Mary In Scripture: Rediscovering the Bridge Between the Old and the New Testaments
MARY IN SCRIPTURE:
From "Back to Christian Basics"
Rediscovering The Bridge Between The Old And The New Testaments
Table of Contents
(a) Mary in Scripture
(b) Two Centuries Without the Scriptural Mary
(c) The Rediscovery of Mary in Scripture
2. Mary The Bridge Between The Old And The New Testaments
(b) Old Testament Prophecies of Mary
(c) Old Testament Pre-figurings of Mary
(d) Daughter of Zion
(e) Ark of the Covenant
3. Luke 1-2: A Compendium Of Marian Doctrine
(b) Hail Full of Grace/Rejoice Highly Favored One
(c) The Exaltation of Mary in Luke 1-2
(d) "I Know Not Man": A Vow of Virginity
4. Mary From Genesis To Revelation
(a) Genesis 3:15
(b) The Drama of Salvation
(c) Revelation 12
(d) The New Adam and the New Eve
5. The New Testament On Mary
6. The Seven Splendors Of Mary
(a) Mary in Scripture
A true understanding of Mary and her role in salvation can come only from a full understanding of Scripture and the portrayal of Mary in Scripture. This full understanding comes from careful study of the two covenants between God and His people, the Old and the New. Mary is the bridge between the Old and the New Covenants. The two covenants are basic to the divine plan of salvation and Mary's role in salvation history becomes apparent when we see that she is the living embodiment of fundamental themes in the Old and the New Testaments: as the Daughter of Zion, the Ark of the Covenant, the new Eve working with the new Adam. Once we come to understand the scriptural Mary our entire understanding of the meaning of Scripture will be transformed. In fact the various Marian doctrines and devotions only dimly convey the full majesty of Mary as she is portrayed in Scripture. Luke 1 and 2 alone, as we shall see, is a compendium of all the major Marian doctrines. Continued reflection on Scripture is essential for a better understanding of the Mary that the first Christians, the Fathers of the Church and even the Protestant Reformers saw in Scripture.
For the early Christian Church the place of Mary in Scripture involved three dimensions. First, Mary was seen as the meeting-point of the old and the New Testaments embodying both the People of Israel (the "Daughter of Zion") and the new-
born Church. Secondly, Mary was seen in relation to the divine plan of salvation as the New Eve working with the New Adam. Thirdly, Mary was understood against the background of what we call the seven splendors, the references in Genesis, Isaiah, Micah, the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, Galatians and Revelation. We will outline all three of these dimensions and then review them in more detail.
(b) Two Centuries Without the Scriptural Mary
Over the last two centuries many Christians have lost the Scriptural Mary venerated and praised by all Christians in every other century. Two factors in particular led to this loss. The first was the decision to ignore the interpretations of Scripture adopted historically by the Christian faithful and to replace these with one's own interpretations. The second was the decision to ignore the divine inspiration of Scripture so as to make interpretations solely using the criteria and tools employed by professional historians. The first factor led to the Fundamentalists and the second to the Liberals.
Neither Liberal New Testament scholars nor Fundamentalists can be of great help to the Bible-believing Christian who seeks to know the truths shown in Scripture. Although the Liberal scholars can speculate on the sources and dates and the various possible meanings and senses of the New Testament texts they cannot tell us what truths God intended to teach through these texts. Only the early Christian community inspired by the Holy Spirit could determine the true divinely-intended meaning and interpretation of these texts. Similarly, since they have cut themselves off from 20 centuries of Spirit-inspired Christian interpretation, Fundamentalist writers can only offer us their own speculations on the meanings and senses of the various passages in Scripture. And these speculations are just as uncertain and arbitrary as the speculation of the Liberal scholars. The real issue for the Christian believer is not whether we should rely on Scripture alone but whether or not we can have an authoritative interpretation of Scripture. From the time of the early Church the Christian community has affirmed and taught what they hold to be an authoritative, consistent and binding interpretation of Scripture.
Ultimately both Liberals and the Fundamentalists seek to determine the intentions of the New Testament writers. This may involve a lot of discussion on the connotation of various Greek terms and the like. But the intention of the writers is precisely what we can never really know. And even if it were possible to discern the intention of a particular biblical writer, it may turn out that this is not the intention decreed by God for a particular verse. For instance, the writer of an Old Testament prophecy may have no idea what is required for the fulfillment-of the prophecythis will become known only at the time that the prophecy is fulfilled. Only the Christian communitybecause it would be guided by the Holy Spiritcan make progress in determining the divine intention and even the actual writer of a text may not grasp the true intention served by the text.
It might be said that the interpretations historically made by the Christian community may not be acceptable to today's New Testament scholars. But an interpretation guided by the Holy Spirit has an authority far higher than the arbitrary interpretation of a New Testament scholar. The historic interpretations of the Christian community are reflected in the writings of the Fathers, Councils, and liturgies.
(c) The Rediscovery of Mary in Scripture
Despite the negative impact of Liberalism and Fundamentalism on theology, modern exegesis has also led to the rediscovery of Mary in Scripture. This rediscovery has been spearheaded by such major scholars as Ignace de la Potterie, Stefano Manelli, Rene Laurentin, A. Feuillet and William Most who have used the resources of contemporary exegesis to re-discover the Scriptural Mary known to the Christian world from the beginning.
For biblical studies on Mary this is a time of rediscovery. The biblical Mary of the apostolic community and the Fathers was deeply rooted in the Old Testament and the entire salvific message of the New Testament. The overwhelming presence of Mary in Scripture led both to the great definitions of Marian doctrine and the liturgical devotions. Without an understanding of the Scriptural portrait of Mary it is difficult to truly appreciate the Marian doctrines. Even at the time of the Protestant Reformation, the Marian imprint on Scripture was evident to both Catholics and Protestants. It was certainly evident to Martin Luther.
Many Post-Reformation Protestants, however, seem to be suffering from collective amnesia on the question of Mary. Despite their ardent commitment to Scripture, the Fundamentalists have failed to see any Marian connection in Scripture. Nevertheless today Protestant and Catholic exegetes and theologians have rediscovered the Marian "mother lode" not just of the New but also of the Old Testament. Like the Fathers, the modern exegetes now see Mary as the Daughter of Zion, the embodiment of Nation Israel, as the Ark of the Covenant, as "transformed by grace", as the New Eve, as the bride at the Messianic Wedding Banquet and as the Church. If this development in understanding was simply a modern fad we could legitimately call it into question. But it is actually a rediscovery of what the Christian community from the earliest times and the Scriptures themselves so obviously tell us about Mary. In this chapter on Mary in Scripture we will look first at Mary's role as the link between the two Testaments, followed by a review of the Marian data in Luke 1-2, Genesis-Revelation and the rest Of the New Testament and finally an analysis of the seven splendors of Mary in Scripture. Anyone who comes to see the full spectrum of Marian material in the Bible will spontaneously see the fittingness of the titles and doctrines of Mary.
Before proceeding further a word must be said about the fact that many of the Scriptural themes relevant to Mary are given as prophecies or prefigurings. Most Christians know that many of the events narrated in the New Testament are fulfillments of Old Testament prophecies. The general idea that New Testament events fulfill Old Testament prophecies and pre-figurings comes not just from the Evangelists but from Jesus Himself: "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears." [Luke 4:21]. On some occasions the New Testament writers draw the reader's attention to the fact that a specific event is the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy: for example, "And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, and He was numbered with the transgressors" [Mark 15:28]. On other occasions, the reader is left to discern for himself the prophetic connection: for instance, the portrayal of Christ as the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world is an obvious reference to the fulfillment of the Old Testament Passover in which lambs were sacrificed. The fulfillment of the prophecies and pre-figurings of Jesus and Mary in the Old Testament are thus not always heralded as such in the New. The faithful, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, discerned the prophetic fulfillment. Marie Isaacs points out that Luke did not usually spell out the prophetic connection of events but made these connections clear through allusions: "The primary data for ... theological reflection was not only the traditions about Jesus but also the OT. In Matthew this is obvious, not least because the evangelist himself makes it overt. By using the formula, 'All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet', he tells us clearly that he is viewing the events of the birth of Christ against the backcloth of the OT. When we look at the Infancy Narrative in the Third Gospel, we find no such direct reference to the OT. But this does not mean that Luke's account is any the less a reflection upon scripture. It is simply that his method of introducing his texts is different from that of Matthew. Rather than use direct quotations he employs a welter of allusions to the OT. This is most obvious in the canticles. These great hymns of thanksgiving and praise, put into the mouths of Mary and Zechariah, are a pastiche made up of phrases taken from the Jewish scriptures ... Luke is so steeped in the language and thought of the OT that the Magnificat and Benedictus abound in both. And the same can be said, not only of the canticles, but also of the narrative sections of Luke's account of the birth of Christ." (1)
An appropriate ending to this section is the conclusion of Stefano Manalli's powerful new scriptural study of Mary, "All Generations Shall Call He Blessed":
"Among many possible choices there are two texts of sacred Scripture that would express most forcefully and symbolize most meaningfully, the mystery of Mary: expressing her extraordinarily graced personality; emblematic of her universal salvific mission linked with that of her Son until the end of human history. The first is that of Genesis: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and your seed and her seed: she will crush your head, and you will lie in wait for her heel" (3:15). The second is that of Revelation: "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" (12:1).
Prophecy and final (eschatological) fulfillment, Incarnation and redemption are recapitulated in these two biblical texts intertwined with one another in delineating for us the exalted figure of Mary: at her first appearance in the Old Testament as "the morning rising" (Song 6:9), and in the New Testament with the full brightness of midday, "clothed with the sun" (Rev 12:1).
In the first text (Gen 3:15), significantly called the Protoevangelium, we are made aware of the figure and mission of Mary that foretell the messianic salvation of mankind.
The "woman" is the Mother of the Messiah-Redeemer, prefigured and symbolized down the subsequent centuries and millennia on many pages of the ancient revelation that accompanied and illumined the path of the Chosen People. In the second text (and its context: Rev 12:1-18), as it were a summary of the entire biblical "revelation" of the mystery of Mary, we contemplate her image and mission in the splendor of the eternal midday, the superhuman prodigy of maternal Queenship over the created universe, over both heaven and earth.
In the first text (Gen 3:15) we preview, antithetically, the reality of Mary's mission: in opposition to the serpent (the "enmity"); in union with the Messiah-Redeemer (her "seed") fighting and crushing the head of the serpent; in contrast with Eve, seduced and conquered by the serpent (Gen 3:13; 2 Cor 11:13). The prophetic vision embraces the entire salvific plan. In the words of Genesis 3:15, "there opens a vision of the whole of Revelation," writes Pope John Paul II, "first as a preparation for the Gospel and then as the Gospel itself". The dramatic scene of Genesis 3:15 speaks of mystery and in revealing it pinpoints our gaze on this "woman", so heroic and sublimethe antithesis of poor Evewho goes forth with her Son to reverse the fortunes of fallen man.
In the second text (Rev 12), we contemplate, in metahistorical synthesis, the reality of the person and mission of Mary, the "woman" radiant in grace ("clothed with the sun"), in royal majesty over the angels (the crown of "stars") and over creation ("the moon under her feet"), Mother of God incarnate ("the male child") and Mother of the Church ("the rest of her offspring"), which is the Mystical Body of Christ, begotten and co-
redeemed by her on Calvary amidst sufferings ("she cried out in the anguish of delivery"), the powerful adversary, Satan ("the great dragon"), checkmated and rendered impotent by the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, of the Assumption, and of the Queenship.
The tableau of Revelation 12 is complete with its magnificent scenario, rich in illustrative detail, even if in every instance not easily understood. On this scene converge, marvelously coordinated, every dimension of the redemptive plan traced out in the Old and New Testaments touching the "mystery of that 'woman' who, from the first chapters of the Book of Genesis up to the Book of Revelation, accompanies the unveiling of God's salvific plan for humanity.', In the light of Revelation 12, we can formulate these fundamental conclusions about the "mystery of that 'woman'".
Mary is the "woman" (Rev 12:1), the same "woman" of the Protoevangelium (Gen 3:15), of whom "is born" the son of God; sent by the Father (Gal 4:4);3 the "woman" present and wholly absorbed in the sufferings of her Son crucified on Calvary (Jn 19:25-26).
Mary is the "virgin" who is shown alone with the Son, without husband, in the proto-evangelium (Gen 3:15), then in Isaiah (7:14), and in Micah (5:2); her virginity prefigured by the "burning bush" (Ex 3:1-11), by the "rod of Aaron" (Num 9:16-24), by the "fleece of Gideon" (Jg 6:36-40), by the "enclosed garden, sealed fountain" (Song 4:12); finally, described by St. Matthew and by St. Jude in terms of the most essential biographical and historical facts of her life.
Mary is the "mother", pregnant and giving birth to a son, though remaining a virgin, according to the prophecies of Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 7:14, Micah 5:1-2; and the woman "Mother of the Lord" or "Mother of Jesus", as she is called eleven times in the New Testament; she is the "mother" of mankind, represented by St. John on Calvary (Jn 19:25-27).
Mary is the "spouse": not only the virginal, legal spouse of St. Joseph (Mt 1:18; Lk 1:27), but the virginal, real spouse of God the Father who willed her to be the Mother, according to His human nature, of His only-begotten Son (Gal 4:4); the spouse of God the Son, the redeemer, who intimately associated her with Himself in His redemptive work, as the new Eve beside the "new Adam"; the spouse of God the Holy Spirit, who, overshadowing her enabled her to conceive Jesus (Lk 1:35).
Mary is the woman immaculate: namely, she is the only human creature unstained by sin, because, together with her Son, she is the unvanquished, victorious adversary of the infernal serpent (Gen 3:15); not only this, but she is the only creature "full of grace" (Lk 1:28), true panhaghia (all holy one), pure "dawn" (Song 6:9) of the sun who is Christ, "fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature" in order to become Mother of Word Incarnate.
Mary is the co-redemptrix, associated with her Son in the work of ransoming man from sin (Gen 3:15), strong as "an army set in array" (Song 6:9), already prefigured by the "strong", courageous women of Israel, present at the foot of the cross on Calvary (Jn 19:25-27).
Mary is the Mediatrix, who brings Jesus to men and men to Jesus, who cares for things spiritual and temporal (Lk 1:39ff.; Jn 2:1-11) present and active at the birth of the Church on Calvary (Jn 19:25-27) and in the Cenacle (Acts 1:14).
Mary is the Queen, who wears on her head the crown of twelve stars (Rev 12:2) signifying the angels (the "stars"), the twelve tribes of Israel (the Chosen People) and the twelve apostles (the Church). She is the Queen assumed into heaven, carried on the wings of the "great eagle" (Rev 12:14), dashing to the ground the destructive furies of the "dragon" (Rev 12:3-4). She is the "exalted daughter of Zion", seated as "Queen at the right hand" of the King in the kingdom of heaven (Ps 44:10).
Mary is the woman "blessed" for the faith she placed in the words of the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation (Lk 1:45), for hearing and observing the Word of God (Lk 11:27-28), for her faithful fulfillment of the will of the Father (Mk 3:31-35), as the "poor one of Yahweh" (Ps 9) and "the handmaid of the Lord" (Lk 1:38).
From the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation, therefore, we may well underscore how this "woman" according to the design of God the Father is always one with her Son, always relative to that Son, "leaning upon her beloved" (Song 8:15), intimately associated with Him in the same mission of saving man and leading him back to the bosom of the Father.
At every crucial point in the history of salvation, from the Protoevangelium, after the fall of our first parents (Gen 3:15), to the announcement of the incarnation of the Word (Lk 1:26ff.), from the beginning of the public mission of Jesus at Cana (Jn 2:1-11), to His redemptive sacrifice consummated on the Cross (in 19:25-27), up to the accomplishment of the very last detail in the universal salvific plan (Rev 12), Mary is the "woman" always present with her Son, never alone, to fulfill her role of "generous companion and humble handmaid of the Lord".
And together with the Son there are "children", these also brothers and "co-heirs" of Christ (Rom 8:17), who constitute the Mystical Body, the Church. Thus, in Genesis 3:15, the "woman" is presented together with her "seed" (which also has an inclusive sense); at Cana (Jn 2:1-11) the "woman" is with the first "disciples" of Jesus; on Calvary (Jn 19: 25-27), at the foot of the Cross the "woman" has beside her John the Evangelist, who represents all the "disciples" of Jesus; in Revelation 12, finally, the "woman" is found again with "the rest of her offspring" (the Church).
To conclude, then, Mary's whole reason for existing is found in the Son (and in the children), according to the salvific plan of God the Father. Without the Son, Mary would not have existed at all. This is a thesis dear to dogmatic theologians, and "soundly based on fact".
In this concluding summary, it is necessary to observe how, by prophecy in the Old Testament, by existence in the New, the maternity and the co-redemption, the mediation and the Queenshipall rooted in the divine, virginal maternitygive us the most complete biblical and theological portrait of Mary as the "woman" conceived and willed by God "from the beginning and before the world was created" (Sir 24:14), planned by Him "in one and the same decree, with the Son (bull Ineffabilis Deus), "blessed" among all women (Lk 1:42), "woman" with all the potential of the so-called "eternal feminine", "woman" virgin, daughter, spouse, mother, each to the full extent of perfection these terms signify, in living relation with God the Father, of whom Mary is daughter, with God the Son, of whom Mary is Mother, with God the Holy Spirit, of whom Mary is spouse; in living relation with the Church and with mankind, of whom Mary is "mother in the order of grace".
Thus, Mary realizes in herself the highest synthesis of nature and grace; an ineffable synthesis at its base and at its crown, alpha and omega, as it were, of the human person associated with the Divine Person of the Word Incarnatethe divine "alpha and omega" (Rev 1:8)the work of universal salvation, by a unique, absolutely exclusive, distinctive relation: the "relation" of virginal maternity embracing the corporal and the spiritual, the human and the divine. (2)
2. Mary The Bridge Between The Old And The New Testaments
The richness of the Scriptural portrait of Mary is manifested most prominently in the Old Testament prophecies and prefigurings of Mary and the New Testament passages that portray her as the link between the Old and the New Covenants. Mary serves as a link between the two Covenants not just through parallel or prophetic verses but by embodying common themes. She is a bridge between the Old and the New Testaments because Scripture shows her representing both the people of Israel and the Church begun by her Son. The Scriptural images of Mary in the context of both Testaments are astounding in their variety. We see Mary as:
The New Eve, the Virgin Mother prophesied in the Old Testament
The embodiment of all the qualities prefigured in the heroines of the Old Testament
The people of Israel, the Daughter of Zion
The Ark of the Covenant: the parallels are too numerous to be ignored
The exalted Mother of Jesus
The Mother of all the Faithful
Spouse, Mother and Daughter
The mystery of Mary's role in the Old and the New Covenants is brilliantly underscored by Ignace de la Potterie: "A very important insight of modern exegesis has brought to light that the mystery of Mary forms in some way the synthesis of all the former revelation about the people of God, and of all that God by his salvific action wishes to realize for his people. In Mary are accomplished all the important aspects of the promises of the Old Testament to the Daughter of Zion, and in her real person there is an anticipation which will be realized for the new people of God, the Church. The history of revelation on the subject of the theme of the Woman Zion, realized in the person of Mary, and continued in the Church, constitutes a doctrinal bastion, an unshakable structured ensemble for the comprehension of the history of salvation, from its origin up to its eschatology. A vision of the mystery of Mary, biblically founded, ecclesiologically integrated and structurally developed, gives then a complete image of the concrete realization of the total mystery of the Covenant." (3)
In Down to Earth: The New Protestant Vision of the Virgin Mary, the Protestant theologian John de Satge highlights Mary's position with respect to the Old and the New Testaments: "She is the climax of the Old Testament people, the one to whom the cloud of witnesses from the ancient era look as their crowning glory, for it was through her response to grace that their Vindicator came to stand upon the earth. In the order of redemption she is the first fruits of her Son's saving work, the one among her Son's people who has gone all the way. And in the order of her Son's people, she is the mother." (4)
Three other Scripture scholars may be cited here. In an ecumenical conference on Mary, Ralph Russell draws attention to the witness to Mary in Scripture as a whole:
Scripture must be seen as a whole. The Holy Spirit who inspired it means it to be seen in entirety. Then the 'Woman' in Genesis will be answered by the Woman in the Book of Revelation (ch. 12), the Fall will go to the Annunciation, Adam with Christ (cf. St Paul), Eve with Mary. This is the way the earliest fathers saw Scripture and if we look through their eyes we shall not be tempted to think that the Bible has little to say about Mary's place in the work of her divine Son, the one redeemer. Another way of approach is to ask what is the central event to which all salvation history builds up? St. Paul answers that: 'When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman' (Gal 4:4). What more has Scripture to tell us about this?
The Old Testament prophets, struggling, against the spirit of proud self-sufficiency, to shift attention from man to God, had spoken of the anawim, the humble and lowly people, who 'leant upon the Lord, the holy one of Israel, in truth' (Is. 10:20). They were not necessarily poor as a class, for David was one, but they usually were. They were conscious of their need for God, ready to wait and serve, with the trusting love of a child for their saviour. This is the meaning of the 'poor' in the Isaian passage which Jesus applies to himself: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor' (Luke 4:18; Is 61:1); and the first of the Beatitudes is 'Blessed are the poor in spirit' (Matt. 5:3; cf. Luke 6:20). The flower of the poor and humble of the Lord is the 'handmaid of the Lord, who said 'let it be to me according to your word'. and 'he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden, (Luke 1:38, 48).
From other Old Testament themes, provided they are read with traditional Jewish and Christian interpretations, there emerges the figure of the woman, mother of the redeemer. There is Matthew's interpretation of Isaiah: 'All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
"Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son"' (Matt. 1:22ff.; Is. 7:14). There is Genesis 3:15, the enmity between the woman and the serpent, her seed and his seed, of which more later. There is the prophetic figure of the Daughter of Sion. This takes us to St. Luke and the Annunciation.
The angel says to Mary: 'Hail full of grace, (or10 favoured one'), the Lord is with you,. And then 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have favour (or 'grace') with God.
And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus (Yahweh-Saviour) (Luke 1:28-31). The Old Testament background to this is Zephaniah 3:14-17: 'Sing aloud, O daughter of Sion ... The Lord is in your midst ... Do not fear, O Sion, the Lord your God is in your midst (your womb), a warrior who gives victory'. So in Luke 'hail' means rejoice, with messianic joy, and Mary, 'favoured one' or 'full of grace' is seen as the Daughter of Sion, who realizes the hopes and longings of Israel's history, and in a more wonderful way the Lord will be in her midst. The angel goes on, in the words of the prophecy of Nathan, to tell her that her Son will be the Messiah, and when Mary asks 'How shall this be, because I have not husband?' he explains: 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, Son of God' (Luke 1:32-35). 'Overshadow' refers to the Shekinah, the cloud of God's presence which went with the Israelites in the desert, filled the temple of Solomon, appeared at the transfiguration and the ascension, and according to Israelite tradition, covered with its shadow the Ark of the Covenant (cf. Exodus 40:35). Thus Mary, like the Ark, becomes God's resting place on earth. 'Son of God' is a messianic title, but its full meaning will be gradually unfolded, and gradually also Christian faith will come to Be what it means to be God's Mother. Mary's humble answer, "Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" is an unhesitating acceptance of her place in God's redemptive plan. This is what the second century fathers saw, together with its consequences for salvation: "The knot of Eve's disobedience, says Irenaeus, 'was untied by Mary's obedience, and in her obedience Mary became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race' (Adv. Haer. 3, 22, 4; PG 7, 959)." (5).
Rene Laurentin sees Mary's presence in the OT on three planes:
Mary is seen to be envisaged in three ways by the Old Testament.
I. Moral Preparation
From among mankind disgraced by sin, God untangles a line of faith and holiness at the end of which his Son will be able to be born into the human race without the contamination of sin. The last stage of this progress is found in the privileged circle of the "poor of Israel." Mary explicitly places herself in this group in the Magnificat (Lk. 1:48, 52) ...
II. Typological Preparation
God's plan for the world works toward accomplishment according to the slow cadence of human duration, slowed down the more by the inertia of sin. God does not bring perfection to be all at once, but gradually. At each stage of the plan of salvationIsrael, the Church, heavenone can discern the sketch and prefiguration of the perfect forms that will be reached at the end. At each stage in the development of an embryo the imperfect forms of the organs on their way to full formation can be detected. There is no more delicate task than to appreciate these developmental relationships. In the final analysis, only Scripture and Tradition can authentically discern typological equivalents. In what concerns Mary, the types are found principally in three lines:
1. First there are the women of the Old Testament, notably those who were favored with miraculous births, those who were ancestors of the Messiah, those who contributed to the triumph and salvation of Israel. By taking up in connection with Mary the words that concerned Sarah, "Nothing is impossible with God," (Gen 18:14 and Lk. 1:37), or Judith (Jud 13:18-19 and Lk. 1:42), Luke gave the first guidelines for this typology.
2. But Luke compares Mary especially to Israel in its ensemble. He identifies her with the Daughter of Zion according to Zeph. 3:14-17, an identification that is found again in substance in John 19:25-27 and in the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse ...
3. Finally, the Daughter of Zion was the place where Yahweh rested. Thus Luke glimpsed in Mary the new Ark of the Covenant, the eschatological resting-place of Yahweh Savior. In this comparison he opened the way to a typology involving sacred objects ...
III. Prophetic Preparation
Mary was prefigured not only by realities corresponding to her in nature or function, but also by words that announced her in advance ... Two series of texts merit attention:
(a) Eschatological texts whose meaning applies to Mary and at the same time to the Church; (b) Texts that apply to the Mother of the Messiah. (6).
Finally, Stefano Mannelli tells us:
The Mariology of the Old Testament has all the essential characteristics of a Mariology at its "roots". In that Mariology are contained in fact the "roots" of that unique, precious plant that is Mary most holy. From those "roots" has sprung, in the New Testament, the one "full of grace" (Lk 1:28), the Mother of God and of the new humanity. In these mariological texts of the Old Testament are discovered the "roots" of the mystery of Mary, predestined "in one and the same decree" (Ineffabilis Deus) to be the "woman". Mother of the New Adam, with whom she is united in the same "enmity" for the serpent whose head is to be crushed (Gen 3:15). This "woman" is the Virgin Mother of Emmanuel, that is, of "God with us" (Is 7:14). She is the "woman in travail" bearing God made man, the Savior of the "remnant of Israel", of the People of God (Mic 5:1-2).
The two mysteries of the Incarnation and of the redemption, foreshadowed in these prophetic oracles, are intimately linked to the mysteries of the Immaculate Conception (Gen 3:15), the divine and virginal maternity (Is 7:14), and the co-redemption (Gen 3:15) attributed to the "woman in travail" of Bethlehem (Mic 5:1-2).
Together with these three fundamental Mariological texts, we also find in the Old Testament an abundance of minor texts that converge to give to those "roots" a certain consistency in prefiguring and symbolizing the extraordinary personality of Mary. Thus, we discover the "roots" of Mary in the "daughter of Zion" (Mic 4:8), in "the poor of Yahweh" (Ps 9), in "the strong woman" (Sir 26:2) who works for the regeneration and salvation of the people. We find her prefigured by Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel, by Miriam, the sister of Moses, by Deborah, Abigail and Ruth, by Judith and by Esther. We can read of the virtues and sanctity of Mary in the various and richly allusive biblical symbols, such as the burning bush, the fleece of Gideon, the holy ark, the rainbow, Jacob's ladder, and in many others ...
We find, then, the Mariology of the New Testament already "sketched" in that of the Old. The figure and mission of Mary are already limned in the prophecies, in the figures, and in the symbols of the Old Testament. The prophecies foretell and describe her personality, outlining its primary characteristics: Mary's freedom from original sin because of her enmity with the serpent, her divine maternity as the Mother of "God with us", her virginal maternity as the virgin "in travail", the universal co-redemption because if her victory over the serpent whose head is crushed ...
In the New Testament, the entire Mariological content of the Old Testament is found to be fulfilled in the reality of the person and life of Mary, as the "woman", as the "virgin", as the 'mother" of the Emmanuel, as the exalted "Daughter of Zion", as endowed with those sublime gifts and virtues of more admirable women of the Old Covenant, and by the more suggestive, poetic symbols employed by the sacred writers. The great St. Augustine, therefore, was right when he wrote that "in the Old Testament is hidden the New, and in the New the Old becomes clear." That is especially true of Mariology, which has sprouted and flowered in the New Testament, an it were, from its "roots" in the Old. Mariology has developed from an admirable Old Testament "sketch" to that still more admirable portrait painted in the New.
St. Andrew of Crete once wrote that our Lady is "the seal of the Old and of the New Testament; she is clearly the fulfillment of every prophecy." (7).
In the era of the Old Covenant Mary is invited to be the mother of the Messiah because she has "won favor with God." In the era of the New Covenant she will be called blessed by "all generations" because she has "believed."
(b) Old Testament Prophecies of Mary
The most famous Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah are Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 7:14 and Micah 5:1-4. In all three prophecies the Mother of the Messiah plays a prominent part. The Genesis prophecy will be considered in a section below. Here we will study the prophecies in Isaiah and Micah.
These are the prophecies in Isaiah and Micah:
"The Lord spake again unto Ahaz, saying, Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord. And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." [Isaiah 7:10-14].
"But thou, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth. And this man shall be the peace", Micah [5:2-4]:
Concerning the prophecy in Isaiah which was made by the Prophet Isaiah to King Ahaz urging him to trust God rather than to rely on the Assyrians, Stefano Manelli points out, "Biblical- theological exegesis correctly insists on one literal, messianic, and Marian interpretation of this well-known prophecy: the Emmanuel of whom the prophet speaks is exclusively the future Messiah, Jesus Christ, and the childbearing virgin is exclusively Mary, the Virgin Mother of Jesus ... One must consider the well-nigh unanimous agreement with this interpretation on the part of the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers, both in the East and in the West, from St. Justin on. So, too, the uninterrupted teaching of the Magisterium of the Church, the witness of the liturgy and of sacred art (as early as that of the Catacombs of Priscilla in Rome) have favored this interpretation." Concerning modern theologians who deny this interpretation, Manelli writes, "they run counter to the practically unanimous view of the exegetical tradition and of the Faith of the Church. Yet modern, rationalistic exegetes cannot avoid facing the fact that if there are any prophecies of the Old Testament expressly cited in the new as fully verified, one is this precise passage from Isaiah, cited verbatim by St. Matthew and clearly referred to by St. Luke."
The prophecy is significant also for understanding Mary: "One of the fundamental ... points of Isaiah's prophecy surely concerns the virginal conception and parturition of the Mother of the Emmanuel. This is the object of the Church's belief in the perpetual, virginal integrity of Mary, before, during and after childbirth. The special sign that Isaiah offers the King on behalf of God is in fact this: a pregnant virgin, that is to say, a virgin who conceives a child while remaining a virgin; and a virgin giving birth, that is to say, a pregnant virgin who bears a son while still remaining a virginhence a virginal conception and virginal parturition: in conception and in the act of giving birth the Mother of the Immanuel remains always ,the virgin, ... With the virginal maternity is foreshadowed the royal and divine maternity, given that the Emmanuel is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that He is a royal descendant of David because, being born of Mary, He is also of David's lineage. Still another detail, particularly significant, is this: the prophet Isaiah states that the Mother of the Messiah will herself name her son, the fruit of her virginal womb ('She shall call his name Emmanuel' [Is 7:14]), even though this was contrary to traditional usage, whereby the father named the child. St. Luke underscores this same detail in recounting how the angel informed Mary she was to name the child she bore: 'You shall call his name Jesus' (Lk 1:31). The correspondence between prophecy and fulfillment on this point is perfect. Finally, the relation between the prophecy of Isaiah and that of Genesis is not to be overlooked. Mattioli writes: 'The reference of the Isaian text to the Protoevangelium (Gen 3:15) seems clearly evident. The mother and son, the Almah and the Immanuel, announced by Isaiah, appear neither more nor less than further delienations of the 'woman', and of the 'seed', the Issah and the Zera, promised in Genesis.
Manelli addresses one possible objection that could arise: "How can Ahaz verify the 'sign' the prophet offers, if the sign, will come to pass only eight centuries later? The difficulty can be resolved in this way. Isaiah in prophesying does not address himself to Ahaz, but to the 'house of David, (7:13), because the prophecy was intended to serve a far broader and weightier end, namely, that the Lord would keep his promise to preserve the line of David, and to make David's throne forever' stable through the Immanuel."
The Scripture scholar William Most addresses another kind of objection: "We cannot help noticing too that though many today deny that Isaiah 7:14 speaks of a virgin birthalthough St. Matthew saw itMary could not have missed it. For she saw it being fulfilled in herself. It is true the Targum as we now have it did not mark this passage as messianic. But we know why, thanks to some splendidly honest modern Jewish scholars: Jacob Neusner (Messiah in Context, pp. 173 and 190), Samson Levey and E.J. Schoeps. Neusner tells us (p.190) that when the Jews saw the Christians using this prophecy, they pulled back, and said it was not the Messiah. But they gave themselves away, for the Targums do mark Isaiah 9:5-6 as messianic, and everyone admits that the child in 7:14 and 9:5-6 is the same child, for both passages belong to what is commonly called the book of Emmanuel."
About the prophecy in Micah, Manelli writes:
This Messiah-liberator, the prophet foretells, will be born in the tiny town of Bethlehem in the land of Ephrathah, not the Bethlehem of Galilee. Moreover in the prophecy it is said that the Messiah's origins are "from of old, from ancient days". The expression from ancient days can also mean everlasting days and thus would expressly indicate eternity, that is, the divine origin of the Messiah rather than merely His long descent from David. The prophet Micah, therefore, would appear to have foretold both the earthly and heavenly places of birth, both the human and divine origins of the Messiah ...
Meriting particular interest is the fact that Micah, rather than directly foretelling the Messiah, foretells His Mother instead, or more precisely, "a Queen-mother whom God raises up from his people to beget a new king, at a specific place and time and so in reality." [D. Colombo]. Furthermore, in making this prediction, the prophet adopts a phraseology so exact that its meaning must have been perfectly obvious to this listeners: the woman in travail shall bring forth. This brings one to the well-founded supposition that the people were already well acquainted with the prophecy of Isaiah: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bring forth a son ... For the prophet Micah, the concise expression, "the woman in travail shall bring forth", was sufficient to make himself understood by everyone ...
Finally, in the light of the prophecy already fulfilled, so in this prophecy as in that of Genesis 3:15 and in that of Isaiah 7:14, the figure of the mother is presented alone with her son. No earthly father of the Messiah-Savior is mentioned in any of the three great Old Testament prophecies. The mother appears always as virgin mother. The "virginity" of the mother is the ever-present, luminous backdrop for the event of the Annunciation and that of the birth of the Messiah. This virginity is an evident sign that the Messiah is truly a new creation, the new humanity, the beginning of the salvific era: the redemption." (10)
(c) Old Testament Pre-figurings of Mary
In addition to prophecies, many of the individuals and events in the Old Testament pre-figure New Testament individuals and events. Just as the Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness, for instance, Jesus spent 40 days in the desert. The twelve tribes of Israel pre-figure the coming of the 12 Apostles. Because Jesus exercised His Messianic Office as Priest, Prophet and King, all the priests, prophets and kings of Israel in some sense pre-figured Him. Similarly, many of the heroines of the Old Testament pre-figured Mary and at times the parallels are startling.
A table of comparisons is given below:
"Free" wife of Abraham unlike Hagar the slave wife. Although sterile she bears Isaac in her old age through a miracle of God. Isaac is the father of a great nation [Genesis 11].
Mary is the "free" wife who is free of any subjection to sin"whoever commits sin is the slave of sin" [John 8:34]. She is a voluntary virgin who nevertheless conceives and bears her Son through a miracle. Her Son Jesus is the Head of the Mystical Body, the "firstborn among many brethren." [Romans 8:29].
Wife of Isaac who played a key role in the history of salvation. Abraham asked his servant Eliezer to request Rebecca to be the wife of Isaac. Her brothers tell Rebecca: "May you increase to thousands of thousands and may your seed possess the gates of their enemies." [Genesis 24:60]. Rebecca dresses Jacob in the clothes of his older brother Esau to secure the blessing of Isaac.
God the Father asks the angel Gabriel to request Mary to be the Mother of God the Son. Mary's seed are the multitudes "which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Mary clothes Jesus in human flesh and offers Him to the Father to secure His blessing on the human race.
Jacob is entranced by Rachel's beauty. Rachel is the mother of Joseph who was sold for 20 pieces of silver. Joseph comes to power in Egypt and is the savior of his family.
Mary has "found favor with God". Her Son Jesus is sold for thirty pieces of silver. By His death He becomes the savior of the human race.
Miriam the sister of Moses, the liberator of the People of God, and the sister of Aaron, the first priest of the Old Covenant.
Miriam is present with Moses and Aaron at the "Tent of Meeting" in which the Lord descended and spoke to them.
Just as Miriam was associated with the lawgiver of the People of God, Mary is associated with the Supreme Lawgiver Who Moses pre-figured. Similarly Mary is associated with the High Priest of the New Covenant who again is pre-figured by Aaron.
Deborah saves her people from the Canaanites by helping Barak victoriously lead a small army against the much larger army of Sisera. Deborah is a prophetess and renowned for her mercy. Judges 5 is a song of praise from Deborah to the Almighty thanking Him for the victory over Sisera.
Mary assists Christ in His redemptive missiona mission He performs against all odds. Mary is the Queen of Prophets and Merciful Mother. Deborah's song is a foreshadowing of the Magnificat.
Ruth, a Moabite, is the wife of Boaz and the mother of Obed the grandfather of David. She leaves her people behind and declares herself the servant of Boaz.
Mary will bear a Son in the line of David. She offers herself as a handmaiden of the Lord.
Abigail means "exaltation of the Father." Because of her great virtue David marries her and makes her queen of the house of David. In I Samuel 25:41, she tells David, "Behold your servant Mary." Mary's exaltation of the Father is seen especially in the Magnificat. Because she has won favor with Him, God the Father makes her the Spouse of the Holy Spirit and the Mother of the Son. At the Annunciation, Luke 1:38, she says, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord."
Esther is chosen to be queen by King Ahasuerus for her beauty. All of Esther's people have been condemned to death through the schemes of an enemy. She alone is excepted from this condemnation. Esther manages to foil the schemes of the enemy and saves her people from death.
Alone of her race, Mary was not subject to Original Sin, the condemnation to spiritual death. She assists her Son in His mission of defeating the enemy and rescuing her people from the decree of damnation. She continues to intercede for her people as they continue in their journey from death.
About the influence of the Old Testament pre-figurings on the New Testament, Marie Isaacs, a Baptist, writes:
Luke portrays Mary as the supreme example of the faithful of Israel, of whom the Messiah was to be born. He does this, not only the way he structures the narrative, but also in the language he employs: language which is full of OT allusions and symbols. To miss these is to fail to appreciate the claims that Luke is making. Already we have seen that Mary is one of the anawim. Now we must explore the other biblical allusions.
To read Lk 1-2, even superficially, is immediately to call to mind stories in the OT of women who gave birth to remarkable offspring: Sarah, old and childless and yet who was blessed with the birth of Isaac; the mother of Samson (the last and greatest of the Judges), who like Elisabeth, had previously been barren, but to whom an angel was to announce that she would have a son. The similarities between these and the lucan Infancy Narratives are obvious: all describe miraculous conceptions, announced by angelic messengers and issuing in the birth of a great hero. John the Baptist, like Samson, is to take a Nazarite vow. But it is probably to the story of the birth of Samuel that Luke is most indebted. In many ways Mary, 'the handmaid of the Lord' is patterned on Hannah, 'the handmaid, who, of all OT mothers, is the archetypal figure of maternal devotion and religious piety, dedicating her son entirely to the service of Yahweh in the temple, and there rejoicing over her son's birth with a paean of praise. Much of the thought and even the language of Hannah's song is taken up by Mary, the new Hannah, in the Magnificat. So now Mary becomes, not merely the symbol of the faithful of Israel in general, but the symbol of the faithful mother in particular. (11).
Mary's role at the side of her royal Son is prefigured in the Old Testament depictions of the Queen Mother. The title of Queen Mother or Gebirah was very common in Old Testament times and was a position independent of the King. The Queen Mother had a very influential role in national affairs and acted as regent when the king was absent or dead. Since the importance of the Queen Mother was recognized by the ancient Hebrews, the first Christians saw no conflict in honoring the Mother of their King.
Rene Laurentin dwells further on this theme:
Queen mothers had an important position in eastern courts and especially in Israel. Their names have been preserved with care in the Books of Kings (1 Kgs 14:21; 15:2; 22:42; cf. 53. 2 Kgs 9:6; 12;2: 14:2; 15:2,33; 18:2; 22:1; 23:31,36; 24:18). They bore the title gebirah and were found closely associated in the honor and position of the monarch (Jer 13:18; 22:6). It is important to note that it was not the position of the wife of the kind that counted, but that of the king's mother. Very significant in this regard is the comparison between 1 Kings 1:16,31 and 2:19, where Bethsheba prostrates herself before King David, her husband, whereas Solomon, her son, after he has become king, prostrates himself before her and makes her sit at his right hand.
The prophetic texts studied above therefore glimpse Mary essentially as the queen mother of the eschatological king, involved as such in the honor paid his reign. Thus the Old Testament brings the positive contribution of a source to the doctrine of Mary's Queenship. ... Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 7:14 and Micah 5:1-2 all in varying degrees bring into striking relief a "maiden," a "queen," "one who was to give birth" in eschatological times to this "son of David" who mysteriously would be Son of God (2 Sam 7:14; Ps. 2 and 110). (12)
Mark Miravalle goes further on the implications of the Queen Mother theme:
We can see an authentic foreshadowing of the role of the Mother of Jesus as Advocate for the People of God in the Old Testament role of the Queen Mother, the role and office held by the mothers of the great Davidic kings of Israel ...
The office and authority of the queen mother in her close relationship to the king made her the strongest advocate to the king for the people of the kingdom. The Old Testament understanding of an advocate is a person who is called in to intercede for another in need and particularly at court, and no one had more intercessory power to the king than the queen mother, who at times sat enthroned at the right side of the king (cf. 1 Kings 2:19-20). The queen mother also had the function of counselor to the king in regards to matters of the kingdom (cf. Prov 31:8-9; 2 Chr 22:2-4).
The recognized role of advocate of the queen mother with the king for members of the kingdom is manifested in the immediate response of King Solomon to his mother, Bathsheba, in this queen mother's petition for a member of the kingdom:
"And the king rose to meet her, and bowed down to her; then he sat on his throne, and had a seat brought for the king's mother; and she sat on his right. Then she said, 'I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me.' And the king said to her, 'Make your request, my mother; for I will not refuse you.' (1 Kings 2: 19-20).
The Old Testament image and role of the queen mother, the "great Lady," as advocate to the king for the people of the kingdom prophetically foreshadows the role of the great Queen Mother and Lady of the New Testament. For it is Mary of Nazareth who becomes the Queen and Mother in the Kingdom of God, as the Mother of Christ, King of all nations. The Woman at the foot of the Cross (cf. Jn 19:26) becomes the Great Lady (Domina) with the Lord and King, and thereby will be the Advocate and Queen for the People of God from heaven, where she is the "woman clothed with the sun ... and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Rev 12:1). (13).
It has also often been said that Abraham pre-figured Mary for reasons explained here by the exegete John McHugh: God made three promises to Abraham that his children would be a great nation (Gen 12:2; 13f,6; 15:5; 17:6, 19; 22:17); that his descendants would possess the land of Canaan (Gen 12:7; 13:15; 15:18-21; 17:8); and that in him all the nations of world would count themselves blessed (Gen 12:3; 22:18). In Mary's child, the last of the three promises was fulfilled, and it is not surprising that Luke draws out many parallels between Mary and Abraham. Like Abraham (Gen 18:3), Mary found favour with God (Lk 1:30); like Abraham (Gen 12:3; 18:18; 22:18), she is a source of blessing for, and is blessed by, all nations (Lk 1: 42,48); like Abraham (Gen 15:6), she is praised for her faith in the promise that, by a miracle, she would have a son (Lk 1:45). (14).
Another striking parallel has been drawn between Mary and Old Testament mediators like Moses in recent exegesis as Ignace de la Potterie shows here:
"His mother said to the servants: 'Do whatever he tells you.'" In passing let us note that these are the final words of Mary in the Gospels ...
A. Serra having examined in depth the use of this expression in the Old Testament proposes another exegesis, which to us seems more solid and which at the same time is very attractive. He puts forth evidence that here we are dealing with an expression that is almost a technical one, which appears several times in the Old Testament in connection with the Covenant when Israel, in response to the promises which have been made to her, pledges obedience to God. It is utilized as well on the occasion of the conclusion of the Covenant at Sinai (Ex 19:8; 24:3-7; Dt 5:27), as well as its renewal later (cf. Jos 24:24; Ex 10:12: Ne 5:12). We find it for the first time in Exodus 19:8. Situated in its context it is the following: "In the third month of their departure from the land of Egypt ... the Israelites came to the desert of Sinai ... Moses then went up the mountain to God. Yahweh called to him and said: 'Here is how you shall address the house of Jacob ... If you obey me and respect my Covenant, you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other people, though all the earth is mine ... That is what you must tell the Israelites.' Moses then went, convoked all the elders of the people and related to them all that Yahweh had ordered him to tell them. Then the entire people, with one accord responded: 'All that Yahweh has said, we will do.' And Moses brought back to Yahweh the response of the people." (Ex 19:1-8). In this text and the others that we pointed out, even though they appear with several variants, there are always two constants: the word of the mediator and the response of the people.
Serra correctly noticed that the expression of the Covenant ("All that Yahweh has said, we will do"), closely parallels the words of Mary to the servants at Cana: "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5). From this one can conclude that Maryin her very last wordsuses the formula of the Covenant; she personifies in a certain manner the people of Israel in the context of the Covenant. For, as A. Serra continues, "John puts on the lips of Mary the profession of faith that the whole community of the chosen people pronounced one day in front of Sinai." Mary therefore asks of the "servants" to adopt vis-a-vis Jesus an attitude, which is in reality the attitude of the Covenant, that is an attitude of perfect submission to the will of God, expressed here in the command given by Jesus." (15).
The significance of the angel Gabriel's appearance is pre-figured in the Book of Daniel and the angels announcements to Zechariah closely parallel his announcements to Daniel:
The mere mention of the name Gabriel in Lk 1:19, 26 would be sufficient to alert a reader familiar with the Jewish Scriptures, for Gabriel's name occurs only twice in the Old Testament, in the second half of Daniel (Dan 8:16; 9:21): on both occasions his mission is to explain the import of a prophecy about the deliverance of Israel and the dawn of a new age. The close verbal similarities between Lk 1:1 and these chapters of Daniel leave no doubt that Luke is here consciously alluding to the Book of Daniel. (16)
Similarly the proclamations of the angel to Gideon in Judges 6:11-24 closely parallel the angel Gabriel's proclamations to Mary in Luke 1:26-38.
Again, the proclamations of the prophet Nathan to David parallel Gabriel's announcement to Mary:
2 Samuel 7:12: "I will preserve the offspring of your body after you, and make his sovereignty secure. I will be a father to him and he a son to me."
Luke 1:32-3: "He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High."
2 Samuel 7:16b: "Your throne will be established forever:"
Luke 1:32-33: "The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David."
2 Samuel 7:16a: "Your house and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me."
Luke 1:32-33: "He will rule forever over the house of Jacob."
2 Samuel 7:13: "I will make his royal throne secure forever."
Luke 1:33: "And his reign will have no end."
(d) Daughter of Zion
Perhaps the most striking and obvious Marian image in Scripture is that of the Daughter of Zion. The Daughter of Zion representation of Mary is evident in the parallelism between a great number of texts in the Old and the New Testaments. In the Old Testament Zion is shown as Spouse and Daughter, Virgin and Mother as is Mary in the New. Daughter Zion is the Spouse of Yahweh, Mother of the People of God (Mother Zion), the Virgin Israel. Many of the Old Testament texts describing the Daughter of Zion are amazingly enough applied to Mary, for instance in Luke 1:26-38, John 2:1-12, John 19:25-27. "Here," writes de la Potterie, "the Old Testament texts of the 'Daughter of Zion' are applied to a definite woman. ... This is precisely the reason why, in the Fourth Gospel, both at Cana and at the Cross, Jesus addresses Mary calling her 'Woman.", (17). "The definite woman Mary," he continues, "the Mother of Jesus, is in a certain way the historical realization of this symbolic figure, who is called in the prophetsdepending on the contextthe 'Daughter of Zion,' the 'Mother-Zion" or the 'Virgin Israel.' All of Israel's expectation of salvation was projected upon this symbolic figure of the "Messianic Daughter of Zion"; this symbolic figure, described by the prophets, is concretized at once in a daughter of Israel, Mary, who thus becomes the personification of the messianic people in eschatological times." (18). A truly biblical interpretation of Mary will see her as representing both the people of Israel and the future Church.
The comparison of Zephaniah 3:17-17 and Luke 1:28-33 is especially striking:
"Rejoice, Daugher of Zion, the King of Israel, Yahweh, is IN you. Do not be afraid Zion, Yahweh your God is in your womb as a strong Savior." [Zephaniah 3:14-17] "Rejoice so highly favored. The Lord is WITH you. Do not be afraid, Mary ... Listen, you are to conceive in your womb and bear a son and you must name him "Yahweh Savior." He will reign [Luke 1:28-33]. (19).
Applying the Daughter of Zion symbolism, de la Potterie notes,
More and more frequently today's exegetes translate the first word of the angel to Mary, 'Chaire', by 'Rejoice!' ... It is interesting to verify that in the Septuagint the formula 'Chaire' always appears in a context where Zion is invited to the messianic joy in the perspective of the future (Joel 2:21-23; Zp 3:14; Zc 9:9; cf. Lm. 4:21). In the announcement to Mary, the angel utilizes the formula which the prophets employ to invite the eschatological Zion to rejoice in the salvation which God accords her. Thus we read in the prophet Zephaniah 3:14-15: 'Shout for joy, daughter of Zion!' ... In the tradition of the Greek Fathers of the Church and in the Byzantine liturgy, the words of the angel have been almost universally understood and explained as an invitation to joy.
It is clear that from the very first words of the angel there is already an echo of the theme of the 'Daughter of Zion.' The joy which was announced by the prophets in the Old Testament to the people of Israelthe Woman Ziondiffuses itself and comes to be focused on one particular woman, Mary, who unites in her person, so to speak, the desires and the hopes of all the people of Israel. The Fathers of the Church also understood it in this way." (20).
Writes Rene Laurentin:
The first word of the angel, chaire, does not correspond to the ordinary Hebrew greeting of peace, shalom, the equivalent of our "Good day!" or "Hello!" It is rather the echo of the greetings of messianic joy addressed by the prophets to the Daughter of Zion in Zech. 9:9, Joel 2:21-27, and especially Zeph. 3:14-17. Once this motif of eschatological joy has been proclaimed, it is the Lord who is to come into the midst of Israel, or translating in its etymological sense the expression bequirbek employed here, "in the womb" of Israel. The message of the angel echoes that of Zephaniah but this time with respect to an immediate realization.
... This first revelation of the Incarnation ... is something accomplished ... simply by the virtual application of the Old Testament scriptures to the new event. Illuminated by Scripture, the event discloses its divine dimensions; actualized by the event, Scripture attains a marvelous and unforeseen fulfillment ...
The joy announced by the angel is messianic joy, the eschatological joy expressed by Zephanaiah. Mary who receives the angel's message, is the "Daughter of Zion": she stands for Israel at this decisive hour. The presence of the Lord in Israells midst, this new and mysterious presence announced for the last days, becomes a conception and a childbearing for her. Finally Zephanaiah designates teh one whom she is to bear under the name "Yahweh Savior". According to the Hebrew, this is the very meaning of the name "Jesus," designated by the angel, and this name thereby takes on the fullness of its etymological meaning. (21)
John McHugh notes that the passages in Joel and Zechariah are modelled on the Zephaniah passage which is the most ancient of the three. He describes Zephaniah 3:14-17 as "two short poems in which the prophet envisages the day of salvation as already begun, and calls upon the Daughter of Zion to rejoice with all her heart, not to fear, because the Lord is with her, as her king and saviour. This is exactly the message of the angel in Lk 1:28-33 ... The texts of Joel and of Zechariah carry the same message in almost the same phrases." In his commentary on the Magnificat, McHugh points out that when Mary "speaks of what God has done for her, she speaks of what God has done for Israel: that is, she speaks of herself as the Daughter of Zion." (22)
Respected Protestant scholars such as A.G. Herbert ("The Virgin Mary as the Daughter of Zion"), A. F. Knight ("The Virgin and the Old Testament") and the Swedish Lutheran Harald Sahlin ("Der Messias und das Gotteovolk") have also acknowledged Mary's identification with the Daughter of Zion.
(e) Ark of the Covenant
In speaking of Mary as the bridge between the Old an the New, we are inevitably led to the theme of Mary as the Ark of the Covenant. From Luke's initial characterization of Mary as the Daughter of Zion we are led to his grand vision of Mary as the Ark of the Covenant, a vision that is continued in both the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation. As noted earlier, Luke's way of introducing Old Testament themes or prophecies is through allusions rather than direct assertions of "prophetic fulfillment." In introducing Mary as the Ark, he draws on Old Testament texts that any Jewish reader would understand and identify with the Ark.
Rene Laurentin draws attention to the similitude between Exodus 40:34,35 and Luke 1:35:
"The divine overshadowing, designated by the characteristic word episkiasei, evoked the cloud which was the sign of Yahweh's presence. This cloud was seen for the first time when the Mosaic worship was established. With its shadow it covered the Ark of the Covenant, while the glory of Godthat is, God himselffilled it from within. In her turn Mary is going to be the object of this double manifestation:
a presence from above that signifies transcendence, and a presence of the Lord from within. That is what is implied in the comparison of the two texts:
Exodus 40:34: "The cloud covered the Tent of meeting and the glory of Yahweh filled the tabernacle." Luke 1:35: "The power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God."
The same idea seems to be taken up in the episode of the visitation, a story told in reference to the account of the transfer of the Ark in 2 Sam. 6:1, 14 ... The episode of the Visitation is drawn up in close parallelism with 2 Sam 6:14, the story of the transportation of the Ark of the Covenant, narrated just before the messianic prophecy (7:1-17) to which Luke 1:32-3 alludes. The events, the atmosphere, the terms used to describe them correspond closely: the ascent of the Ark (2 Samuel 6:5) and the ascent of Mary (Luke 1:39), the joyous outcry of the people and Elizabeth's cry of greeting; the exultation of David and of John the Baptist. At times the expressions are in striking correspondence with each other:
2 Samuel 6:9: "However can the Ark of Yahweh (- My Lord) come to me?"
Luke 1:43: "Why should I be honored with a visit from the mother of My Lord?"
2 Samuel 6:11: "The Ark of Yahweh remained for three months in the house.."
Luke 1:56: "Mary remained about three months in the home of Elizabeth."
In short, in the marvelously artful account of the Visitation the image of the Ark of the Covenant is worked into the person of Mary, and here and there in a typological approach it is possible to see that the "Lord" whose mother she is is no other than than the "Lord" who resided in the Ark.
The theme is taken up a final time at the end of the infancy gospel. As Jesus enters the Temple Simeon greets him as 'the glory of Israel, (Luke 2:32). This is a divine title. The glory of Yahweh that had deserted the Temple once it was bereft of the Ark of the Covenant now reenters the Temple as Mary comes there carrying Jesus. Thus it is that Simeon can die happy (Luke 2:26, 29); he now can "see death" since he has "seen the glory of the Lord." The time has been fulfilled. Here Mary, eschatalogical Daughter of Zion and new Ark of the Covenant, accomplishes her mission in a way in bringing to the Temple the one whose place it properly is. This is what Jesus himself will affirm in the very last episode of the infancy gospel, that of his being found in the Temple: 'I must be in my Father's house.' [Luke 2:49]. (23).
Manelli points out the following parallels between the Visitation and the transportation of the Ark of the Covenant from the house of Abinadab to that of Obededom and to Jerusalem (2 Sam 6:1-15):
The two "journeys" take place in Judea; the shouts of jubilation of the people and of Elizabeth; David and John' the Baptist "exult for joy"; the presence of the Ark and that of Mary are blessing for the house; the Ark and Mary remain in the house for three months. (24)
About the Ark symbolism, John McHugh writes:
[Luke 1] Verse 35 asserts that this creative, life-giving Power of the Most High will overshadow Mary. Luke's choice of the word 'overshadow, is of first importance. Several recent writers, Lutheran, Anglican and Roman Catholic, have stressed the significance of this verb in this context: they see in it an indication that the Divine Presence descended on Mary as it had once descended on the Ark of the Covenant. At the very end of the Book of Exodus, when the Tent has at last been completed, the writer adds: 'Then the Cloud enveloped the Tent of Witness, and the Tent was filled with the Glory of the Lord. And Moses could not enter the Tent of Witness, because the Cloud was overshadowing it, and the Tent had been filled with the Glory of the Lord' (Ex 40:34-5). In the Greek Old Testament, words meaning 'to overshadow, are comparatively rare, and they are nearly always found in passages which speak of the presence of God ... In Is 4:2-6 the prophet ... promises that on the Day of Yahweh, the Divine Presence will once again overshadow the purified Daughter of Zion with its glory.
St. Luke, when he wrote the word 'overshadow" must have known what,associations it would evoke in the Jewish mind. No Jew, reading the words 'A Power of the Most High will overshadow thee', could fail to think of the Divine Presence or Shekinah. The meaning of Lk 1:35, therefore, is that the creative Power of God's Holy Spirit is going to descend upon Mary, as the Glory of the Lord had once descended upon the Tent of Witness and filled it with a Divine Presence. (25).
A number of exegetes have commented on the parallels between the Infancy narrative in Luke and the Prologue of the Gospel of John. There is reason to believe that John refers both to the Virgin Birth and to the Ark symbolism:
John 1:13: "Not born of blood or of the desire of the flesh or of the desire of God."
Luke 1:34: "I do not know man."
John 1:13: "But of God."
Luke 1:35: "The power of the Most High will cover you
John 1:14: "And the Word was made flesh and pitched his tent among us."
Luke 1:35-46 and 2 Samuel 6 on the theme of the Ark of the Covenant.
In this passage from John there is an allusion to "the tent or tabernacle where God resided since the making of the Covenant (Exodus 40:34-35; cf. 25:8; 26, etc.)." (26)
This symbolism and its relationship to Mary continues in the Book of Revelation. John explicitly brings out this nuance in Revelation 21:3 'Behold the tent of God with men; he will tent with them.' It will be noted that in this text (and apparently in Revelation 11:19 and 12:1, two closely linked verses) the 'tent' is also a 'woman': 'I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, as beautiful as a bride all dressed for her husband, and then I heard a loud voice call out from the throne, 'Behold the tent of God with men ... 1 (21:2-3). 'Then the sanctuary of God in heaven opened, and the Ark of the Covenant could be seen inside it ... Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun ... She was pregnant.' (11:19-12:1). When the book of Revelation was written there were no chapter divisions and so there should be a continuous flow from 11:19 to 12:1: the revelation of the Ark of the Covenant in God's temple in Heaven is followed immediately by the vision of the woman clothed by the sun because the Ark is identified with her who is none other than Mary.
The identification of the Ark of the Covenant with Mary, so clear to Jewish readers of Luke and John, was grasped by the early Christian community as confirmed by references in ancient liturgies, litanies, hymns such as the Akathistos and the writings of the Fathers (for instance Athanasius). Thus the affirmation of Mary as the Ark of the Covenant directly derived from Scripture became a part of the Apostolic Faith. The Ark lies at the center 'of the Old Covenant and its continuation into the New Covenant in the person of Mary is an invitation to awe-filled meditation on the Marian role in the mystery of salvation.
3. Luke 1-2: A Compendium Of Marian Doctrine
In its dramatic overview of the salvation mysteries of the New Covenant, Luke 1-2 also gives us a magnificent affirmation and summation of the major Marian doctrines. So significant is Luke 1-2 for an understanding of the Scriptural portrait of Mary that the great French exegete Rene Laurentin produced a monumental study on it called The Structure and Theology of Luke 1-2.
Although none of the Gospels are written as textbooks of theology or doctrine, the sacred texts often assume or implicitly support certain doctrinal formulations. In this regard Luke 1-2 is a masterpiece spanning the entire spectrum of Marian doctrine.
We will briefly survey the verses relevant to specific doctrines without going into any detail. The basis of these doctrines will be presented in a later chapter.
Immaculate Conception Of Mary:
"Rejoice so highly favored" "Hail full of grace". Luke 1:28. Both translations are derived from the Greek word kecharitomene which refers to a person transformed by the grace of God. This verse is considered in more detail below.
Mary's Divine Maternity:
"And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" Luke 1:43 "Lord" is used here in the same sense as "Yahweh" which refers to God in the Old Testament. Mary is the mother of God.
Mary's Perpetual Virginity:
"How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" Luke 1:34 The significance of this as a vow of virginity will be examined below.
Mary's Assumption Into Heaven:
"The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee.11 Luke 1:35
This is the first of the verses that depict Mary as the Ark of the Covenant. In Revelation 11 and 12, the Ark is shown in Heaven and is identified with the woman clothed with the sun who is Mary.
"All generations shall call me blessed." Luke 1:48.
This verse can be seen as a pre-figuring of Mary's assumption. The Protestant scholar Donald Dawe notes that "The Magnificat foretells the time when all generations, will call her 'blessed' (Greek: makaria [1, 48b]). The Greek word translated 'blessed' here is more than a polite honorific term. The blessed, are those who stand in a special relationship to God. In the early patristic literature, it was used as a characterization of the martyrs. The highest expression of this 'blessedness' was in the possibility of their ascension in to heaven to dwell in the immediate presence of God." This passage is crucial for the doctrine of the Assumption because of "the future tense of the verb in verse 1:48: All generations will call me blessed'." In this verse we can see that "Mary was related not only to her role in the Incarnation but also to the final consummation of salvation in the kingdom." This consummation, in Mary's case, would be her assumption into heaven.
(Donald G. Dawe, "The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin in Ecumenical Perspective." The Way, Summer 1982, p.45.]
"A sword shall pierce through thy own soul also." Luke 2:35. This prophecy comes to fulfillment at Calvary where Mary participates in the suffering of her Son. This is explained further below.
The Veneration Of Mary:
"Rejoice so highly favored" / "Hail full of grace". Luke 1:28.
"Blessed art thou amongst women." Luke 1:42.
"And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" Luke 1:43
"All generations shall call me blessed." Luke 1:48.
(b) Hail Full of Grace / Rejoice Highly Favored One
The angel Gabriel's greeting to Mary is of great consequence for our understanding of Mary and Marian doctrine. The greeting has been variously translated as "Rejoice highly favored" and "Hail full of grace." The object of the varied translations is the Greek word kecharitomene which refers to one who has been transformed by God's grace. The word is used only other time in the New Testament and that is in the epistle to the Ephesians where Paul is addressing those who by becoming Christians are transformed by grace and receive the remission of sins. It is clearly significant that Mary is considered to already have been transformed by grace before the birth of Christ. Four Scripture scholars are cited below on the meaning and significance of this greeting.
First we refer to Rene Laurentin:
The exaltation of Mary by God's gratuitous choice is one of the salient themes of the first chapter of Luke's Gospel. The angel Gabriel greets her with the name kecharitomene (1:28). The word defies translation in most languages. Recourse must be had to a circumlocution such as one who has won God's favor,' or object of God's favor.' The word is a perfect participle and in Greek the perfect tense indicates permanence or stability. A favor that is stable and definitive is therefore implied. Furthermore, this name is given her from on high; it is Mary's true name in the eyes of God, her name of grace. Indeed, the name kecharitomene is formed from the word charis, meaning 'grace,' as its root. Mary is the object of favor, in a pre-eminent way. She is the-one-who-has-found-grace, (charin), in the words of the Angel Gabriel in Luke 1:30. (27).
Stefano Manelli continues this pattern of thought:
The angel Gabriel calls Mary with an expression identifying her and unveiling her hiddenmost being: she is the Full of Grace. In Greek, the expression is a past participle (kechaz-itomene), not easily translatable. Other proposed translations are these: "highest in grace", "most beloved", "privileged", and "gratified". The Vulgate translation full of grace is certainly a good one, but does not fully express all of the nuances of the Greek. The fullness of grace here meant is, obviously, a fullness above all spiritual, but not excluding that which is physical.
The exceptional character of the angel's greeting to Mary consists not so much in the single phrases, also found elsewhere in the Old Testament, as in the linking of the two expressions. "Rejoice" and "full of grace", as a form of address. No similar instance of this in relation to any other creature can be verified in the Old or New Testament.
Hence, Origen could write* "Because the angel greeted Mary with new expressions, which I have never encountered elsewhere in the Scriptures, it is necessary to comment on this. I do not, in fact, recall having read in any other place in the Sacred Scriptures these words: Rejoice, O Full of Grace. neither of these expressions is ever addressed to a man: such a special greeting was reserved only for Mary."
St. Luke, moreover, also makes it clear, even if not expressly, that Mary had had the fullness of grace" from the first moment of her conception. In fact, the use of the past perfect participle (kecharitomene) is to indicate something already true of the subject in the past, and hence possibly extending even to the very first moment of her existence. Here can be recognized one of the implicit foundations for the truth of the Immaculate Conception, which excludes from the very beginning of her existence any presence of sin, and which alone with perfect exactitude is "fullness of grace". (28)
Ignace de la Potterie continues the exploration on a more technical level:
The dominant translation which ancient Christianity has given is very clear: the Byzantine tradition in the East and the medieval tradition in the West have seen in "kecharitomene," the indication of Mary's perfect holiness...
The verb utilized here by Luke (charitoun) is extremely rare in Greek. It is present only two times in the New Testament: in the text of Luke on the Annunciation (Luke 1:28). "kecharitomene," and in the Epistle to the Ephesians (Ephesians 1:6), "echaritosen." ... These verbs, then, effect a change of something in the person or the thing affected. Thus, the radical of the verb 'charitoo' being 'charis' (= grace), the idea which is expressed is that of a change brought about by grace. In addition the verb used by Luke is in the past participial form. "Kecharitomene" signifies then, in the person to whom the verb relates, that is, Mary, that the action of the grace of God has already brought about a change. It does not tell us how that came about. What is essential here is that it affirms that Mary has been transformed by the grace of God ...
The perfect passive participle is used by Luke to indicate that the transformation by grace has already taken place in Mary, well before the moment of the Annunciation.
In what then would this transformation of grace consist? According to the parallel text of the Letter to the Ephesians 1:6 the Christians have been 'transformed by grace' in the sense that 'according to the richness of His grace, they find redemption by his blood, the remission of sins.' (Ephesians 1:7). This grace, in reality, takes away sin. This is elucidating for our particular case. Mary is 'transformed by grace', because she has been sanctified by the grace of God. It is there, moreover, in the Church's tradition that we have the most customary translation. Sophronius of Jerusalem, for example, interprets the term ,full of grace, in this manner: 'No one has been fully sanctified as you ... ; no one has been purified in advance as you.' In addition, he takes from the total context that Mary had been 'transformed by the grace' of God in view of the task which she awaits, that of becoming the Mother of the Son of God, and to do so while remaining a virgin.
There we have the double announcement of the angel: as mother she brings to the world the Son of the Most High (v.33), but that will take place by the 'power of the Most High' (v.35), that is virginally. God had prepared Mary for this by inspiring in her the desire for virginity. This desire of Mary was then for her a result of her transformation by grace.
It is true that we do not find in the text of Luke evidence that Mary is "full of grace" from the first moment of her existence. But what in reality does the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception say? Grace has preserved Mary of all sin and of all consequences of sin (concupiscence). This is also the biblical understanding of the concept of "grace." Grace takes away sin (Ephesians 1:6-7). If it is true that Mary was entirely transformed by the grace of God, that then means that God has preserved her from sin, "purified" her, and sanctified her....
As one can notice in the schema of the structured text the theme of "being full of grace" is continued in the first proclamation, "You have found grace with God"; then follows the substance of the announcement: Mary will become the mother of the Messiah. It is apparent that Mary was "full of grace" by God in view of this maternity, and even that she was prepared, by the grace of her virginity, for her own mission, that of being the virginal mother of the Savior. (29).
Finally William Most makes an important clarification:
St. Luke used the Greek word kecharitomene, a perfect passive participle, which is a very strong form. Further, the basic verb is 'charitoo'. Verbs ending in omicron omega form a class which in general means to put a person or thing into the state indicated by the root of the verb, e.g. 'leukos' means white, leukoo means to make white. The meaning of the root of charitoo is favor or grace. Hence the verb means to put her into favor or grace. But we need to be careful. If by favor we have in mind only that God as it were sat and smiled at her, but gave her nothing, we would have the Pelagian heresy. Thus we might as well use the word grace at the start to indicate a gift He gave. Still further, the Gospel uses kecharitomene in place of her personal name, Mary. That is a usage comparable to our English pattern in which we might say of someone that he is "Mr. Tennis," meaning the ultimate in the category of tennis. So then she would be Miss Grace, the ultimate in the category of grace. (30).
(c) The Exaltation of Mary in Luke 1-2
Gabriel's greeting indicates to us that Mary is highly exalted. This theme of exaltation is continued in the rest of Luke 1 to the point that Laurentin is led to remark that "No other biblical personage has been given such strong praise":
This initial greeting of praise is prolonged throughout the accounts of the annunciation and the visitation. The Lord is with her (1:28), the Holy Spirit comes down upon her (1:35), great things are accomplished in her (1:49) thanks to her faith (1:45), and that is why, (as she herself recognizes) 'all generations will call [her] blessed' (1:48). No other biblical personage has been given such strong praise, and without anything said to the contrary.
Were it not the inspired text, one would be tempted almost to wonder whether the Christocentrism of the gospels were here in default. In Luke 1:35 the angel tells Mary, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow.' In the light of Isaiah 11:2 would it not have been more normal to say that the Holy Spirit was coming on the Emmanuel rather than on his Mother? In Luke 1:42 Elizabeth proclaims Mary's blessing before that of her Son and adds, 'Why should I be honoured with a visit from the Mother of my Lord?' even though the honour that falls to her is actually the visit of the Lord rather than of the Mother. She adds, 'For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy,' even though in reality the benefit of the visitation is to be attributed to the action of Mary's child rather than to Mary's voice. That Mary should thus be placed in the forefront is most astonishing and gives food for reflection to those who fear that they do Christ some offense in exalting his Mother." (31).
The veneration of Mary indicated in these passages of Scripture provided a sound basis for Marian devotion for the Christian community from the beginning. John McHugh says in addition:
There is nothing improbable in the suggestion that the early Christians sang hymns of praise in honour of Mary. We know that St. John's disciples in particular searched' (darash) the Scriptures (Jn 2:22; 5:39; 7:38,42; 10:35; 13:18; 17:12; 19:24, 28, 36,37; 20:9) to discover hidden references to Jesus in the Old Testament; indeed, many authors think that the Fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse look upon Mary as filling the role assigned to the woman mentioned in Genesis 3:15. That her special rank was acknowledged by the Church is implied by the text of the Magnificat, where Luke says that 'from this present time, (1:48b) all generations will call her blessed. Could Luke have written that phrase if, at the time when he was writing (A.D. 70-80), his own generation had not begun to call her blessed? The text of Lk 1:42 would seem conclusive proof that the early Church expressed its reverence for the mother Of its Lord by singing hymns in her honour. (32).
(d) "I know not man": A vow of virginity
Luke 1:34 "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" has traditionally been considered a reference by Mary to a vow of life-long virginity. Laurentin notes that here we must "recognize the present tense 'I do not know' as having to do with a condition rather than an instant of time. To give an example, if someone to whom a cigarette is offered replies, 'I don't smoke,' he is understood to mean 'I never smoke' and not 'I am not smoking right now.'" (33)
Manelli's comments on this verse are instructive:
Confronted by this [the angel Gabriel's] wondrous announcement, however, the Virgin finds herself embarrassed; not because of the sublime greatness of the majesty announced to her, but rather for the way in which such a maternity might be realized. The embarasoment would seem inexplicable because, on any reasonable grounds, she is precisely a woman in ideal conditions to conceive a son. She is the young spouse of Joseph. What young spouse would not be inclined to desire a beautiful son? It is obvious, therefore, and must be acknowledged that Mary's difficulty stems from a precise commitmentvow or promise"not to know man", that is, to be and remain a virgin. St. Augustine rightly says, that "Mary certainly would not have spoken those words if she had not vowed her virginity to God." In fact, only by admitting Mary's virginal consecration to God, can it be understood why she found herself facing an unsolvable dilemma: How to reconcile her virginal offering to God with the request of maternity on the part of God? How could she become a mother without betraying a promise of virginal consecration to God.
Some scholars find such a dilemma implausible, because a proposal entailing virginal life in those days seems inconceivable. But Laurentin convincingly refutes this and affirms that in any case "Mary was so spiritually endowed as to be in the vanguary undertaking such an engagement."
As for any point concerning the vow or proposal of virginity on Mary's part, we must consider convincing and definitive the wide-ranging and detailed study of G. Graystone. His solid, final conclusion is this: "After much reflection we believe that the traditional, interpretation [that is, on the subject of Mary's virginity], as we have argued it above, offers the only reasonable and satisfying explanation of Mary's words." (34).
The question of Mary's perpetual virginity will be discussed elsewhere but here it is only important to recognize that this verse is relevant to the discussion. The conclusive evidence in favor of interpreting this saying of Mary as an indication of a vow of virginity is the fact that it was accepted by almost all of Christendom as it was by Fathers of the Church ranging from Ambrose and Augustine in the West to Gregory of Nyasa in the East in the 4th century.
1. Marie E. Isaacs, "Mary in the Lucan Infancy Narrative," The Way, Summer 1975, pp. 82-83.
2. Stefano Manelli, All Generations Shall Call He Blessed (New Bedford, Massachussetts: Academy of the Inmaculate, 1995), pp.363-369.
3. Ignace de la Potterie, Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant (New York: Alba House, 1992), P. 262
4. John de Satge, Down to Earth: The Now Protestant Vision of the Virgin Mary (Consortium, 1976), P. 111.
5. Ralph Russell, "The Blessed Virgin Mary in the Bible" in Mary's Place in Christian Dialogue, edited by Alberic Stacpoole (Middlegreen, Slough: St. Paul Publications, 1982), pp.45-7.
6. Rene Laurentin, A Short Treatise on the Virgin Mary (Washington, New Jersey: AMI Press, 1991). pp.269-271
7. Stefano Manelli, All Generations Shall Call He Blessed, pp.81-83, 89.
8. Stefano Manelli, All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed, pp.35-71 39l 41-2.
9. William G. Most, "Mary Coredemptrix in Scripture: Cooperation in Redemption" in Mary Corademptrix mediatrix Advocate: Theological Foundations edited by Mark I. Miravalle (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing, 1995), pp.150-1.
10. Stefano Manelli, All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed, pp.46-48.
11. Marie E. Isaacs, "Mary in the Lucan Infancy Narrative," p.91.
12. Rene Laurentin, A Short Treatise on the Virgin Mary (Washington, New Jersey: AMI Press, 1991), pp.278-9, 281.
13. Mark I. Miravalle, Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing, 1993), pp.58-59.
14. John McHugh, The Mother of Jesus in the New Testament (New York: Doubleday, 1975), p. 78.
15. Ignace de la Potterie, Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant (New York: Alba House, 1992), p. 189-190.
16. John McHugh, The Mother of Jesus in the New Testament, p.25.
17. Ignace de la Potterie, Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant, p. 48.
18. Ignace de la Potterie, Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant, p. 203.
19. Cited in Rene Laurentin, A Short Treatise on the Virgin Mary, p.25.
20. Ignace de la Potterie, Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant, pp.14-16.
21. Rene Laurentin, A Short Treatise on the Virgin Mary, pp.25-26.
22. John McHugh, The Mother of Jesus in the Now Testament, pp.41-21 p.76.
23. Rene Laurentin, A Short Treatise on the Virgin Mary, pp.27-30.
24. Stefano Manelli, All Generations Shall Call No Blessed, p.152.
25. John McHugh, The Mother of Jesus in the Now Testnt, pp.57-58.
26. Rene Laurentin, A Short Treatise on the Virgin Mary, pp.34-35.
27. Rene Laurentin, A Short Treatise on the Virgin Mary, p.20.
28. Stefano Manelli, All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed, p.131-2.
29. Ignace de la Potterie, Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant, pp.17-20.
30. William G. Most, "Mary Coredemptrix in Scripture: Cooperation in Redemption", p.150.
31. Rene Laurentin, A Short Treatise on the Virgin Mary, p.20-21.
32. John McHugh, The Mother of Jesus in the Now Testament, p.71.
33. Rene Lautentin, A Short Treatise an the Virgin Mary, p.285.
34. Stefano Manelli, All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed, p.137-140.
Scripture's Seven-Splendored Story Of Mary
It is a hard fact of history that Marian doctrine and devotion have been an indivisible part of Christian beliefboth in the East and the Westfor 20 centuries. Any criticism of Marian doctrine or devotion must overcome this "hard fact." If Christians have been consistently wrong for 20 centuries on their interpretation of Scripture and the Gospel message then there is no guarantee that they will be right on anything. If the Holy Spirit has not been leading them for all these centuries, there is no reason to believe that the Holy Spirit guides anybody. This must be considered by any critic of Marian doctrine before he sharpens his knives.
The primary sources of Marian doctrine and devotion are the following: the earliest Tradition of the Church which in the first four centuries served as the main framework of instruction for believers prior to the fixing of the canon of Scripture;
Sacred Scripture; the inner dynamic of Christianity as this emerged through the authoritative interpretation of Scripture by the Councils and creeds; the liturgy which reflected the Apostolic Faith; the reflections of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church; the testimony of the Saints and Martyrs; the consensus of the faithful. United with all of this also was the living experience of Mary enjoyed by millions.
In understanding the Mary of the historic Christian Faith we will start with a study of the Mary of Scripture who is also the Mary of doctrine and devotion. Scripture's story of Mary is a story of seven splendors:
The Salvific SplendorGod's Promise of a Second Eve Whose Seed will Crush Satan
"And the Lord God said unto the serpent, ... I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise his heel." [Genesis 3:14,15]
[Christians have historically believed that the "woman" referred to in this prophecy of salvation is Mary and her "seed" of course is Jesus. In his last sermon in Wittenberg, Martin Luther echoes the Christian teaching that the Woman of Genesis 1 is Mary:
"Is Christ only to be adored? Or is the holy Mother of God rather not to be honoured? This is the woman who crushed the Serpent's head." Ancient Jewish commentaries on the Old Testament called the Targums have also drawn attention to the prophetic nature of this passage.]
The Prophetic Splendorthe Prophecy of the Virgin Birth "The Lord spake again unto Ahaz, saying, Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord. And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." [Isaiah 7:10-14].
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever." [Isaiah 9:6-7].
The Maternal SplendorMary, Daughter of the Father, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Mother of the Son
"The angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and 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 his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. ... The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. ... And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." [Luke 1:26-33, 35,38].
"Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost." (Matthew 1:18]. "Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: and she spake out with a loud voice, and said, blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? ... And blessed is she that believed.,' [Luke 2:41-43,45].
"And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary ... A sword shall pierce through thy own soul also." [Luke 2:34-35].
"And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them." [Luke 2:51)
The Merciful SplendorMary in the Public Ministry of Jesus
"And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine ... His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." (John 2:3,5]
The Sorrowful SplendorMary at the Foot of the Cross
Crowned as the Mother of All the Faithful
"Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother ... When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son. Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother." [John 19:25-27].
The Holy SplendorMary at Pentecost
"These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication. with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus ... And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. ... And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost." [Acts 1:14, 2:3-4].
The Heavenly Splendorthe Second Eve Continues Her Mission in the War with the Dragon
"And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried ... 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 the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ, (Revelation 12]. [Since the Son here is clearly Jesus, His mother, the Woman, is just as clearly Mary. Those who acknowledge the "man child" as referring to Jesus but say (in sheer opposition to the text) that the mother is Nation Israel or the messianic people must answer this difficulty raised by Ignace de la Potterie: "If the Woman who gives birth is the Woman Zion, the messianic people, and if her infant is the Christ, the Messiah, is it not strange to propose in this manner a collective interpretation for the mother and an individual interpretation for her son? ... When one considers all that has been said, notably about this Old Testament figure of a woman which provided the background thought from which several evangelical texts have spoken of Mary, it seems impossible that the first Christian generation and all the subsequent ecclesial tradition did not also give, in this broader framework, a Marian interpretation to the victorious Woman of Revelation 12. In fact, that is precisely what has happened."] This seven-splendored story was the story of Mary that the Fathers of the Church and all Christians for 1600 years saw in Scripture and this is still the story grasped by the vast majority of Christians to this day in the Holy Bible. The glorious tapestry of Mary's mission woven in the Word of God gave rise to the great Marian titles and devotions of the centuries.
The Fathers recognized in Mary a bridge between the Old and the New Testaments, a Second Eve whose cooperation with the Second Adam was foretold and fulfilled. For our part, we cannot know the truth about Mary if we do not contemplate and appropriate each one of the seven Scriptural splendors of Mary. If Mary is seen in the light of only one or a few of the seven splendors the Mary we see is not the Mary of either Scripture or the historic Christian faith (the Mary of the Fundamentalists, for instance, is simply a caricature of the Scriptural Mary because it focuses simply on one aspect of one Splendor, the Virgin Birth, and ignores all the other splendors.)