Friday, April 15, 2011

Hail WHO? Part Eight -- O Sacred Banquet

Welcome back, Coffee Talkers!

Tonight we'll continue in in the "Hail WHO? -- What Do Catholics Really Believe About Mary" series. I'll present the second to the last section of my paper (I told you it was long!) on Mary as the new Eve. This section gets into some Eucharistic theology, as well, and presents Jesus himself (especially in Eucharistic communion) as the fruit of the new tree of life, the cross. As always, thoughts, feedback, and questions are welcomed. Here it is!

Open Wide the Gates - Mary as the New Eve

O Sacred Banquet - Mary Re-opens the Gates to Paradise

The fruit of the tree of life, once accessible to man, is now off limits due to Adam and Eve's defiance. This, too, Irenaeus sees as God's gift to man, since allowing him to eat from the tree of life would no longer have meant eternal life, but rather an immortality of sin:
"Wherefore also He cast him out of Paradise, and moved him to a distance from the Tree of Life: not grudging him the Tree of Life, as some dare to say, but in pity to him, that he might not last forever as a sinner; and that the sin which was in him might not be immortal, and an infinite and incurable evil." (47)
Therefore, while men, "being all implicated in the first formation of Adam, ... were bound to death through disobedience," (48) God has not bound men to be forever separated from eternal life.

That we might have eternal life, Christ, the New Adam, atones for the disobedience of Adam and all humanity through His obedience "unto death, even death on a cross." (49) Thus, "the sin that was wrought through the tree was undone by the obedience of the tree, obedience to God whereby the Son of man was nailed to the tree." (50) The cross of Christ is the new tree of life, on which Jesus gives His own body and blood as the new fruit of this tree, restoring man's access to union with God and eternal life. Irenaeus says that, "because as by the disobedience of one man sin had entrance, and by sin death prevailed; so also by the obedience of one man should righteousness by brought in, and bear the fruit of life to those men who were long ago dead." (51)

Similarly, just as through one woman death made its entrance into the world, so through one woman would the fruit of life be born for all mankind. As the Church prays in the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary, "Eve shut all her children out of Paradise; the Virgin Mary opened wide its gates." (52) Pope Benedict XV affirms this, saying that "Just as the first Adam had a woman for accomplice in his rebellion against God, so the new Adam wished to have a woman share in His work of re-opening the gates of heaven for men." (53)

It is Mary's unique cooperation in willingly suffering with her Son that allows her to be the bearer of the fruit of the Cross, the new tree of life. It is the sacrificial love of Jesus and Mary that restores us to life, and which constitutes the very image and likeness of God which we are called to live out as disciples of the One who "by obedience ... undid the old disobedience wrought in the tree." (54)

Mary re-opens access for all men to the fruit of the tree of life not only in the life to come, but in our earthly lives where we can now receive Christ's own body and blood in the Eucharist, a perpetual memorial of his passion. As Fr. Aidan Nichols, O.P. explains, "The mystery of the Eucharist, as foundation, sacrifice and presence is centred on the Cross, the Tree of Life." (55) and through Mary, the new Eve, we have access to the fruit of the new tree of life, which Pope John Paul II describes as "the sacrament in which our new being is most completely expressed." (56) It is only through Mary that we are able to receive the fruit of Christ's sacrifice in such an unimaginable way, partaking of His own body and blood that by receiving Him, we might be transformed into His own image, the image in which we were created in the beginning.
47. St. Irenaeus, Adversus haereses (AH). Book 3, #6.
48. St. Irenaeus, Proof, #31.
49. Philippians 2:8
50. St. Irenaeus, Proof, #34.
51. St. Irenaeus, AH, Book 3, #10.
52. Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Divine Office, Vol. IV, p. 1643.
53. Calkins, p. 52.
54. St. Irenaeus, Proof, #34.
55. Nichols, Aidan, O.P. The Holy Eucharist - From the New Testament to Pope John Paul II. p. 123.
56. Redemptor Hominis, Art. 20.
Thanks for stopping by, my friends. Be assured of my grateful affection and prayers for all of my readers.

Peace and all good,

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