MARY IS THE DEFENSE AGAINST ALL HERESIES. Christ’s Divinity: When the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD declared Mary’s title as Mother of God, it was protecting the Church’s belief in Christ’s divinity. Belief in Mary’s divine maternity protects the reality and truth of the Incarnation of Christ and His true humanity. Ecclesiology: Mary is also the bulwark of the Church’s understanding of ecclesiology, for she is the Mother of Christ’s Mystical Body, and the perfect exemplar of the Church. Mary also has a crucial role in showing the connection between the Old and New Covenants, between Israel and the Church, for she is at once the perfect Daughter of Zion and the Mother of the Church. Mary thus safeguards and is the greatest example of man’s ability to truly participate with God’s supernatural action in our souls so as to share in the divine life.
Protestant Objections Not sufficiently Scriptural Mary’s privileges detract from the dignity of her Son As sinless, Mary is exempted from the need for redemption If she is the Redemptrix, then Christ has less importance as Redeemer If she mediates all grace, then God has less authority Response to Protestant Objections Mary is the Mother of God. As such, she must have an absolutely central role in Salvation History.
ALL OF SCRIPTURE TESTIFIES TO THIS CENTRAL ROLE OF MARY. In the Old Testament, Mary is present in three ways: In prophecies concerning the mother of the Redeemer In figures of heroic women In the figure of the entire mission of Israel, which prepared for the birth of the Redeemer
The Election of Israel as a Preparation and Figure of the Election of Mary Israel was the remote and general preparation for the coming of Christ. Mary is the proximate preparation for Christ, the morning star before the Sun of Justice, the gate through which He must enter. However, Mary herself required a preparation, which could be said to be the entire history of Israel.
The Election of Israel as a Preparation and Figure of the Election of Mary Both were elected for the same end: to receive the eternal Son of God into their bosom and offer Him to human history and society. Israel realizes her mission only through Mary.
The Election of Israel as a Preparation and Figure of the Election of Mary In Galations 4:4-5, St. Paul puts these two elections together: “But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” St. Paul condenses into a few words the great mystery of God’s plan in salvation history. In the fullness of time, the Father sends the Son of God into the web of human history, such that He is born of a woman, and born under the Law.
Election and Holiness Contact with the Lord begets and requires holiness. The greater the contact and association with the Lord, the greater the holiness that is required. Thus both Israel and Mary received special means of sanctification from God. The holiness of Israel is a figure of the holiness of Mary.
The Holiness of Israel Only Moses was judged worthy of receiving the direct communication of God on Mt. Sinai Only the High Priest could pronounce the name of God; and he could only do that once a year, on the Day of Atonement, before the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest could approach the Ark of the Covenant; he could do that only once a year, on the Day of Atonement. The Ark of the Covenant could not be touched by unconsecrated human hands. Uzzah was struck dead by God because he was not a Kohathite, a member of the tribe of Levi, who alone was dedicated to the service of carrying the holy things of God (See Num 4:15; 7:9).
The Holiness of Israel as a Preparation and Figure of the Holiness of Mary Because the people of Israel were to receive the Lord into their midst in the Incarnation, they were prepared by a special holiness imparted through the gift of the Old Covenant. Far more was expected of them than any other people because of the holiness required of them by the Incarnation. If that is true of Israel as a whole, how much more true would it have to be of Mary?
Mary Is Prefigured in Genesis 3:15 The New Testament’s portrait of Mary is modeled on figures of Mary in the Old Testament, which she fulfills in a far higher way. The first and most important of these figures is Eve. Adam was joined by a woman who was to be his intimate companion and helper in his mission as father of the human race. So it was fitting that the new Adam—Christ the Redeemer—be joined by a co-redemptrix associated in a most intimate way with His mission of redemption.
Mary Is Prophesied in Genesis 3:15 Right after the Original Sin, when Adam and Eve were in danger of falling into despair, God reveals the future coming of a Redeemer, a descendant born of their lineage, who will triumph over the devil. To the serpent God says: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he [the seed of the woman] shall crush your head, and you shall bruise [crush] his heel.”
Mary Is Prefigured in Genesis 3:15 The Fathers and the great Scholastic Doctors justify many of their Mariological doctrines on the basis of the typology of Mary as the new Eve. The Immaculate Conception, Mary’s perpetual virginity, Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven, the association of Mary in the work of Redemption, the universal spiritual motherhood of Mary, and Mary as Mediatrix of all graces, are understood in relation to Mary’s role as the new Eve. St. Justin Martyr and St. Irenaeus make great use of this typology.
Mary Is Prefigured in Genesis 3:15St. Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 100, ANF 1:249. “He became man by the Virgin, in order that the disobedience which proceeded from the serpent might receive its destruction in the same manner in which it derived its origin. For Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the word of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy, when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her: wherefore also the Holy Thing begotten of her is the Son of God; and she replied, ‘Be it unto me according to thy word.’And by her has He been born.”
Mary Is Prefigured in Genesis 3:15St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.22.4, ANF 1:455 “In accordance with this design, Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word’ (Lk 1:38). But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin. And even as she, having indeed a husband, Adam, but being nevertheless as yet a virgin . . . having become disobedient, was made the cause of death, both to herself and to the entire human race; so also did Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race. . . . And thus also it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.”
Mary Is Prophesied in Isaiah 7:14 “Hear ye therefore, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to be grievous to men, that you are grievous to my God also? “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel [God with us].” Two miracles are involved in the conception of the Messiah: He is born of a virgin, and He is God who has taken flesh in the unity of one Divine Person.
Mary Is Prophesied in Isaiah 9:6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’”
Figures of Mary in the Old TestamentJoseph Ratzinger, Daughter Zion: Meditations on the Church's Marian Belief, 12. “First, the portrait of Mary includes the likeness of the great mothers of the Old Testament: Sarah and especially Hannah, the mother of Samuel. “Second, into that portrait is woven the whole theology of daughter Zion, in which, above all, the prophets announced the mystery of election and covenant, the mystery of God’s love for Israel. “A third strand can perhaps be identified in the Gospel of John: the figure of Eve, the ‘woman’par excellence, is borrowed to interpret Mary.”
Unblessed-Blessed Woman as Figure of Mary A recurring theme of Scripture is the barren woman who bears a child by a special intervention of God. The infertility of the woman, which makes her the object of the ridicule and scorn of others, is used by God to show forth His power and favor for her, and to provide an opportunity for heroic faith in His providence. Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Hannah, the mother of Samson, and St. Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, are figures of Mary as the unblessed-blessed woman.
Heroic Women as Figures of Mary Jochebed, the mother of Moses; Miriam, the sister of Moses; Deborah, Jael, Judith, Esther They rescued the Jewish people from imminent disaster.
Heroic Women as Figures of MaryCardinal Ratzinger, Daughter Zion, 20-21 Cardinal Ratzinger gives a beautiful explanation of the typology of both Judith and Esther: The great salvific figures of Esther and Judith appear, taking up again the most ancient tradition as it was embodied, for example, in the figure of the judge Deborah. Both women have an essential characteristic in common with the great mothers: one is a widow, the other is a harem wife at the Persian court, and thus both find themselves—in different ways—in an oppressed state. Both embody the defeated Israel: Israel who has become a widow and wastes away in sorrow, Israel who has been abducted and dishonored among the nations, enslaved within their arbitrary desires. Yet both personify at the same time Israel’s unconquered spiritual strength, which cannot boast as do the worldly powers and for that very reason knows how to scorn and overcome the mighty. The woman as savior, the embodiment of Israel’s hope, thereby takes her place alongside the unblessed-blessed mothers. It is significant that the woman always figures in Israel’s thought and belief, not as a priestess, but as prophetess and judge-savior. . . . The infertile one, the powerless one becomes the savior because it is there that the locus for the revelation of God’s power is found. After every fall into sin, the woman remains “mother of life.”
The Woman of ValorProverbs 31:10-14 The woman of valor is presented in Scripture also as the ideal Israelite woman and wife: “A woman of valor who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her bread from afar.” Mary is seen by the Fathers to be the true “woman of valor,” the “merchant ship who brings the bread of heaven from afar.”
Daughter of Zion as Figure of Mary The Old Testament frequently personifies Israel as the “daughter of Zion” while proclaiming God’s promise to dwell in her. Zechariah 2:10-11: “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion; for lo, I come and I will dwell in the midst of you, says the Lord. And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in the midst of you, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.” Zechariah 9:9-10: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the Gentiles; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
Daughter of Zion as Figure of MaryZephaniah 3:14-18 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. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Do not fear, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival.
Daughter of Zion as Figure of MaryIsaiah 62:11-12 “Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.’ And they shall be called The-holy-people, The-redeemed-of-the-Lord; and you shall be called Sought-out, A-city-not-forsaken.”
Daughter of Zion as Figure of MaryLamentations 2:13 The Daughter of Zion is also a figure of Mary as the Mother of Sorrows: “What can I say for you, to what compare you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What can I liken to you, that I may comfort you, O virgin daughter of Zion? For vast as the sea is your ruin; who can restore you?”
Daughter of Zion as Figure of MaryIsaiah 54:1 The Daughter of Zion is numbered among the barren matriarchs who receive the special intervention of God to bear children. “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in travail! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her that is married, says the Lord.”
Daughter of Zion as Figure of Mary The Old Testament speaks of Israel also as Bride. It is God Himself who espouses the Daughter of Zion as His bride, taking her from her abandonment and humble origin, her fornication and prostitution, and purifying her to be His. Mary alone is the pure bride, untainted by a sin of infidelity of any kind.
Daughter of Zion as Figure of MaryHosea 2:19-23 “I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord. . . . And I will have pity on Not-pitied, and I will say to Not-my-people, ‘You-are-my-people’; and he shall say ‘Thou art my God.’”
Daughter of Zion as Figure of MarySong of Songs 4 Mary is referred to by some of the Fathers as Spouse of the Father, Bride of Christ, and especially “Spouse of the Holy Spirit.” In Song of Songs 4, the bride is Israel, Mary, and the Church: “Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil.” “You are all fair, my love; there is no flaw in you.” “A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a garden locked, a fountain sealed.”
The “Created Wisdom” Is a Figure of MarySirach 24 Then the creator of all things commanded, and said to me: and he that made me, rested in my tabernacle, and he said to me: Let thy dwelling be in Jacob, and thy inheritance in Israel, and take root in my elect. . . . And I took root in an honourable people, and in the portion of my God his inheritance, and my abode is in the full assembly of saints. I was exalted like a cedar in Libanus, and as a cypress tree on mount Sion. . . . I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue. . . . They that eat me, shall yet hunger, and they that drink me, shall yet thirst. . . . They that work by me shall not sin.
The “Created Wisdom” Is a Figure of MaryCardinal Ratzinger, Daughter Zion, 25-27 “Wisdom” appears as the mediatrix of creation and salvation history, as God’s first creature in whom both the pure, primordial form of his creative will and the pure answer, which he discovers, find their expression; indeed, one can say that precisely this concept of the answer is formative for the Old Testament idea of wisdom. Creation answers, and the answer is as close to God as a playmate, as a lover. . . . In both Hebrew and Greek, “wisdom” is a feminine noun, and this is no empty grammatical phenomenon in antiquity’s vivid awareness of language. “Sophia”, a feminine noun, stands on that side of reality which is represented by the woman, by what is purely and simply feminine. It signifies the answer which emerges from the divine call of creation and election. It expresses precisely this: that there is a pure answer and that God’s love finds its irrevocable dwelling place within it. . . . From the viewpoint of the New Testament, wisdom refers, on one side, to the Son as the Word, in whom God creates, but on the other side to the creature, to the true Israel, who is personified in the humble maid whose whole existence is marked by the attitude of Fiat mihisecundum verbum tuum. Sophia refers to the Logos, the Word who establishes wisdom, and also to the womanly answer which receives wisdom and brings it to fruition. The eradication of the Marian interpretation of sophiology ultimately leaves out an entire dimension of the biblical and Christian mystery.
Figures of Mary in the Old Testament(Daughter Zion, 23-28): Joseph Ratzinger summarizes the Marian figures in the Old Testament: “To leave woman out of the whole of theology would be to deny creation and election (salvation history) and thereby to nullify revelation. In the women of Israel, the mothers and the saviors, in their fruitful infertility is expressed most purely and most profoundly what creation is and what election is, what “Israel” is as God’s people. . . . Of course this line of development in the Old Testament remains just as incomplete and open as all the other lines of the Old Testament. It acquires its definitive meaning for the first time in the New Testament: in the woman who is herself described as the true holy remnant, as the authentic daughter Zion, and who is thereby the mother of the savior, yes, the mother of God. . . . “
Figures of Mary in the Old Testament (Daughter Zion, 23-28): “We can now say the figure of the woman is indispensable for the structure of biblical faith. She expresses the reality of creation as well as the fruitfulness of grace. The abstract outlines for the hope that God will turn toward his people receive, in the New Testament, a concrete, personal name in the figure of Jesus Christ. At the same moment, the figure of the woman, until then seen only typologically in Israel although provisionally personified by the great women of Israel, also emerges with a name: Mary. She emerges as the personal epitome of the feminine principle.”
Part II. Mary in the New TestamentThe Annunciation The sending of the angel Gabriel marks the “fullness of the time” and the spiritual center of history. St. Paul sums up the event in few words in Galatians 4:4-5: “When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
The Annunciation St. Luke records this most crucial event in Luke 1:26-38: And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin' s name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end.
The Annunciation And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: Because no word shall be impossible with God. And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
The Annunciation:MaryWas Betrothed to JosephJohn Paul II, apostolic exhortation Redemptoriscustos 18. “Above all, the ‘just’man of Nazareth possesses the clear characteristics of a husband. Luke refers to Mary as ‘a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph’(Lk 1:27). Even before the ‘mystery hidden for ages’(Eph 3:9) began to be fulfilled, the Gospels set before us the image of husband and wife. According to Jewish custom, marriage took place in two stages: first, the legal, or true marriage was celebrated, and then, only after a certain period of time, the husband brought the wife into his own house. Thus, before he lived with Mary, Joseph was already her ‘husband.’”
The Annunciation:The Angel’s SalutationJohn Paul II, Mother of the Redeemer 8-9. “The double greeting is due to the fact that in the soul of this ‘daughter of Sion’there is manifested, in a sense, all the ‘glory of grace,’that grace which ‘the Father . . . has given us in his beloved Son.’For the messenger greets Mary as ‘full of grace’; he calls her thus as if it were her real name. He does not call her by her proper earthly name: Miryam (= Mary), but by this new name: ‘full of grace.’What does this name mean? Why does the archangel address the Virgin of Nazareth in this way? . . . “
The Annunciation:The Angel’s SalutationJohn Paul II, Mother of the Redeemer 8-9. “When we read that the messenger addresses Mary as ‘full of grace,’the Gospel context, which mingles revelations and ancient promises, enables us to understand that among all the ‘spiritual blessings in Christ’[cf. Eph 1:3] this is a special ‘blessing.’In the mystery of Christ she is present even ‘before the creation of the world,’as the one whom the Father ‘has chosen’as Mother of his Son in the Incarnation. And, what is more, together with the Father, the Son has chosen her, entrusting her eternally to the Spirit of holiness. . . .”
The Annunciation:The Angel’s Announcement of the Divine Maternity2 Samuel 7:12-16 “And when thy days shall be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house to my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. . . . And thy house shall be faithful, and thy kingdom for ever before thy face, and thy throne shall be firm for ever.”
The Annunciation:The Angel’s Announcement of the Divine MaternityDaniel7:13–14 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
The Annunciation:The Angel’s Announcement of the Divine Maternity “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High.” Thus to call someone “the Son of God,” is to say that He exists “in the form of God” (Phil 2:6). To be “in the form” of something means in fact to be that thing. In the Hebrew mentality, therefore, if the expression is taken in the full and proper sense of the word, “the son of God” must not only share in the divine nature, but must have his identity from that nature.
The Annunciation:Mary’s Question: “How shall this be, since I know not man?” Mary had three reasons to respond with caution to this awesome announcement of the angel that her child would be the Son of God. First of all, she knew the general principle that every spirit must be tested (see 1 Thess 5:21). The devil can disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14), and convince us to do something that is not God’s plan for us. Secondly, we all must be especially cautious when we receive a message or vision that flatters human pride. Gabriel’s message was absolutely glorious, and thus Mary responds with a profound sense of humility.
The Annunciation:Mary’s Question: “How shall this be, since I know not man?” Third, this response of prudence and humility is formulated in an intriguing question: “How shall this be done, because I know not man?” In fact, this question is only intelligible on the assumption that Mary had made some kind of vow or promise of perpetual virginity. Mary is using the word “to know” as a euphemism for the conjugal act, as is often the case in Scripture (see Gen 4:1).
The Annunciation:Mary’s Question: “How shall this be, since I know not man?” St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, q. 28, a. 4 On the contrary, Augustine says (Holy Viriginity 4): “Mary answered the announcing angel: ‘How shall this be done, because I know not man?’ She would not have said this unless she had already vowed her virginity to God.” I answer that, as we have stated in II-II, q. 88, a. 6, works of perfection are more praiseworthy when performed in fulfilment of a vow. Now it is clear that for reasons already given virginity had a special place in the Mother of God. It was therefore fitting that her virginity should be consecrated to God by vow. Nevertheless because, while the Law was in force both men and women were bound to attend to the duty of begetting, since the worship of God was spread according to carnal origin, until Christ was born of that people; the Mother of God is not believed to have taken an absolute vow of virginity, before being espoused to Joseph, although she desired to do so, yet yielding her own will to God's judgment. Afterwards, however, having taken a husband, according as the custom of the time required, together with him she took a vow of virginity.
The Annunciation:Mary’s Question: “How shall this be, since I know not man?” St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, q. 28, a. 4 Reply to Objection 1. Because it seemed to be forbidden by the law not to take the necessary steps for leaving a posterity on earth, therefore the Mother of God did not vow virginity absolutely, but under the condition that it were pleasing to God. When, however, she knew that it was acceptable to God, she made the vow absolute, before the angel's Annunciation. Reply to Objection 3. . . After her espousals, however, by their common consent she took a vow of virginity together with her spouse.
The Annunciation:Mary’s Question: “How shall this be, since I know not man?” St. Thomas hypothesizes that Mary may have made a conditional vow before her betrothal to St. Joseph, and, upon receiving his consent after the betrothal, both spouses made a permanent vow of virginity, before the Annunciation. This vow by mutual consent is then what prompts Mary’s question to the angel: “How can this be since I know not man?”
The Annunciation:The Answer to Mary’s Question The angel answers Mary’s question by explaining that the birth of the Redeemer will come about through the “overshadowing” of the Holy Spirit. This expression calls to mind the cloud of glory that was a sign of God’s special presence first on Mt. Sinai, then over the tent of Meeting, and then over the Holy of Holies in the Temple. The implication is that the conception of Jesus will be utterly supernatural, a transcendent act of God Himself, and indeed the highest of the supernatural works of the grace of God.
The Annunciation:Mary’s Consent Leo XIII, in his Marian encyclical, Octobrimense of 1891 (no. 4), explains the importance of Mary’s consent: “The Eternal Son of God, about to take upon Him our nature for the saving and ennobling of man, and about to consummate thus a mystical union between Himself and all mankind, did not accomplish His design without adding there the free consent of the elect Mother, who represented in some sort all human kind, according to the illustrious and just opinion of St. Thomas, who says that the Annunciation was effected with the consent of the Virgin standing in the place of humanity.”
The Annunciation:Mary’s Consent It might seem that it would be easy for Mary to consent to the salvation of mankind. Why would one refuse consent? What would be the merit in accepting the message of the angel? We cannot consent to a proposition that we do not fully believe. Mary was asked to consent to God’s offer of becoming man in her virginal womb. Her consent presupposed her faith that God would be true to His word.
The Annunciation:The Faith of Abraham and Mary (John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater 14-16) In RM 14, John Paul II brings out this parallel: Abraham’s faith constitutes the beginning of the Old Covenant; Mary’s faith at the Annunciation inaugurates the New Covenant. Just as Abraham “in hope believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations” (cf. Rom 4:18), so Mary, at the Annunciation, having professed her virginity (“How shall this be, since I have no husband?”) believed that through the power of the Most High, by the power of the Holy Spirit, she would become the Mother of God’s Son. . . . Mary’s “obedience of faith” during the whole of her pilgrimage will show surprising similarities to the faith of Abraham. . . . To believe means “to abandon oneself” to the truth of the word of the living God, knowing and humbly recognizing “how unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways” (Rom 11:33). Mary, who by the eternal will of the Most High stands, one may say, at the very center of those “inscrutable ways” and “unsearchable judgments” of God, conforms herself to them in the dim light of faith, accepting fully and with a ready heart everything that is decreed in the divine plan.
The Annunciation:Mary as the New Eve: Mary’s Faith Redeems Eve’s Disobedience
The Visitation (Luke 1:39-45) In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."
The Visitation: Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."
The Visitation: Benedict XVI, in Verbum Domini 28 Here I would like to mention Mary’s familiarity with the word of God. This is clearly evident in the Magnificat. There we see in some sense how she identifies with the word, enters into it; in this marvellous canticle of faith, the Virgin sings the praises of the Lord in his own words: “The Magnificat—a portrait, so to speak, of her soul—is entirely woven from threads of Holy Scripture, threads drawn from the word of God. Here we see how completely at home Mary is with the word of God, with ease she moves in and out of it. She speaks and thinks with the word of God; the word of God becomes her word, and her word issues from the word of God. Here we see how her thoughts are attuned to the thoughts of God, how her will is one with the will of God. Since Mary is completely imbued with the word of God, she is able to become the Mother of the Word Incarnate.”
Revelation to St. Joseph: Matthew 1:18-25 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.
The Birth of the Lord: Luke 2:1-19 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. 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. And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.
Adoration of the Magi: Matthew 2:9-23 When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. . . . But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and hismother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
The Circumcision: Luke 2:21-39 The Circumcision of Jesus is important for various reasons: 1) It emphasizes the truth of Christ’s humanity and flesh. 2) It most graphically illustrates Christ’s true membership in Israel, for circumcision is the rite of entrance into the people. 3) It underscores the dignity of the people of Israel and the rites of the Law, which were obeyed by God Himself, and sanctified in His Person. 4) It was a great act of humility (as His Baptism was later). Christ wished to be indistinguishable from the other babies of Israel and pass among them as if He were but one more member of the People. 5) Circumcision in the flesh is a figure of the circumcision of the spirit. Hence Christ accepted circumcision in His flesh according to the Law of Moses, in order to offer it for the circumcision of our spirit.
Presentation in the Temple (Luke 2:22-39) Mary, like Jesus, placed herself under the Law of Moses, in this case to undergo the rite of purification that every Jewish woman received forty days after the birth of a son. Although Mary did not need to be purified, she submitted to this rite out of humility and love. Mary’s role as Co-Redemptrix and Mother of Sorrows is also foretold in Luke 2:33-35: “And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.’”
Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple: Luke 2:41-51 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day's journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
Mary’s Faith and the Hidden LifePaul VI, Address at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth (Jan. 5, 1964) The lesson of domestic life: may Nazareth teach us the meaning of family life, its harmony of love, its simplicity and austere beauty, its sacred and inviolable character; may it teach us how sweet and irreplaceable is its training, how fundamental and incomparable its role on the social plane. The lesson of work: O Nazareth, home of "the carpenter's son," we want here to understand and to praise the austere and redeeming law of human labor, here to restore the consciousness of the dignity of labor, here to recall that work cannot be an end in itself, and that it is free and ennobling in proportion to the values – beyond the economic ones – which motivate it. We would like here to salute all the workers of the world, and to point out to them their great Model, their Divine Brother, the Champion of all their rights, Christ the Lord!
Mary’s Faith and the Hidden LifeJohn Paul II, RedemptorisMater 17: During the years of Jesus’ hidden life in the house at Nazareth, Mary’s life too is “hid with Christ in God” (cf. Col. 3:3) through faith. For faith is contact with the mystery of God. Every day Mary is in constant contact with the ineffable mystery of God made man, a mystery that surpasses everything revealed in the Old Covenant. From the moment of the Annunciation, the mind of the Virgin-Mother has been initiated into the radical “newness” of God’s self-revelation and has been made aware of the mystery. She is the first of those “little ones” of whom Jesus will say one day: “Father, . . . you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes” (Mt. 11:25). . . . However, it is not difficult to see in that beginning a particular heaviness of heart, linked with a sort of “night of faith”—to use the words of St. John of the Cross—a kind of “veil” through which one has to draw near to the Invisible One and to live in intimacy with the mystery.
Mary’s Perpetual Virginity after the BirthThird canon of the Lateran Council of 649: “If anyone does not confess, in accordance with the Holy Fathers, that Mary, ever virgin and immaculate, was properly and truly the holy Mother of God, because in this last age not with human seed but of the Holy Spirit she properly and truly conceived the divine Word, who was born of God the Father before all ages, and gave him birth without any detriment to her virginity, which remained inviolable even after his birth: let him be anathema.”
Mary’s Perpetual Virginity after the BirthPaul VI,Constitution Cum quorundam, 1555 “With our apostolic authority we call to account and warn . . . all those who have asserted or who have believed: . . . . that [the Lord] was not conceived of the Holy Spirit according to the flesh in the womb of the most Blessed and ever-Virgin Mary, but that his conception in no way differed from the conception of other men, and that he was conceived of the seed of Joseph; . . . or that the same most Blessed Virgin Mary is not the true mother of God and that she did not remain a perfect virgin before, during, and forever after she gave birth.”
Brothers and Sisters of the Lord Mark 6:3: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” Mathew 13:55-56: “Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us?” It is certain that James and Joses and Judas and Simon were cousins of Christ, according to the flesh. It is reasonable to think that they were children of Mary of Clopas, who is said to be Mary’s sister in John 19:25: “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” Suarez interprets “his mother’s sister” to mean Mary’s sister-in-law, and he thus thinks that Clopas is the brother of St. Joseph. We can also ask why two sisters would have the same name. Mary the wife of Clopas can also be identified with the Mary present at the crucifixion in Matthew 27:56, who is spoken of as the “mother of James and Joseph.” The same Mary is referred to in the parallel text of Mark 15:40: “There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses and Salome.” Clearly this “Mary the mother of James the younger” is distinct from Mary the mother of Jesus. If Matthew and Mark meant to refer to Mary the Mother of Jesus, it is inconceivable that they would have identified her as “Mary the mother of James,” and not “Mary the mother of Jesus.”
Mary’s Role during Jesus’ Public Ministry/True Kinsmen of Jesus Luke 11:27-28: “A woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!’ But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’” Luke 8:20-21: “And he was told, ‘Your mother and your brethren are standing outside, desiring to see you.’ But he said to them, ‘My mother and my brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it.’”
Mary’s Role during Jesus’ Public Ministry/True Kinsmen of JesusJohn Paul II, RedemptorisMater 20 “The new and different motherhood which Jesus speaks of to his disciples refers precisely to Mary in a very special way. Is not Mary the first of ‘those who hear the word of God and do it’? And therefore does not the blessing uttered by Jesus in response to the woman in the crowd refer primarily to her? Without any doubt, Mary is worthy of blessing by the very fact that she became the mother of Jesus according to the flesh…, but also and especially because already at the Annunciation she accepted the word of God, because she believed it, because she was obedient to God, and because she ‘kept’ the word and ‘pondered it in her heart’ (cf. Lk. 1:38, 45; 2:19, 51) and by means of her whole life accomplished it.”
Mary’s Role during Jesus’ Public Ministry/True Kinsmen of JesusJohn Paul II, RedemptorisMater 20 “If through faith Mary became the bearer of the Son given to her by the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, while preserving her virginity intact, in that same faith she discovered and accepted the other dimension of motherhood revealed by Jesus during his messianic mission. One can say that this dimension of motherhood belonged to Mary from the beginning, that is to say from the moment of the conception and birth of her Son. From that time she was ‘the one who believed.’But as the messianic mission of her Son grew clearer to her eyes and spirit, she herself as a mother became ever more open to that new dimension of motherhood which was to constitute her ‘part’beside her Son.”
Mary at the Wedding at Cana: John 2:1-11 On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.” So they took it. When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
Mary at the Wedding at Cana Mary’s role of intercession in this miracle which prefigures the entire New Covenant is not accidental. The Fathers of the Church see the wedding feast at Cana (to which Mary was invited) as the wedding between mankind and God. That betrothal was begun in Israel, is consummated in the Church, and will be fully manifested in the Church triumphant. Mary was there, and through her, Jesus came to be there. And it is Mary who intercedes on behalf of mankind, saying: “They have no wine.” She is still interceding with her Son, until the end of time, on behalf of all peoples still deprived (at least in part) of the wine of the Gospel. See Hosea 2:19–20.
Mary at the Wedding at Cana The changing of the water into wine signifies the transformation of the Old into the New Covenant; the transformation of natural life into the life of grace; the transformation of the sons of Adam and Eve into sons and daughters of God in Christ. Mary’s presence at this miracle, interceding for its realization, is a type of her participation in our own transformation through sacramental grace.
Mary at the Foot of the Cross: John 20:25-30 But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), “I thirst. . . . It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Mary’s Faith at the Foot of the Cross: John Paul II, RedemptorisMater14 To believe means "to abandon oneself" to the truth of the word of the living God, knowing and humbly recognizing "how unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways" (Rom. 11:33). Mary, who by the eternal will of the Most High stands, one may say, at the very center of those "inscrutable ways" and "unsearchable judgments" of God, conforms herself to them in the dim light of faith, accepting fully and with a ready heart everything that is decreed in the divine plan.
Mary’s Faith at the Foot of the Cross: John Paul II, RedemptorisMater18 At that moment [of the Annunciation] she had also heard the words: “He will be great . . . and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:32-33). And now, standing at the foot of the Cross, Mary is the witness, humanly speaking, of the complete negation of these words. On that wood of the Cross her Son hangs in agony as one condemned. . . . How great, how heroic then is the obedience of faith shown by Mary in the face of God’s “unsearchable judgments”! How completely she “abandons herself to God” without reserve, “offering the full assent of the intellect and the will” to him whose “ways are inscrutable” (cf. Rom. 11:33)! . . . Through this faith Mary is perfectly united with Christ in his self-emptying. For “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men”: precisely on Golgotha “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (cf. Phil. 2:5-8). At the foot of the Cross Mary shares through faith in the shocking mystery of this self-emptying. This is perhaps the deepest “kenosis” of faith in human history.
Mary’s Faith at the Foot of the Cross: John Paul II, RedemptorisMater19 In the expression “Blessed is she who believed,” we can therefore rightly find a kind of “key” which unlocks for us the innermost reality of Mary, whom the angel hailed as “full of grace.” If as “full of grace” she has been eternally present in the mystery of Christ, through faith she became a sharer in that mystery in every extension of her earthly journey.
Mary in the Upper Room at Pentecost: Acts 1:13-14and 2:1 “They went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” The text implies that Mary was present in the upper room throughout the novena of prayer and on the day of Pentecost: “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1).
Mary in the Upper Room at Pentecost There is an interesting parallel between the conception of Christ and the birth of the Church on Pentecost. On both occasions, Mary is a central figure and is overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. At the Annunciation this overshadowing is to give life to Jesus Christ in His humanity. On Pentecost, however, the Holy Spirit spreads His life-giving influence to the whole Church, to give it its life as the Mystical Body of Christ.
Mary and the Church in Revelation12:1-17 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon was under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. And being with child, she cried out in her travail and was in the anguish of delivery. And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth. She brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness. . . Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.
Mary and the Church Just as Christ was born in Bethlehem through Mary, He will not be born in us again without Mary’s maternity. Of all the doctrines of the Catholic faith, this is surely one of the most consoling and moving. While Christ was dying on the Cross, He made Mary our mother in the spiritual life by giving her to His “beloved disciple”—who represents all mankind who are called to be disciples—and by giving the disciple to her (Jn 19:26-27).