Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hail WHO? Part Three - Mary as the New Eve

Welcome back, Coffee Talkers!

We are now on part three of the "Hail WHO? -- What Do Catholics Really Believe About Mary" series. In tonight's post, I am going to introduce the theological concept of Mary as the new Eve. I am going to use a paper I wrote called "Open wide the Gates - Mary as the New Eve" to lay the groundwork for this theological explanation of Mary's role in salvation history.

The paper is rather academic (you know, with many sources and footnotes and such), but I think it's pretty easy to read and will introduce some important concepts in Marian theology that are necessary for understanding Catholic Christian teachings on and devotion to Mary. Also, it's is pretty long, so I'll include one section per night until we make our way through it. I thought about holding off on sharing the paper, but since almost every Marian doctrine and dogma can be derived from the image of Mary as the new Eve, I've decided just to bring out the Marian big guns and hope you'll stay with me for the ride. Also, I find the images of Jesus as the new Adam and Mary as the new Eve to be theologically interesting and exciting, and I hope that you will, as well!

The basic idea is this -- just as Eve was instrumental, though secondary in the Fall of the human race, so Mary was instrumental, though secondary in the restoration of grace. And note well, it is through Mary that we receive the saving graces of Christ -- she is never and end in herself, but she also cannot be ignored when God so clearly chose her as an instrument to give birth to the Savior. Her coming was foretold along with Christ's in the beginning.

[Warning: This paper was for a graduate level theology course on Mary, and I use the terms "Co-Redemptrix" and "Mediatrix" at the end of this passage -- the terms will be given more attention and explanation later. I just don't want you to be scared away by the terminology of Mariology (theological study of Mary) that may seem to indicate Mariolatry (idolatrous worship of Mary) if you are unfamiliar with them. By the end of the paper, I think you will find all terms and teachings to be well supported by Scripture and other relevant sources, and please ask questions as we go if you have any.]

Without further ado, let's dive in!

Open Wide the Gates - Mary as the New Eve

In the Beginning

"God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them." (1) God, the creator of all things, chose to make man alone in His own image and likeness and allowed man a personal share in His own Divine life. God even prepared for man "a place ... better than this world," namely, "the Garden," where "He would walk around and talk with the man." (2) Such was the intimacy man enjoyed with God "in the beginning." (3)

However, the image and likeness of God in man was tarnished by sin, which finds its origin in Adam, the first man. Adam, however, was not alone in his disobedience. Eve, the "one who ... is bone of [his] bones and flesh of [his] flesh," (4) submitted to the temptations of the cunning serpent by herself eating of the forbidden fruit of the tree of life and "also [giving] some to her husband, who was with her." (5) Through Adam and Eve's disobedience, all would experience the loss of the state of original justice and holiness enjoyed before the Fall. All men, burdened under the weight of sin, would now experience a profound separation from God and thus a diminishment of their vocation, namely to be in the Divine image and likeness and to be personally united to their Creator.

Even after the fall, God does not abandon man or leave him without hope. Along with the consequences of their disobedience, God gives Adam and Eve a promise of restoration when He says to the serpent, "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." (6) The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes this promise wherein
God calls [man] and in a mysterious way heralds the coming victory over evil and his restoration from his fall. This passage in Genesis is called the Protoevengelium ("first gospel"): the first announcement of the Messiah and Redeemer, of a battle between the serpent and the Woman, and of a final victory of a descendant of hers. (7)
This passage is seen in Christian tradition not only as an announcement of Christ, who "makes amends superabundantly for the disobedience of Adam," but is also viewed by many Fathers and Doctors of the Church as the announcement of "Mary, the mother of Christ, the 'new Eve'." (8)
Indeed, the harmony of creation that had been destroyed by Adam's dissonant exposition would be restored and supremely transcended in Christ who, "for the recapitulation of all things, is become man among men, visible and tangible, in order to abolish death and bring light to life, and bring about the communion of God and man." (9) However, Christ's glorious recapitulation, which consists of "a taking up again and restitution of God's original plan for man by the reproduction in the incarnation of the features of the original creation, and the reversal of the features of the fall," (10) does not stand alone. As St. Iranaeus explains, "it was not enough for Adam to be redeemed in Christ, but 'it was right and necessary that Eve be restored in Mary' (Demonstratio apostolica, 33)." (11)

Indeed, God, in walking around and talking with Adam and Eve in the Garden, foreshadowed His means of reconciliation; He prefigured "what was to come to pass in the future, how He would become man's fellow, and talk with him, and come among mankind, and teach them justice." (12) As St. Iranaeus describes, "the Lord, summing up afresh this man, reproduced the scheme of his incarnation, being born of a virgin by the Will and Wisdom of God, that He too might copy the incarnation of Adam, and man might be made, as it was written, according to the image and likeness of God." (13)

That Christ, the new Adam, was to be born of a woman, namely Mary, the new Eve, has great significance in God's providential design for salvation history and for every human life. In this paper, I will examine Mary's antithetical parallelism to Eve, wherein the Blessed Virgin can be clearly seen as the Immaculate adversary of Satan, the obedient and faithful woman, the Co-Redemptrix, the spiritual mother of all people and Mediatrix of all graces, and the one through whom the gates of paradise are re-opened and access to the fruit of the tree of life is regained.
  1. Genesis 1:27
  2. St. Irenaeus, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching. #12.
  3. Genesis 1:1
  4. Genesis 2:23
  5. Genesis 3:6
  6. Genesis 3:15
  7. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) #410.
  8. CCC #411.
  9. St. Irenaeus, Proof, #6.
  10. St. Irenaeus, Proof, #36.
  11. Calkins, Rev. Msgr. Arthur Burton. "The Mystery of Mary Coredemptrix in the Papal Magisterium." In Mary Co-redemptrix - Doctrinal Issues Today. 2002. p. 61
  12. St. Irenaeus, Proof, #12.
  13. St. Irenaeus, Proof, #32.
To be continued!

Until then, be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

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