Friday, March 27, 2009

Mary: Part III The New Eve

The ancient idea of Mary being the New Covenant counterpart of Eve goes back to Ireneaus, Tertullian and Justin Martyr. These 2nd century church leaders were taught by those who were taught by the Apostles. Later in the 4th century Jerome also extrapolated from Genesis 2 and 3 that Mary was the prophetical woman (Eve) who would crush the head of Satan.

Early Christians believed that the man and woman in Eden symbolized God and His Bride, the church. When God commanded the two to be one flesh, God was promising that He would be one flesh with the church. As woman was created from the body of man, so the church was created from God. In a sense, the church was formed from the bruised and bleeding flesh of the crucified Christ.  As mankind is then birthed from woman, she is the man-bearer, so God's children are birthed through her, His bride, His church and are part of His flesh.

Yet, in the creation story, Eve did not retain her position. Her faith in and obedience to God failed and she brought sin upon her children. Because woman had been an intricate, indispensable part (half) of His perfect kingdom, the fall of womanhood itself was very great. And the redemption of that womanhood in the salvation of mankind was essential. 

To fulfill all, God appointed a New Covenant Eve, a young, humble Jewish woman not only to help in the plan of salvation, but to symbolize the bride, His church.

Eve's faith faltered and she disobeyed.
Mary's faith remained and she obeyed.
Eve became the mother of all the children born in sin, mortality and death.
Mary became the mother of all the children born of repentance, immortality and life.

We are not offended when Christ honored certain men as co-workers, through which He performed His acts of redemption and salvation: Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, King David, Elijah, Daniel, John the Baptist and the twelve disciples. We see these men as God's great and glorious heroes. We somehow find honoring Mary, Jesus' mother who He Himself honored (see 5th commandment) as idolatry. Yet, there is no example of pure faith and unmerited grace as in the humble, faithful and suffering witness of Mary.

Mary did not earn any honor, she had no position, power or influence, she did not win honors in battle or performance of great works. The unmerited glory bestowed upon Mary was the gift of giving life. Motherhood itself was bestowed as co-worker with God. God chose to enter humanhood as a helpless clump of cells within a woman and be born through the body of a woman. This position of God-bearer would be symbolized in her womanhood and through the bride--God's children would be born through the waters of the New Birth (through the new Eve.)