Category Archives: Virgin Mary

The Centrality of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Dec. 3, 2019

Advent is a good time to meditate upon the central role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the conception and nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, that is, the central role of Mary in our redemption. 

As Marino Restrepo was being held hostage for six months in 1997 by Columbian FARC rebels and near death, he had a great mystical experience of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary. In his testimony, he describes a vision of the Virgin Mary to whom he was united by “a spiritual umbilical cord.” He further testifies to her centrality: “Everything that I was receiving from Heaven went through her first. Similarly, everything that emerged from my heart and moved towards Heaven passed through her.” Mr. Restrepo experienced what the Catechism calls the “motherhood of Mary in the order of grace” as the “Mediatrix.” (CCC no. 969; Lumen Gentium 62) That is, the sanctifying grace of Jesus Christ is distributed to us through the intercession and mediation of the Virgin Mary. 

We see this in the Incarnation. God willed for the Son not to be manifested directly, but to be born through Mary. God the Creator manifests himself through the intermediary of his creature. The Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and she conceived Jesus and nourished his body through a physical umbilical cord. When the Holy Spirit comes upon us in faith and the sacraments, spiritual nourishment is given to us as the Mystical Body of Christ. Mary is the spouse of the Holy Spirit, who produces the Mystical Body of Christ in each soul by way of a spiritual umbilical cord. Jesus attests to this spiritual conception and birth: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (Jn. 3:6) The Virgin Mary is literally our spiritual mother by order of grace to those who are the children of God. 

St. Louis de Montfort speaks of the important intercession and mediation of the Virgin Mary as seen in the typology of Rebekah, the wife of Isaac, in the Old Testament. In the Book of Genesis, Jacob, the younger son, claims the blessing his father Isaac, and all the inheritance that entails, rather than the rightful inheritor, the first-born son Esau. Jacob puts on the garments of Esau and tricks the father Isaac into blessing him instead. These are typologies for Christ and us. Esau, as the first-born son of the father, and rightful inheritor of the father’s blessing, is a typology of Christ, the first-born Son of God the Father. Jacob, on the other hand, as the younger son, who puts on the garments of Esau, and receives the blessing of the father, is a typology for us, as Christians. We are not worthy of receiving the blessing of God the Father and his inheritance, but only through “putting on Christ” (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 13:14) are we blessed by God the Father and receive the inheritance of eternal life. By putting on Christ in Baptism and the sacraments, we receive Christ’s “white garments”of sanctifying grace of purity and righteousness (Rev. 3:18). This is the idea of substitution found through the Old Testament that the younger son receives the merits due to the first-born. This finds its fulfillment in the New Testament where Christ the first-born Son’s garments are given to us. Our unworthiness is substituted with Christ’s worthiness. 

The typologies found in Genesis with Jacob, Esau, and Isaac extend to Rebekah too. It is Rebekah, a type for the Virgin Mary, who instigates the blessing upon Jacob. It is Rebekah who takes the “best garments”of the first-born son Esau and “puts them on”the younger son Jacob, as the text reads: “Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her older son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son.” (Gen. 27:15) It is Rebekah, behind the scenes, directing Jacob to put on Esau’s garments and receive the blessing of the father Isaac. Rebekah helps the quiet Jacob, who stays home with her, over the strong, self-serving hunter, Esau. St. Louis de Montfort equates Jacob with the righteous and Esau with the reprobate. In fulfillment of this typology, it is the Virgin Mary who comes to aid the faithful and devout Christian and clothes us with the garments of her Son, Jesus Christ, the first-born, in order to secure the blessing of God the Father and inherit eternal life. As St. Louis de Montfort wrote in True Devotion to Mary: “She clothes us in the clean, new, precious and perfumed garments of Esau the elder – that is, of Jesus Christ her Son – which she keeps in her house, that is, which she has in her own power, inasmuch as she is the treasurer and universal dispenser of the merits and virtues of her Son, which she gives and communicates to whom she will . . .” Just as Rebekah clothed Jacob with the finest garments of Esau to secure the blessing of Isaac the father, so too, does the Virgin Mary clothe us with the finest garments of Christ’s sanctifying grace in order to secure for us the blessing of God the Father for eternal life in Heaven.   

St. Louis de Montfort calls Mary our “mediator with the Mediator.” The world, he says, is unworthy to receive directly from God himself so it receives grace through the intermediary of Mary, just as the world received the Incarnation of the Son, not directly, but through the intermediary of Mary. The Incarnation, and thus the Redemption, happened through Mary, and so, the on-going redemption of man continues to happen through the mediation of the Virgin Mary.  

The life of Christ attests to her centrality too. Jesus lived in humble obedience in the house of Mary for thirty years! Think of that. He lived solely honoring his mother for the vast majority of his earthly life. This is the example par excellencefor us. If she was good enough for the Son of God to remain in humble obedience to for thirty years, surely we too should commit ourselves to honoring her. The angel Gabriel greeted Mary with the angelic salutation, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” (Lk. 1:28) If Heaven greets Mary in such a way, as one full of grace and conceived without sin, surely we should invoke the Immaculate Virgin Mary in such a way too. The Annunciation is after all the moment of the Incarnation. In praying the Rosary, we are glorifying the work of God in the Incarnation. The Virgin Mary is the mother of the Incarnation and the Redemption. Mary points always to him. It is to Jesus through Mary, as she commands, “Do whatever he tells you.” 

The beginning of Genesis frames the main struggle through history. The enmity that God speaks of in Genesis 3:15 is primarily between the serpent and “the woman.” The original woman, Eve, is another type for the second Eve, Mary. Adam and Eve were the original progenitors of humanity and source of Original Sin. Jesus and Mary are the spiritual progenitors of the children of God and the fixers of sin. In perfect symmetry, God wills the redemption of man through the new Adam, Jesus, and the new Eve, Mary. The sin of Eve is undone in the obedience of Mary. The first woman was instrumental in the fall, and the second woman is instrumental in the redemption. And, this redemption is ongoing. It is “the woman,” Mary who mediates Jesus’s first miracle at Cana, and it is “the woman” Mary, who Jesus entrusts the beloved Apostle John to from the Cross. The ancient enmity between the serpent and the woman reaches its final, apocalyptic climax in Revelation with “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev. 12:1) This is followed by the portent of “a great red dragon” whose head she will crush. 

The enmity between the woman and the dragon is alluded to in the symbols of St. John Bosco’s prophetic dream of the two great columns: One great column has the Blessed Virgin Mary on the top of it, and on the other greater, taller column is the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. The two great columns secure “the ship” of the Church under “waves” of attacks by the world, as he explained the vision, “Only two means are left to save her amidst so much confusion: devotion to Mary Most Holy and frequent Communion.” This seems more relevant now than ever before. 

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Kecharitomene – March 1, 2019

The word “kecharitomene” (κεχαριτωμένη) is used only once in the Greek New Testament.  It does not appear anywhere else in Greek literature.  The Gospel writer, Luke, appears to have created it out of thin air. This Greek word is, in some respects, very much reminiscent of another Greek word seemingly created out of thin air in the Gospels, “epiousios” (ἐπιούσιον), which also only appears in Jesus’ Our Father prayer.  Epiousios is translated as our “daily” bread but its literal meaning is our “super-substantial” bread, as translated in the Douay-Rheims bible, based off of St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate translation.  It was a special, singular word to express a special, singular phenomenon – the Bread of Life.  Epiousios is translated in most modern translations as “daily,” however, the literal meaning that St. Jerome conveyed, hints at the Eucharist, the bread above material substance.  

In a similar manner, Mary is a special, singular creature in Salvation History.  She became the Tabernacle where Christ would dwell. Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant where God would dwell in her womb.  Christ, the Son of God, was clearly without sin and second Person of the Trinity.  How could Jesus a Person of the Godhead dwell anywhere but somewhere immaculately pure and clean?  He could not co-dwell somewhere with sin.  That is impossible.  The archangel Gabriel came to the Virgin Mary at the moment of the Annunciation and declared to her, “Hail, full of grace.” (Lk. 1:28)  He seems to address her more with a title than descriptive language.  He addresses her more for who she is rather than what she is.  Who is she?  She is “full of grace.”  Eighteen hundred years later, Mary came to St. Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France referring to herself as, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”  Mary was reiterating the words of Gabriel in Luke 1:28.  The Immaculate Conception is the one full of grace.

How could one have been “full of grace” before the life, death, and resurrection of Christ? According to Ineffabilis Deus, Mary was given the sanctifying grace of Jesus Christ, her Son, by way of anticipation of His Redemption.  This is the underlying teaching of the Immaculate Conception.  Mary was preserved from Original Sin to make her a suitable dwelling place for the Second Person of the Trinity.  The Immaculate Conception made possible the Incarnation.  The Annunciation led directly to the Incarnation, as Mary gave her fiat to do the will of the Lord. Kecharitomene is the Greek word St. Luke used for the angel Gabriel’s address to Mary as “full of grace.”  In the Rosary, we pray over and over, these special and singular words of the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation and the Incarnation, “Hail Mary, full of grace.”  We are invoking the name of Mary, Kecharitomene, over and over again.  She is “Full of Grace” and “the Immaculate Conception.”  Mary is the Theotokos, the Mother of God, “the woman,” who crushes the head of the serpent, through her seed, the Messiah.  Kecharitomene was that blip in the matrix, where the devil was undone.  Sin was undone in one creature, preserved in grace, in order to bear the Savior of the world.  

Just another reason to pray your five decades of the Rosary every day!        

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The Woman and the Two – 27 March 2018

There has been a lot of discussion recently about women, from the “Weinstein Effect” to #MeToo. Misogyny in our culture is on notice, and the idea of womanhood has come to the forefront. In many respects, we have never before seen a moment like this focused on the dignity of women.

Perhaps it is time the modern world should look towards an older idea of womanhood, that which permeates our Catholic faith.

From the very beginning of scripture to the very end we find ‘the woman.’ Christians often quote lines from the Old Testament and the prophets regarding the Savior to come. This is all true, but it is not the whole story. The prophetic announcements tell of two intertwined together on behalf of our salvation. In the first moments in Genesis after the fall, God declares to the wicked serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.”

There is some dispute how to best translate the next line in the passage, specifically if it should be “he” and “his” or “she” and “her.” But, St. Jerome in translating this from the ancient Hebrew, Greek, and Latin texts chose to translate it as “she” and “her” as the most accurate. The Douay-Rheims translation based on the Latin Vulgate into English renders it “she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.” This was reaffirmed by other Church Fathers and in Ineffabilis Deus on the Immaculate Conception as “unmistakable evidence that she crushed the poisonous head of the serpent.”

The effect is the same. The woman through her seed shall crush the head of the serpent. That is, the Virgin Mary through Jesus Christ shall crush the head of Satan. Jesus is the divine Redeemer, and Mary the creature, but the two together crush Satan, and bring hope of eternal life. This is downplayed in our protestantized modern Christianity. The prophet Isaiah talks of the two as well, a virgin who will bear a son. The fall came at the hands of two, and in God’s beautiful symmetry, the restoration also comes at the hands of two.

The Virgin Mary is the masterpiece of God’s creation. She is conceived without sin, the sanctifying grace of her Son applied to her by way of anticipation, but to the rest of humanity by deliverance. She is unique in all of creation. Mary told St. Bernadette at Lourdes “I am the Immaculate Conception.” In the heavenly vision to St. Catherine Laboure at Rue du Bac, later forged into the miraculous medal, Mary is standing on the head of the serpent, seemingly answering the question of pronouns in the protoevangelium.

We find ‘the woman’ again at a wedding feast in Cana. The two together, Jesus and Mary, co-launch Jesus’ first miracle and his public ministry. When the wedding party ran out of wine, Mary looks knowingly at Jesus saying, “They have no wine.” In that one short sublime sentence Mary asks Jesus to perform his first open miracle, and begin his public work of salvation. This is Mary’s first act of motherly mediation too for her spiritual children. Jesus knows what she is asking but answers, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” He addresses his mother as the archetype ‘woman’ acknowledging her prophetic role. Yet, Mary continues to direct the servants to “do whatever he tells you.” Jesus is the Son of God, he is in charge, but he defers out of respect and love for his mother.

At last, at the final stroke of the salvific drama, Jesus addresses ‘the woman,’ this time from the Cross, saying “woman, behold your son,” and to John, “behold your mother.” Mary, ‘the woman,’ became, by order of grace, the spiritual mother of all the living. And, Mary is still our mother. Is it any wonder that our Lady still comes to us at Guadalupe, Lourdes, and Fatima to remind us over the centuries “do whatever he tells you”?

St. Louis de Montfort called the Incarnation the “greatest event in the whole history of the world.” It is ‘the woman’ who is central to the Annunciation, which leads to the Incarnation and the Redemption. At that critical moment, God sends the Archangel Gabriel to Mary, and he greets her with the Angelic Salutation, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you” and “blessed are you among women.” In ‘the woman,’ who alone is full of grace, the inherited link of sin is broken. The serpent can only lie in wait of her heel, and only enmity remains between them.

It was not until Mary’s fiat, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord,” that God became man. God made his Incarnation dependent upon the woman. This set in motion the whole drama of the Redemption. This greatest moment in the history of the world, the Incarnation, is memorialized in the prayer of the Rosary. Every time we pray the words of the Rosary, which are the words of the Angelic Salutation, we are greeting and honoring Mary again, just as the heavenly ambassador did. We are praying over and over again the words of the Incarnation. In it, we are reliving and honoring that unique theandric event, when the Word became flesh in the woman. In short, the Rosary is the Incarnation in prayer form.

‘The woman’ is at Eden; she is at Cana; and she is at Golgotha. And, ‘the woman’ appears again at the very end of time, with the great unveiling of the apocalypse, the final bookend to salvation history: “And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” Our spiritual Mother appears as Queen of heaven, offering intercession for her children even to the last moment.

St. Pope John Paul II highlights this in Redemptoris Mater. He declares that the Virgin Mary was “not only the ‘nursing mother’ of the Son of Man but also the ‘associate of unique nobility.'” One of the great modern errors is that Mary was just a human vessel to birth Jesus. Mary did provide Jesus with his physical flesh and blood, hence the profound link between the devotions to the Virgin Mary and the Eucharist. But, Mary’s maternal mediation was much more in the order of grace. She was, and is, a collaborator with her Son in the work of salvation, as the encyclical states: “Mary’s motherhood itself underwent a singular transformation” with “‘burning charity,’ which sought to achieve, in union with Christ, the restoration of ‘supernatural life to souls.'”

In this time of women, let us remember ‘the woman.’ The Virgin Mary is the fulfillment of that original dignity in our preternatural past. She offers us the example par excellence of holiness and virtue. Mary is the Theotokos, and based on that unique grace of who she is, her intercession for us is most efficacious. Through our devotion to her, she will crush the head of Satan in our lives. She is the Queen mediating on behalf of our salvation before the throne of the King.

This is why we pray: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

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