Mary; Daughter, Spouse and Mother of God

Mary; Daughter, Spouse and Mother of God

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Mary as Daughter, Spouse and Mother of God

In the first chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke we read of the encounter between the Angel Gabriel and Mary: “In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.

“And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. Then the angel departed from her”  (Luke 1:26 – 38).

The imagery surrounding this encounter speaks to us of the deeper mysteries of the faith. This overshadowing is connected, through its symbolic language, to the creation account when the Spirit hovered over the waters (Gen 1:2). It also calls to mind the creation of Adam, the first man, who was fashioned out of clay. The Lord breathed the breath of life into him and the man became a living being (Gen 2:7).

In the Annunciation, the Spirit of God hovers over this chosen woman whom the early fathers called the Second Eve, whose “yes” undid the “No” of the first Eve. In Jesus, the Incarnate Word, the new creation begins. He is the New Adam (See, e.g. 1 Cor. 15: 45- 49) in whom and through whom creation begins again, through the Holy Spirit.  

The encounter also calls to mind the cloud of glory which covered the mountain when God gave Moses the Law on Sinai (Exodus 24).  Here the cloud overshadows the one through whom the New Law of Love, the Incarnate Word, would be born for the sake of the world.  The cloud also covered the Tent of Meeting (Ex 40), and no one was able to enter because the glory of God filled the tabernacle and Mary is the living tabernacle, the Ark of the new covenant, the dwelling place of God Incarnate, the new temple.

Throughout God’s relationship with Israel He promises to espouse His people to himself (See, e.g. Hosea 2:19). This language of spousal love, of nuptiality, is also present in this overshadowing by the Holy Spirit. She becomes the Spouse of the Spirit and her “Fiat” becomes the model for all who bear the name “Christian”. In fact the language of nuptiality continues throughout the New Testament wherein the Church is the bride of Christ and the final book of the Bible, the Revelation, depicts the wedding feast of the Lamb.(See, e.g. Rev. 19:7-9)

One of the early Church Fathers, the great Cappadocian, Gregory of Nyssa, writing in the fourth century, tells us “What came about in bodily form in Mary, the fullness of the Godhead shining through Christ in the Blessed Virgin, takes place in a similar way in every soul that has been made pure. The Lord does not come in bodily form, for we “no longer know Christ according to the flesh’, but he dwells in us spiritually and the Father takes up his abode with him, the Gospel tells us. In this way the child Jesus is born in each one of us.” (On Virginity)

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