearing on some future occurrence or condition that must not be ignored or dismissed. It is something that all readers should take to heart. The words of a dying man, because he is dying, turns him somewhat into a prophet. He isn’t to be taken lightly, considering he is drawing his last breath and approaching the gates of the nether world. So, when Jesus says to the Disciple, “Behold your mother,” he isn’t merely asking a friend to do him one last favour before he departs. Jesus does not primarily or exclusively mean that the Disciple should look after his mother once he is gone, though he does have her well-being in mind. The underlying force and structure of this couplet dismiss the idea of such an ordinary or practical last will and testament.

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

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

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The couplet “Woman, behold your son – Behold your mother” has a flavour of absoluteness to it. It is pronounced in a very direct way that borders on the imperative, analogous to a Divine ordinance or command. After all, Jesus hasn’t said “Please.” All that our Lord commands us to do pertains to our salvation, as does all that is duly recorded in the New Testament. Personal obligations or concerns are non sequitur. The first word (dabar) that Jesus utters while in agony for our sins is “Woman” which immediately draws our attention to Mary the mother of Jesus at the foot of the Cross. The word not only redefines her motherhood, but also defines who she is in the Divine economy of salvation.

So, the temporal circumstance Mary finds herself in as the mother of Jesus is the least of the Evangelist’s concern. That she is the woman promised by God who will crush the head of the serpent by her faith in collaboration with God is what the author first draws our attention to by drawing our attention to the epithet “Woman”. Only then is our attention drawn to the Disciple to clarify what it is that Jesus means by calling his mother “Woman” instead of “Mother” (Em), and how she relates to all the faithful in the order of grace as their spiritual mother in place of Eve. In modern Biblical exegesis, this device is known as constructive or synthetic parallelism.

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

Of all Christ’s disciples who have abandoned Jesus when he is betrayed and arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, only John overcomes his fear of being arrested, too, and musters the moral courage to stand beneath the Cross with Mary, the mother of his Lord. The Disciple, therefore, becomes a spiritual offspring of the mother of Jesus, as she becomes his mother because of his faith. From the Cross, the Son designates his mother Mary to be the Mother of the faithful – her Son’s true disciples (Rev. 12:17). Of the Twelve, only John accompanied the Mother of their Lord to the Cross, while the rest in hiding had given their Master up for dead, in spite of what he had already prophesied to them before his arrest.

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

As a loving mother and caretaker of their souls, our Blessed Lady is encouraging them to live their lives in perfect obedience to her divine Son. It is on this occasion, when Jesus begins his public ministry in the shadow of the Cross at the behest of his mother Mary, that he also publicly calls her “Woman” for the instructive benefit of his disciples who were present with him and his mother at the wedding feast. They did not come to believe in him to be the long-awaited Messiah simply because of the wonderful miracle he had performed, but by pondering on our Lord’s unusual address to his mother and the underlying eschatological meaning of the wine which they put into Jewish religious context.

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

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

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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

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

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

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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

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The imperative “Behold” (Heb. hinneh) is sometimes used as a “predicator of existence”, something that looks to a new state of being (the redefinition of Mary’s motherhood). The hinneh clauses emphasize the immediacy of the situation (the crucifixion), and they may be used to point things out for the sake of clarification. For instance, “Behold (here is) Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and that I too can have a family by her” (Gen.30:3). Significantly, most hinneh clauses occur in direct speech. They introduce a fact or something actual on which a subsequent statement or command is based and must be closely observed. What Jesus said to the Disciple was “Here is your mother,” meaning she was as much of a mother to him with necessity as Bilhah was a servant of Rachel – and Mary the handmaid of the Lord: “Behold, I am (here is) the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk. 1:38). Mary did not become a mother of John in any sort of figurative sense, as in being like a mother of his by living under the same roof with him. She became his own genuine mother along with all Christ’s other disciples, but in a spiritual and mystical sense. Mary became as much the mother of John and all her Son’s disciples as she did God’s handmaid with necessity by the will of God.

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

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

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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

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Finally, we have the statement “Behold your mother” occurring in Matthew 12:47 and Mark 3:32. The theological theme in these two verses resembles that which we have in John 19:25-27. Both deal with what it means to be a “brethren of Jesus”. The crux of these passages is that the ties of obedience to the will of God take precedence over those of blood kinship. Although Jesus does not deny or intend to belittle his kinship with his mother, he nonetheless subordinates it to a higher bond of kinship that transcends all biological ties. Jesus regards Mary as his genuine mother more for her faith in God than for their physiological ties, since it is a greater blessing to her (Lk.11:27-28).

The Kingdom of Heaven imposes demands on the personal commitment of the disciple, which must often supersede natural family ties and even ethnic bonds. Our Lord’s reply indicates that he regards his mother to be more of a mother to him by being a woman of faith, without which she could never have become his natural mother in the hypostatic order of his incarnation, nor thereby the mother of all his disciples in the spiritual family of God. Mary herself is as much a disciple of her Son as John and the other apostles are, and by being a fellow disciple (the first and foremost), she can be their spiritual mother to lead them in corroboration with the Holy Spirit in their great commission after her Son’s ascension (Rev. 12:1-5).

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These two verses, therefore, introduce the image of a new family which takes on an eschatological aspect and rises above the national bond that connects the group of listeners encircling Jesus. These passages are a prelude to our Lord’s intentions when he addresses his mother and the disciple from the Cross. There he uses the same hinneh clause to underscore how it is that his mother Mary is truly a mother in the economy of salvation, so that there should be no misunderstanding. It is not that she shall be like a mother to the Disciple, but rather she will be his actual mother from then on in the Kingdom of Heaven, as he shall be her son as much as Jesus is physically, though in a spiritual way.

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

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

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The Disciple Took Her to His Own

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ἔλαβεν ὁ μαθητὴς αὐτὴν εἰς τὰ ἴδια.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rejoice Heartily, O Daughter Zion!

Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion,
shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem.
See, your king shall come to you;
a just saviour is he.
Zechariah 9, 9

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, 14-15

And Mary said,
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my saviour,
for he has looked with favour on his lowly handmaid.
From henceforth, all generations will call me blessed; for He who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His name.”
Luke 1, 46-49

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The Hebrew name Tzion (ציון), or as translated “Zion”, appears over 150 times in the Bible. Interchangeably these verses refer simply to “Zion”, to a “Mount Zion,” “the daughter of Zion,” and “virgin daughter of Zion”. Zion is first mentioned in 2 Samuel 5:7: ‘David captured the fortress of Zion, which is the City of David.’ Zion was originally an ancient Jebusite fortress which David captured, allowing the Israelites to take possession of Jerusalem. The royal palace and the temple were subsequently built there, as Zion or Jerusalem, became the seat of power in the kingdom of Israel (Judah after the schism) and the chief site of worship. Thus, Zion is called “the City of David” and “the City of God”. The metaphorical term extends to the Temple (Synagogue) and God’s kingdom on earth.

The name Zion basically means “fortification” and carries with it the idea of being “raised up” as a monument and sign of God’s presence among the Israelites and His rule on earth. As a fortress, it served as a place of refuge and protection for the Israelites from their enemies. Situated on top of a hill on the southeast side of Jerusalem, Zion was the strongest and safest place in the city for its inhabitants who would take shelter there. Inviolable from David’s time, through the reign of the righteous Davidic kings, no enemy ever entered this fortress which had been established by God’s providential design.

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From a spiritual perspective, it is here God protects His virgin daughter from the rape her enemies intend to commit upon her; He keeps her pure in good measure from the gross idolatry wherewith the people of the surrounding pagan nations are defiled, viz., spiritual whoredom. God has removed His chosen people from their original prostitution in the world and has consecrated them to be his very own in holiness by establishing His covenant with them, which He shall faithfully keep despite their occasional infidelity. God’s covenant with His chosen people is perpetual. With the people’s transgressions against His laws and established precepts comes Divine chastisement as forewarned. Yet, on Mount Zion, the faithful remnant of Israel shall never be conquered and destroyed by their enemies under God’s gracious protection.

From Zion is where the word of God dwells and comes forth. ‘For out of Zion shall the Torah come forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.’ (Isa. 2: 3). It is in the temple where God dwells and from whence His word is proclaimed and His laws are prescribed. Those who hear the word of God and observe it are like Mount Zion, which shall never be shaken (Ps. 151:1). The name Zion also refers to God’s chosen people and faithful servants from whom the promised Messiah shall come forth and rule all nations in righteousness and justice with a rod of iron.

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We see in Mary’s Canticle of Praise or the Magnificat that the first Jewish converts to the Christian faith in Apostolic time perceived Mary to be the personification of Daughter Zion. And for them, Mary was much more than a metaphor or an abstract figure representing a corporate entity and nation. She was the mother of their Lord (Lk. 1: 43), the Woman of Promise in the flesh of whom her Divine offspring was made (Gal. 4:4). They could relate to Mary on a personal level as much as they could with her divine Son and thereby deeply appreciate her contribution in His redemptive work (Lk. 1:45). She was someone they could personally relate to and love no less than they could the resurrected Jesus in their personal relationship with him, now that his mother had been gloriously assumed body and soul into Heaven.

The parallel Luke draws between Mary and Zion, by echoing the Old Testament prophets and alluding to the Psalms, clearly shows that this Marian tradition of the infant Church in Palestine was a vibrant part of the faith as part of a Judaic legacy. In the first part of the Magnificat, Mary refers to her position with God in the order of grace. All four verses in Luke 1:46-49 parallel Old Testament passages pertaining to Daughter Zion.

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And Mary said,
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my saviour,

I will rejoice greatly in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robes of righteousness.
– Isaiah 61, 10 (cf. Zech. 9:9; Zeph. 3:14)

“for he has looked with favour on his lowly handmaid. 

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, 15 (cf. Lk. 1:28, 30)

But you, O Lord,
will arise and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to show favour on her;
the appointed time has come.
– Psalm 102, 13

“From this day, all generations will call me blessed;

At that time, I will bring you home,
at the time when I will gather you together;
yea, I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes, says the Lord.
– Zephaniah 3, 20

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

“because the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.”  

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
then we thought we were dreaming.
Our mouths were filled with laughter;
our tongues sang for joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us;
Oh, how happy we were.
– Psalm 126, 1-3

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And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the
name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in
Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said,
and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.
Joel 2, 32

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The early Hebrew Christians certainly understood the soteriological and eschatological significance of Mary’s designation. They regarded her as a mediary of divine grace (Lk. 1:44) and as a place of refuge from their enemy Satan, especially since she was at enmity with the Devil and had crushed his head by her perfect faith in charity and grace (Gen. 3:15). Mary could be regarded as a spiritual fortress because of the power of her prayerful intercession (Jn. 2:3-5) and opposition to the dragon which could not conquer her (Rev. 12:13-14). Mary constantly observed the word of God and kept it (Lk. 11:28), even to the point of giving her beloved Son back to God for the salvation of the world, despite the terrible sorrow she would have to endure by the will of God for the sins of the world in union with her offspring’s afflictions (Lk. 2:34-35).

It is through the desolation that Mary experiences at the foot of the Cross that she morally contributes to the deliverance of mankind from exile in sin and its restoration to friendship with God in collaboration with Him as His righteous spouse and handmaid (Isa. 54:1-3; Lk. 1:35, 38). And by having done so, Mary becomes the spiritual mother of all the living. All who believe in Jesus and keep God’s commandments are her sons and daughters (Rev. 12:17), being the rightful heirs of a promised inheritance together with Mary and Jesus, the Son of Promise and the first-fruit of the royal inheritance: resurrection to eternal life with God (Gal. 3:29; 1 Cor. 15:22-23).

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For thus the LORD said to me, As a lion or a young lion growls over its prey, and — when a band of shepherds is called out against it — is not terrified by their shouting or daunted at their noise, so the LORD of hosts will come down to fight upon Mount Zion and upon its hill.
Isaiah 31, 4

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Mary is at enmity with Satan, the prowling lion who is out to devour souls. The devil is her adversary, as he continues to make war with her and her children (1 Pet. 5:8-9; Rev. 12:17). It is through Mary’s maternal patronage and powerful intercession in heaven that Christ protects his Church and all her inhabitants from the enemy who seeks to destroy her. The devil shall never conquer those who seek refuge in Mary’s Immaculate Heart. God has established her to be the security and protection of the Church. Through the intercessions of our Blessed Mother, our eternal inheritance is virtually assured. She is Advocatrix of the Church. She who never succumbed to adoring the false idols of this world can by her just merits protect all the Church’s inhabitants from worshiping pagan idols and defiling themselves, if only they seek refuge in her Immaculate Heart for the graces they need to persevere in faith.

Because of the power of Mary’s prayerful intercession at the right hand of her divine Son by the throne of grace, the faithful of the pilgrim Church on earth assuredly receive the actual graces they need from her Son to persevere in faith to the end and attain their salvation. The pilgrim Church on earth has much cause to rejoice in their salvation because of her mother’s merciful patronage which has been established by God.

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Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion!
For lo, I will come and dwell in your midst,
says the LORD.
Zechariah 2, 10

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Mary has cause to rejoice, for God has chosen her to conceive and bear His Son, who shall redeem the world and restore mankind to friendship with God. And through her, God has chosen to execute His judgments on all His adversaries and those of His chosen people in all nations. God shall raise up the poor in spirit and cast the proud and mighty from their thrones. Through Mary, Christ shall be born to regenerate mankind unto God. People of all nations will renounce their idolatry by the saving power of God’s grace. They shall join God with purpose of heart in establishing His heavenly kingdom on earth. All nations shall be blessed in Mary, for the salvation of the world will come from her. Her virgin womb provides the untilled soil for the Gentiles who shall hear the Word of God and be taught in His ways.

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O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion!
When God restores the fortunes of his people,
Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.
Psalm 53, 6

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Jesus (Heb. Yeshua or “God is salvation”) comes to us from Mary. The salvation of the world comes from her. Mary is the dwelling place of God the Word, “exempt from putridity and corruption.” From Mary, we receive the true manna come down from Heaven, He who has called himself the “Bread of Life” that lasts to life everlasting with God and has delivered us from the slavery of sin and the power of death (Jn. 6: 32, 35-54; 11:25) Through Mary, our Lord has established the New Covenant of his blood poured out for all humanity to the joy of all Abraham’s faithful descendants, the true heirs of promise (Mt. 26:28; Lk. 22:20). And so, Mary has been clothed with purity instead of fine gold which can be corrupted, for in her, holy Divinity resides and comes forth for the redemption of mankind and its deliverance from subjection to the powers of darkness. From the time God restores Mary to His grace, by her Immaculate Conception, all mankind has cause to rejoice, for she has been blessed to be the mother of our Lord and Saviour. Humanity’s re-creation has begun with God’s creation of Mary in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham and the birth of Jacob.

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The LORD is exalted, he dwells on high;
he filled Zion with justice and righteousness.
Isaiah 33, 5

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Our God who saves takes His holy flesh from the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom God has separated from the rest of sinful humanity, as to be worthiest of being the mother of His Only-begotten Son. To glorify the Son who glorifies the Father, God makes Mary holy and pure by His sanctifying grace. God has set her apart and consecrated her to Himself to be His holy bride as He is holy in preparation for the coming of the divine Messiah (Lev. 20:26; Lk. 1:35, 42) By Divine election, Mary is pledged to be the mother of our Lord and Saviour. He first appears in his glory within the womb of his most blessed mother, who by the grace of God has no affinity with sin whatsoever. God is glorified by His most perfect creation in the person of Mary, the mother of our Lord, when He enters and dwells in her sacred womb. From the sacred womb of Mary, the most holy Offspring comes forth “full of grace and truth” to regenerate mankind unto God for His glory (Jn. 1:14).

Let Mount Zion be glad, let the towns of Judah
rejoice because of your judgments.
Psalm 48, 11

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Mary rejoices in God her Saviour, for He has looked with favour on His daughter’s humility. The Lord has done great things for Mary by removing the judgement he has passed on sinful humanity from her by restoring her to His grace upon the creation of her soul (Lk. 1:46-49). She has no cause to fear God’s justice, for her love of God and neighbour drives out all fear which must do with punishment (Lk. 1:30; 1 Jn. 4:18). The spirit of the Torah or the natural law of love and freedom fills her soul. Thus, God judges her to be worthiest of all women to be the mother of the Son. No pride and selfishness separates Mary from God’s love and His mercy. She rejoices in the love and kindness God shows her because He has judged her to be faithful and loving to Him, which is what she most desires. Mary stands opposed to the daughter of Babylon whose soul is corrupted by false idols. God’s faithful and loving daughter proclaims the glory of God in the depths of her soul where there is no place for the profane objects of dark worldly desires.

Our Blessed Lady has cause to rejoice in her salvation because her affections gravitate towards the righteousness of her Son. It is the covetous and the worldly minded who mourn, for their minds are set on perishable material things whose false glory is finite and shall eventually slip away from their grasps. Mary rejoices, for she desires nothing less than the things of God and the imperishable heavenly treasures that await her because of her love and fidelity towards God. Mary is confident that God has blessed her as he does all His faithful servants who humble themselves before Him and refuse to offend Him by bowing to false idols, but rather wish to observe His will always, placing God – the source of all life and true happiness in His goodness and love – above all created and perishable things which offer no true and lasting joy.

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And all nations shall call you blessed:
for you shall be a delightful land,
says the LORD of hosts.
Malachi 3:12

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Babylon or sinful humanity has fallen and lies in ruin because of God’s judgment against her. There is no fear of condemnation for those who humbly love God and obey His commandments. In faith, Mary knows this, and so she is encouraged to rejoice in her salvation and praise God for His goodness and kindness to her and all the humble and poor in spirit who find favour with Him (Lk. 1:50-56). All generations of the Christian faithful shall rejoice with Mary for the blessings God has conferred on their Blessed Mother Zion from whose pure, untilled virgin soil of her sacred womb has sprung new life in God (Lk. 1:48). The Church rejoices in the Gospel of Luke for the streams of the Divine mercy that have flowed down upon the Lord’s chosen handmaid from His loving kindness. The Lord has done “great things” to her – the mother of the Divine Messiah, sprung from the pure virgin soil of her womb – and holy is His name (Lk. 1:49).

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

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Luke presents Mary as likened to the Kingdom of God. She is blessed (eulogemene) above all the women on earth no less than Israel is blessed above all the nations on earth, both being declared holy and consecrated to God. The kingdom of God dwells in her (Lk. 1:42; Mk. 11:10). This is because God has established His covenant with her and His Word dwells within and radiates her soul as a light for all peoples. From her, the word of God is proclaimed as a model for all mankind to follow. The temple of her body is made sacred by the quality of her sanctified soul. Mary’s interior state is ruled by the word of God who reigns in her life of faith and charity in grace. She is like “Mount Zion that shall never be shaken,” for the word of God abides in her soul. The Spirit of God dwells within her, and so Satan has no dominion over her soul. The holiness and justice of Mary’s divine Son is reflected in her person. She is like God, for the Holy Spirit dwells in her and she abides in His love. Unlike the sinful pagans of this world, Mary does not try to be like God apart from Him and in His place. The light of the Holy Spirit shines from her soul. He bears witness to the perfect beauty of its divine constitution by His presence and work within her.

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And you, O tower of the flock, hill of daughter Zion,
to you it shall come, the former dominion shall come,
the sovereignty of daughter Jerusalem.
Micah 4, 18

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By partaking of the divine nature, Daughter Zion is free from all the corruption that defiles the pagan world within the devil’s domain caused by dark human passions. Divinity shines forth from Mary’s soul, for God’s Holy Spirit dwells and rules within it. The kingdom of God is in Mary (Lk. 1:42). She can withstand the onslaught of the wicked ways of the ungodly world, for she is God’s re-creation in grace. In her blessed state, she is mystically united with God who has endowed her with the fullness of His lasting sanctifying grace (Lk. 1:28). Mary is at enmity with Satan and all his offspring who still belong to his kingdom and make war with her and her offspring. By her unwavering love of God and faithfulness, she crushes the devil’s head together with God (Gen. 3:15). Sheltered and inspired by God’s grace, Mary observes the word of God and keeps it throughout her life. Satan can never conquer and rule over the Lord’s faithful handmaid and virgin bride as he has ruled over his subjected offspring who are enslaved in sin within his dominion. Mary possesses the innocence in the life of God’s grace that Eve lost for herself and her offspring. She is the free woman who God promised would crush the serpent’s head with her “immaculate foot” which shall help destroy its dominion on earth.

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The LORD sends out from Zion your mighty sceptre.
Rule in the midst of your foes.
Psalm 110, 2

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Mary, Daughter of Jerusalem and of the House of David, gives birth to the child “who shall rule all nations with a rod of iron” (Rev. 12:5). “All kings shall fall down before him, and all nations shall serve him” (Ps. 72:11). His sceptre of justice is his living and guiding word for the entire world to heed, the rod of rectitude that dashes all pride and wicked desires to pieces. From Mary, the Divine Word takes his humanity and assumes his sovereignty over his enemies who oppose his word. These are the offspring of the serpent who are equally at enmity with Jesus and his blessed mother. Rightfully established as King who shall rule over all earthly monarchs and powers, Christ shall be victorious over his enemies. He shall conquer the powers of darkness that rule in this world in opposition to him with his Queen Mother (Gebirah) standing by his side.

By his laws, Christ shall pass judgement on all those who reject his word. The subjects of his spiritual kingdom are the ones who believe and abide in him by observing his word. They are blessed in the righteousness, peace, and joy of the Holy Spirit. Their souls are predestined to grace and through perseverance in grace predestined to glory, as the souls of Christ’s adversaries are destined for spiritual ruin because of their selfishness and moral corruption. Thus, from Mary’s pure womb, the living Word of God in the flesh has come forth to proclaim his truth and justice to humanity, establish his laws by Divine authority, and pass judgement on the world from his heavenly throne in righteousness and justice (Lk. 1:31-33; Rev. 19).

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To what can I liken you, that I may comfort you,
O virgin daughter Zion?
For vast as the sea is your ruin;
who can heal you?
Lamentations 2, 13

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Mother Zion has cause to lament because of her miserable state. In His justice, God has abandoned her because of the sins of her children by allowing her enemies to victoriously destroy Jerusalem and the sacred temple. In the wake of her ruin, Zion has been deprived of all that is related to public worship, including the institution of the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the solemn festivals. She is in terrible distress because of the desolation the Israelite’s have brought upon themselves by heeding the words of false prophets and worshiping the false gods of their neighbours. The dark cloud of God’s just anger has covered Zion for the unfaithfulness of her children.

No longer is she protected by God as she was when He led her out of Egypt and provided safe passage for her children across the Red Sea, manifesting His guardian presence in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. With the destruction of all the habitations in Israel, including the sacred places, God no longer manifests His presence in the glory cloud (Shekinah) that once descended upon the temple and filled the sanctuary of the Ark of the Covenant. The children of Zion have alienated themselves from Him, and in their sinful condition, God is no longer manifested among them. It appears to the lost house of Israel that the God of their fathers has abandoned them. Zion weeps not only for their infidelity to God, but also in compassion for their despair.

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For she saw the wrath that came upon you from God,
and she said: Listen, you neighbours of Zion,
God has brought great sorrow upon me.
Baruch 4, 9

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God has distanced himself from His daughter, for her children have distanced themselves from Him. Even the most fortified palaces, castles, towers, and citadels have been entirely laid waste by the wrath of God because of the grave sins of Israel. Zion is no longer that fortress which cannot be shaken because of the people’s infidelity. God has drawn back His right hand from the enemy, because even His appointed kings and princes of the House of David are defiled by sin. The light and splendour of Zion has gone out, since she no longer exalts in the glory of the Lord through her offspring. No ally and earthly power can rescue her from the hands of her enemy. Only by humbly returning to God in faith and appealing to His mercy can the Israelites be delivered from ruin and captivity by Divine intervention which shall give Mother Zion cause for joy.

The prophecies of Jeremiah, Baruch, and Malachi, pertaining to the misery and sorrows of Mother Zion, because of the apostasy and idolatry of her sons and daughters, find their secondary fulfillment in Mary’s sorrow at the foot of the Cross. Her interior suffering serves to make temporal reparation and satisfaction to God in His justice for the sins of the world. On Golgotha, she grieves for her sacred Son, King and High Priest, whose death is brought about by his enemies. Mary’s heart is pierced not only by the mockery and insults they hurl on her beloved Son as he is cruelly put to death, but also by the soldier’s lance that pierces the sacred temple of his body (Mt. 27:38-44; Jn. 19:33-34; Lk. 2:34-45). Because of sin, God does not spare even that which is sacred to Him, rending the Mother’s heart in two. In His justice, “He who [is] without sin is made sin for us” as a propitiation for sin to make eternal satisfaction to God and appease His wrath (2 Cor. 5:21). To redeem the world, God has allowed the unclean to defile that which is sacred and clean. But “destroy this temple” (of his body) and our Lord “will raise it in three days” (Jn. 2:19; Lk. 24:1-7).

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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

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Beneath the Cross, Mary is overwhelmed by sorrow and misery, for God has withheld His right hand and allowed the unclean to defile what is most sacred to her. The agonizing words of her Son must penetrate the depths of her soul as she suffers because of her love for him: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me!” The mother cannot be comforted in the loss of what is most precious to her. “How can [she] sing one of Zion’s songs on alien soil” (Ps. 137:4). Only God can deliver Mary from having been drawn into the dark, alienated world of sin and death through mankind’s idolatry and ungratefulness to God by not letting her Son see corruption. Her sorrow is turned to joy upon his glorious resurrection, and as all the inhabitants on earth are reconciled with God and freed from the slavery of sin and oppression of death, by her Son’s atoning death and the grace of redemption which he has merited for them (Rev. 12:4).

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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

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Mary’s suffering has the character of satisfaction in union with Jesus in that she suffers because of sin and the offence it offers to God. She suffers because of her love of God whom sin offends, by the love of her Son who is crucified for the sins of the world, and by the love she has for humanity which is ravaged by sin. The faithful remnant of Israel who must share in the suffering of those who brought about the ruin of the Hebrew nation by their sins and offences against God suffer in the same capacity that Mary does. It is they who acknowledge the sins of the nation and the need of making atonement for all the transgressions of the Divine laws handed down by Moses. Only by acknowledging their sins as a people and accepting their suffering as just shall they be delivered from captivity and restored to God’s friendship as a nation.

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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

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

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

Mary’s saving office is ratified on Calvary and from there continues even in Heaven. She remains to be a spiritual fortress and refuge of sinners in their spiritual combat with the Dragon. All those who bear witness to Christ her Son and keep God’s commandments implore our Mother of Perpetual Help in their daily warfare with the Prince of Darkness in alliance with her until the consummation of this age (Rev. 12:17).

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

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Arise, My Beloved, My Beautiful One, and Come!

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

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

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“Heaven and earth shall pass away,
but my words shall not pass away.”

Matthew 24, 35

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

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

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

John 18, 37

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

Indeed, Jesus had paved the way for his eventual arrest and conviction by alluding to his divinity when he claimed to have the authority to forgive sins. The Jewish elders were deeply offended and outraged by our Lord’s words, for they believed only God had the authority to forgive sins. They were appalled that Jesus dared to assert himself as equal to YHWH. Meanwhile, they cared little about the healing of the paralytic (Mk 2:1-12). Our Lord’s spoken word was what cast an unfavourable impression on the scribes and Pharisees, who had hardened their own hearts in their obstinate religious pride and zeal and refused to listen to the truth (Ps 69:8-9). And so, our Lord condemned them for this unpardonable sin of the soul (Jn 9:35-41).

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You stretch out your hand and save me,
your hand will do all things for me.
Your love, O Lord, is eternal.
Discard not the work of your hands.
Psalm 138, 7-8

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Jesus told his disciples that he came into the world not to do his own will, but the will of his heavenly Father (Jn 6:38). It was because of his obedience to the Father by suffering that the Son was made perfect to be the source of our salvation and designated by God to be our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek (Heb 5:8-9). If Jesus had violated any of God’s commandments and failed to align his human will with his divine will, the scribes and Pharisees would have had just cause to accuse him of performing miracles in the name of the Devil and dismiss his teachings as hypocritical, for our Lord would have compromised the credibility of his words. Healing the sick on the Sabbath did not violate, but conformed to the spirit of the law, regardless of what the religious elders believed, if in fact they meant it.

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

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

“Therefore, the Virgin is immortal to this day,
seeing that he who had dwelt in her transported her
to the regions of her assumption.”
St. Timothy of Jerusalem
Homily on Simeon and Anna
[A.D. 400]

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Arise, Lord, come to your resting place,
you and your majestic ark.
Psalm 132, 8

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“Even if you do not believe me, believe the works,
so that you may realize and understand that the Father
is in me and I am in the Father.”

John 10, 38

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

Our Lord is flesh of her flesh; the body he received from his mother in the hypostatic order of his incarnation was “bruised for our iniquities” (Isa 53:5) and his blood which mixed with her blood in his mother’s womb was “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28). Our Lord and Saviour is “one Physician both of Mary and of God” (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians, 7, c. 110 A.D.). Jesus could not, then, exercise his power in opposition to the commandment of his heavenly Father without denying his own Divine word which proceeds from the Father in their substantial unity. To be true to ourselves, we must honestly say and do what is on our minds and in what we will to express. The Triune God-head is a consubstantial triune of Persons: Mind or thought, Idea or Word, and Breath or Expression.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 5, 17

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

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

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

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

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

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You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
there is no flaw in you.
Song of Solomon 4, 7

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The corruption of death is an evil and a penalty for original sin which infects the bodies and souls of all Adam’s descendants who organically partake of his human nature. The guilt of Adam’s sin, nevertheless, isn’t personally imputed to his seed, so God did not negate His justice by conferring the singular grace of the Immaculate Conception on Mary in His mercy because of her unmerited election to the Divine Maternity. And so, by this singular favour, her preservation from bodily corruption upon death was just. God could only obligate Himself to observe His own ordinance in His righteousness, especially since Mary never lost her innocence as Eve had by committing any personal sins with the help of divine grace.

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

“You are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty, and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste, entirely the dwelling place of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into dust. Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, truly living and glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life.”
St. Germanus of Constantinople
Sermon I
[A.D. 683]

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Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and his ark
of the covenant could be seen in his temple… A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
Revelation 11, 19 – 12, 1

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

Matthew 5, 18

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

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

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

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The LORD is faithful in all His words
and gracious in all His deeds.
Psalm 145, 13

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