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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mary's Role in Salvation: The New Eve

by Susan Fox
What an amusing time I had reading the web page run by the Evangelical Outreach on the titles of Mary.
They very correctly identified the fact that many Catholic titles of Mary like Morning Star and Help of Christians are identified with the actions of God in the Bible. “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Heb 13:6)
Furthermore, they concluded many Catholic titles of Mary like Gate of Heaven and Refuge of Sinners show that Mary has a role to play in our salvation. However, they erroneously decided that “Mary is never included with Jesus in the Scriptures as having even the slightest role in salvation.” I wonder if we are reading the same Bible!
By the very fact that the Bible says that God sent the angel Gabriel to a Virgin in Nazareth to ask her to be the Mother of His Son, God involved Mary in our salvation. What could be more obvious than that? No Mary, no Jesus.
Not that God needed Mary, but He wanted her cooperation and that is what she offered: “Behold the handmaid (servant) of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
Just because we recognize her role in salvation and have given her many titles that reflect what God does, Catholics still do not worship Mary. The Catholic Church teaches that all true devotion to Mary is Christ centered. If Mary were the end of our devotion and not the means, we would be idolaters. Christ as God has the power. It was His sacrifice on the cross that brought our salvation. We agree on that! Mary as human being and mother simply cooperated in our salvation. As such, she is the perfect model of a disciple of Christ. She is the Untarnished Image of the Church. “Do whatever He tells you,” she told the servants at the wedding feast of Cana. (John 2:5)
The Bible identifies Mary cooperating in our salvation in many other places. Her role was foretold in 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.”
Some translations say, “he” shall crush your head and some say “she” or “it.” But the serpent crushing action comes from the Woman and her Seed. The Seed is Jesus Christ. He is God. He has the power. But the Woman is allowed to share in this crushing role -- this defeat of evil leading to our salvation. Her role is cooperative. And as our early Church Fathers remarked there is a justice in having Jesus and Mary joining together to bring about our salvation. For it was through a man (Adam) and a woman (Eve) that sin came into the world. Hence, a man and a woman were needed to repair the damage of sin. It was Eve’s “No” that brought sin into the world. It was Mary’s “Yes” that brought Christ and his redeeming sacrifice on the cross. Hence, Mary is called the “New Eve.” And Christ is called the “New Adam.”
You, who are reading this, are human beings. Yet you may be involved in raising children or some chore helping to bring God’s salvation to the world. God doesn’t need you to do this work. But He wants to share the joy of His work with you. "My Father goes on working and so do I," Jesus said. (John 5:17) And when the apostles brought food to Jesus after his conversation with the woman at the well, He said “I have food to eat that you don't know about." (John 4:32) She had just repented of living with a man after having five husbands, and she went to tell the village about Jesus: “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" (John 4:29) Jesus’ food, His joy was bringing salvation to the people! Why does He let you help Him bring the Gospel to all peoples? He doesn't need you. He can do it without you. But God delights to work with nothing. He lets us cooperate with Him in bringing His salvation to the world. And if us, then why not Mary, His mother?
Mary is simply the best model, the first example of the Christian disciple. She responded perfectly. And yes, she was without sin because if she had any sin she would have exploded the minute the Seed was conceived in her womb. Think about David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant. What was the Ark? Containing manna, the rod of Aaron and the 10 commandments, it was the tabernacle holding the Real Presence of God among the Jewish people.
The ark started to slip from its pallet and fall and one of David's men tried to catch it with the motive of protecting it. But he died instantly. Why? He had sin. Nothing with sin can touch God and live. "Nothing defiled shall enter heaven." (Rev. 21:27)
But Mary is identified in the first chapter of Luke as "FULL OF GRACE." The angel Gabriel says, Hail (Hello) and addresses her with the title "Full of Grace." Why? She has no sin. She is all full of God alone. To be the mother of Jesus Christ -- true God and true man -- she must be sinless. So the Church calls her the New Ark of the Covenant.
How was Mary conceived without sin? Medieval Theologian John Duns Scotus explained it best. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was applied to Mary at her conception. How? God is outside time. He is in eternity. While she was redeemed like the rest of us by Jesus Christ on the cross, yet the sacrifice was applied to her before His death on the cross by God, who was preparing the Woman and Her Seed from the first moments in mankind's history to bring salvation to the world.
Revelation Chapter 12 gives you a replay of the same thing. At the end of Chapter 11, the Ark of the Covenant is seen in heaven. My goodness, the Ark hasn't been seen for hundreds of years. The Jews lost it. Then it appears in heaven at the end of Revelation Chap. 11. Then the next line is: “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” Ah, here again is the Woman of Genesis 3:15, a cooperative human woman doing feats that only God could accomplish by God's power not her own.
She is wailing in pain while she is about to give birth to a Son while a red dragon waits to swallow both of them. This woman is Mary, who cooperates in our salvation as a human being. But it is also the Catholic Church herself, and the pain is the struggle involved in our salvation – the salvation of the members of the Body of Christ. Mary -- being without sin -- probably did not suffer the pangs of childbirth in Christ's delivery. But in trying to bring the Body of Christ into eternity, there is a lot of suffering.
At the end of Chapter 12, the devil is very grumpy standing angrily on the beach. He goes off to make war against the Woman's other children; the one's who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
If this describes you, then God is Our Father and Mary is Our Mother. She is a human being, but as such she was given the opportunity to represent us, to be the one creature who said YES to God when Adam and Eve said NO, allowing sin and death to enter the world.
Another such figure as Mary is Abraham – a human being who said YES to God. He was willing to offer his son Isaac as an offering to God when asked. He was obedient to God. That is why he is called our father in faith. But Isaac hauling the wood up the mountain, asks his father Abraham, “Father where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” Abraham answers, "God Himself will supply the lamb for the sacrifice." (Gen. 22:8)
Without realizing how prophetic his words are, Abraham believes he is about to sacrifice his son, Isaac. But God intervenes and provides Abraham with another sacrifice, a ram. But those words -- “God Himself will supply the lamb for the sacrifice” -- those words resonate down through the centuries and we realize that God Himself so loved the world He gave His Only Son. There was no ram caught on a bush to replace Jesus' Sacrifice on the Cross. In the death of Jesus Christ, God the Father actually made the sacrifice that He symbolically demanded of Abraham.
Now if Catholics gazed adoringly at Mary just for the purpose of worshiping her, that would be idolatry. But no, we fully expect her to be a sinless means to a Great End. She will take us to God. And that is what we want. We want God with our whole mind, heart, strength and being! And Mary is a means to that end. Do you not ask your friends to pray for you? My goodness, who are they but sinful weak people like ourselves? Why not ask the Woman who gave birth to the God who taught us to "HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER?” Would not such a God honor His mother and listen to your request more readily than if you asked Him directly while in all your sins?
All the great titles of Mary, and there are many of them, express the idea that she is cooperating in God's action. So yes, they seem to be strongly related to God Himself, but the power is God's. He has simply allowed Mary to participate in His action, and because she did so perfectly without falling into sin, she is honored, not worshiped. For if she had failed, so would Christ not come into the world and we would not now have the opportunity to accept our salvation from God.
Abraham's faith was rewarded for his children are a numerous as the stars. Mary's faith is rewarded also because at the foot of the Cross, she is made the New Eve, Mother of Mankind, when her Son says to John, "Behold, Your Mother!"
New Eve, Virgin crushing the head of the serpent, pray for us.
And that, my friends, is a title for Mary.

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