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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mary as an Image of the Church

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The destiny of the Church is wrapped up in the destiny of Mary. Mary shares an intimate role as a type for the Church. She shares in the many paradoxes that our faith expresses For it is Mary who brought forth the body of Christ, yet the Body of Christ is mystically one with the Church of which Mary is a part.

We meet Mary for the first time at the Annunciation, being approached by an angel and consenting to the Will of the Father to allow the Holy Spirit to overshadow her and bring forth the Son of God. Mary then travels to Judea where the Holy Spirit is communicated through her greeting of Elizabeth . This event is repeated with the Twelve Apostles at Pentecost. Angels appear promising the return of Jesus . The Holy Spirit then comes upon the Apostles and then through their preaching and Baptism, the Holy Spirit is given to those who hear them .

At the visitation, Elizabeth proclaims that Mary is "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb !” This phrase “blessed are you” brings promises from the Old Testament that are fulfilled in the New by both Mary and the Church. This phrase points us back to only two women in the Old Testament who received a similar blessing. They received this blessing because both women, Jael and Judith had defeated the enemy of their people by destroying the general of the enemy’s camp by a blow to the head . This blessing is now being given to Mary who is fulfilling the prophecy of Genesis 3 “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel .” Moses records this prophecy as a curse against the serpent who is the devil , that one day a woman would come whose seed would destroy the devil and those who follow him. This crushing of the devil finds its fulfillment not only in our Lady but again in the Church. St. Paul tells the Romans, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet .”

Just as Mary became the dwelling place of God on Earth, so the church does the same. Mary in the most physical way, by being the Mother of God is temple, because it is in her the God chooses to dwell when the Holy Spirit overshadowed her . At the birth of Our Lord, it is Mary who brings Him forth and places Him in a manger giving us a figure of Christ in the Eucharist who came that we might consume Him. Likewise the Church, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit , through the priesthood gives us Christ in the Eucharist for our adoration and salvation.

In the Gospel of John, Mary is presented as a New Eve who will cooperate in the restoration of men and women and God and men . This role is fulfilled as well in the Church. John opens his Gospel with, “In the beginning… ” to put us in the mindset of that first creation . In that first creation there were two covenants made, one between God and Man and the other between man and woman. The covenant between God and Man is made when God fathers man, “in our image, after our likeness” . The covenant between man and woman is established at the creation of woman. God takes from the side of Adam a rib and from it creates his bride, Woman, saying, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh .”

As we soon find out, sin corrupts both of these covenants. There is a struggle now between not only man and woman, but between man and all men. There is now also contention between God and men.

In the Gospel of John, Mary is present at the restoration of both covenants, though never called ‘Mary’ by Jesus, she is seen in the eyes of Jesus as being a New Eve and is called ‘Woman’. At the wedding at Cana, when the wine runs dry, we see Mary who intercedes for the wedding couple and tells Jesus of the problem. Jesus’ response points us to his work on the cross, "O woman… My hour has not yet come. " He then proceeds to bring about his first miracle and blesses the marriage with not only the best wine but in superabundance. It is here at this miracle, through the intercession of the ‘woman’ with the New Adam that the church “sees in it the confirmation of the goodness of marriage and the proclamation that thenceforth marriage will be an efficacious sign of Christ's presence .”

Mary appears one more time in the Gospel of John at the Redemption. While Jesus is on the Cross He addresses Mary as ‘woman’ and it is at the cross that Jesus and Mary beget children not in any natural way but in a supernatural way. “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home .” Then John reports another event that coincides with Jesus’ words to his mother “But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water .” This event is seen by the church as the moment of its birth, “"For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth the 'wondrous sacrament of the whole Church.'" As Eve was formed from the sleeping Adam's side, so the Church was born from the pierced heart of Christ hanging dead on the cross .”

So we see that at both the wedding at Cana and the Cross there is the New Adam and the New Eve reconciling both covenants between woman and man and God and Men.

Finally, in brief, just as Mary was taken into heaven body and soul and was glorified, so the Church will one day be taken up in the Resurrection, body and soul, and be glorified.

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