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Home » Daily Readings, Lectio

Mary, the Woman of the Proto-Evangelium

Submitted by on Wednesday, 8 December 2010No Comment
  • Reading I:  Gn 3:9-15, 20
  • Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 98:1,2-3ab, 3cd-4
  • Reading II: Ephesians 1:3-6,11-12
  • Gospel Reading: Luke 1:26-38

Genesis 3:15 is called the Proto-evangelion, the first announcement of the Good News.

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike at your head,
while you strike at his heel.

On a literal level, the promise can be understood as the description of the kind of existence the serpent will have with the seed of the woman: he and his offsprings will be in constant war with all humankind. Human beings will try to exterminate them, while they will defend themselves by biting the heels of those who try to crush their heads.

But there is a fuller sense to this passage, seen in the light of the whole of Revelation, and it is this: that there will be a New Eve whose offspring will  crush the Serpent’s head at the moment when this latter bites the Offspring’s heel. The death of Jesus, Mary’s Son, on the cross would seem to have been the victory of Satan and his Brood. And yet, it was the moment when the Redeemer was victorious over the Serpent.

The author of the Apocalypse understood it this way when he wrote Apocalypse 12, where the figure of the Woman is threatened by the Serpent but was rescued. Subsequent episodes will show the Serpent and his monsters from the Sea defeated in battle by a heavenly host led by Michael and by a crowned rider with 144,000 followers.

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The Woman in Apocalypse 12 is a composite picture of Mary and the Church. Seen from one angle, she is Mary, the new ark of the Covenant, who bore in her womb He who is the Word of God (John 1:1-18). Seen from a different angle, she is the Church, the one who gives birth to "other Christs" in Word and Sacrament. This latter is easily understood, especially in the light of the Lucan presentations of Mary in the Annunciation and the Visitation. There, Mary, the Mother of the Lord, is the figure of Zion, harbinger of Good News (Isaiah 40:9-11) and proto-type of the Church.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception presents to us the picture of Mary in whom, from the moment of conception, sin has been defeated. It is Mary’s singular privilege (not something merited!) because she had been elected as the vessel that will bear God’s Son. And it is a privilege given to her in view of the salvation wrought in Christ. She is the first fruit of the redemption, something that she herself acknowledges in the Magnificat. Her Immaculate Conception is a reminder that those who receive redemption now, have received it, not as some after-thought, but because God has predestined them to receive it.

When we received baptism, the stain of original sin was also wiped away from us. We received the gift, however, because of the Church and her desire that all be saved in Christ. Mary received the gift at the moment of her conception so that a worthy vessel can be prepared where the Word of God can take on flesh. And so when the angel came to announce to her the Good News that she has been chosen to bring forth "the Son of the Most High" and called her "Kecharitomene", "Full of Grace", he was also saying to her that she has become the embodiment of how God’s grace triumphs in every man. Mary will confirm that subsequently by her life, in her life of discipleship that will lead her to the Cross of Good Friday and to the Upper Room of Pentecost. And we too will have to struggle against sin throughout our lives, so as to make our own the victory of God’s grace received during baptism.

Relevant Articles

Psalm 98:1,2-3
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
1A psalm for David himself. Sing ye to the Lord anew canticle: because he hath done wonderful things. His right hand hath wrought for him salvation, and his arm is holy.
2The Lord hath made known his salvation: he hath revealed his justice in the sight of the Gentiles.
3He hath remembered his mercy his truth toward the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Ephesians 1:3-6,11-12
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in Christ:
4As he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted in his sight in charity.
5Who hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ unto himself: according to the purpose of his will:
6Unto the praise of the glory of his grace, in which he hath graced us in his beloved son.
11In whom we also are called by lot, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things according to the counsel of his will.
12That we may be unto the praise of his glory, we who before hoped Christ:
Luke 1:26-38
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
26And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth,
27To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
28And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be.
30And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.
31Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus.
32He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever.
33And of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man?
35And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren:
37Because no word shall be impossible with God.
38And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Genesis 3:15
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
15I 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.
John 1:1-18
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2The same was in the beginning with God.
3All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made.
4In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
5And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7This man came for a witness, to give testimony of the light, that all men might believe through him.
8He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light.
9That was the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world.
10He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
11He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
12But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name.
13Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
15John beareth witness of him, and crieth out, saying: This was he of whom I spoke: He that shall come after me, is preferred before me: because he was before me.
16And of his fulness we all have received, and grace for grace.
17For the law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
18No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
Isaiah 40:9-11
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
9Get thee up upon a high mountain, thou that bringest good tidings to Sion: lift up thy voice with strength, thou that bringest good tidings to Jerusalem: lift it up, fear not. Say to the cities of Juda: Behold your God:
10Behold the Lord God shall come with strength, and his arm shall rule: Behold his reward is with him and his work is before him.
11He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather together the lambs with his arm, and shall take them up in his bosom, and he himself shall carry them that are with young.

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