MARY, BLESSED VIRGIN
As the mother of the Savior, Mary gained a prominent position in the salvation history. She is the second Eve, the woman who would strike the head of Satan along with her offspring (Gen 3:15).
MARY’S IMMACULATE CONCEPTION / “FULL OF GRACE”
God created Adam and Eve sinless. Similarly, God allowed the New Adam, Jesus and the New Eve, Mary, to be free from the stain of Original Sin by birth. Only a non-contaminated container can hold a sterile medicine for treatment. Similarly, God kept Mary sinless from the moment of her conception so that she could become the new ark of God’s divine presence in her womb. For that reason, the angel greeted Mary, “full of grace” (Lk 1:28).
MARY’S NATIVITY (SEPTEMBER 8)
The church in Constantinople first fixed September eight as the feast day of the nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That church selected this date because September one was the new year day in Constantinople and the church wanted to celebrate the birth of Mary close to the new year as the beginning of Christ’s salvific ministry. This feast was introduced in Rome in the seventh century. Based on this date, the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary was later fixed on December eight, which is nine months prior to September eight.
According to non-Biblical books, Mary’s parents Joachim and Anne were childless. God gave them an extraordinary child in their old age, as it happened to Abraham’s wife Sarah. Joachim and Anne had promised to God that they would entrust their child to the Temple for the Lord’s service. So, they brought Mary, when she was three years old, to the Temple and offered her as they had promised before her birth. While Mary grew up in the Temple, her aged parents died. A girl could not continue in the Temple once she attained puberty. So, between the age of 12 and 15, the priests betrothed her to Joseph, whom God had selected to marry her. So, Joseph took Mary from Jerusalem to Nazareth.
According to the apocryphal book, “The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary,” the blessed mother had made a vow of virginity at the Temple of Jerusalem while living there from the age of three. Hence, she asked Angel Gabriel how she, a lifelong virgin, could give birth to a child. This was also the fulfillment of another prophecy: “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel” (Isa 7:14). Thus, the virgin birth became a prophetic sign of the Messiah’s arrival. The Catholic Church and some other churches believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary.
VIRGIN BIRTH BY MARY
From the gospel accounts, it is not clear how Mary gave birth to Jesus without losing her virginity. The Theologians differ in assuming how this happened. Regardless of whether Jesus’ birth was by opening the womb of Mary for a normal childbirth or by a miraculous birth without opening the womb of Mary does not affect the virginity of Mary because the virginity loses not by birth or by any other cause, but by sexual union. In Mary’s case, this did not happen.
The ever-virgin motherhood of Mary is a miracle. Fathers of the Church taught Jesus was born while his mother’s womb remained closed as a virgin. Theologians compared such a birth of Jesus to sun rays penetrating through glass. Since the Blessed Virgin Mary was born free from original sin, she was exempt from the punishment God gave to Eve. “I will intensify your toil in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Gen 3:16). So, the Fathers of the Church believed Mary was free from pain when she gave birth to Jesus.
Mary, in her apparition in Mexico on 12 December 1531 to Juan Bernardino, said that the church should title her as “The Ever Virgin, Holy Mary of Guadalupe.” Thus, she herself has revealed her virginity.
Angel Gabriel greeted Mary, stating “Hail full of grace” (Lk 1:28). Hail means “Ave” the reversal of the Latin word Eva for Eve. Mary reversed the situation of humanity by her obedience to God. Eve, the mother of all, caused death by her disobedience. Mary, the spiritual mother of all the faithful, brought life to the world. So according to Serarius, “Ave” means life.
MARY AND ELIZABETH
Elizabeth came from the lineage of Aaron belonging to the tribe of Levi. Mary was from the family of David, belonging to the tribe of Judah. So, they must be relatives on the maternal side. The tribes of Israel did not intermarry. However, there were marriages between the tribes of Levi and Judah, the priestly and the royal tribes.
Angel Gabriel gave Elizabeth’s unusual pregnancy as a proof for Mary to believe in her virgin motherhood. It was also a hint to assist Elizabeth during her old-age pregnancy. Mary believed the angel’s words and went to serve Elizabeth. Her visit helped to fulfill the prophecy of the angel to Zechariah that John “will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb” (Lk 1:15). That happened when Mary visited Elizabeth.
PURIFICATION OF MARY
According to the Mosaic Law, there was a period of ritual uncleanness for a woman who had just delivered. “When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male child, she shall be unclean for seven days as in the days of her monthly periods” (Lev 12:2). Even after completing the seven days of uncleanness, “she shall wait for thirty-three days to be purified of her bleeding. She shall not touch anything that is consecrated nor enter the sanctuary until the days of her purification are completed” (Lev 2:4). If the child was female, the duration of uncleanliness was 14 days, and the state of blood purity was an added 66 days. Thus, the period of purification for the mother who gave birth to a male child was 40 days and a female child was 80 days.
According to the Biblical numerology, forty is symbolic of a period of purification, preparation, or testing. After giving birth, a woman has a discharge known as lochia that might last for four to six weeks. The term lochia derives from the Greek word lokheíos means “of childbirth.” Lochia is a combination of blood, mucus, and uterine tissue coming from the wound that occurred when the placenta tore away from the uterine wall. It is a post-delivery healing process. During this time, Jewish religion did not allow women to enter the sanctuary or to touch anything sacred.
On the 40th day after childbirth, the family offered the sacrifice for cleansing at the Nicanor Gate on the east of the Court of Women in the Temple. The women who lived far from the Temple had no obligation to be present in the Temple for the purification ceremony. Since Bethlehem was only six miles south of Jerusalem, Joseph and Mary went to the Temple for the rituals.
“A SWORD WILL PIERCE”
When Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the Temple, Simeon told Mary that a sword will pierce her heart. Mary, the second Eve, would suffer along with her offspring (Gen 3:15). She witnessed the suffering and crucifixion of her son, Jesus. While standing at the foot of the cross, Mary saw a soldier piercing her son’s heart (Jn 19:34). She was aware of the emotional piercing of Jesus’ heart during his public ministry, especially throughout his trial. Those were equivalent to the emotional piercing of Mother Mary’s heart. Thus, what God had said to the serpent was fulfilled: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; they will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel” (Gen 3:15). God called Mary to cooperate with her son to strike the head of the “serpent” who hurt both Jesus and his mother. Simeon reminded Mary of this call she had.
MARY AND MIRIAM THE SISTER OF MOSES
Miriam is the Hebrew word for Mary. Miriam, in the Old Testament, was the sister of Moses. Just as Moses is a prototype of Jesus, Miriam is a prototype of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Miriam (Mar Yam) in Hebrew means myrrh, or bitterness of the sea. When Miriam was born, the Israelites had the bitter destiny to throw their children into the River Nile because of Pharaoh’s order. However, when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, Mariam was also known as Mara Yam meaning “Mistress of the Sea.” Miriam was the leader of women when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea while God drowned Pharaoh and his soldiers. According to Saint Ambrose, Mary of the New Testament leads us through the sea of the world to the new Promised Land, heaven.
God selected Mary for a prominent role in the Salvation History. Regardless of how small or great we are in the worldly view; we are all great as God’s children. Stretching out his hand toward his disciples, Jesus said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mt 12:49-50). Let us do the will of the Father destined for us.