In the gospel readings for the program I created for this week, we are introduced to Mary, the Blessed Mother. I simply wanted to write up a few wonderful points about Mary and the Church that one can find out in deep scriptural meditation. I find these points to be personally awe-inspiring and beautiful, increasing my own faith in the plan of salvation set out for us by God and indicated in Holy Scriptures—and other Christians who have found these same treasures have felt the same. I present to you a few of these treasures for your enjoyment.
Did you know…
1. In the readings for this week, we find the only instance in the entire bible when an angel addresses a human being by a title, “Full of grace,” (Luke 1:28) rather than a personal name?
2. Gabriel actually calls Mary “full of grace” as if it is her name, indicated that her entire being—her whole identity—is to be “full of grace.” With this in mind, we should not be as scandalized that Mary was proclaimed free from sin from the moment of her conception.
3. It is easily deduced that Mary remained a virgin for her entire life and had always intended to do so from the close reading of the Scriptures, even despite her marriage to Joseph. Her response to the angel, “How can this be since I am unmarried” (Luke 1:34—literally, since “I do not know man”) makes absolutely no sense unless she had made a vow of virginity. If she had intended to marry and have a child, she would not have been perplexed at all about the fact that she was already legally betrothed to Joseph and likely would have a child as a result of the relations that would naturally follow. Of course she would have a child! But Mary never intended to have a child, and so her question to the angel makes sense.
4. Did you know that Mary is the new ark of the covenant? The ark, of course, is the vessel that carried the Ten Commandments. The Ark was the holiest vessel of the Jewish faith, and the entire reason for building the temple. You might say, “Fine and dandy, Fr. Basil, but what does that have to do with Mary?” Well, Mary is the vessel of the new law—the new “Word,” who is Jesus Christ. If you don’t find that convincing, take note of the following points:
A. There is a report of the Ark of the Covenant being brought to the house of King David in 2 Samuel. Just as Mary “arose and went” to the hill country, David “arose and went” to visit Elizabeth (Mary is also likely descended from David). Just as King David danced before the Ark, tiny John the Baptist dances for joy in his mother’s womb. Just as David exclaims, “Who am I that the Ark of my Lord should come to me?,” Elizabeth exclaims before the new ark, “Whom am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” Just as Mary temporarily stayed with Elizabeth three months, the ark stayed temporily in the house of Obed-edom for three months (2 Sam 6:11).
B. It is interesting that when the two woman meet, Elizabeth “exclaims” her great joy. You might not think this very surprising. But the Greek word used for that exclamation is not found in any other place in the New Testament and only five times in the Old Testament, and it refers to the glorious, powerful sound that the Levites would make before the Ark of the Covenant (1 Chron 15:28; 16:4-5)!! And isn’t it interesting that Elizabeth is a descendant of Levi and the wife of a levitical priest?
5. When Elizabeth blesses Mary she uses the words that were once spoken to both Jael and Judith in the Old Testament (see Judges 5:24-27 and Judges 13:18). These holy women would save their people by striking a deadly blow to the head of an enemy commander. And again, is it not interesting that Mary is the one who will bear the savior that crushes the head of the serpent, who is the ultimate enemy commander?
6. There are two times when scripture mentions that “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19, 51). How could Luke have known that unless Mary himself had told him—or better yet, probably told St. John, with whom she lived for the rest of her life, mentioned this to Luke on their travels to spread the gospel? How else could Luke have known that Mary pondered so deeply, especially since he goes through the trouble to mention it twice?
7. According to Leviticus 20:10 which prescribed stoning for adultery, realize that what Gabriel was pronouncing to Mary likely sounded to her like a likely death sentence.
8. Mary’s response—her famous “fiat” from the Latin word which means “let it be done”—was the following: “Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word (Luke 2:38).” First of all, Mary completely surrenders to the word of God and declares herself the slave of God. The Greek word used doesn’t just mean a housekeeper who comes on Mondays and Wednesdays… 🙂 Second of all, the Greek word used for “let it be done” is genoito. I will not go into a lengthy explanation here. Suffice it to say that in the Greek language, there is actually a special tense used for making a wish or expressing a desire called the optative tense. Greek is an amazingly precise and beautiful language. This is the only place in the entire New Testament where this tense is used. What is noteworthy about this passage is that Mary is not simply surrendering like a mindless slave (we already know she ponders things in her heart, don’t we?!), she is actively cooperating and wishing God’s proclamation through the angel to be done to her, and this is substantiated through precise biblical and linguistic scholarship. (You may be thinking that since Mary was probably speaking Aramaic, why would it matter what the Greek words are? Good question! The answer is that for the New Testament the inspired language of scripture is Greek—we have no aramaic documents or “original” documents written in that language!)
9. MARY IS THE NEW EVE. Eve listened to the whispers of a demonic messenger, while Mary listened the words of an angelic one. Eve was drawn out of Adam in the beginning, but in the new beginning the new Adam is drawn out of the New Eve. While Eve damned all mankind by her “yes” to the devil, Mary saves all mankind by her “yes (genoito!)” to God. If there was any question of womanhood “messing up” the world by this mistake, then Mary utterly restores womanhood through her “yes.” Eve gives birth to sin and death, while Mary gives birth to grace and life. Eve was the “mother of all the living,” while Mary is the mother of all who live in Christ—she was given to all of us by Jesus himself hanging on the cross (John 19:26-27). Eve loses paradise and shatters the Garden of Eden for us by violating a tree, while the New Eve restores the Garden of Eden to us by praying before a tree (the cross) and accepting Jesus’s death.
ALL A COINCIDENCE? REALLY? SERIOUSLY?
My brothers and sisters, are we to think that all of this is simply “coincidence,” or do we not instead have a plan of salvation that has been set out for us and wonderful hints given to us in Holy Scriptures? And one of the noblest figures—one of the centers of these “hints”—is the Blessed Mother. There is a certain fundamentalistic mentality that must have the “truth” in absolute black and white. If they can’t read it word for word in the Bible, then it simply isn’t true. If the Bible doesn’t say, “Mary was conceived without sin,” then it must not be true. My friends, these are just snippets of information about Mary, and it is all entirely scriptural. The wonderful things that the Catholic Church says about Mary are not legends and made-up meditations by unfortunate, mistaken silly medieval Catholics as some Protestants would have us believe. These people are woefully crippled in their imaginations and mistaken in their understanding of how God relays the truth to us. The Lord is a poet. The Lord is the master of joy. He did not only save us, but he made the prophecies about himself beautiful. He made the hints about himself in scripture beautiful, and he almost plays with us a divine game of “hide and seek” in the Bible for those with the dedication to meditate on his word. Seriously, people—we have a God whose favorite apostle ended his gospel with the following line: “But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written (John 21:25).” The Truth is massive, my friends, and the truth is alive. There is a reason why I mentioned the specific points above—they are all directly scriptural, and all things that you couldn’t really know without authentic meditation on the word of God, which is the journey we find ourselves on.
MARY IS AWESOME! THE BIBLE IS AWESOME! WELCOME TO THE JOURNEY!