Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God
January 1, 2019
Nm 6:22-27; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21.
Let us take this occasion to reflect on the Biblical passages on the Blessed Mother. The earliest passage is found in Gen. 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” These words were addressed by YHWH to the serpent right after Adam and Eve disobeyed God, the promise of redemption immediately after the sin. The first to note is the word ‘enmity’, i.e., no friendship, no contact, between the devil (Rev 12:9) and the woman, Satan’s seed and the woman’s seed. The woman’s seed is a “he”, a masculine singular pronoun explicit in the Hebrew. “He” will crash the serpent’s head while the serpent is helpless at his heel. After the fulfilment of this promise, we know that the Woman is Mary and her seed that strikes the head of the serpent is the Messiah, her Son, Jesus. Since there is enmity between the Woman and the serpent, she is untouched by sin and, therefore, immaculate. If we are under the maternal protection of Mary, Satan would not be able to defeat us. That is why the missionaries very often placed their missions under the patronage of Mary. There is also enmity between the serpent and the Son of Mary and He will strike his head. Both the Woman and her Son defeat Satan.
The second passage to consider is Isaiah 7:14, “A maiden shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” The Hebrew says ‘almah’, i.e., maiden, a single woman. When the Jews themselves translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek, the Septuagint, some two hundred years B.C., they used ‘parthenos’, i.e., ‘virgin’. In the Greek New Testament, Matthew copied ‘parthenos’, thus our translation into English is ‘virgin’. (We can make an observation here: that within the Old Testament there was already a progression of revelation, that the Mother of the Messiah was not only a maiden, but was to be a virgin.) In Matthew 1:20-23, the angel explains to Joseph that Mary is untouched by any man, but that the Holy Spirit effected this pregnancy in her. Thus, her virginity is intact. Since it was the Holy Spirit who put this baby in her womb, it will also be the Holy Spirit who will take him out at his nativity, without doing harm to her virginity. Thus, all the Fathers of the Church taught that Mary was virgin ‘before, during and after’ the birth of Jesus. (Right here let us make our act of faith on the Virginity of the Blessed Mother.)
The next we will listen to is the Archangel Gabriel who greets Mary saying, “Rejoice, full of grace. The Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). The Greek word is “kekaritomene” and St. Jerome translated it “full of grace.” If Mary is ‘full’ of grace, there is no space not occupied by grace, nor space for sin; again she is clearly sinless, immaculate. And because she is full of grace, the Lord is with her. Furthermore, the Lord will be in her, because she will conceive and bear the Son of the Most High. “Most High” in Hebrew “El Elyon” was the name of God known to Abraham: it was clear to Mary that she will bear the Son of the God of Abraham. This son of hers will take ‘the throne of David’, ‘rule over the house of Jacob’, and ‘his kingdom will have no end’; her Son will be king and forever. This gives us a glimpse of Mary’s Queenship. Her Motherhood will be effected by the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” The verbs used show us that the power does not come from creation but from the Creator: from above to overshadow. God is operative in this work of the birth of the Savior and the Savior himself is God. Here we understand that Mary is Mother of God. God who wanted to save us humans chose to be born human and chose his human mother and that was Mary. To this request from God Mary gave a resounding “YES” and allowed God to carry out his plan for our salvation.
As soon as Mary said ‘yes’ to God, the Baby began to form in her womb and he would be only a week old when Mary started to move towards Ein Karem, the village of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Let us follow her as she travelled through the dusty roads and the hills from Galilee through Samaria and into the hill country of Judah. She was carrying the Son of God in her womb and this was perceived by the baby John the Baptist when Mary greeted Elizabeth, such that he leapt in the womb of his mother. What do we see? Mary was like the Ark of the Covenant carrying God and his physical presence among men. The Ark contained the Tablet of the Commandments and Jesus is the God who gave the commandments. Inside the Ark was a jug of Manna (Ex 16:33-34), and Jesus is the Bread of Life. The staff of Aaron the High Priest that sprouted and bloomed (Nm 17:23-25) was also kept inside the Ark, and Jesus is the Eternal High Priest. John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb perceived all that and he leapt for joy because “the Mother of my Lord has come to me”. As Mary travelled, God the Son was visiting his own creation and was walking among his people carried by Mary, the Ark of the Covenant. We should perceive something similar as on the ninth month, Joseph and Mary would travel towards Bethlehem.
At the stable of Bethlehem, we see Mary and the Baby in the manger. Mary has given birth to the Son of God and truly she is the Mother of God made man and his name is Jesus because he saves us from sin, death and Satan.