Mary as the “New Eve”

Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

by

Damien F. Mackey 

  

“The foundation of this beautiful alias is entirely biblical. Jesus Christ is the New Adam. Now, the old Adam had a helpmate like unto himself who was his partner in crime. It’s a parallelism that begs to be completed. Common sense tells us we don’t have to look far to complete it. For those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, the Gospels show us that Jesus had a partner in redemption, and that partner was Mary”.

 

 

Sometimes it may seem to us as if it is Satan, and not God, who really controls the show.

The Devil can certainly be accused, at least, of ruining the show, as according to this famous quote from French Thomistic philosopher, Jacques Maritain:

 

“Nowadays the devil has made such a mess of everything in the system of life on earth that the world will presently become uninhabitable for anybody but Saints. The rest will drag their lives out in despair or fall below the level of man. The antinomies if human life are too exasperated, the burden of matter too oppressive; merely to exist, one has to expose oneself to many snares. Christian heroism will one day become the sole solution for the problems of life.”

 

However, as the Book of Job reveals to us, it is God, not Satan, who has the last word – or who has, one could say, the First and the Last Word.

Satan is allowed a degree of interference for the sake of a greater good. The prophet Job became a far better person for his terrible ordeal, as did his three friends who had formerly accused him.

As St. Paul optimistically put it (Romans 5:20): “… where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”.

God will always re-write a discordant note into a new and better symphony. He always has at hand what Tertullian called “a rival operation”, to turn the Devil’s schemes upon himself.

This Divine method is most wonderfully illustrated in the reversal, by the “New Adam” and the “New Eve”, of the sin of the first Adam and Eve. I wrote about it as follows in my book:

The Five First Saturdays of Our Lady of Fatima

https://www.academia.edu/3689879/The_Five_First_Saturdays_Of_Our_Lady_of_Fatima

A Rival Operation

 

All the way through the history of salvation, since sin fist entered into the universe, the Triune God has employed what Tertullian called “a rival operation”, to turn the Devil’s own schemes upon himself. This dramatic change of fortune against the forces of evil, just when these had appeared to have the upper hand, always leaves them stranded, trapped at their own game, and an easy target for God. It is a process that is wonderfully demonstrated in the Book of Esther, where it is consciously used by the sacred writer to create a dramatic tension. That this same process of “rival operation” runs throughout the entire Scriptures in fact, is attested by Fr. Papali, when he says that: “There is no parallelism in the Scriptures so pronounced and so perfect as between the drama of the fall of man and that of his restoration. St. Paul has emphasised the essential and central point of that contrasting parallel:

“Therefore, as by the offence of one, unto all men to condemnation; so also by the justice of one, unto all men to justification of life. For as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners; so also by the obedience of one, many shall be made just’ (Rom. 5:18-19)”. ….

Now what is the role of the Woman in this parallel scheme of things? With this question we touch on the heart of the Fatima message. And, as we are going to discover, this role is a central one.

Already, in the Introduction, we briefly considered how Queen Vashti and Queen Esther typify, respectively, the First Eve and the Second Eve. Now, Tertullian used this very example of the Virgin Mary as the ‘Second Eve’, to illustrate exactly what he meant by his term “rival operation”. Thus he wrote (in De Carn. Christ., 17):

“For into Eve, as yet a virgin, had crept the word which was the framer of death, equally into a Virgin was to be introduced the Word of God which was the builder-up of life”.

Now, considering that the hero and heroine in the Book of Esther – that is, Mordecai and Queen Esther – typify (and only typify) respectively Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, then we shall have to go to the New Testament where the final details of their true relationship lie revealed. We may expect Mordecai, even more than Esther, to be the drama’s chief protagonist on the side of good. And whilst it is indeed Mordecai who initiates the action, and who conveys vital instructions to the ever-obedient Queen Esther, it was nevertheless she alone amongst the Jewish race who had any hope of access to the king. If then it is Esther who will stand before the royal presence – though it may mean her life – and plead for mercy: ‘I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish’ (4:16), then the final answer to this profound mystery, “Why this preference for the Woman as the central figure in the drama?”, cannot be given until they whom Mordecai and Queen Esther typify have made their appearance: namely, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and His holy Mother.

We begin our search for the only answer that can completely satisfy us (as far as the limitations of our earthly existence will allow) at the level where two Popes (Pius IX in “Ineffabilis Deus”, 1854, and Pius XII in “Munificentissimus Deus, 1950) have instructed us to look for it: in eternity …. A little earlier on we had displayed the important text which appears in both of these papal documents:

“… the revered Mother of God, ‘from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same Decree of Predestination’ …”..

Central to the answer is the unbelievable power of an ‘instrument’ in the Divine Mind; power associated with being a ‘causa instrumentalis’ in God’s Hands. To understand fully what is to follow, it is absolutely essential that the truth be accepted as proposed by the holy Catholic Church: that Mary is not only the Mother and the Model, but also the beginning of the Church. Central in the Mind of God as to this whole Mystery of Fall and Redemption is this Revealed Truth: that Mary, as the New Eve, was at one stage the whole Church when, on that momentous occasion of the Annunciation, She gave Christ the two instruments that he needed under the Divine Decree of Redemption: the physical Body that made Him human and the Mystical Body that made Him Head. And by this simple act of being the singular instrument that Christ needed to redeem the world in the form of a “rival operation” paralleling the Fall, the world became inundated with the Flood of the Incarnation and Redemption; an unleashing of Grace out of all proportion to the status of being a mere human instrument. And the whole core of what this present book is about is that now, by that same decree, this tremendous power of being a ‘causa instrumentalis’ has flowed from Christ the Head, through Mary, through the holy Church to each of its members, i.e. to each of this Mother’s children ….

“Many souls go to Hell because there is no one to pray or to bring sacrifices for them ….”.

Christ prayed and died for these souls. Mary prayed and suffered for them. The holy Church prays and suffers. Yet, according to St. Paul [Col. 1:24] and the above-quoted words of our Lady at Fatima, there is still something lacking, there is still more to be done! Locked up in God’s inscrutable Decree of Predestination lies the decision that other instruments have been set aside and have been given the power to obtain the very special grace equally won by Christ: the removal of individual obstructions to this ‘flood of Grace’; obstructions which, due to fallen human nature, remain present in each parched soul. And unless a substitute can be found in case the instruments, chosen initially, refuse to pass on this flow and secure this individual grace, “many souls go to Hell” ….

 

That this teaching of the New Adam and the New Eve, stemming from biblical roots, represents a most ancient belief in the Christian Church is apparent from what we read in the following article (http://catholicism.org/second-eve.html):

 

The foundation of this beautiful alias is entirely biblical. Jesus Christ is the New Adam. Now, the old Adam had a helpmate like unto himself who was his partner in crime. It’s a parallelism that begs to be completed. Common sense tells us we don’t have to look far to complete it. For those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, the Gospels show us that Jesus had a partner in redemption, and that partner was Mary.

 

The “Last Adam”

 

Saint Paul provides us with the first part of our argument. It is this inspired title of Jesus Christ: The Last Adam. In two passages, the Blessed Apostle teaches us that Adam was a type 1 of Our Lord as the head of a new race. As Adam was the head of fallen humanity, Christ Our Lord is head of a regenerated, sanctified humanity. In the Epistle to the Romans, he tells us that “death reigned from Adam unto Moses, even over them also who have not sinned, after the similitude of the transgression of Adam, who is a figure of him who was to come” (5:14). He further develops the thought in the Epistle to the Corinthians while speaking of the Resurrection. Proving to the doubting Corinthians that there will indeed be a resurrection on the last day, the Apostle contrasts the curse received through Adam with the blessings received through Christ: “For by a man came death: and by a man the resurrection of the dead. And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:21-22).

Later, he continues the contrast by showing its origin in the corrupted nature we inherit from Adam as opposed to the heavenly nature we receive by the grace of Our Lord:

“The first man Adam was made into a living soul; the last Adam into a quickening spirit. Yet that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural: afterwards that which is spiritual. The first man was of the earth, earthly: the second man, from heaven, heavenly. Such as is the earthly, such also are the earthly: and such as is the heavenly, such also are they that are heavenly. Therefore, as we have borne the image of the earthly, let us bear also the image of the heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:45-49).

According to Saint Paul, Jesus is the “last Adam” or the “second man” who came to restore to the human race what we lost in the Fall.

All who call themselves Christian accept this Adam-Christ parallel. We will not prove it or develop it here. Our task is to complete the picture by showing that Christ, like Adam, had a “helpmate like unto himself” (Gen. 2:18) who was his partner in the redemption. This will establish a strong foundation for Catholic Marian beliefs and devotions. Our approach is to present the doctrine of the “Second Eve” in the thoughts of the Fathers of the Church, whose testimony to the Eve-Mary parallel shows that these ancient defenders of the Christian religion were generous in their love of Our Lady (like Catholics) and not “Marian minimizers.”

 

The Annunciation

 

Common to many of the Fathers’ texts on the Second Eve is the notion that Our Lady’s Annunciation was the antithesis of Eve’s disobedience. The parallels are obvious: both were women, both were virgins, both were approached by angels who promised them something glorious should they cooperate with their respective propositions, both stood at the dawn of creation (Christ’s work was a “new creation”). The contrasts, too, are obvious: In the one case, disobedience of God brought misery, while in the other, obedience brought about happiness; the one was all-too-eager to hear what the evil spirit was suggesting, while the second was “troubled” at the angel’s wondrous greeting; the first accepted the angelic proposal even though it contradicted God’s word, while the second tested the message by its fidelity to God’s word. 2

The earliest known reference to the Eve-Mary parallel is that of Saint Justin Martyr, who died around 165. It is likely that this great philosopher-martyr was referring to an older tradition when he made the following reference, contrasting Mary’s Annunciation with Eve’s encounter with the serpent:

“[The Son of God] became man through a Virgin, so that the disobedience caused by the serpent might be destroyed in the same way it had begun. For Eve, who was virgin and undefiled, gave birth to disobedience and death after listening to the serpent’s words. But the Virgin Mary conceived faith and joy; for when the angel Gabriel brought her the glad tidings that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and that the power of the Most High would overshadow her, so that the Holy One born of her would be the Son of God, she answered, ‘Let it be done to me according to thy word’ (Lk. 1:38). Thus was born of her the [Child] about whom so many Scriptures speak, as we have shown. Through Him, God crushed the serpent, along with those angels and men who had become like the serpent.” (Dialogue with Trypho 100, quoted in Mary and the Fathers of the Church, by Luigi Gambero, Ignatius Press, 1999 [hereafter, MFC], pg. 47.)

A later witness of the parallel between Gabriel and the serpent is Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (+403): “Death came through a virgin, Eve. It was necessary that life also should come through a virgin, so that, as the serpent deceived the former, so Gabriel might bring glad tidings to the latter.” (Catecheses 12,15; MFC, pg. 135.)

 

“Cause of Salvation”

 

Many of the patristic texts on this subject assign to the Virgin an active role in man’s salvation. She was no mere passive recipient of grace. For instance, here is Saint Irenaeus of Lyons (+c.202), who tells us that Mary is the “cause of salvation,” whereas Eve had been the “cause of death”:

“Even though Eve had Adam for a husband, she was still a virgin. … By disobeying, she became the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race. In the same way, Mary, though she also had a husband, was still a virgin, and by obeying, she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race. … The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience. What Eve bound through her unbelief, Mary loosed by her faith.” (Against Heresies 3, 22; MFC, pg. 54. Unless otherwise noted, all italics in quotes are ours.)

Those tempted to object to this causality attributed to Mary should note that it is a perfect expression of Catholic Marian orthodoxy. The role of the Blessed Virgin is dependant on Christ in much the same manner as the role of Eve was dependant on Adam. God, who was no feminist, made salvation dependant on the action of a Man, just as He punished our race because of the sin of a man. Here we need to repeat what many are probably unaware of, namely, that it was Adam’s sin, not Eve’s, which is the original sin. Saint Paul reminds us that, in the order of time, the woman sinned first: “For Adam was first formed; then Eve. And Adam was not seduced; but the woman, being seduced, was in the transgression” (1 Tim. 2:13-14). But he also lets us know that Adam’s fall was the fall of the entire race: “For by a man came death: and by a man the resurrection of the dead. And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:21-22). For Catholics, Adam’s exclusive role in the original sin is dogma. The same is true for many Protestants. The Calvinist New England Primer memorably put it this way: “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.”

Now, while God was no feminist, He did give woman a special place. Eve was, for Adam, a “helpmate like unto himself” (Gen. 2:18). When she sinned and encouraged him to sin, she failed in that role. All this goes to show, that while Adam’s was the original sin, Eve had a real, active, and causal role. Invert that in the case of the New Adam. The work of redemption was the work of Christ. But He had a helpmate. Hence, we see the reasonableness of Mary’s title, “Co-Redemptrix.” 3

Saint Irenaeus writes elsewhere about Mary’s effective role in undoing what Eve did. This Father of the Church had a very profound theology which developed Saint Paul’s doctrine in Ephesians (1:10) about the “recapitulation” of all things in Christ. All human history, from Adam to his last son, are “recapitulated” in Christ so that what went wrong in Adam will be made right in the Second Adam. He details this theology in his Against the Heresies, the work we cited earlier. Here, in another work, he makes reference to the same idea, but with a beautiful Marian twist:

“Adam had to be recapitulated in Christ, so that death might be swallowed up in immortality, and Eve [had to be recapitulated] in Mary, so that the Virgin, having become another virgin’s advocate, might destroy and abolish one virgin’s disobedience by the obedience of another virgin.” (Proof of the Apostolic Preaching 33; MFC, pg. 55.)

Note again the active nature of the Blessed Virgin’s role: Mary destroyed Eve’s disobedience.

Another who gives Our Lady an active role in the redemption is Saint Ephrem the Syrian (+373), the “Harp of the Holy Ghost.” Saint Ephrem is one of the early witnesses to the Immaculate Conception and to the Marian interpretation of Genesis 3:15 (“she shall crush thy head”; the “she” being Mary). Here he espouses this position, throwing in the Eve-Mary typology: “Because the serpent had struck Eve with his claw, the foot of Mary bruised him.” (Diatesseron 10, 13; MFC, pg. 117.)

 

The Woman

 

Saint Jerome (+420) was one of Our Lady’s great defenders in the fifth century. It is he who stood up for her perpetual virginity when … Helvidius attacked it. Speaking of the wife of Job, who foolishly advised Job to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9), he notes the devil’s trick of using women to ensnare men:

“Observe the cleverness of the ancient foe. He ferociously preyed upon the substance of the just man [Job]. … He left him nothing but his tongue and his wife, so that one tempted him while the other blasphemed. The devil remembered the old trick by which he had once ensnared Adam through the woman… thinking that he could always trap men by using woman. But he did not consider that, if a man was ruined by a woman once, now the whole world has been saved through a woman. You are thinking of Eve, but consider Mary: the former drove us out of paradise; the latter leads us back to heaven.” (Tract on Psalm 96, 1; MFC, pg. 212.)

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s