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The Blessed Virgin Mary

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the mother of Jesus Christ, the mother of God.

In general, the theology and history of Mary the Mother of God follow the chronological order of their respective sources, i.e. the Old Testament, the New Testament, the early Christian and Jewish witnesses.

I. MARY PROPHESIED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

The Old Testament refers to Our Blessed Lady both in its prophecies and its types or figures.

Genesis 3:15

The first prophecy referring to Mary is found in the very opening chapters of the Book of Genesis (3:15): "I 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." This rendering appears to differ in two respects from the original Hebrew text:

(1) First, the Hebrew text employs the same verb for the two renderings "she shall crush" and "thou shalt lie in wait"; the Septuagint renders the verb both times by terein, to lie in wait; Aquila, Symmachus, the Syriac and theSamaritan translators, interpret the Hebrew verb by expressions which mean to crush, to bruise; the Itala renders the terein employed in the Septuagint by the Latin "servare", to guard; St. Jerome [1] maintains that the Hebrewverb has the meaning of "crushing" or "bruising" rather than of "lying in wait", "guarding". Still in his own work, which became the Latin Vulgate, the saint employs the verb "to crush" (conterere) in the first place, and "to lie in wait" (insidiari) in the second. Hence the punishment inflicted on the serpent and the serpent's retaliation are expressed by the same verb: but the wound of the serpent is mortal, since it affects his head, while the wound inflicted by theserpent is not mortal, being inflicted on the heel.

(2) The second point of difference between the Hebrew text and our version concerns the agent who is to inflict the mortal wound on the serpent: our version agrees with the present Vulgate text in reading "she" (ipsa) which refers to the woman, while the Hebrew text reads hu' (autos, ipse) which refers to the seed of the woman. According to our version, and the Vulgate reading, the woman herself will win the victory; according to the Hebrew text, she will be victorious through her seed. In this sense does the Bull "Ineffabilis" ascribe the victory to Our Blessed Lady. The reading "she" (ipsa) is neither an intentional corruption of the original text, nor is it an accidental error; it is rather an explanatory version expressing explicitly the fact of Our Lady's part in the victory over the serpent, which is contained implicitly in the Hebrew original. The strength of the Christian tradition as to Mary's share in this victory may be inferred from the retention of "she" in St. Jerome's version in spite of his acquaintance with the original text and with the reading "he" (ipse) in the old Latin version.

As it is quite commonly admitted that the Divine judgment is directed not so much against the serpent as against the originator of sin, the seed of the serpent denotes the followers of the serpent, the "brood of vipers", the "generation of vipers", those whose father is the Devil, the children of evilimitando, non nascendo (Augustine). [2] One may be tempted to understand the seed of the woman in a similar collective sense, embracing all who are born of God. But seed not only may denote a particular person, but has such a meaning usually, if the context allows it. St. Paul (Galatians 3:16) gives this explanation of the word "seed" as it occurs in the patriarchal promises: "To Abraham were the promises made and to his seed. He saith not, and to his seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to his seed, which is Christ". Finally the expression "the woman" in the clause "I will put enmities between thee and the woman" is a literal version of the Hebrew text. The Hebrew Grammar of Gesenius-Kautzsch [3] establishes the rule: Peculiar to the Hebrew is the use of the article in order to indicate a person or thing, not yet known and not yet to be more clearly described, either as present or as to be taken into account under the contextual conditions. Since our indefinite article serves this purpose, we may translate: "I will put enmities between you and awoman". Hence the prophecy promises a woman, Our Blessed Lady, who will be the enemy of the serpent to a marked degree; besides, the same woman will be victorious over the Devil, at least through her offspring. The completeness of the victory is emphasized by the contextual phrase "earth shall thou eat", which is according to Winckler [4] a common old-oriental expression denoting the deepest humiliation [5].

Isaias 7:1-17

The second prophecy referring to Mary is found in Isaias 7:1-17. Critics have endeavoured to represent this passage as a combination of occurrences and sayings from the life of the prophet written down by an unknown hand [6]. The credibility of the contents is not necessarily affected by this theory, since prophetic traditions may be recorded by any writer without losing their credibility. But even Duhm considers the theory as an apparent attempt on the part of the critics to find out what the readers are willing to bear patiently; he believes it is a real misfortune for criticism itself that it has found a mere compilation in a passage which so graphically describes the birth-hour offaith.

According to 2 Kings 16:1-4, and 2 Chronicles 27:1-8Achaz, who began his reign 736 B.C., openly professedidolatry, so that God gave him into the hands of the kings of Syria and Israel. It appears that an alliance had been concluded between Phacee, King of Israel, and Rasin, King of Damascus, for the purpose of opposing a barrier to the Assyrian aggressions. Achaz, who cherished Assyrian proclivities, did not join the coalition; the allies invaded his territory, intending to substitute for Achaz a more subservient ruler, a certain son of Tabeel. While Rasin was occupied in reconquering the maritime city Elath, Phacee alone proceeded against Juda, "but they could not prevail". After Elath had fallen, Rasin joined his forces with those of Phacee; "Syria hath rested upon Ephraim", whereupon "his (Achaz') heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the woods are moved with the wind". Immediate preparations must be made for a protracted siege, and Achaz is busily engaged near the upper pool from which the city received the greater part of its water supply. Hence the Lord says to Isaias: "Go forth to meet Achaz. . .at the end of the conduit of the upper pool". The prophet's commission is of an extremely consoling nature: "See thou be quiet; hear not, and let not thy heart be afraid of the two tails of these firebrands". The scheme of the enemies shall not succeed: "it shall not stand, and this shall not be." What is to be the particular fate of the enemies?

  • Syria will gain nothing, it will remain as it has been in the past: "the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rasin".
  • Ephraim too will remain in the immediate future as it has been hitherto: "the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria the son of Romelia"; but after sixty-five years it will be destroyed, "within threescore and five years Ephraim shall cease to be a people".

Achaz had abandoned the Lord for Moloch, and put his trust in an alliance with Assyria; hence the conditionalprophecy concerning Juda, "if you will not believe, you shall not continue". The test of belief follows immediately: "ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God, either unto the depth of hell or unto the height above". Achaz hypocriticallyanswers: "I will not ask, and I will not tempt the Lord", thus refusing to express his belief in God, and preferring hisAssyrian policy. The king prefers Assyria to God, and Assyria will come: "the Lord shall bring upon thee and upon thy people, and upon the house of thy father, days that have not come since the time of the separation of Ephraim from Juda with the king of the Assyrians." The house of David has been grievous not merely to men, but to God also by its unbelief; hence it "shall not continue", and, by an irony of Divine punishment, it will be destroyed by those very men whom it preferred to God.

Still the general Messianic promises made to the house of David cannot be frustrated: "The Lord Himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat butter and honey, that he may know to refuse the evil and to choose the good. For before the child know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good, the land which thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of the face of her two kings." Without answering a number of questions connected with the explanation of the prophecy, we must confine ourselves here to the bare proof that the virgin mentioned by the prophet is Mary the Mother of Christ. The argument is based on the premises that the prophet's virgin is the mother of Emmanuel, and that Emmanuel isChrist. The relation of the virgin to Emmanuel is clearly expressed in the inspired words; the same indicate also the identity of Emmanuel with the Christ.

The connection of Emmanuel with the extraordinary Divine sign which was to be given to Achaz predisposes one to see in the child more than a common boy. In 8:8, the prophet ascribes to him the ownership of the land of Juda: "the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Emmanuel". In 9:6, the government of the house of David is said to be upon his shoulders, and he is described as being endowed with more than human qualities: "a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the World to Come, and the Prince of Peace". Finally, theprophet calls Emmanuel "a rod out of the root of Jesse" endowed with "the spirit of the Lord. . .the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and of godliness"; his advent shall be followed by the general signs of the Messianic era, and the remnant of the chosen people shall be again the people of God (11:1-16).

Whatever obscurity or ambiguity there may be in the prophetic text itself is removed by St. Matthew (1:18-25). After narrating the doubt of St. Joseph and the angel's assurance, "that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost", the Evangelist proceeds: "now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by theprophet, saying: Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel." We need not repeat the exposition of the passage given by Catholic commentators who answer the exceptions raised against the obvious meaning of the Evangelist. We may infer from all this that Mary is mentioned in theprophecy of Isaias as mother of Jesus Christ; in the light of St. Matthew's reference to the prophecy, we may add that the prophecy predicted also Mary's virginity untarnished by the conception of the Emmanuel [7].

Micheas 5:2-3

A third prophecy referring to Our Blessed Lady is contained in Micah 5:2-3: "And thou, Bethlehem, Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Juda: out of thee shall be come forth unto me that is to be the ruler in Israel, and his going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity. Therefore will he give them up till the time wherein she that travaileth shall bring forth, and the remnant of his brethren shall be converted to the children of Israel." Though the prophet (about 750-660 B.C.) was a contemporary of Isaias, his prophetic activity began a little later and ended a little earlier than that of Isaias. There can be no doubt that the Jews regarded the foregoing predictionas referring to the Messias. According to St. Matthew (2:6) the chief priests and scribes, when asked where theMessias was to be born, answered Herod in the words of the prophecy, "And thou Bethlehem the land of Juda. . ." According to St. John (7:42), the Jewish populace gathered at Jerusalem for the celebration of the feast asked the rhetorical question: "Doth not the Scripture say that Christ cometh of the seed of David, and from Bethlehem, the town where David was?" The Chaldee paraphrase of Micah 5:2, confirms the same view: "Out of thee shall come forth unto me the Messias, that he may exercise dominion in Israel". The very words of the prophecy admit of hardly any other explanation; for "his going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity".

But how does the prophecy refer to the Virgin Mary? Our Blessed Lady is denoted by the phrase, "till the time wherein she that travaileth shall bring forth". It is true that "she that travaileth" has been referred to the Church (St. JeromeTheodoret), or to the collection of the Gentiles united with Christ (RiberaMariana), or again to Babylon(Calmet); but, on the one hand, there is hardly a sufficient connection between any of these events and the promised redeemer, on the other hand, the passage ought to read "till the time wherein she that is barren shall bring forth" if any of these events were referred to by the prophet. Nor can "she that travaileth" be referred to Sion: Sion is spoken of without figure before and after the present passage so that we cannot expect the prophet to lapse suddenly into figurative language. Moreover, the prophecy thus explained would not give a satisfactory sense. The contextual phrases "the ruler in Israel", "his going forth", which in Hebrew implies birth, and "his brethren" denote an individual, not a nation; hence we infer that the bringing forth must refer to the same person. It has been shown that the person of the ruler is the Messias; hence "she that travaileth" must denote the mother of Christ, or Our Blessed Lady. Thus explained the whole passage becomes clear: the Messias must be born in Bethlehem, an insignificant village in Juda: his family must be reduced to poverty and obscurity before the time of his birth; as this cannot happen if the theocracy remains intact, if David's house continues to flourish, "therefore will he give them up till the time wherein she that travaileth shall bring forth" the Messias. [8]

Jeremias 31:22

A fourth prophecy referring to Mary is found in Jeremias 31:22; "The Lord has created a new thing upon the earth: A woman shall compass a man". The text of the prophet Jeremias offers no small difficulties for the scientific interpreter; we shall follow the Vulgate version of the Hebrew original. But even this rendering has been explained in several different ways: Rosenmuller and several conservative Protestant interpreters defend the meaning, "awoman shall protect a man"; but such a motive would hardly induce the men of Israel to return to God. The explanation "a woman shall seek a man" hardly agrees with the text; besides, such an inversion of the natural order is presented in Isaias 4:1, as a sign of the greatest calamity. Ewald's rendering, "a woman shall change into a man", is hardly faithful to the original text. Other commentators see in the woman a type of the Synagogue or of theChurch, in man the type of God, so that they explain the prophecy as meaning, "God will dwell again in the midst of the Synagogue (of the people of Israel)" or "the Church will protect the earth with its valiant men". But the Hebrew text hardly suggests such a meaning; besides, such an explanation renders the passage tautological: "Israel shall return to its God, for Israel will love its God". Some recent writers render the Hebrew original: "God creates a new thing upon the earth: the woman (wife) returns to the man (her husband)". According to the old law (Deuteronomy 24:1-4Jeremiah 3:1) the husband could not take back the wife once repudiated by him; but the Lord will do something new by allowing the faithless wife, i.e. the guilty nation, to return to the friendship of God. This explanation rests upon a conjectural correction of the text; besides, it does not necessarily bear the Messianicmeaning which we expect in the passage.

The Greek Fathers generally follow the Septuagint version, "The Lord has created salvation in a new plantation, men shall go about in safety"; but St. Athanasius twice [9] combines Aquila's version "God has created a new thing inwoman" with that of the Septuagint, saying that the new plantation is Jesus Christ, and that the new thing created inwoman is the body of the Lord, conceived within the virgin without the co-operation of man. St. Jerome too [10] understands the prophetic text of the virgin conceiving the Messias. This meaning of the passage satisfies the text and the context. As the Word Incarnate possessed from the first moment of His conception all His perfections excepting those connected with His bodily development, His mother is rightly said to "compass a man". No need to point out that such a condition of a newly conceived child is rightly called "a new thing upon earth". The context of the prophecy describes after a short general introduction (30:1-3) Israel's future freedom and restoration in four stanzas: 30:4-11, 12-2230:2331:14, 15-26; the first three stanzas end with the hope of the Messianic time. The fourth stanza, too, must be expected to have a similar ending. Moreover, the prophecy of Jeremias, uttered about 589 B.C. and understood in the sense just explained, agrees with the contemporary Messianic expectations based on Isaias 7:149:6Micah 5:3. According to Jeremias, the mother of Christ is to differ from other mothers in this, that her child, even while within her womb, shall possess all those properties which constitute real manhood [11]. The Old Testament refers indirectly to Mary in those prophecies which predict the Incarnation of the Word of God.

II. OLD TESTAMENT TYPES AND FIGURES OF MARY

In order to be sure of the typical sense, it must be revealed, i.e. it must come down to us through Scripture ortradition. Individual pious writers have developed copious analogies between certain data of the Old Testamentand corresponding data of the New; however ingenious these developments may be, they do not prove that Godreally intended to convey the corresponding truths in the inspired text of the Old Testament. On the other hand, it must be kept in mind that not all truths contained in either Scripture or tradition have been explicitly proposed to the faithful as matters of belief by the explicit definition of the Church.

According to the principle "Lex orandi est lex credenti" we must treat at least with reverence the numberless suggestions contained in the official prayers and liturgies of the Church. In this sense we must regard many of the titles bestowed on Our Blessed Lady in her litany and in the "Ave maris stella". The Antiphons and Responses found in the Offices recited on the various feasts of Our Blessed Lady suggest a number of types of Mary that hardly could have been brought so vividly to the notice of the Church's ministers in any other way. The third antiphon of Lauds of the Feast of the Circumcision sees in "the bush that was not burnt" (Exodus 3:2) a figure of Mary conceiving her Sonwithout the loss of her virginity. The second antiphon of Lauds of the same Office sees in Gideon's fleece wet with dew while all the ground beside had remained dry (Judges 6:37-38) a type of Mary receiving in her womb theWord Incarnate [12]. The Office of the Blessed Virgin applies to Mary many passages concerning the spouse in theCanticle of Canticles [13] and also concerning Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs 8:22-31 [14]. The application to Mary of a "garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up" mentioned in Canticles 4:12 is only a particular instance of what has been said above. [15] Besides, SaraDebboraJudith, and Esther are variously used as figures of Mary; the ark of the Covenant, over which the presence of God manifested itself, is used as the figure of Mary carrying GodIncarnate within her womb. But especially Eve, the mother of all the living (Genesis 3:20), is considered as a type of Mary who is the mother of all the living in the order of grace [16].

III. MARY IN THE GOSPELS

The reader of the Gospels is at first surprised to find so little about Mary; but this obscurity of Mary in the Gospelshas been studied at length by Blessed Peter Canisius [17], Auguste Nicolas [18], Cardinal Newman [19], and Very Rev. J. Spencer Northcote [20]. In the commentary on the "Magnificat", published 1518, even Luther expresses thebelief that the Gospels praise Mary sufficiently by calling her (eight times) the Mother of Jesus. In the following paragraphs we shall briefly group together what we know of Our Blessed Lady's life before the birth of her Divine Son, during the hidden life of Our Lord, during His public life and after His resurrection.

Mary's Davidic ancestry

St. Luke (2:4) says that St. Joseph went from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be enrolled, "because he was of the house and family of David". As if to exclude all doubt concerning the Davidic descent of Mary, the Evangelist (1:32, 69) states that the child born of Mary without the intervention of man shall be given "the throne of David His father", and that the Lord God has "raised up a horn of salvation to us in the house of David his servant". [21] St. Paul too testifies that Jesus Christ "was made to him [God] of the seed of David, according to the flesh" (Romans 1:3). If Mary were not of Davidic descent, her Son conceived by the Holy Ghost could not be said to be "of the seed ofDavid". Hence commentators tell us that in the text "in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God. . .to avirgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David" (Luke 1:26-27); the last clause "of the house of David" does not refer to Joseph, but to the virgin who is the principal person in the narrative; thus we have a direct inspired testimony to Mary's Davidic descent. [22]

While commentators generally agree that the genealogy found at the beginning of the first Gospel is that of St. JosephAnnius of Viterbo proposes the opinion, already alluded to by St. Augustine, that St. Luke's genealogy gives the pedigree of Mary. The text of the third Gospel (3:23) may be explained so as to make Heli the father of Mary: "Jesus. . .being the son (as it was supposed of Joseph) of Heli", or "Jesus. . .being the son of Joseph, as it was supposed, the son of Heli" (Lightfoot, Bengel, etc.), or again "Jesus. . .being as it was supposed the son of Joseph, who was [the son-in-law] of Heli" [23]. In these explanations the name of Mary is not mentioned explicitly, but it is implied; for Jesus is the Son of Heli through Mary.

Her parents

Though few commentators adhere to this view of St. Luke's genealogy, the name of Mary's father, Heli, agrees with the name given to Our Lady's father in a tradition founded upon the report of the Protoevangelium of James, anapocryphal Gospel which dates from the end of the second century. According to this document the parents of Mary are Joachim and Anna. Now, the name Joachim is only a variation of Heli or Eliachim, substituting one Divine name (Yahweh) for the other (Eli, Elohim). The tradition as to the parents of Mary, found in the Gospel of James, is reproduced by St. John Damascene [24], St. Gregory of Nyssa [25], St. Germanus of Constantinople [26], pseudo-Epiphanius [27], pseudo-Hilarius [28], and St. Fulbert of Chartres [29]. Some of these writers add that the birth of Mary was obtained by the fervent prayers of Joachim and Anna in their advanced age. As Joachim belonged to the royal family of David, so Anna is supposed to have been a descendant of the priestly family of Aaron; thus Christthe Eternal King and Priest sprang from both a royal and priestly family [30].

The hometown of Mary's parents

According to Luke 1:26, Mary lived in Nazareth, a city in Galilee, at the time of the Annunciation. A certain traditionmaintains that she was conceived and born in the same house in which the Word became flesh [31]. Anothertradition based on the Gospel of James regards Sephoris as the earliest home of Joachim and Anna, though they are said to have lived later on in Jerusalem, in a house called by St. Sophronius of Jerusalem [32] Probatica.Probatica, a name probably derived from the sanctuary's nearness to the pond called Probatica or Bethsaida in John 5:2. It was here that Mary was born. About a century later, about A.D. 750, St. John Damascene [33] repeats the statement that Mary was born in the Probatica.

It is said that, as early as in the fifth century the empress Eudoxia built a church over the place where Mary was born, and where her parents lived in their old age. The present Church of St. Anna stands at a distance of only about 100 Feet from the pool Probatica. In 1889, 18 March, was discovered the crypt which encloses the supposed burying-place of St. Anna. Probably this place was originally a garden in which both Joachim and Annawere laid to rest. At their time it was still outside of the city walls, about 400 feet north of the Temple. Anothercrypt near St. Anna's tomb is the supposed birthplace of the Blessed Virgin; hence it is that in early times the church was called St. Mary of the Nativity [34]. In the Cedron Valley, near the road leading to the Church of the Assumption, is a little sanctuary containing two altars which are said to stand over the burying-places of Sts.Joachim and Anna; but these graves belong to the time of the Crusades [35]. In Sephoris too the Crusadersreplaced by a large church an ancient sanctuary which stood over the legendary house of Sts. Joachim and Anna. After 1788 part of this church was restored by the Franciscan Fathers.

Her Immaculate Conception

The Immaculate Conception of Our Blessed Lady has been treated in a SPECIAL ARTICLE.

The birth of Mary

As to the place of the birth of Our Blessed Lady, there are three different traditions to be considered.

First, the event has been placed in Bethlehem. This opinion rests on the authority of the following witnesses: it is expressed in a writing entitled "De nativ. S. Mariae" [36] inserted after the works of St. Jerome; it is more or less vaguely supposed by the Pilgrim of Piacenza, erroneously called Antoninus Martyr, who wrote about A.D. 580 [37]; finally the popes Paul II (1471), Julius II (1507), Leo X (1519), Paul III (1535), Pius IV (1565), Sixtus V (1586), andInnocent XII (1698) in their Bulls concerning the Holy House of Loreto say that the Blessed Virgin was born,educated, and greeted by the angel in the Holy House. But these pontiffs hardly wish to decide an historical question; they merely express the opinion of their respective times.

A second tradition placed the birth of Our Blessed Lady in Sephoris, about three miles north of Bethlehem, the Roman Diocaesarea, and the residence of Herod Antipas till late in the life of Our Lord. The antiquity of this opinion may be inferred from the fact that under Constantine a church was erected in Sephoris to commemorate the residence of Joachim and Anna in that place [38]. St. Epiphanius speaks of this sanctuary [39]. But this merely shows that Our Blessed Lady may have lived in Sephoris for a time with her parents, without forcing us to believethat she had been born there.

The third tradition, that Mary was born in Jerusalem, is the most probable one. We have seen that it rests upon the testimony of St. Sophronius, St. John Damascene, and upon the evidence of the recent finds in the Probatica. TheFeast of Our Lady's Nativity was not celebrated in Rome till toward the end of the seventh century; but two sermons found among the writings of St. Andrew of Crete (d. 680) suppose the existence of this feat, and lead one to suspect that it was introduced at an earlier date into some other churches [40]. In 799 the 10th canon of the Synodof Salzburg prescribes four feasts in honour of the Mother of God: the Purification, 2 February; the Annunciation, 25 March; the Assumption, 15 August; the Nativity, 8 September.

The Presentation of Mary

According to Exodus 13:2 and 13:12, all the Hebrew first-born male children had to be presented in the Temple. Such a law would lead pious Jewish parents to observe the same religious rite with regard to other favourite children. This inclines one to believe that Joachim and Anna presented in the Temple their child, which they had obtained by their long, fervent prayers.

As to Mary, St. Luke (1:34) tells us that she answered the angel announcing the birth of Jesus Christ: "how shall this be done, because I know not man". These words can hardly be understood, unless we assume that Mary had made a vow of virginity; for, when she spoke them, she was betrothed to St. Joseph. [41] The most opportune occasion for such a vow was her presentation in the Temple. As some of the Fathers admit that the faculties of St. John the Baptist were prematurely developed by a special intervention of God's power, we may admit a similar grace for the child of Joachim and Anna. [42]

But what has been said does not exceed the certainty of antecedently probable pious conjectures. The consideration that Our Lord could not have refused His Blessed Mother any favours which depended merely on His munificence does not exceed the value of an a priori argument. Certainty in this question must depend on external testimony and the teaching of the Church.

Now, the Protoevangelium of James (7-8), and the writing entitled "De nativit. Mariae" (7-8), [43] state that Joachimand Anna, faithful to a vow they had made, presented the child Mary in the Temple when she was three years old; that the child herself mounted the Temple steps, and that she made her vow of virginity on this occasion. St. Gregory of Nyssa [44] and St. Germanus of Constantinople [45] adopt this report; it is also followed by pseudo-Gregory of Nazianzus in his "Christus patiens". [46] Moreover, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation, though it does not specify at what age the child Mary was presented in the Temple, when she made her vow of virginity, and what were the special natural and supernatural gifts with which God endowed her. Thefeast is mentioned for the first time in a document of Manuel Commenus, in 1166; from Constantinople the feastmust have been introduced into the western Church, where we find it at the papal court at Avignon in 1371; about a century later, Pope Sixtus IV introduced the Office of the Presentation, and in 1585 Pope Sixtus V extended theFeast of the Presentation to the whole Church.

Her betrothal to Joseph

The apocryphal writings to which we referred in the last paragraph state that Mary remained in the Temple after her presentation in order to be educated with other Jewish children. There she enjoyed ecstatic visions and daily visits of the holy angels.

When she was fourteen, the high priest wished to send her home for marriage. Mary reminded him of her vow ofvirginity, and in his embarrassment the high priest consulted the Lord. Then he called all the young men of thefamily of David, and promised Mary in marriage to him whose rod should sprout and become the resting place of the Holy Ghost in form of a dove. It was Joseph who was privileged in this extraordinary way.

We have already seen that St. Gregory of NyssaSt. Germanus of Constantinople, and pseudo-Gregory Nazianzen seem to adopt these legends. Besides, the emperor Justinian allowed a basilica to be built on the platform of the former Temple in memory of Our Lady's stay in the sanctuary; the church was called the New St. Mary's so as to distinguish it from the Church of the Nativity. It seems to be the modern mosque el-Aksa. [47]

On the other hand, the Church is silent as to Mary's stay in the TempleSt. Ambrose [48], describing Mary's life before the Annunciation, supposes expressly that she lived in the house of her parents. All the descriptions of theJewish Temple which can claim any scientific value leave us in ignorance as to any localities in which young girls might have been educated. Joas's stay in the Temple till the age of seven does not favour the supposition that young girls were educated within the sacred precincts; for Joas was king, and was forced by circumstances to remain in the Temple (cf. 2 Kings 11:3). What 2 Maccabees 3:19, says about "the virgins also that were shut up" does not show that any of them were kept in the Temple buildings. If the prophetess Anna is said (Luke 2:37) not to have "departed from the temple, by fastings and prayer serving night and day", we do not suppose that she actually lived in one of he temple rooms. [49] As the house of Joachim and Anna was not far distant from theTemple, we may supposed that the holy child Mary was often allowed to visit the sacred buildings in order to satisfy her devotion.

Jewish maidens were considered marriageable at the age of twelve years and six months, though the actual age of the bride varied with circumstances. The marriage was preceded by the betrothal, after which the bride legally belonged to the bridegroom, though she did not live with him till about a year later, when the marriage used to be celebrated. All this agrees well with the language of the EvangelistsSt. Luke (1:27) calls Mary "a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph"; St. Matthew (1:18) says, when as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child, of the Holy Ghost". As we know of no brother of Mary, we must suppose that she was an heiress, and was obliged by the law of Numbers 36:6 to marry a member of hertribe. The Law itself prohibited marriage within certain degrees of relationship, so that the marriage of even an heiress was left more or less to choice.

According to Jewish custom, the union between Joseph and Mary had to be arranged by the parents of St. Joseph. One might ask why Mary consented to her betrothal, though she was bound by her vow of virginity. As she hadobeyed God's inspiration in making her vow, so she obeyed God's inspiration in becoming the affianced bride ofJoseph. Besides, it would have been singular among the Jews to refuse betrothal or marriage; for all the Jewishmaidens aspired after marriage as the accomplishment of a natural duty. Mary trusted the Divine guidance implicitly, and thus was certain that her vow would be kept even in her married state.

The Annunciation

The Annunciation has been treated in a SPECIAL ARTICLE.

The Visitation

According to Luke 1:36, the angel Gabriel told Mary at the time of the annunciation, "behold, thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month with her that was called barren". Withoutdoubting the truth of the angel's words, Mary determined at once to add to the pleasure of her pious relative. [50] Hence the Evangelist continues (1:39): "And Mary, rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda. And she entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth." Though Mary must have toldJoseph of her intended visit, it is hard to determine whether he accompanied her; if the time of the journey happened to coincide with one of the festal seasons at which the Israelites had to go to the Temple, there would be little difficulty about companionship.

The place of Elizabeth's home has been variously located by different writers: it has been placed in Machaerus, over ten miles east of the Dead Sea, or in Hebron, or again in the ancient sacerdotal city of Jutta, about seven miles south of Hebron, or finally in Ain-Karim, the traditional St. John-in-the Mountain, nearly four miles west ofJerusalem. [51] But the first three places possess no traditional memorial of the birth or life of St. John; besides, Machaerus was not situated in the mountains of JudaHebron and Jutta belonged after the Babylonian captivity toIdumea, while Ain-Karim lies in the "hill country" [52] mentioned in the inspired text of St. Luke.

After her journey of about thirty hours, Mary "entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth" (Luke 1:40). According to traditionElizabeth lived at the time of the visitation not in her city home, but in her villa, about ten minutes distant from the city; formerly this place was marked by an upper and lower church. In 1861 the present small Church of the Visitation was erected on the ancient foundations.

"And it came to pass that, when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb." It was at this moment that God fulfilled the promise made by the angel to Zachary (Luke 1:15), "and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb"; in other words, the infant in Elizabeth's womb was cleansed from the stain of original sin. The fullness of the Holy Ghost in the infant overflowed, as it were, into the soul of his mother: "and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost" (Luke 1:41). Thus both child and mother were sanctified by the presence of Mary and the Word Incarnate [53]; filled as she was with the Holy GhostElizabeth "cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord" (Luke 1:42-45). Leaving to commentators the full explanation of the preceding passage, we draw attention only to two points:

  • Elizabeth begins her greeting with the words with which the angel had finished his salutation, thus showing that both spoke in the same Holy Spirit;
  • Elizabeth is the first to call Mary by her most honourable title "Mother of God".

Mary's answer is the canticle of praise commonly called "Magnificat" from the first word of its Latin text; the"Magnificat" has been treated in a SEPARATE ARTICLE.

The Evangelist closes his account of the Visitation with the words: "And Mary abode with her about three months; and she returned to her own house" (Luke 1:56). Many see in this brief statement of the third gospel an implied hint that Mary remained in the house of Zachary till the birth of John the Baptist, while others deny such an implication. As the Feast of the Visitation was placed by the 43rd canon of the Council of Basle (A.D. 1441) on 2 July, the day following the Octave of the Feast of St. John Baptist, it has been inferred that Mary may have remained with Elizabeth until after the child's circumcision; but there is no further proof for this supposition. Though thevisitation is so accurately described in the third Gospel, its feast does not appear to have been kept till the thirteenth century, when it was introduced through the influence of the Franciscans; in 1389 it was officially instituted by Urban VI.

Mary's pregnancy becomes known to Joseph

After her return from Elizabeth, Mary "was found with child, of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 1:18). As among the Jews,betrothal was a real marriage, the use of marriage after the time of espousals presented nothing unusual among them. Hence Mary's pregnancy could not astonish anyone except St. Joseph. As he did not know the mystery of theIncarnation, the situation must have been extremely painful both to him and to Mary. The Evangelist says: "Whereupon Joseph her husband being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately" (Matthew 1:19). Mary left the solution of the difficulty to God, and God informed the perplexed spouse in His own time of the true condition of Mary. While Joseph "thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus. For He shall save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:20-21).

Not long after this revelationJoseph concluded the ritual marriage contract with Mary. The Gospel simply says: "Joseph rising up from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took unto him his wife" (Matthew 1:24). While it is certain that between the betrothal and the marriage at least three months must have elapsed, during which Mary stayed with Elizabeth, it is impossible to determine the exact length of time between the two ceremonies. We do not know how long after the betrothal the angel announced to Mary the mystery of theIncarnation, nor do we know how long the doubt of Joseph lasted, before he was enlightened by the visit of theangel. From the age at which Hebrew maidens became marriageable, it is possible that Mary gave birth to her Sonwhen she was about thirteen or fourteen years of age. No historical document tells us how old she actually was at the time of the Nativity.

The journey to Bethlehem

St. Luke (2:1-5) explains how Joseph and Mary journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem in obedience to a decree ofCaesar Augustus which prescribed a general enrolment. The questions connected with this decree have been considered in the article BIBLICAL CHRONOLOGY. There are various reasons why Mary should have accompaniedJoseph on this journey; she may not wished to lose Joseph's protection during the critical time of her pregnancy, or she may have followed a special Divine inspiration impelling her to go in order to fulfil the prophecies concerning her Divine Son, or again she may have been compelled to go by the civil law either as an heiress or to settle the personal tax payable by women over twelve years of age. [54]

As the enrolment had brought a multitude of strangers to Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph found no room in the caravansary and had to take lodging in a grotto which served as a shelter for animals. [55]

Mary gives birth to Our Lord

"And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered" (Luke 2:6); this language leaves it uncertain whether the birth of Our Lord took place immediately after Joseph and Mary had taken lodging in the grotto, or several days later. What is said about the shepherds "keeping the night watches over their flock" (Luke 2:8) shows that Christ was born in the night time.

After bringing forth her Son, Mary "wrapped Him up in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger" (Luke 2:7), a sign that she did not suffer from the pain and weakness of childbirth. This inference agrees with the teaching of some of the principal Fathers and theologiansSt. Ambrose [56], St. Gregory of Nyssa [57], St. John Damascene[58], the author of Christus patiens [59], St. Thomas [60], etc. It was not becoming that the mother of God should be subject to the punishment pronounced in Genesis 3:16, against Eve and her sinful daughters.

Shortly after the birth of the child, the shepherds, obedient to the angelic invitation, arrived in the grotto, "and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger" (Luke 2:16). We may suppose that the shepherds spread the glad tidings they had received during the night among their friends in Bethlehem, and that the Holy Family was received by one of its pious inhabitants into more suitable lodgings.

The Circumcision of Our Lord

"And after eight days were accomplished, that the child should be circumcised, his name was called Jesus" (Luke 2:21). The rite of circumcision was performed either in the synagogue or in the home of the Child; it is impossible to determine where Our Lord's Circumcision took place. At any rate, His Blessed Mother must have been present at the ceremony.

The Presentation

According to the law of Leviticus 12:2-8, the Jewish mother of a male child had to present herself forty days after his birth for legal purification; according to Exodus 13:2, and Numbers 18:15, the first-born son had to be presented on the same occasion. Whatever reasons Mary and the Infant might have for claiming an exemption, they complied with the law. But, instead of offering a lamb, they presented the sacrifice of the poor, consisting of a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons. In 2 Corinthians 8:9St. Paul informs the Corinthians that Jesus Christ "being rich. . .became poor, for your sakes, that through his poverty you might be rich". Even more acceptable to Godthan Mary's poverty was the readiness with which she surrendered her Divine Son to the good pleasure of His Heavenly Father.

After the ceremonial rites had been complied with, holy Simeon took the Child in his arms, and thanked God for the fulfilment of his promises; he drew attention to the universality of the salvation that was to come through Messianicredemption "prepared before the face of all peoples: a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel" (Luke 2:31 sq.). Mary and Joseph now began to know their Divine Child more fully; they "were wondering at those things which were spoken concerning him" (Luke 2:33). As if to prepare Our Blessed Mother for the mystery of the crossholy Simeon said to her: "Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34-35). Mary had suffered her first great sorrow at the time whenJoseph was hesitating about taking her for his wife; she experienced her second great sorrow when she heard the words of holy Simeon.

Though the incident of the prophetess Anna had a more general bearing, for she "spoke of him (the Child) to all that looked for the redemption of Israel" (Luke 2:38), it must have added greatly to the wonder of Joseph and Mary. The Evangelist's concluding remark, "after they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their city Nazareth" (Luke 2:39), has been variously interpreted by commentators; as to the order of events, see the article CHRONOLOGY OF THE LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST.

The visit of the Magi

After the Presentation, the Holy Family either returned to Bethlehem directly, or went first to Nazareth, and then moved into the city of David. At any rate, after the "wise men from the east" had followed the Divine guidance toBethlehem, "entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him; and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh" (Matthew 2:11). The Evangelistdoes not mention Joseph; not that he was not present, but because Mary occupies the principal place near theChild. How Mary and Joseph disposed of the presents offered by their wealthy visitors has not been told us by theEvangelists.

The flight to Egypt

Soon after the departure of the wise men Joseph received the message from the angel of the Lord to fly into Egyptwith the Child and His mother on account of the evil designs of Herod; the holy man's ready obedience is briefly described by the Evangelist in the words: "who arose, and took the child and his mother by night, and retired intoEgypt" (Matthew 2:14). Persecuted Jews had ever sought a refuge in Egypt (cf. 1 Kings 11:402 Kings 25:26); about the time of Christ Jewish colonists were especially numerous in the land of the Nile [61]; according to Philo [62] they numbered at least a million. In Leontopolis, in the district of Heliopolis, the Jews had a temple (160 B.C.-A.D. 73) which rivalled in splendour the temple in Jerusalem. [63] The Holy Family might therefore expect to find inEgypt a certain amount of help and protection.

On the other hand, it required a journey of at least ten days from Bethlehem to reach the nearest habitable districts of Egypt. We do not know by what road the Holy Family effected its flight; they may have followed the ordinary road through Hebron; or they may have gone by way of Eleutheropolis and Gaza, or again they may have passed west ofJerusalem towards the great military road of Joppe.

There is hardly any historical document which will assist us in determining where the Holy Family lived in Egypt, nor do we know how long the enforced exile lasted. [64]

When Joseph received from the angel the news of Herod's death and the command to return into the land of Israel, he "arose, and took the child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel" (Matthew 2:21). The news that Archelaus ruled in Judea prevented Joseph from settling in Bethlehem, as had been his intention; "warned in sleep[by the angel, he] retired into the quarters of Galilee. And coming he dwelt in a city called Nazareth" (Matthew 2:22-23). In all these details Mary simply followed the guidance of Joseph, who in his turn received the Divine manifestations as head of the Holy Family. There is no need to point out the intense sorrow which Mary suffered on account of the early persecution of the Child.

The Holy Family in Nazareth

The life of the Holy Family in Nazareth was that of the ordinary poor tradesman. According to Matthew 13:55, the townsfolk asked "Is not this the carpenter's son?"; the question, as expressed in the second Gospel (Mark 6:3), shows a slight variation, "Is not this the carpenter?" While Joseph gained the livelihood for the Holy Family by his daily work, Mary attended to the various duties of housekeeper. St. Luke (2:40) briefly says of Jesus: "And the child grew, and waxed strong, full of wisdom; and the grace of God was in him". The weekly Sabbath and the annual great feasts interrupted the daily routine of life in Nazareth.

The finding of Our Lord in the Temple

According to the law of Exodus 23:17, only the men were obliged to visit the Temple on the three solemn feasts of the year; but the women often joined the men to satisfy their devotion. St. Luke (2:41) informs us that "his [the child's] parents went every year to Jerusalem, at the solemn day of the pasch". Probably the Child Jesus was left in the home of friends or relatives during the days of Mary's absence. According to the opinion of some writers, theChild did not give any sign of His Divinity during the years of His infancy, so as to increase the merits of Joseph'sand Mary's faith based on what they had seen and heard at the time of the Incarnation and the birth of Jesus.Jewish Doctors of the Law maintained that a boy became a son of the law at the age of twelve years and one day; after that he was bound by the legal precepts.

The evangelist supplies us here with the information that, "when he was twelve years old, they going up intoJerusalem, according to the custom of the feast, and having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the child Jesusremained in Jerusalem, and his parents knew it not" (Luke 2:42-43). Probably it was after the second festal day that Joseph and Mary returned with the other Galilean pilgrims; the law did not require a longer sojourn in the Holy City. On the first day the caravan usually made a four hours' journey, and rested for the night in Beroth on the northern boundary of the former Kingdom of Juda. The crusaders built in this place a beautiful Gothic church to commemorate Our Lady's sorrow when she "sought him [her child] among their kinsfolks and acquaintance, and not finding him,. . .returned into Jerusalem, seeking him" (Luke 2:44-45). The Child was not found among the pilgrims who had come to Beroth on their first day's journey; nor was He found on the second day, when Joseph and Mary returned to Jerusalem; it was only on the third day that they "found him [Jesus] in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions. . .And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing" (Luke 2:40-48). Mary'sfaith did not allow her to fear a mere accident for her Divine Son; but she felt that His behaviour had changed entirely from His customary exhibition of docility and subjection. The feeling caused the question, why Jesus had treated His parents in such a way. Jesus simply answered: "How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father's business?" (Luke 2:49). Neither Joseph nor Mary understood these words as a rebuke; "they understood not the word that he spoke to them" (Luke 2:50). It has been suggested by a recent writer that the last clause may be understood as meaning, "they [i.e., the bystanders] understood not the word he spoke unto them [i.e., to Mary and Joseph]".

The remainder of Our Lord's youth

After this, Jesus "went down with them, and came to Nazareth" where He began a life of work and poverty, eighteen years of which are summed up by the Evangelist in the few words, and he "was subject to them, and. . .advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men" (Luke 2:51-52). The interior life of Mary is briefly indicated by the inspired writer in the expression, "and his mother kept all these words in her heart" (Luke 2:51). A similar expression had been used in 2:19, "Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart". Thus Mary observed the daily life of her Divine Son, and grew in His knowledge and love by meditating on what she saw and heard. It has been pointed out by certain writers that the Evangelist here indicates the last source from which he derived the material contained in his first two chapters.

Mary's perpetual virginity

In connection with the study of Mary during Our Lord's hidden life, we meet the questions of her perpetual virginity, of her Divine motherhood, and of her personal sanctity. Her spotless virginity has been sufficiently considered in the article on the Virgin Birth. The authorities there cited maintain that Mary remained a virgin when she conceived and gave birth to her Divine Son, as well as after the birth of Jesus. Mary's question (Luke 1:34), the angel's answer (Luke 1:35, 37), Joseph's way of behaving in his doubt (Matthew 1:19-25), Christ's words addressed to the Jews(John 8:19) show that Mary retained her virginity during the conception of her Divine Son. [65]

As to Mary's virginity after her childbirth, it is not denied by St. Matthew's expressions "before they came together" (1:18), "her firstborn son" (1:25), nor by the fact that the New Testament books repeatedly refer to the "brothers of Jesus". [66] The words "before they came together" mean probably, "before they lived in the same house", referring to the time when they were merely betrothed; but even if the words be understood of marital intercourse, they only state that the Incarnation took place before any such intercourse had intervened, without implying that it did occur after the Incarnation of the Son of God. [67]

The same must be said of the expression, "and he knew her not till she brought forth her firstborn son" (Matthew 1:25); the Evangelist tells us what did not happen before the birth of Jesus, without suggesting that it happened after his birth. [68] The name "firstborn" applies to Jesus whether his mother remained a virgin or gave birth to other children after Jesus; among the Jews it was a legal name [69], so that its occurrence in the Gospel cannot astonish us.

Finally, the "brothers of Jesus" are neither the sons of Mary, nor the brothers of Our Lord in the proper sense of the word, but they are His cousins or the more or less near relatives. [70] The Church insists that in His birth the Son of God did not lessen but consecrate the virginal integrity of His mother (Secret in Mass of Purification). The Fathersexpress themselves in similar language concerning this privilege of Mary. [71]

Mary's Divine motherhood

Mary's Divine motherhood is based on the teaching of the Gospels, on the writings of the Fathers, and on the express definition of the ChurchSt. Matthew (1:25) testifies that Mary "brought forth her first-born son" and that He was called Jesus. According to St. John (1:15Jesus is the Word made flesh, the Word Who assumed human nature in the womb of Mary. As Mary was truly the mother of Jesus, and as Jesus was truly God from the first moment of His conception, Mary is truly the mother of God. Even the earliest Fathers did not hesitate to draw this conclusion as may be seen in the writings of St. Ignatius [72], St. Irenaeus [73], and Tertullian [74]. The contention of Nestorius denying to Mary the title "Mother of God" [75] was followed by the teaching of the Council of Ephesusproclaiming Mary to be Theotokos in the true sense of the word. [76]

Mary's perfect sanctity

Some few patristic writers expressed their doubts as to the presence of minor moral defects in Our Blessed Lady. [77] St. Basil, e.g., suggests that Mary yielded to doubt on hearing the words of holy Simeon and on witnessing thecrucifixion. [78] St. John Chrysostom is of opinion that Mary would have felt fear and trouble, unless the angel had explained the mystery of the Incarnation to her, and that she showed some vainglory at the marriage feast in Canaand on visiting her Son during His public life together with the brothers of the Lord. [79] St. Cyril of Alexandria [80] speaks of Mary's doubt and discouragement at the foot of the cross. But these Greek writers cannot be said to express an Apostolic tradition, when they express their private and singular opinions. Scripture and tradition agree in ascribing to Mary the greatest personal sanctity; She is conceived without the stain of original sin; she shows the greatest humility and patience in her daily life (Luke 1:38, 48); she exhibits an heroic patience under the most trying circumstances (Luke 2:7, 35, 48John 19:25-27). When there is question of sin, Mary must always be excepted. [81] Mary's complete exemption from actual sin is confirmed by the Council of Trent (Session VI, Canon 23): "If any one say that man once justified can during his whole life avoid all sins, even venial ones, as the Churchholds that the Blessed Virgin did by special privilege of God, let him be anathema." Theologians assert that Mary was impeccable, not by the essential perfection of her nature, but by a special Divine privilege. Moreover, theFathers, at least since the fifth century, almost unanimously maintain that the Blessed Virgin never experienced the motions of concupiscence.

The miracle in Cana

The evangelists connect Mary's name with three different events in Our Lord's public life: with the miracle in Cana, with His preaching, and with His passion. The first of these incidents is related in John 2:1-10.

There was a marriage feast in Cana of Galilee. . .and the mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage. And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine. And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? my hour is not yet come.

One naturally supposes that one of the contracting parties was related to Mary, and that Jesus had been invited on account of his mother's relationship. The couple must have been rather poor, since the wine was actually failing. Mary wishes to save her friends from the shame of not being able to provide properly for the guests, and has recourse to her Divine Son. She merely states their need, without adding any further petition. In addressing women,Jesus uniformly employs the word "woman" (Matthew 15:28Luke 13:12John 4:218:1019:2620:15), an expression used by classical writers as a respectful and honourable address. [82] The above cited passages show that in the language of Jesus the address "woman" has a most respectful meaning. The clause "what is that to me and to thee" renders the Greek ti emoi kai soi, which in its turn corresponds to the Hebrew phrase mah li walakh. This latter occurs in Judges 11:122 Samuel 16:1019:231 Kings 17:182 Kings 3:139:182 Chronicles 35:21. The New Testament shows equivalent expressions in Matthew 8:29Mark 1:24Luke 4:348:28Matthew 27:19. The meaning of the phrase varies according to the character of the speakers, ranging from a most pronounced opposition to a courteous compliance. Such a variable meaning makes it hard for the translator to find an equally variable equivalent. "What have I to do with thee", "this is neither your nor my business", "why art thou troublesome to me", "allow me to attend to this", are some of the renderings suggested. In general, the words seem to refer to well or ill-meant importunity which they endeavour to remove. The last part of Our Lord's answer presents less difficulty to the interpreter: "my hour is not yet come", cannot refer to the precise moment at which the need of wine will require the miraculous intervention of Jesus; for in the language of St. John "my hour" or "the hour" denotes the time preordained for some important event (John 4:21, 235:25, 287:308:2912:2313:1;16:2117:1). Hence the meaning of Our Lord's answer is: "Why are you troubling me by asking me for such an intervention? The divinely appointed time for such a manifestation has not yet come"; or, "why are you worrying? has not the time of manifesting my power come?" The former of these meanings implies that on account of the intercession of Mary Jesus anticipated the time set for the manifestation of His miraculous power [83]; the second meaning is obtained by understanding the last part of Our Lord's words as a question, as was done by St. Gregory of Nyssa [84], and by the Arabic version of Tatian's "Diatessaron" (Rome, 1888). [85] Mary understood her Son'swords in their proper sense; she merely warned the waiters, "Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye" (John 2:5). There can be no question of explaining Jesus' answer in the sense of a refusal.

Mary during the apostolic life of Our Lord

During the apostolic life of Jesus, Mary effaced herself almost completely. Not being called to aid her Son directly in His ministry, she did not wish to interfere with His work by her untimely presence. In Nazareth she was regarded as a common Jewish mother; St. Matthew (3:55-56; cf. Mark 6:3) introduces the people of the town as saying: "Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary, and his brethren James, and Joseph, and Simon, and Jude: and his sisters, are they not all with us?" Since the people wish to lower Our Lord's esteem by their language, we must infer that Mary belonged to the lower social order of townspeople. The parallel passage of St. Mark reads, "Is not this the carpenter?" instead of, "Is not this the carpenter's son?" Since both evangelists omit the name of St. Joseph, we may infer that he had died before this episode took place.

At first sight, it seems that Jesus Himself depreciated the dignity of His Blessed Mother. When He was told: "Behold thy mother and thy brethren stand without, seeking thee", He answered: "Who is my mother, and who are mybrethren? And stretching forth his hand towards his disciples, he said: Behold my mother and my brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of my Father, that is in heaven, he is my brother, and my sister, and my mother" (Matthew 12:47-50; cf. Mark 3:31-35Luke 8:19-21). On another occasion, "a certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to him: Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps that gave thee suck. But he said: Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it" (Luke 11:27-28).

In reality, Jesus in both these passages places the bond that unites the soul with God above the natural bond ofparentage which unites the Mother of God with her Divine Son. The latter dignity is not belittled; as men naturally appreciate it more easily, it is employed by Our Lord as a means to make known the real value of holinessJesus, therefore, really, praises His mother in a most emphatic way; for she excelled the rest of men in holiness not less than in dignity. [86] Most probably, Mary was found also among the holy women who ministered to Jesus and Hisapostles during their ministry in Galilee (cf. Luke 8:2-3); the Evangelists do not mention any other public appearance of Mary during the time of Jesus's journeys through Galilee or Judea. But we must remember that when the sun appears, even the brightest stars become invisible.

Mary during the Passion of Our Lord

Since the Passion of Jesus Christ occurred during the paschal week, we naturally expect to find Mary at Jerusalem.Simeon's prophecy found its fulfilment principally during the time of Our Lord's suffering. According to a tradition, His Blessed Mother met Jesus as He was carrying His cross to Golgotha. The Itinerarium of the Pilgrim of Bordeaux describes the memorable sites which the writer visited A.D. 333, but it does not mention any locality sacred to this meeting of Mary and her Divine Son. [87] The same silence prevails in the so-called Peregrinatio Silviae which used to be assigned to A.D. 385, but has lately been placed in A.D. 533-540. [88] But a plan of Jerusalem, dating from the year 1308, shows a Church of St. John the Baptist with the inscription "Pasm. Vgis.", Spasmus Virginis, the swoon of the Virgin. During the course of the fourteenth century Christians began to locate the spots consecrated by the Passion of Christ, and among these was the place was the place where Mary is said to have fainted at the sight of her suffering Son. [89] Since the fifteenth century one finds always "Sancta Maria de Spasmo" among the Stations of the Way of the Cross, erected in various parts of Europe in imitation of the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. [90] That Our Blessed Lady should have fainted at the sight of her Son's sufferings, hardly agrees with her heroic behaviour under the cross; still, we may consider her woman and mother in her meeting with her Son on the way to Golgotha, while she is the Mother of God at the foot of the cross.

Mary's spiritual motherhood

While Jesus was hanging on the cross, "there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen. When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom heloved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own" (John 19:25-27). The darkening of the sun and the otherextraordinary phenomena in nature must have frightened the enemies of Our Lord sufficiently so as not to interfere with His mother and His few friends standing at the foot of the cross. In the meantime, Jesus had prayed for His enemies, and had promised pardon to the penitent thief; now, He took compassion on His desolate mother, and provided for her future. If St. Joseph had been still alive, or if Mary had been the mother of those who are calledOur Lord's brethren or sisters in the gospels, such a provision would not have been necessary. Jesus uses the same respectful title with which he had addressed his mother at the marriage feast in Cana. Then he commits Mary toJohn as his mother, and wishes Mary to consider John as her son.

Among the early writersOrigen is the only one who considers Mary's motherhood of all the faithful in this connection. According to him, Christ lives in his perfect followers, and as Mary is the Mother of Christ, so she is mother of him in whom Christ lives. Hence, according to Origenman has an indirect right to claim Mary as his mother, in so far as he identifies himself with Jesus by the life of grace. [91] In the ninth century, George of Nicomedia [92] explains Our Lord's words on the cross in such a way as to entrust John to Mary, and in John all thedisciples, making her the mother and mistress of all John's companions. In the twelfth century Rupert of Deutz explained Our Lord's words as establishing Mary's spiritual motherhood of men, though St. Bernard, Rupert's illustrious contemporary, does not enumerate this privilege among Our Lady's numerous titles. [93] After this time Rupert's explanation of Our Lord's words on the cross became more and more common, so that in our day it has found its way into practically all books of piety. [94]

The doctrine of Mary's spiritual motherhood of men is contained in the fact that she is the antitype of EveEve is our natural mother because she is the origin of our natural life; so Mary is our spiritual mother because she is the origin of our spiritual life. Again, Mary's spiritual motherhood rests on the fact that Christ is our brother, being "thefirstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29). She became our mother at the moment she consent to theIncarnation of the Word, the Head of the mystical body whose members we are; and she sealed her motherhood by consenting to the bloody sacrifice on the cross which is the source of our supernatural life. Mary and the holywomen (Matthew 17:56Mark 15:40Luke 23:49John 19:25) assisted at the death of Jesus on the cross; she probably remained during the taking down of His sacred body and during His funeral. The following Sabbath was for her a time of grief and hope. The eleventh canon of a council held in Cologne, in 1423, instituted against theHussites the feast of the Dolours of Our Blessed Lady, placing it on the Friday following the third Sunday afterEaster. In 1725 Benedict XIV extended the feast to the whole Church, and placed it on the Friday in Passion Week. "And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own" (John 19:27). Whether they lived in the city of Jerusalem or elsewhere, cannot be determined from the Gospels.

Mary and Our Lord's Resurrection

The inspired record of the incidents connected with Christ's Resurrection do not mention Mary; but neither do they pretend to give a complete account of all that Jesus did or said. The Fathers too are silent as to Mary's share in the joys of her Son's triumph over death. Still, St. Ambrose [95] states expressly: "Mary therefore saw the Resurrection of the Lord; she was the first who saw it and believedMary Magdalen too saw it, though she still wavered". George of Nicomedia [96] infers from Mary's share in Our Lord's sufferings that before all others and more than all she must have shared in the triumph of her Son. In the twelfth century, an apparition of the risen Saviour to His Blessed Mother is admitted by Rupert of Deutz [97], and also by Eadmer [98] St. Bernardin of Siena [99], St. Ignatius of Loyola [100], Suarez [101], Maldonado [102], etc. [103] That the risen Christ should have appeared first to His Blessed Mother, agrees at least with our pious expectations.

Though the Gospels do not expressly tell us so, we may

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