My Spirit Rejoices in God My Savior

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

And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
Behold, from henceforth shall all generations call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.”
Luke 1, 46-49
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The Catholic Church has always taught that God alone infallibly knows who His elected are and who have been predestined to glory. And although Catholics believe that Mary’s salvation must have been assured, especially since she was predestined to be the Mother of God and, by a singular Divine favour, was preserved free from contracting the stain of original sin in view of her Son’s foreseen merits, our Blessed Lady couldn’t possibly have presumed that her individual salvation was guaranteed just by pronouncing her Fiat (Lk. 1:38). This is evident by the fact she conceived Jesus because of her poverty of spirit and deep humility. In her Canticle of Praise, Mary owns that God has looked upon the lowliness (humble estate) of his handmaiden (Lk. 1:48).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In faith and love, Mary rejoiced in what should be to the glory of God’s goodness and righteousness. Nor could she bear to imagine the desolation of never ever seeing God face to face in His heavenly kingdom. Mary did not exalt in only her salvation, but also in the salvation which only God could offer all humanity in His love and mercy. She rejoiced in God’s benevolence for the salvation of the world. And what God offered Mary was something she couldn’t possibly resist, having been supernaturally transformed by His grace, as to be worthy to bear His salvation in the promised Messiah. She rejoiced in her Son Yeshua, which in Hebrew means “God is salvation”. Meanwhile, Mary desired for the world what she desired for herself, for she knew that no soul could find true happiness separated from God. She desired God more than anything else. The salvation of her soul meant nothing if it did not entail eternal life with God and seeing Him face to face. The hope of the Beatific Vision gave Mary’s soul cause to rejoice in God her saviour (Ex. 24:11).
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She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony
of giving birth… And the dragon stood before the woman who was about
to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.
Revelation 12, 2-4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Since the Annunciation, the life Mary led as the mother of our Lord wasn’t merely the natural life of a mother, but a life lived by faith in her divine Son and what he came to accomplish for us all. The mother of our Lord lived her faith by putting it into action for the salvation of souls. Her exile into Egypt together with the infant Jesus was her first great act of sacrificial love and spiritual worship of God. Mary made temporal satisfaction for sin in union with her Son long before Calvary arrived.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Blessed Are You Who Believed

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

“Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”
Luke 1, 45
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Since apostolic time, Christians have believed that, as an essential part of His plan of redemption, God preordained from all eternity to create the Blessed Virgin Mary and work with her for the salvation of mankind. The Judeo-Christians of the nascent Church in Palestine were aware of the vital significance of Mary’s role in the economy of salvation, and so the faithful felt devoted to the mother of their Lord in a lively spirit of gratitude and praise reminiscent of the dedication lavished upon Judith by Uzziah and God’s chosen people for having faithfully helped deliver the Israelites in the besieged city of Bethulia from oppression and the prospect of enslavement at the hands of their Assyrian enemy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hail, Mary, you are the most precious creature in the whole world; hail, Mary, uncorrupted dove; hail, “Mary, inextinguishable lamp;
for from you was born the Sun of justice…
through you, every faithful soul achieves salvation.”
St. Cyril of Alexandria
Homily 11, Council of Ephesus
(A.D. 431)
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Enlarge the place of thy tent,
and stretch out the skins of thy tabernacles,
spare not: lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes,
for thou shalt pass on to the right land, and to the left:
and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and shall inhabit
the desolate cities.
Isaiah 54, 2-3

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

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

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

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

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

Thus, Jesus must have alluded to the Annunciation when he spoke his words. The woman in the crowd couldn’t have imagined that Mary’s motherhood involved the appearance of an angel and her salutary consent to be the mother of someone greater than a prophet or any rabbi, one who was in fact the Son of God foretold by the prophets and who came into the world to save mankind from sin and death by suffering and dying on the cross. This woman should know that our Lord’s mother was not simply blessed for being the mother of Jesus, but more importantly because she had crushed the head of the serpent with her heel by her act of faith in collaboration with God to undo Eve’s transgression and become her advocate or vindicator. And this meant that she, too, would have to suffer much sorrow and die to her maternal self in union with her Son for the redemption of humanity.
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“But the Lord Christ, the fruit of the Virgin, did not pronounce the breasts of women blessed, nor selected them to give nourishment; but when the kind and loving Father had rained down the Word, Himself became spiritual nourishment to the good. O mystic marvel! The universal Father is one, and one the universal Word; and the Holy Spirit is one and the same everywhere, and one is the only virgin mother. I love to call her the Church. This mother, when alone, had not milk, because alone she was not a woman. But she is once virgin and mother–pure as a virgin, loving as a mother. And calling her children to her, she nurses them with holy milk, viz., with the Word for childhood.”
St. Clement of Alexandria
Paedagogos, I:6
(A.D.202)

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

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

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

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

Hence, because of her meritorious act of faith at the Annunciation, Mary was further blessed by being more of a mother in her likeness to the Church whose holy milk would be something of a nourishing spiritual substance: “the Word for childhood.” From Mary’s womb comes the Divine Word incarnate, from the Church’s womb comes forth the written and unwritten word of God: sacred Scripture and sacred Tradition. Our Blessed Lady is no ordinary mother who by physical nature has milk to give to her offspring, for she is a mother of a spiritual kind. In and through Mary, the Church has been conceived and begotten by her participation in the hypostatic order of Christ’s incarnation and his redemptive work. In turn, Christ is conceived in the womb of the Church and brought forth into the world by the faithful preaching of the Gospel in the sacred liturgy and administration of the sacraments (Mt 28:19).
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And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
Revelation 12, 2-5

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

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

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

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

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

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Our very own Judith or “Great Lady” and Queen Mother (Gebirah) appeals on behalf of all exiled and enslaved humanity “born in guilt and conceived in sin” (Ps 51:7). By having first consented to be the mother of the Divine’ Messiah, who shall “preach the good news to the poor and set captives free” (Isa 61:1; Lk 4:18), Mary has become our spiritual mother in the order of grace in our spiritual battle against Satan and his dark legions which besiege our souls. She is our Lady of Perpetual Help who mediates her Son’s graces to us with which we can armor ourselves against the enemy.

Since Mary was a woman of faith, and thus had found favour with God (Lk 1:30), He validated her consent by overshadowing her through the creative power of the Holy Spirit. Our Blessed Lady’s prayer, which was expressed by her simple Fiat, in that it contained all that she had prayerfully desired up to the Annunciation on our behalf, was answered. And so, blessed are we, who are besieged by the dragon and its offspring, because she believed and has come to us as our patroness. We, too, can leap for joy in the womb of holy Mother Church because of the sweet sound of our heavenly Mother’s prayers which never escapes from the ears of her divine Son.

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

And if the God-bearing flesh was not ordained
to be assumed of the lump of Adam,
what need was there of the Holy Virgin?”
St. Basil
To the Sozopolitans, Epistle 261
(A.D. 377)
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Shall not Zion say:
This man and that man is born in her,
and the Highest himself hath founded her?
Psalm 87, 5
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Salve Regina!

The Lord Is With Thee

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“I AM WITH YOU and will watch over you wherever you go,
and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you
until I have done what I have promised you”
Genesis 28:15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus had no intention of sacrificing himself all alone for the conversion of sinners by the grace of redemption only he alone could produce for humanity. We invest the graces we have received by being “fellow workers with God” (1 Cor 3:9). Mary wouldn’t have increased in charity and sanctification or receive further plenitudes of grace if she were content only with having given birth to our Lord and Saviour. She was also called to suffer and die in union with him for the temporal remission of mankind’s debt of sin. A sword should pierce her soul that the grace of conversion would be produced and granted by her divine Son in the redemption. It wasn’t enough for Mary to be the natural mother of our Lord in his humanity to have cause to rejoice in God’s gift of salvation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hence, Mary’s soul was at peace when the angel called her to engage with God in His work of salvation. God sent His messenger to Mary because He had an impact on her stillness. In her spiritual state, she saw that God was the only one she could trust: omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, holy, sovereign, faithful, infinite, and good. God would certainly exalt Himself over His enemies which were hers as well. All Mary could do, in the meantime, was surrender herself to God and trust in His plan, whatever trials and hardships she might have to endure together with her divine Son. Her greatest enemy must never be herself by losing her trust in God and relying on her own strength and personal resources. If she faithfully co-operated with God like her ancestors before her did, all should work for the greater good. We can be sure that our valiant Lady implicitly expressed these thoughts of hers in her Magnificat (Lk 1:50-55).
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A faithful saying:
for if we be dead with him,
we shall live also with him.
If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.
2 Timothy 2, 11-12

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

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

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

Mary would have received God’s grace in vain if she decided to bury her talent or gift of the Divine Maternity by being content only with giving birth to Jesus and nurturing him in his childhood. She was called to be a disciple and take up her cross after him. By having done this, she was further or truly (menoun/μενοῦνγε) blessed (Lk 11:28). Mary understood that her faith was an on-going process which required good works done in grace for the sanctification or justification of her soul to be saved. In the order of grace, our Blessed Mother has exemplified what we must do to inherit eternal life: acts of sacrificial love (Mt 19:16-22).

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

Our Blessed Lady didn’t receive the grace that was bestowed upon her in vain but invested it in the salvation of souls which required that she suffer in union with her Son’s suffering and anguish for the ungratefulness of sinners. Mary’s first trial of faith came so soon after Jesus was born, when she and her infant Son were forced to flee into Egypt because of King Herod’s decree (Mt 2:13-23). The shadow of the Cross descended on Mary in Bethlehem where her pilgrimage of faith enshrouded in obscurity began. The manger was the door she stepped through after it had been opened at the Annunciation. Her joy in giving birth to the Messiah had to be qualified by her sorrow in giving new birth to humanity (Rev 12:1-2).

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

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

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The truth is, by gladly accepting our suffering in steadfast love of God in acknowledgement of our sins, our pain or loss becomes a fragrant offering to God and thereby a means of temporal satisfaction to Him for them. In fact, through suffering and dying to self, we may repair our broken relationship with God by restoring a measure of balance that was upset by the selfish pursuit of sinful gratification. God wills us to endure temporal punishments for our sins because His absolute justice and holiness demands it. “God rules the world in justice, and he judges the people with equity” (Ps 9:8).

Human suffering is a temporal consequence of original sin, but Jesus has conferred redemptive value on this penalty for sin by his passion as the new Head or second Adam of humanity. We the members of his Body must follow our Lord and Saviour on the path that leads to Calvary if we hope to enter heaven by being cleansed of all remnants of sin and remitting our entire temporal debt of sin.

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

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It was by means of suffering “that man should not perish but have eternal life.” By Christ’s death on the cross, spiritual death has been conquered and the second death is no longer an irrevocable prospect facing mankind. Suffering and death are in themselves evil in character, but our Lord and Saviour has made them a basis of something good. Suffering involves pain and loss because of sin, but when offered to God in union with Christ’s suffering and death, it can serve to reconcile us to God. Whenever we suffer or face death, we can give back to God that which we denied Him, viz., our love for the sake of His love and goodness. Those who have truly acknowledged their guilt before God and are contrite in spirit, accept their suffering and death to this world which temporally appease the Divine justice and renders the eternal satisfaction Christ has made for them personally applicable (Dan 12:10; Sirach 2:5; Zach 13:8-9; 1 Cor 3:15-17; Jude 1:23, etc.).

The Virgin Mary was sinless from the time God created her and endowed her with a fullness of sanctifying grace, but she could congruously merit for us temporal satisfaction to God for our sins because she accepted her pain and loss and offered her sorrow to God for them on our behalf. In our stead, she was sorry for the sins that had offended God and willing to make reparation for them because of her love of God who was grieved by our sins. God was pleased with her spiritual sacrifice and accepted it as a sweet oblation which was sufficient to temporally restore the equity of justice between Him and mankind in union with Christ’s temporal satisfaction in his humanity. Being the new Eve and helpmate of the new Adam, Mary is our co-Redemptrix: “Mother with (cum) the Redeemer,” having merited the grace of redemption, not in co-ordination with her Son’s just merits but in co-operation with them.

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Sin and death no longer have absolute power over us because of Christ’s work on the cross, and so we must now take up our own cross together with him if we hope to be saved (Matt 16:24; Mk 8:34; Lk 9:23). The faith that we must have to be saved is a repentant faith that involves doing penance by willingly making personal sacrifices and suffering for God because of our sins and those of others. We owe God so much for our offenses against His love and goodness. Jesus did not suffer and die for us so that we should no longer owe God what He rightly deserves from us and receives by our acts of self-denial – our “spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1-2).

Mary’s painful walk along the Via Dolorosa to the top of Calvary was her greatest act of worship to God. By having to sorrowfully watch her beloved Son suffer and die a cruel and shameful death, she offered up the greatest sacrifice to God any mother could have. Her Son’s suffering and death proved to be the heaviest cross she would ever have to carry so that everyone might be saved. Our Blessed Lady was chosen to be the mother of our Lord so that a sword should pierce her soul to temporally appease the Divine justice and open the gates for the formal application of her Son’s work of salvation. What Mary’s Son victoriously achieved by his passion and death was instrumentally applied to his most Blessed Mother because of her faith working through love which required suffering and dying to self.

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We must emulate Mary, if we hope to have Christ’s merits instrumentally applied to us, since she emulated her Son and shared in his paschal sacrifice of himself for the expiation of sin. Our Lady of Sorrows suffered and died with Jesus on Calvary that we, too, might be saved through the many trials we may face in our lives. Our Lady of Fatima told the three shepherd children as a reminder to us all that no soul can enter heaven without having first suffered.​

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet God willed that the Son should have a helpmate like the first Adam had, only she would be at enmity with the serpent and undo Eve’s transgression by crushing the head of the Serpent with her “immaculate foot” (Gen 2:18; 3:15). Mary was chosen to repair all the minor incidents that led to Adam’s catastrophic fall from grace. The super abundance of God’s plan to redeem mankind wouldn’t have been perfect and complete without her moral participation. The Serpent’s head couldn’t have been crushed if his victory over the Woman and Adam’s helpmate had remained unresolved and he could forever gloat over it in his pride against God. The woman herself, too, would then remain interminably at enmity with the Serpent with no final resolution ever having been reached in Eve’s transgression. She did, after all, greatly contribute to the fall of her husband Adam as his unfaithful bride.

So, it had to take God’s faithful virgin bride to untie the sinful knot which Eve had made (Lk 1:35). The new Adam chose to justify mankind with the new Eve’s vindication of the woman. Eve stood before the tree which bore the forbidden fruit, and then something terrible happened to our spiritual detriment; the new Eve stood before the tree which bore the fruit of her womb so that where sin abounded, grace would abound even more to our spiritual benefit (Rom 5:20).

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

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

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

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

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

“Adam had to be recapitulated in Christ, so that death might be swallowed up in immortality, and Eve in Mary, so that the Virgin, having become another virgin’s advocate, might destroy and abolish one virgin’s disobedience by the obedience of another virgin.”
St. Irenaeus, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, 33
(AD 190)
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Sing, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband,
says the Lord.
Enlarge the place of your tent,
stretch your tent curtains wide
do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
your descendants will dispossess nations
and settle in their desolate cities.
Isaiah 54, 1-3
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Salve Regina!

 

The Voice of Thy Salutation

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

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

Luke 1, 43-44
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Grace originates from God the Father and is produced for us by the merits of God the Son through his passion, death, and resurrection. The distribution of divine grace is appropriated to God the Holy Spirit. By her divine motherhood and mystical union with the Holy Spirit as His chaste spouse, the Blessed Virgin Mary has acquired a universal maternal role in the dispensation of all actual graces in collaboration with the third Person of the Holy Trinity. Since it was through Mary’s salutary co-operation with divine grace in faith and love that the living Font of all grace came into the world by the power of the Holy Spirit, her Son willed to continue coming to us through his most Blessed Mother’s mediation (Jn 2:2-8), and he continues to reach out to us through her until the end of this age (Jn 19:26-27).

Vatican 2 Council explains:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have testimony from early sacred Tradition:

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It was through a man and woman that flesh was cast from Paradise;
it was through a virgin that flesh was linked to God…
Eve is called mother of the human race, but Mary Mother of salvation.”
– St. Ambrose of Milan (A.D. 397)
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And the ark of the Lord abode in the house of Obededom
the Gethite three months: and the Lord blessed Obededom,
and all his household.
2 Samuel 6, 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our Lady of Lourdes

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

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

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Our Lady of Fatima

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

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

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The pilgrim saints on earth have a far greater chance of growing and persevering in grace, and attaining their salvation, if they petition their Queen Mother daily in true filial devotion. Our Lord and King knows all our needs even before we present our petitions, either directly to him (but not without the other member’s awareness in his Body) or indirectly, by asking his Blessed Queen Mother and our Mother, the pre-eminent member of Christ’s Body, to put in a good word for us while we pray. This is because our Lord Jesus desires that we, stewards of grace, pray for one another in mutual, filial love as members of God’s family.

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

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

Arise My Beloved, My Beautiful One, and Come

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

“Behold, from henceforth, all generations shall call me blessed;
for the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.”
Luke 1, 48-49
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“Heaven and earth shall pass away,
but my words shall not pass away.”
Matthew 24, 35

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

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

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

John 18, 37

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

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

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Your love, O Lord, is eternal.
Discard not the work of your hands.
Psalm 138, 7-8

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

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

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

“Therefore, the Virgin is immortal to this day,
seeing that he who had dwelt in her transported her to
the regions of her assumption.”
St. Timothy of Jerusalem
Homily on Simeon and Anna
[A.D. 400]
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Arise, Lord, come to your resting place,
you and your majestic ark.
Psalm 132, 8

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

John 10, 38

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

Our Lord is flesh of her flesh; the body he received from his mother in the hypostatic order of his incarnation was “bruised for our iniquities” (Isa 53:5) and his blood which mixed with her blood in his mother’s womb was “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28). Our Lord and Saviour is “one Physician both of Mary and of God” (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians, 7, c. 110 A.D.). He is no ordinary son, which makes his mother extraordinary. Jesus could not, then, exercise his power in opposition to the commandment of his heavenly Father without denying his own Divine word which proceeds from the Father in their substantial unity. To be true to ourselves, we must honestly say and do what is on our minds and in what we will to express. The Triune God-head is a con-substantial Triune of Persons: Mind or thought, Idea or Word, and Breath or Expression.

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

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

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

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

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

“But Mary, the glorious Mother of Christ, who is believed
to be a virgin both before and after she bore him, has,
as we said above, been translated into paradise, amid the singing
of the angelic choirs, whither the Lord preceded her.”
St. Gregory of Tours
Eight Books of Miracles, 1:8
[A.D. 584]
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I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
and my soul shall be joyful in my God:
for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation:
and with the robe of justice he hath covered me,
as a bridegroom decked with a crown,
and as a bride adorned with her jewels.
Isaiah 61, 10

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

Matthew 5, 17

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

How incredible it would be for any Christian to imagine (with no reasonable explanation) that our Lord could possibly dismiss any of his own precepts, either here on earth or in heaven where he retains his sacred humanity for all eternity (Col 2:9), by exacting the penalties incurred by Adam and Eve on his own beloved mother: “In pain you shall bring forth children until you return to the ground from which you were taken. For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return” (Gen 3:16, 19). On the contrary, God said to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring” (Gen 3:15). Neither the Mother nor the Son were subjected to bodily corruption in the tomb, being equally blessed (eulogeo) by God in their shared humanity (Lk 1:42). So long as Jesus remains both God and man, Mary is his mother, and more (menoun) than just a natural mother. Our Blessed Lady is the Mother of God incarnate (Isa 7:14; Lk 1:35, 43; Jn 1:14). She is not merely the mother of a great prophet or rabbi, being blessed rather for her impeccable faith (Lk 11:27-28).

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

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

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

“It was fitting … that the most holy-body of Mary, God-bearing body, receptacle of God, divinized, incorruptible, illuminated by divine grace and full glory … should be entrusted to the earth for a little while and raised up to heaven in glory, with her soul pleasing to God.”
St. Theoteknos of Livias
Homily on the Assumption
[ca. A.D. 600]
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You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
there is no flaw in you.
Song of Solomon 4, 7

The corruption of death is an evil and a penalty for original sin which infects the bodies and souls of all Adam’s descendants who organically partake of his human nature. The guilt of Adam’s sin, nevertheless, isn’t personally imputed to his seed, so God did not negate His justice by conferring the singular grace of the Immaculate Conception on Mary in His mercy because of her unmerited election to the Divine Maternity. And so, by this singular favour, her preservation from bodily corruption upon death was just, albeit our biological association with Adam or “mankind”. God could only obligate Himself to observe His own ordinance in His righteousness, especially since Mary never lost her innocence as Eve had by committing any personal sins with the help of divine grace. The angel Gabriel greeted Mary by calling her Kecharitomene, meaning ‘perfected in grace with a lasting result’ (Lk 1:28).

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

“You are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty,
and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste, entirely the dwelling place of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into dust. Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, truly living and glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life.”
St. Germanus of Constantinople
Sermon I
[A.D. 683]
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Then God’s temple in heaven was opened,
and his ark of the covenant could be seen in his temple…
A great sign appeared in the sky,
a woman clothed with the sun,
with the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
Revelation 11, 19 – 12, 1

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

Matthew 5, 18

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

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

“It was fitting that the she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped when giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father, It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.”
St. John Damascene
Dormition of Mary
[A.D. 697]
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The LORD is faithful in all His words
and gracious in all His deeds.
Psalm 145, 13
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Salve Regina!

The Power of the Most High Shall Overshadow Thee

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And I passed by thee, and saw thee:
and behold thy time was the time of lovers:
and I spread my garment over thee,
and covered thy ignominy. And I swore to thee,
and I entered into a covenant with thee,
saith the Lord God: and thou becamest mine.
Ezekiel 16, 8

And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou amongst women… And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end. And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Luke 1, 26-35
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The intimate union between the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin Mary is redolent of a marriage in a spiritual and mystical sense, no less than the relationship between YHWH and Israel is. Though God calls Israel his servant (Isa 41:8), the relationship between YHWH and His chosen people is far more intimate than one between a lord and his servant, no less than the relationship between God and his handmaid is. In the Old Testament, we find that the relationship between YHWH and Israel was essentially a covenantal one indicative of the moral union between a husband and a wife, which foreshadows the espousal between Mary and the Holy Spirit and, of course, Christ the Divine Bridegroom and his virgin bride, the Church.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That God should renew His covenant with Israel is best explained by the fact that Israel was elected to be the people from whom the Divine Word would take his flesh. And since the people of Israel were to receive God Incarnate in their midst as one of them, they would have to be made exclusively worthy by means of a special holiness imparted by the Old Covenant. Both Israel and Mary had the divine privilege of bringing the Messiah into the world. Because of their common roles, both had to be specially prepared by God: set apart from the rest of humanity and consecrated to Him as His chaste and faithful bride.

Behold, the days come, said the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; my covenant which they broke, although I was a husband unto them, says the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Jeremiah 31, 31-33
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And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city
in Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Mary.
And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee:
blessed art thou amongst women.
Luke 1, 27-28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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If Joseph agreed on having a chaste marriage with his wife Mary, it would be because he chose to honour her vow which was made before they had met, when she was a girl serving and residing in the Temple from an early age. Meanwhile, there was no statute that condemned a man for having sinned by honouring his intended wife’s vow. Nor was there any directive for him to abort the initial wedding ceremony upon hearing of the vow. Joseph did have the option to either cancel or go through with the Kiddushin after hearing of Mary’s vow. He would have sinned if he had first accepted the vow and then tried to nullify it after they were legally married. Mary would have sinned if she had sprung the news on Joseph after they became espoused or betrothed. Anyway, this provision in the Mosaic law does help explain how Mary and Joseph could have wed, albeit her vow of chastity in her personal covenant with God.
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But after he had considered this, an angel of the LORD
appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what
is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
Matthew 1, 20

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

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

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

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

​If Mary and Joseph had intended to have children of their own by the time of the Annunciation, the angel would have told him not to fear “coming together” or “laying with” his wife in the conventional marital sense. But Joseph should be assured that their marriage was still morally valid before God, because not only did Mary conceive Jesus by the Holy Spirit, but also the couple shall not have conjugal relations and any children of their own. Thus, Joseph mustn’t be afraid to formally solemnize the marriage and take his wife into his home for fear of violating the moral law so long as the couple live together but remain continent.
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And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Luke 1, 34-35

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Jesus’ brethren, who proceed from the same pure womb untouched by the seed of Adam and are born of the Spirit, shall not perish as new creations in Christ. It is the Spirit who gives birth to spirit and new life to all who are re-created in the Spirit through Mary’s pure womb. All Mary’s offspring must weave for themselves the holy flesh of their Virgin Mother by cooperating with the Holy Spirit and His divine grace. This is all part of the creative aspect of the conjugal union between the Holy Spirit and our Blessed Mother. St. Epiphanius reminds us that “the whole human race proceeds from Eve; but it is from Mary that Life was truly born to the world, so that by giving birth to the Living One, Mary might also become the Mother of all the living” (Against Eighty Heresies 78, 9).
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“And I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice,
and in love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness;
and you shall know the Lord.”
Hosea 2,19-20
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Salve Regina!

I Will Put Enmities Between Thee and the Woman

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

And a great sign appeared in heaven:
A woman clothed with the sun,
and the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
Revelation 12, 1
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The Protoevangelium (First Gospel) in the Book of Genesis is the first Messianic prophecy recorded in sacred Scripture, and it is pronounced by God Himself to the serpent in the wake of the fall of Adam and Eve. The prophecy does not speak of only the Divine Messiah, but also includes the free Woman of Promise whose fulfilment is ultimately reached in the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of our Divine Lord and Saviour. In view of Eve’s transgression and her moral involvement in the fall of Adam (אָדָם “mankind”), God declares to the serpent, in allusion to Mary, that He will put her (the woman) in complete opposition and hostility with it. This enmity between Mary and Satan shall be in the same likeness with that of her Divine Son’s with the Devil’s offspring: sinful and wicked humanity.

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

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

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

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

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

We have only to ask ourselves why it was that Jesus addressed his mother by calling her “Woman”. The answer lies in the Book of Genesis. Originally, Adam had referred to his wife as “woman” (Gen 2:23). It wasn’t until Eve had mortally sinned and fallen from grace that she was named Eve, which means “mother of all the living” (Gen 3:13-20). It is in this context that we can see what our Lord’s intention was by calling his mother “Woman” at both the beginning and end of his public ministry (Jn 2:3-5; 19:26-27). The Evangelist understood that Jesus was drawing a parallel between his mother and Eve. He knew that Mary was much more than the biological mother of Jesus; she was the woman of faith who God promised would be intimately associated with him in his redemptive work, and by being so, she would become the spiritual mother of all those who are alive in Christ and bear witness to him while observing God’s commandments (Rev 12:17). And what God willed with necessity was that she should be preserved free from all stain of sin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fortunately, for both her and all humanity, Mary chose “life and prosperity” rather than “death and adversity” after hearing the words of the angel Gabriel. She heard and observed the word of God as a true servant of Israel in the spirit because it was “very near to her and in her heart.” In the spirit of Daughter Zion, Yahweh’s loving and faithful spouse, our Blessed Lady humbly refused to bow down to any idol which the ancient serpent may have presented to her in his jealous hostility with the woman. (cf. Deut 30:11-12). Thus, because of her fidelity to God and desire to please Him in her covenant with Him, by her salutary consent to be the mother of our Lord and Saviour, Mary helped destroy the ravages of sin that the Serpent had managed to work in the beginning. Because she welcomed the will of God with outstretched arms in faith and love, our Redeemer chose to come into the world (Rev. 3:20). Peter Chrysologus assures us “without Mary neither death could be done away with, nor life restored” (Sermon 64).

“Think not, O man, that this is a birth to be ashamed of, since it was made the cause of our salvation. For if He had not been born of woman, He had not died; and if, in the flesh, He had not died, neither would He have destroyed him through death, who had the empire of death, that is, the devil.”
Proclus of Constantinople
Oratio 1Laudatio Dei genitricis mariea
(ante. A.D. 446)
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“You shall be holy to me; for I the Lord am holy,
and have separated you from the peoples,
that you should be mine.”
Leviticus 20:26

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

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

“You have heard that it deals with this, that man would return
to life by the same route by which he fell into death.”
Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 142
(ante. A.D. 450)
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You have seen what I have done to the Egyptians,
how I have carried you upon the wings of eagles,
and have taken you to myself.
Exodus 19, 4

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

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

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

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

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

“Truly elect, and superior to all, not by the altitude of lofty structures,
but as excelling all in the greatness and purity of sublime and divine virtues, and having no affinity with sin whatever.”
Germanus of Constantinople
Marracci in S. Germani Mariali
(ante A.D. 733)
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Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred sixty days…. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to her place where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. And the dragon cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
Revelation 12, 4-6, 14-15

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

The Talmud says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There is a great mystery here:
that just as death comes to us through a woman,
life is born to us through a woman.”
St. Augustine, Christian Combat 22.24
(A.D. 396)
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And I passed by thee, and saw thee: and behold thy time was the time of lovers:
and I spread my garment over thee, and covered thy ignominy. And I swore to thee, and I entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God: and thou becamest mine. And I washed thee with water, and cleansed away thy blood from thee: and I anointed thee with oil. And I clothed thee with embroidery, and shod thee with violet coloured shoes: and I girded thee about with fine linen, and clothed thee with fine garments.

Ezekiel 16, 8-10
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Salve Regina!