Hail, Holy Queen

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Marshal your troops now, city of troops, for a siege is laid against us. They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Therefore, Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.
Michah 5, 1-3
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And coming to her, the angel said:
“Hail, full of grace!
The Lord is with thee.”
Luke 1, 28
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“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.  He will reign over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Luke 1, 31-33
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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… The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.
Revelation 12, 1-5
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Go forth, ye daughters of Zion, and see King Solomon in the diadem
wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals.
Song of Solomon 3:11
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“Behold, from now on shall all generations 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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Yours in Jesus and Mary,
Marian Catholic
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Salve Regina!

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Dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima

The Queen in Ophir’s Gold

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My heart is stirred by a noble theme
as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skilful writer.
You are the most excellent of men
and your lips have been anointed with grace,
since God has blessed you forever.
Daughters of kings are among your honoured women;
at your right hand is the royal bride in gold of Ophir.
Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention.
Forget your people and your father’s house.
Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;
honor him, for he is your lord.
Psalm 45, 1-2, 9-11

Then Bethsabee came to king Solomon, to speak to him for Adonias: and the king arose to meet her, and bowed to her, and sat down upon his throne: and a throne was set for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right hand.
1 Kings 2, 19

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.  He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Luke 1, 31-33
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In the historic period of ancient Israel, there stood a throne next to the one occupied by the king in the royal house of David. This throne at his right was reserved for the king’s mother who served as queen. The position of the Queen Mother or “Great Lady” (Gebirah) was a privilege of the highest honour and authority for a woman of the kingdom of Judah. The Gebirah was an extremely powerful and influential figure in ancient Jewish culture; she directed all domestic matters and had the final word among all the women of the royal household – including the king’s wives. Unlike the Queen Mother, the king’s spouses were given the primary task of bearing and raising their husband’s offspring and potential heirs to the throne.

The Gebirah alone acted as close adviser to her son and as advocate to the people. Anyone who had a petition to present or sought an audience with the king was formally expected to approach him through the mediation of his mother and by her patronage. This was the case when Adonijah sought a high-ranking bride from his half-brother Solomon through Queen Mother Bathsheba’s intercession. Solomon’s gesture of placing his mother’s throne at the right of his is believed by many Catholics to be a foreshadowing of Mary’s Assumption and Coronation in Heaven, where she acts as our Queen Mother and advocate next to the heavenly throne of her divine Son and King in the order of grace (Mk. 10:40).

Historically, what was temporally instituted in the Kingdom of Judah foreshadowed the kingdom that God would establish from all eternity and which should embrace people from all the nations of the earth with Christ as the King of kings. There is no reason why our Lord and King, the son of David, would abolish an office to which his mother was entitled to by Divine sanction. God’s plan would certainly lack perfection if there were no eternal Queen Mother sitting on a heavenly throne next to her royal Son. What God had prepared in the Old Dispensation was for fulfilling in the New. The office of the Gebirah continued to exist from the time of King Solomon while there were Davidic kings ruling in Judah until 587 B.C., the year when the southern kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonians.

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

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God did not promise an uninterrupted Davidic monarchy, but rather an unbroken line of descendants of David who would be eligible to inherit his throne. Its re-establishment is forever with Jesus having ascended to the throne for all eternity. Jesus could trace his line only legally through Joseph, since the latter was not his natural father. But as the fruit of Mary’s womb, he could trace his blood line back to David and rightfully claim his royal inheritance as foretold: ‘The LORD has sworn in truth to David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of your body will I set on your throne’ (Ps. 132:11; Lk. 1:42). This is one reason why God chose to become incarnate by being “made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4), and more importantly why the Son had to have a natural mother in his humanity.

It was all part of God’s perfect plan. God did promise David an eternal dynasty, despite the northern kingdom’s rejection of Solomon’s son Rehoboam and the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, which finally brought an end to the temporal rule of the Davidic kings in anticipation of the Messiah and the culmination of the Davidic kingdom in the New Dispensation with Jesus as King and Mary as his Queen Mother. (2 Sam. 7: 8-13).

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Allegorically, the kingdom of Israel (David and Solomon ruled when Israel was still united.) prefigures the kingdom of Heaven. Because of their wickedness and unjust rule, King Jehoiachin and the Queen Mother Nehusta eventually lost their crowns and were taken captive into exile by Nebuchadnezzar along with all the high-ranking people of Judah and its defeated warriors (Jer. 13: 18; 22: 24-26). King Zedekiah’s demise would soon follow because his wickedness after having reigned over the lowest and poorest remnants of his kingdom. And his mother Queen Hamital would have to relinquish her crown as well at the fall of her son at the hands of the Babylonians and Chaldeans after her son’s rebellion against the Babylonian king (2 Kgs. 24: 12-24).

However, God’s kingdom would not end, now that the Davidic monarchy should temporally cease with Zedekiah, the parental uncle of Jehoiachin. Jeremiah makes God’s intentions clear in his metaphor of the two baskets of figs which prophetically alludes to the coming of God’s heavenly kingdom (Jer 24). The crowns which the Davidic kings and their queen mothers had to forfeit should forever be replaced on the heads of the King of kings and the Queen of queens in God’s eternal kingdom of the New Dispensation​. God’s oath to David came to be realized in Jesus, the son of Mary. ‘And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” (Lk 1:31-32). ‘And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” ‘(Lk 1:42); ‘Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh’ (Rom 1:3); ‘Remember that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and was descended from David’ (2 Tim 2:8). Jesus’ bloodline can be traced only through his mother Mary, who alone has provided all the genetic material and our Lord’s flesh. His blood mixed with his mother’s royal blood in her womb.

“O Virgin most pure, wholly unspotted, O Mary, Mother of God, Queen of the universe, thou art above all the saints, the hope of the elect and the joy of all the blessed. It is thou who hast reconciled us with God; thou art the only refuge of sinners and the safe harbour of those who are shipwrecked; thou art the consolation of the world, the ransom of captives, the health of the weak, the joy of the afflicted, and the salvation of all. We have recourse to thee, and we beseech thee to have pity on us. Amen.”
St. Ephraim of Syria
Prayer to the Immaculate Queen
(ante A.D. 373)
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The city of Tyre will come with a gift,
people of wealth will seek your favour.
All glorious is the princess within her chamber;
her gown is interwoven with gold.
Psalm 45, 12-13

St. Luke has quite a different account of the genealogy of Jesus from what we have in the Gospel of Matthew. Unlike Matthew, he wrote his Gospel to address the Gentiles who weren’t under the Mosaic Law. Jewish law stipulated that genealogies were to be through the line of the males, not the females. ‘So, Moses and Aaron took these men who had been designated and assembled the whole community on the first day of the second month. Every man of twenty years or more then declared his name and lineage according to clan and ancestral house’ (Num. 1:17-18).

In Luke 3:23-38, the genealogy goes from Jesus, through David, and back to Judah, continuing all the way back to Adam, and then finally to God. Luke, however, shows the descendant of David to be Nathan (v. 31) rather than Solomon, as in Matthew. This suggests the possibility that Luke’s genealogy is for a person other than Joseph; so, in that case, he would be tracing Jesus’ ancestry through Mary’s side of the family. We read: And Jesus himself was beginning about the age of thirty years; being (as it was supposed) the son of Joseph, who was of Heli [Eli] who was of Mathat. (Lk.3, 23). This verse seems to say that Heli (Eli) is Joseph’s father, yet in the Gospel of Matthew we have Joseph being the son of Jacob.

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So how can Joseph have two fathers? Surely, he had only one father. And certainly, the two Gospels can’t be contradicting each other. We have good reason to conclude, therefore, that to trace the bloodline of Jesus through Heli, we would first have to go through Mary, His mother. Heli would be the biological father of Mary, and the father – in – law of Joseph. Even though the name of Mary isn’t listed, to comply with Jewish social custom and legal procedure, it surely is implied. The Greek word used for “as it was supposed” is nomizo, which means “to hold by custom or usage.”

We know that Jesus truly descended from David by bloodline, which could only have happened by his being the Son of Mary – the fruit of her womb. Luke’s genealogy through Mary is implied, but it is certain by the fact that Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ blood father. There was no human intercourse for the conception of Jesus, and so the Davidic bloodline couldn’t be traced through Joseph, apart from his legal Davidic lineage. Since it was customary to trace the son’s lineage through the father, God chose Joseph to be Mary’s husband and earthly father of Jesus. She could marry Joseph because it was also customary for a couple of the same tribe to wed (Num. 36:6-7). Seeing that Luke traces Jesus’ genealogy through Mary all the way back to God through David and Adam, it is most appropriate to designate Mary not only as the Mother of God, but also as the Queen Mother of God’s heavenly kingdom because of her royal blood which Jesus our Lord and King received through her.

“Concerning the holy and much-lauded ever-virgin one, Mary, the Mother of God, we have said something in the preceding chapters, bringing forward what was most opportune, viz., that strictly and truly she is and is called the Mother of God. Now let us fill up the blanks. For she being pre-ordained by the eternal prescient counsel of God and imaged forth and proclaimed in diverse images and discourses of the prophets through the Holy Spirit, sprang at the pre-determined time from the root of David, according to the promises that were made to him. For the Lord has sworn, He says in truth to David, He will not turn from it: of the fruit of Your body will I set upon Your throne. And again, Once have I sworn by My holiness, that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and His throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. And Isaiah says: And there shall come out a rod out of the stem of Jesse and a branch shall grow out of his roots… “Must there not therefore be a Mother of God who bore God incarnate? Assuredly she who played the part of the Creator’s servant and mother is in all strictness and truth in reality God’s Mother and Lady and Queen over all created things.”
St. John of Damascus
An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 4:14
(ante A.D. 749)
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I will perpetuate your memory through all generations;
therefore, the nations will praise you for ever and ever.
Psalm 45, 17

Psalm 45, 9-17 refers to a Phoenician princess from Tyre who becomes queen (shegal) by her marriage with the Davidic king. It is a prophetic song which points towards the institution of the Queen Mother established by King Solomon, son of David and Bathsheba. Let us look at these verses in conjunction with other passages in Scripture to see the connection between the Old and New Testaments. The Queen in Gold of Ophir certainly finds her secondary fulfilment and final consummation in the Immaculate Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven and Mediatrix of Grace.

Psalm 45:9
Daughters of kings are your lovely wives;
a princess arrayed in Ophir’s gold
comes to stand at your right hand.

So Bathsheba went to King Solomon, to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah.  The king rose to meet her, and bowed down to her;
then he sat on his throne, and had a throne brought for the king’s mother,
and she sat on his right.
– 1 Kings 2, 1

“But to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant.
These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
– Mark 10, 4

Psalm 45:12
Honor him, daughter of Tyre.
Then the richest of the people will seek your favor with gifts.

So Bathsheba went to King Solomon,
to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah.
– 1 Kings 2, 1

And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said unto him,
“They have no wine.”
– John 2, 2

Psalm 45:13-14
All glorious is the princess within her chamber;
her gown is interwoven with gold.
In embroidered garments, she is led to the king.

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, 1

And Mary said,
“My soul proclaims the glory of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my saviour;
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his handmaid.
– Luke 1, 46-48

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

 “Behold, From now on will all generations call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.”
– Luke 1, 48-49
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They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house,
they saw the child with his mother Mary.
Then they prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Matthew 2, 10-11

The Judeo-Christians of the nascent Church perceived Mary to be the anti-type of the Gebirah in the royal line of David, and they saw the fulfillment of this institution in her Divine Maternity (Lk. 1:31-33, 35). St. Matthew affirms the continuation of this Jewish tradition in the New Dispensation by emphasizing Mary, the mother of Jesus, was with her Son when other kings came from afar to pay him tribute and present their gifts to him. Upon appearing to Mary, the archangel Gabriel did say to her: “The Lord is with you” (Lk. 1:28). The Mother and the Son are portrayed as being closely related to each other in the Kingdom of Heaven by their royal line of descent.

Matthew’s narrative is suggestive of the truth that anyone, including royal figures, who seeks access to the King and presents himself to him must do so with the Queen Mother at his side. No Gospel narrative is the least concerned with anything incidental or contains theologically insignificant elements. The phrase “mother of Jesus” isn’t used as a kind of filler for the sake of providing colourful detail to a story, but rather a means to highlight the significance of their relationship. Mary’s filial relationship with Jesus is historical and eschatological in aspect, and so, the Gospel narrative confirms a traditional belief held by the first Christian Ecclesia as an offshoot of its past Judaic heritage: The Virgin Mary is “with” Jesus by being his mother. She was chosen to be the mother of our Lord and King to be intimately associated with him in his redemptive work and monarchical rule over all nations in the Messianic age.

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Thus, this narrative highlights a royal affair which consists of characters of royal lineage, including Mary, from whom Jesus acquires the legitimacy of his royal pedigree and through whom his royal inheritance. Mary is her Son’s guarantor of his rightful claim to King David’s throne – not Joseph, which explains why his obvious presence there isn’t even mentioned. There is something about the Virgin Mary that Matthew wishes to underscore without any needless distractions. Her maternal presence points to the pre-eminent position she holds by the grace of God in His heavenly kingdom.

Incidentally, we read in the Gospel of Luke that the shepherds ‘came with haste; and they found Mary and Joseph (not Mary, the mother of Jesus and Joseph or Mary, the mother of Jesus), and the infant lying in the manger’ (Lk. 2:16). The shepherds weren’t regal figures, unlike the Magi. So, there was no need for Luke to describe who Mary was in relation to Jesus. Theophilus knew Mary was the mother of the Messiah, but he had to understand also that Mary was much more than the natural mother of our Lord and King. John, too, refers to Mary as ‘the mother of Jesus’ in his Gospel narrative of the Wedding at Cana (Jn. 2: 1-11) for the reason she had a significant intermediary role to play in association with her Son in his redemptive work.

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Matthew, therefore, is affirming that the Virgin Mary is the “trigger sign” of the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom by giving birth to the promised Messiah King, as foretold by the prophets (Isa. 7:14, 11:1; Micah 5:1-3; Jer. 31:22). As a Jew, he would have known that the sign of the Queen Mother’s royal office was her crown and throne placed at the right of the King’s throne in the royal court from the time of Solomon to continue the Davidic dynasty. As we have seen, the King’s and Queen Mother’s fortunes were intertwined. When the King took his throne, because of whose mother he was, so did his Queen Mother. If another power usurped the King’s throne, the lives of both the King and the Queen Mother would be in danger (1 Kgs. 1:21). If the King were deported in exile, the Queen Mother and all the royal court would be, too, along with him (2 Kgs. 24:12; Jer. 13:18, 22:26, 29:2).

Now, there were plenty of male descendants of David after the Jews of the Southern Kingdom were freed from captivity and restored as a nation, but none of them could legitimately inherit the throne of David and continue his dynasty, because there was no Queen Mother to guarantee his Davidic kingship. Since God swore an oath to David, that the fruit of his womb would inherit his throne forever, this being fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah King, the legitimacy of his throne in the Davidic dynasty could be guaranteed only if his mother were entitled to the office of the Gebirah (Ps. 132:11; Lk. 1:42). Thus, Matthew is implicitly testifying to the historical truth of the Blessed Virgin Mary being the Queen Mother of the Messiah King Jesus by giving birth to him (Lk. 1:31-33). Jesus fulfills the prophecies of the restoration of the Davidic dynasty and kingdom by being her Son – the fruit of her womb. The fates of the Mother and the Son are closely intertwined and rest on God’s gratuitous design from the beginning (Gen. 3:15).

And, so, Mary’s fate is inextricably bound to the fate of her Son Jesus. When the Messiah King ascended into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God, so too was his mother enthroned at his right after she was assumed body and soul into heaven by his power at the end of the course of her earthly life. In heaven, our Queen Mother Mary fulfills her royal office as a sign of her Son’s legitimate claim to the throne of David in his eternal royal court. There she also serves as our prayerful Advocatrix and Mediatrix of Grace, while she reigns together with her Son the Messiah King in the order of grace (2 Tim. 2:12).

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At any rate, the Jews, who were the first to embrace the Christian faith, undeniably recognized Mary’s royal dignity and her privileges by her being the mother of their Lord and King in the line of David. They must have held the mother of their Lord (Adonai) in the highest esteem, whose efficacious patronage mustn’t be ignored. The deference they continued to show Mary after her Dormition and Assumption body and soul into heaven is clearly expressed in the words of her kinswoman Elizabeth: “Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”. And it is by Mary’s mediation or implicit advocacy that the infant John the Baptist is graced and leaps in his mother’s womb at the sound of her greeting (Lk. 1:43-44). It was customary for the Judeans to address the Gebirah as the “mother of my Lord” and King, especially when petitioning her for favors they sought to receive from her son.

Our Great Lady’s pre-eminent advocacy and mediation of grace in the Kingdom of Heaven are indeed royal prerogatives that belong exclusively to her by maternal right. How honoured the infant Church must have felt that the mother of their Lord should deign to attend to the faithful from her heavenly throne, being solicitous to her children’s spiritual needs and attentive to their petitions. In time, this private Marian devotion in the nascent Church would spread throughout the Roman-Greco world and become widely held among Catholics in the early Church. The persecuted early Christians implored their Blessed Mother’s aid and intercession. They sought refuge in the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Heart when they supplicated her in spirit standing before her heavenly throne which stood alongside her Son’s throne of grace in the wake of terrible persecution. With the growing rounds of persecution and deaths of the martyrs came a stronger Church growing in number which would eventually outlast the Roman Empire or the whore of Babylon, viz., the City of Rome with its seven hills – all this through the compassionate mediation of the Queen of Heaven and of Martyrs.

‘Under your mercy we take refuge, O Mother of God.
Do not reject our supplications in necessity,
but deliver us from danger,
O you alone pure and alone blessed.’
Sub Tuum Praesidium
(c.250 AD)
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And coming to her, the angel said:
“Hail, full of
grace!
The Lord is with thee.”
Luke 1, 28

The angel Gabriel did indeed acknowledge Mary’s royal dignity when he must have greeted her in genuflection. In the original Greek text, we have ‘chaire kecharitomene’: “Hail, O favoured one by grace.” In ancient time, this form of salutation, “Hail” (chaire), was normally used for greeting and acclaiming royal figures. The term expressed loyalty and allegiance. Only on one other occasion in the New Testament is this expression used, and that is when the Roman soldiers mock Jesus by placing a crown of thorns on his head and a reed in his hand, because they had heard that Jesus claimed to be the king of the Jews: “Hail, King of the Jews!”: chaire basileus ton ioudaion (Jn. 19:3). The angel greeted and praised the mother of our Lord in this manner, since Mary is also the Queen of Angels.

Now the word chaire can also be translated as “rejoice”, but sacred Scripture is often polyvalent. Words and symbols do in fact sometimes carry more than one underlying meaning. We can reasonably assume that this Greek word has a twofold meaning with respect to Mary. The word “rejoice” does apply to her from the perspective of her being designated as Daughter Zion, the personification of the virgin spouse of YHWH, Israel, from whom the Messiah comes into the world. We find it in the first part of Mary’s Canticle of Praise in Luke 1:46-49 which parallels the prophecies of Isaiah (61:10), Zechariah (2:10-11), and Zephaniah (3:14) about the restoration of Israel from exile through God’s saving intervention. With respect to Mary’s royal Davidic lineage, the word “Hail” is also proper, since it is on this occasion that the angel announces to Mary that she will conceive and bear a Son who shall eternally inherit the throne of his father David by being born of her ancestry (Lk. 1:31-33).

We should note that, in ancient Judaic tradition, Sarah was seen to have prefigured the Gebirah of the Kingdom of Judah. Originally her name was Sarai, but God told Abraham to call his wife Sarah from then on (Gen. 17:15-16). In ancient Hebrew, the name Sarai means “princess”, while Sarah means “exalted princess”. Naturally, a princess is exalted by becoming a queen. Just as Abraham was told not to call his wife Sarai anymore, for she was destined to bear Isaac, and by doing so became the Matriarch of the Covenant between God and Israel, so must the angel have been instructed by God not to call Mary by her given name when saluting her, but rather by her perfect and perpetual state of grace: The female vocative used by Luke is kecharitomene. This was fitting, since Mary was predestined to be the royal mother of our Lord and King Jesus, who was prefigured by Isaac (Gen. 22:2), and thereby become the Matriarch of the New Covenant, in whom Sarah finds her fulfilment in the Divine order of redemption as the Mother of all nations, whose royal Son shall rule all nations with a sceptre of justice (Ps. 2:9; Rev. 2:27).

“Hail, our desirable gladness;
Hail, O rejoicing of the Churches;
Hail, O name that breathes out sweetness;
Hail, face that radiates divinity and grace;
Hail, most venerable memory…”
St. Theodotus of Ancyra
Homily 4:3
(ante A.D. 446)
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Gird your sword upon your hip, mighty warrior!
In splendor and majesty ride on triumphant!
In the cause of truth, meekness, and justice
may your right hand show your wondrous deeds.
Your arrows are sharp;
peoples will cower at your feet;
the king’s enemies will lose heart.
Your throne, O God, stands forever;
the king’s enemies will lose heart.
Your throne, O God, stands forever;
your royal sceptre is a sceptre for justice.
You love justice and hate wrongdoing;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness above your fellow kings.
Psalm 45, 4-8

Solomon was the first king to grant his mother a high place in the administration of his kingdom, which he rightfully inherited from his father David who started his royal dynasty on Divine authority rather than by maternal privilege. He had no Queen Mother because he never inherited his throne. It was given to him by God in anticipation of the coming Messiah (2 Sam. 5:1-4). Yet, David promised his wife Bathsheba that her son Solomon would inherit his throne instead of Adonijah, the son of his other wife Abishag the Shunammite (1 Kgs. 1:28-31) and, by doing so, his royal dynasty would continue beginning with her as the guarantor of the ruling legitimacy of the king.

Again, there no longer was a maternal guarantor in line after the Jews were freed from captivity in Babylon and restored as a nation in Palestine. So, despite the interruption in the dynastic line of Davidic kings, this royal office of the Queen Mother could only be re-instituted by God Himself, if the dynasty were to continue with the Messiah inheriting David’s throne. Without the Gebirah, Jesus could still be king of his heavenly kingdom, but not of the House of David. There could be no continuing dynasty without the Virgin Mary being his Queen Mother. Our ‘Great Lady’ is indeed the trigger sign spoken of by the prophets about the restoration of the Davidic kingdom.

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The Bible does not record the name of David’s mother, but in ancient Judaic tradition the Talmud does (Baba Bathra, 91 a.). Her name was Nitzevet (Nisbeth), the daughter of Adael. The name Nitzevet derives from the Hebrew word nitzav, which means “to stand”. We find the source in the Hebrew Bible: “For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf rose [nitzbat] upright; and behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf” (Gen. 37:7). Solomon apparently was the first king to grant his mother a high place in the administration of his kingdom which he rightfully inherited from his father David. However, David’s mother accompanied him to his coronation and stayed close to him during his reign to encourage and counsel him when facing his enemies in turbulent times. Nitzevet stood up right alongside her son and never deserted him while he ruled. She served as a precursor to what would eventually become a national institution in Solomon’s reign. Her name foreshadows the deference with which even the king’s wives were to approach the Gebirah.

Hence, unlike the Queen Mother, the king’s wives were not granted the prerogatives of a counsellor and an advocate but were merely assigned the task of bearing and raising the king’s children, notably his sons who might become eligible heirs to the throne. The Gebirah was the most important woman in the kingdom of Judah and wielded the greatest influence over her son the king, more than all his wives combined. She was the sheaf which all other sheaves made obeisance to. So, sacred Scripture confirms the historic Christian tradition of the Virgin Mary’s Queenship in Heaven to be authentic. It is in Heaven where our Blessed Queen Mother continues to serve as Advocatrix and Mediatrix of all saving grace by her prayerful intercession alongside the throne of grace.

“The bright spiritual dawn of the Sun of Justice, [our Lady Mary], has gone to dwell and shine in His brilliance; she is called there by the one who rose from her, and who gives light to all things. Through her, that overwhelming radiance pours the rays of His sunshine upon us, in mercy and compassion, rekindling the souls of the faithful to imitate, as far as they can, His divine kindness and goodness. For Christ our God, who put on living and intelligent flesh, which He took from the ever-Virgin and the Holy Spirit, has called her to Himself and invested her with an incorruptibility touching all her corporeal frame; He has glorified her beyond all measure of glory, so that she, His holy Mother, might share His inheritance…“the Queen of mortal man, the most holy Mother of God.”
St. Modestus of Jerusalem
On the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God
(ante A.D. 634)
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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… The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.
Revelation 12, 1-5

The “great sign” or “Great Lady” John sees in heaven is that of the restoration of the Davidic Messianic kingdom in the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary herself giving birth to the Messiah King. The nativity of Christ is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophetic signs of the restoration. Since the child being born of the woman in the Apocalypse is our Messiah King, she must literally and historically be the Virgin Mary, though from an allegorical perspective, the woman who appears can represent Israel and the Church (Rev. 12:5; Ps. 2:9). What is striking in this vision is that the woman is crowned, and she is the mother of a male child who will “rule all nations with a rod of iron.” In the ancient Davidic kingdom, only one member of the royal court was crowned besides the king himself, that being his Queen Mother who reigned with him enthroned by his side.

The Queen Mother was a “genuine, tangible, and biological representation” of the Davidic King’s royal lineage, so not unlike the Child (Jesus) and the Dragon (Satan), the woman (Mary) isn’t some corporate symbol or representation. She’s as personal and real as the two other figures are, not only in Revelation 12, but also in Genesis 3:15 – the first Messianic prophecy. Saying “a great sign appeared in heaven” is another way of saying the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in heaven body and soul, she herself being the prophetic sign of the restoration of the Davidic kingdom by giving birth to our Messiah King (Isa. 7:14).

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Mary literally and historically gave birth to Jesus in joy in Bethlehem (Isa. 66:7-9) and figuratively in sorrow on Calvary (Jer. 4:10, etc.). In other words, it was after his crucifixion that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven to take his seat at the right hand of God. The royal authority of the male child was established after he was “caught up” into heaven (Rev. 12:5, 10). Gary G. Michuta (Making Sense of Mary: Sophia) points out that during his public ministry, Jesus spoke of Calvary as being the place where the “prince of this world” or the Devil would be judged and “cast out” from heaven as our accuser, while he himself would be “lifted up” (Jn. 12:31-33; Rev. 12:9, 12). Our Lord and King’s enthronement in the kingdom of heaven by his ascension is forever, and since the King and his Queen Mother share similar fortunes and misfortunes, his blessed Mother Mary has been also lifted up into heaven by her glorious Assumption body and soul to take her royal seat at the right hand of her Son.

Thus, it was our Gebirah who the evangelist saw in heaven wearing her royal crown. Without Mary’s throne being situated alongside the throne of her Son, our Lord and King, there can be no restoration of the Davidic monarchy and kingdom in view of God’s promise to David’s wife Bathsheba. The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Heaven has been preordained by God from of old to guarantee her Son’s eternal claim to David’s throne. This Catholic belief is confirmed in sacred Scripture: “Go forth, ye daughters of Zion, and see King Solomon in the diadem wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals” (Song of Sol 3:11).

“Must there not therefore be a Mother of God who bore God incarnate? Assuredly she who played the part of the Creator’s servant and mother is in all strictness and truth in reality God’s Mother and Lady and Queen over all created things.”
St. John of Damascus
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Marshal your troops now, city of troops, for a siege is laid against us.
They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Therefore, Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.
Michah 5, 1-3
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Salve Regina!

 

All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed

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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

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

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;
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
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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 non-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, by conceiving and giving birth to him, 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.” These great things or privileges Mary refers to with respect to her blessed state relate to her Divine Maternity and by this singular favour extend 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, etc.). 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; Lk 11:28).

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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 prefigured 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 because of the unique personal relationship she has with God in the hypostatic order of Christ’s incarnation.

Hence, the secondary fulfilment of Mary’s prophecy is eschatologically found in her Assumption. The highest expression of her being blessed is the glorious redemption of her body united with her immaculate soul in 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 or “great thing” 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 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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Salve Regina!

Hail, Full of Grace

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

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

And the angel being come in, said unto her:
Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee:
blessed art thou among women.
Luke 1, 28
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κα εσελθν γγελος πρς ατν επεν
Χαρε κεχαριτωμένη κύριος μετ σο
ελογημένη σ ν γυναιξίν

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God commissioned the angel to call the Blessed Virgin Mary by the name Kecharitomene upon greeting her because of her singular and most perfect form of redemption (Isa 43:1). By the merits of her divine Son, his mediation was most perfect by exempting his blessed Mother from incurring the universal debt of sin rather than having her debt remitted. In honour of his Mother, the Lord had done “great things” for her from the first moment of her conception in the womb (Lk 1:49).

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

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

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

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

 

I Know Not Man

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

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

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

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

At the Annunciation, the Virgin Mary finds herself in a similar situation when the angel Gabriel announces to her that she “will conceive and bear a son.” She is perplexed no less than we would be because she is a virgin (non-smoker) and intends to be one her entire life. Not unlike a non-smoker who is concerned with what is contained inside the crystal ball, Mary anxiously asks the one who is foretelling her future: “How shall this be, since I do not know man?” And since she has no intention of having sexual relations with any man she might marry, she desires to know how it is that she will have a son. Mary must wonder whether she and her betrothed will have conjugal relations after all. In reply, the angel dispels her confusion by telling Mary that the conception and birth of the child will be supernatural; she will be overshadowed by the power of the Most High and, therefore, her Son will be of holy Divine origin (Lk 1:35).

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The original Greek text reads: andra ou ginosko (νδρα ο γινώσκω) which literally is “man not I know” or in English “I know not man.” The Greek verb ginosko (Present Indicative Active) is in the continuous present which shows a permanent disposition to not know man. The original Greek translates what Mary says to the angel in her native tongue of Hebrew-Aramaic: ‘ki enneni yodaat ish.’ The Greek present tense used for Mary’s words in Luke 1:34 corresponds to the Hebrew Aramaic active participle (yodaat) indicating a permanent condition (cf. Manuel Miguens, The Virgin Birth: An Evaluation of Scriptural Evidence).

So, Mary has a permanent disposition to not know man, just as the man who says, “I don’t smoke” has a permanent disposition not to smoke. The verb “to know” in the Scriptures is often used as a Jewish idiom for sexual relations between a man and a woman. Idiomatically, Mary is telling the angel: “I don’t have sexual relations with man.” Now this Jewish idiom for sexual relations is subject to the same rules of grammar as any other verb is. The verb “to know” may be conjugated in the past tense. We read in Genesis 4:1 in the Septuagint: ‘And Adam knew (ατο) his wife who conceived and brought forth Cain.’ In other words, Adam had sexual relations with Eve who, as a result, conceived and brought forth Cain. Eve conceived Cain because she had sexual intercourse with Adam.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The indicative mood of the verb ‘to know’ tells us Mary has no intention of having conjugal relations with her husband Joseph regardless of what the angel says. For this reason, she can’t possibly be the mother of the expected Messiah, unless God has other plans for her which she is presently unaware of. The angel Gabriel reveals the Divine intention to Mary in the following verses. Only then does she pronounce her Fiat without further ado and the angel depart (Lk 1:38).
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Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east;
and it was shut. And he said to me, “This gate shall remain shut; it shall not
be opened, and no one shall enter by it; for the Lord, the God of Israel,
has entered by it; therefore, it shall remain shut.”
Ezekiel 44, 1-3

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

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

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‘ki enneni yodaat ish’

So, it isn’t really a question of whether she has had relations with her betrothed until now or is having relations with him when she shouldn’t be. The question is whether a woman who does not have sexual relations with any man can ever conceive and bear a son. The angel explains how in the following verse: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you.” There is something about Mary that Luke wishes to give testimony to, that perpetually she is a virgin. If ever there were a conclusive Scriptural proof-text for the Catholic dogma of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, it would have to be Luke 1:34: “How shall this be done, because I know not man?”
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Therefore, the Lord himself shall give you a sign.
Behold the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and his name shall be called Emmanuel.
Isaiah 7, 14
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Salve Regina!

That the Mother of My Lord should Come to Me?

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

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

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

And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Luke 1, 43-44
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The word ‘type’ is derived from the Greek word tupos (τύπος) which means an impression. The Biblical term anti-type originates from the Greek word antitupos (ἀντίτυπος). This word is defined as meaning being typical of, representing by type or pattern, and corresponding to an image. An anti-type corresponds to or fulfills a type: a predictive symbol. Overall, the word tupos is thought of as an image, pattern, model, figure, or an example. Throughout sacred Scripture, we find what are called theological types.

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

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

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

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But Josue rent his garments and fell flat on the ground before the ark of
the Lord until the evening, both he and all the ancients of Israel:
and they put dust upon their heads.
Joshua 7, 6

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

This holy object that was sanctified by God was made of the purest natural materials; incorruptible acacia wood (shittim) as well as the ‘purest and cleanest’ gold (tahor) that covered the Ark without and laced it within. The golden wreath and pair of cherubim which decorated the Ark added the final touch. The Ark was so holy, in fact, that if anyone were to touch it without having first been ritually purified, they would be struck dead, albeit any good intentions (2 Sam 6:6-7).

The Ark was first kept in the Tent of Meeting (a portable temple or tabernacle) in the time of Moses and eventually housed in the Holy of Holies (inner sanctuary) in the Temple which was built by King Solomon: a perfectly clean place where the Jewish high priests could enter only once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) according to their sacred law (Lev 16:2-4). The Ark was so sacred that even a high priest would be struck dead if he dared to enter the inner sanctuary on any other day of the year.

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

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

“At that time, the Savior coming from the Virgin, the Ark, brought forth His own Body into the world from that Ark, which was gilded with pure gold within by the Word, and without by the Holy Ghost; so that the truth was shown forth, and the Ark was manifested…. And the Savior came into the world bearing the incorruptible Ark, that is to say His own body.”
St. Hippolytus, In Daniel Vl
(c.A.D.205)
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And the temple of God was opened in heaven: and the ark of his testament was seen in his temple, and there were lightnings, and voices, and an earthquake, and great hail. And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
Revelation 11, 19… 12, 1

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

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

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

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

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

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To begin, Mary arises and goes to the hill country of Judea to stay with her kinswoman Elizabeth for three months. David arises and goes to the same hill country to stay with the Ark for three months. It is in Ein Kerem where Elizabeth lives. Abu Ghosh, where the ark resides, is only a short walk apart. Mary and the Ark are both on a journey to the same hill country of Judea.

And Mary rising up in those days, went into the hill country
with haste into a city of Juda.
Luke 1, 39

And David arose and went, with all the people that were with him of the men of Juda to fetch the ark of God, upon which the name of the Lord of hosts is invoked, who sitteth over it upon the cherubims.
2 Samuel 6, 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the ark of the Lord abode in the house of Obededom the Gethite three months: and the Lord blessed Obededom, and all his household.
– 2 Samuel 6, 11 (cf. 1 Chron 13:14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has cast out your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear evil no more.
– Zephaniah 3, 14-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Finally, the Greek word  anephōnēsen / ‘ἀνεφώνησεν’ (“lift up the voice” / “cry out with a loud voice”) rarely appears in sacred Scripture. In the New Testament, it appears only once and with respect to Mary, that being in Luke 1, 42:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The prophet David danced before the Ark.  Now what else should we say the Ark was but holy Mary?  The Ark bore within it the tables of the Testament, but Mary bore the Heir of the same Testament itself.  The former contained in it the Law, the latter the Gospel.  The one had the voice of God, the other His Word.  The Ark, indeed, was radiant within and without with the glitter of gold, but holy Mary shone within and without with the splendor of virginity.  The one was adorned with earthly gold, the other with heavenly.”
St. Ambrose, Serm. xlii. 6, Int. Opp., S. Ambrosii
(ante. A.D. 397)
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Arise, O Lord, into thy resting place:
thou and the ark, which thou hast sanctified.
Psalm 132, 8

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

As with all Catholic Marian doctrines and dogmas, our fuller understanding of Mary’s role in the economy of salvation serves to better illuminate our understanding and deepen our appreciation of her divine Son. Mary’s designation as the Ark of the New Covenant underscores the divine truth of who Jesus Christ is: one divine Person in the flesh with both a divine and a human nature hypostatically united, but nonetheless distinct from each other. We may recall that when David was crowned king, one of his top priorities was to “bring up” the Ark to Jerusalem and place it “inside” the Tabernacle (2 Sam. 6:17). So, if Jesus is the new David who has ascended into the heavenly Jerusalem, he must have brought the New Ark of the Covenant – his most blessed mother – into the heavenly Temple. 

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

“Behold one in truth, the handmaid of the Lord.  Holy she is, in whom is no guile, all simplicity…. The spouse of Christ is the ark of the covenant, within and without overlaid with gold, a keeper of the law of the Lord. As in the ark there was nothing but the tables of the Testament, so too in thee no one from outside should be thought of.  Over this propitiatory, as though upon the Cherubim, the Lord is pleased to sit…The Apostle thus defines a virgin, that she should be holy in body and in spirit.”
St. Jerome, Epist. Xxii.
(ante A.D. 420)
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And Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant
and pass on before the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant
and went before the people.
Joshua 3, 6

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Salve Regina!

She Shall Crush Thy Head

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

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

Luke presents both Mary and Jesus to be equally “blessed” (euologomene – eulogemenos) by having absolutely nothing in common with Satan and what he has worked: sin and death (Lk 1:42). For this reason, Mary is elevated above all women, including Eve, by her association with Jesus in undoing the consequences of the fall of Adam and Eve. Both the Mother and the Son are equally blessed by having been set apart by God and consecrated to Him for undoing what the Serpent started in the beginning (Gen 3:14).
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Then Uzziah said to her, “Blessed are you daughter, by the Most
High God, above all the women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God,
who guided your blow at the head of the chief of our enemies.”
Judith 13, 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

תְּבֹרַךְ֙ מִנָּשִׁ֔ים יָעֵ֕ל אֵ֖שֶׁת חֶ֣בֶר הַקֵּינִ֑י מִנָּשִׁ֥ים בָּאֹ֖הֶל תְּבֹרָֽךְ׃

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our Lady of Guadalupe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still, our Lord’s eternal expiation should be completed by the obedience of a promised woman and virgin who, not unlike Eve in the fulness of grace and the state of innocence, vindicates the primordial mother of all the living by untying the knot of her disobedience while never having fallen from his grace (Lk 1:28). Eve received her name after her fall from grace. She was no longer called “Woman” once she lost her innocence. Jesus addressed his immaculate mother Mary as “Woman” in allusion to the enmity his heavenly Father had put between her and the serpent in the wake of Eve’s transgression.
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And the dragon was angry against the woman:
and went to make war with the rest of her seed,
who keep the commandments of God,
and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Revelation 12, 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“For Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the word of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy, when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her: wherefore also the Holy Thing begotten of her is the Son of God; and she replied, ‘Be it unto me according to thy word.’ And by her has He been born, to whom we have proved so many Scriptures refer, and by whom God destroys both the serpent and those angels and men who are like him; but works deliverance from death to those who repent of their wickedness and believe upon Him.”
St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 100
(155 A.D.)
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And you, O tower of the flock, hill of the daughter of Zion,
to you shall it come, the former dominion shall come,
kingship for the daughter of Jerusalem.
Micah 4, 8
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Salve Regina!