It is a curious and frightening fact that some who call themselves Christians have a grave problem with, and hostility to, the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a problem that transcends any theological debate. In some quarters of the Evangelical religion there is a major antipathy and, I must add, diabolical hatred of one of the central persons in the history of Redemption; indeed without her, we couldn't boast of the Cross of Christ. Some Protestant authors write of the Most August Mother of God as if she were the very enemy of God, in equal measure to Satan himself.
One may ask where these anti-Marian beliefs and sentiments stem from. One could look at the cultural root. It is evident that many of the pretended Reforms of the 16th Century, including the infamous Martin Luther himself, held misogynistic tendencies. Content with not only demeaning the dignity of women, they went further to demean the Model of Women, the Blessed Virgin herself. She was pulled down from her heavenly throne as Queen, and made into like every other woman, with many modern Protestant nativity films depicting her as being flirtatious and even sexually immoral in some cases.
Another root is that of theological ignorance. Protestant theology has it in mind that by degrading the Mother of God, and not just her alone but the entire Communion of Saints, then one is glorifying God. The more Our Lady is pushed down, the more Our Lord is elevated, according to their thinking. Yet, how can this be? If one entered an art gallery and instead of taking the time to admire the artist's work, went straight to the artist to congratulate him, how offended would he be that you didn't take the time to admire the time, effort, skill and imagination that he poured into his work? I would think he'd be very offended. Yet this is what Protestants do.
The Catholic, on the other hand, would take the time to admire the handiwork of the artist, and after having done so, he would then praise the artist himself. The artist would be very much more honoured, since the Catholic had taken the time to admire the works of his hands, and the Catholic would ask if there were any mementos he could take home with him, after which the artist would show him some things the Catholic could take home as a reminder of the artist's work.
In essence, this is the Catholic and Protestant view of Our Lady, and the Saints. If God took the time to create such beautiful persons, and in the case of Our Lady to create an immaculate person, why wouldn't we take the time to honour His work? Does one not praise God's creative handiwork after observing the stars, the planets, etc? Who praises God before or even without ever observing His work? It is absurd to praise an artist without ever admiring his artistry! And yet, this is what Protestants actually do.
Next, most Protestants are today completely ignorant of the historical, as well as Biblical, support of what the Catholic Church teaches about Our Lady. For example, every Christian in the Early Church accepted Mary as we now accept her. We can show continuity of belief with our predecessors in the Faith. We can show prayers written to the Virgin Mary from the Early Church. We can show the writings of the Church Fathers on Our Lady. They all held the very same beliefs Catholics now hold. There has been no change in our doctrines, only a deeper understanding of those doctrines. And in several times, the Holy Spirit has moved the Church to infallibly define certain dogmas touching Our Lady, so that the Faithful may see the truth and the jealous love which the Holy Spirit has toward the very Woman whom the Church declares to be the Spouse of the Holy Spirit.
Because of this ignorance, many patently false and absurd claims are made against the Church regarding Her doctrines on the Mother of God. One such claim is the charge that the Church holds up Our Lady as equal to God Himself. Not now, nor ever before, has the Church ever taught such an absurd doctrine; to do so would be heresy, which the Church cannot teach. Such a claim comes from the simple fact that Protestants cannot distinguish between the veneration shown toward a human creature, such as Our Lady and the Saints, known as (hyper) dulia, and the supreme adoration that is shown only to the Holy Trinity, known as latria. They confuse the two, so that any form of veneration is immediately branded as worship of a false god. If this be the case, then the Protestants themselves are guilty of doing such a thing, since every man in history has shown veneration to other men. Does one not show honour to one's prince by bowing or kneeling to him? By addressing him according to his titles and honours? By swearing fealty to him? By obeying his commands as if they were from God Himself? And yet, we are told that such veneration for another creature is idolatry and the adoration of a false god!
But I digress with this introduction. It is time to move on to the main body of this work.
Type and Antitype
In order to understand Catholic teaching on Our Lady, we have to first understand typology. A type is a true event, person or institution in the Old Testament which foreshadows or prefigures something in the New Testament. The fulfilment of a type is called an antitype. An antitype is always greater than the type.
There are many examples of types and antitypes through Sacred Scripture. A few examples include:
1 Cor. 10:1-2 - The Bible teaches that the Crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14) prefigured the Sacrament of Baptism.
1 Peter 3:19-21 - The Bible teaches that Noe's Ark and the Great Flood prefigured being saved by both the Sacrament of Baptism and the Catholic Church.
1 Cor. 5:7 - The Bible teaches that the Passover Lamb, which was sacrificed (Exodus 12) prefigured Christ, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29)
Heb. 8:8-9 - The Bible teaches that the Old Testament was a figure of the New Testament.
Matthew 12:40 - The Bible teaches that the three days and nights that the Prophet Jonas spent in the belly of the whale prefigured Christ's time in the Sepulchre, and Jonas' exit from the whale prefigured Christ's Resurrection.
Adam: A Type of Jesus Christ
Sacred Scripture teaches us that the first man, Adam, was a type of Jesus Christ. St. Paul says:
But 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. [Romans 5:14]
Thus Adam was a figure of Jesus Christ. Adam brought death into the world, but Christ brought life into the world. Adam bound us to sin, but Christ freed us from sin. St. Paul says just a few verses later in Romans 5:19:
For as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners; so also by the obedience of one, many shall be made just.
Adam sinned by his disobedience at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; Christ redeemed the world by His obedience on the Tree of the Cross. Adam was the head of sinful humanity, whereas Christ is the head of the redeemed race of humanity. Thus, Christ is called the new, second, or last Adam. He is, indeed, the true Adam; He remains faithful and is thus the Father of the living, i.e. those who live in sacramental grace in the communion of the Church.
Thus, we see here how typologies work. The type prefigures the antitype, and the antitype is greater than the type, perfecting what the type is supposed to be. With this short example in mind, let us proceed.
The First Eve
In the first few chapters of Genesis, we are shown how God creates the world, and lastly creates man and woman. The man is called Adam, and the woman Eve. God places Adam and Eve, our First Parents, into the paradisial Garden of Eden, commanding them to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; should they do so, they shall die. Our Parents accept the command, and live their lives in the Garden in happiness, eating of the fruit of the Garden, with Adam tilling the soil in company with the animals.
In Genesis 3, however, their sweet bliss is about to be doomed. The Enemy of man enters the Garden, and in the form of a serpent, proceeds to tempt Eve into sin:
Now the serpent was more subtle than any of the beasts of the earth which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman: Why hath God commanded you, that you should not eat of every tree of paradise? And the woman answered him, saying: Of the fruit of the trees that are in paradise we do eat: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of paradise, God hath commanded us that we should not eat; and that we should not touch it, lest perhaps we die. And the serpent said to the woman: No, you shall not die the death. For God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil.
To Eve the Devil goes to tempt. When he manages to get her to eat of the forbidden fruit, she in turn gives some to her husband, Adam, who also ate of the fruit. The moment Adam ate of the fruit, his transgression in disobeying the command of the Lord to not eat of the fruit constituted the Original Sin, which Sin is inherited by every human being save two: Jesus and Mary. Thus, though it was Adam's transgression that doomed man to sin and death, it was his wife, Eve - the woman - who was the occassion of his sin. Thus man and woman together obeyed the voice of the evil angel and lost original innocence.
But, just as the woman, Eve, was intimately involved in the destruction of grace in the lives of the human race, there is another woman, a woman just as distinct as Eve, who is intimately involved in the restoration of grace in the lives of men and who is instrumental in the events leading up to the Redemption. For as the old Adam worked with a woman to doom men, so the New Adam (Christ) works with a woman to bless men.
That woman is none other than the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord and God Jesus Christ. She is the New Eve. There are numerous clear parallels between Eve and Mary. One only has to look with the eyes of faith to see them.
The Two Women and the Two Angels
In Genesis 3:1-6, we see how Eve obeyed the voice of the evil angel, Satan. She believed his lying tongue, and disobeyed God. She sinned and caused Adam to sin also, plunging the world into death. In the next scriptural text, we find another angel approaching another woman, but something different happens:
And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.
The second woman, the second Eve, the Virgin Mary, is approached by an angel, this time a good angel; no regular angel, but St. Gabriel the Archangel, the Prince of Messengers. It is this same Gabriel who announces the birth of St. John the Baptist, and who revealed to St. Joseph in a dream about the true nature of Our Lady's most holy pregnancy. Mary believes his message of salvation, which comes directly from God Himself to her: that she is blessed amongst women, full of grace, and would bring forth the Divine Saviour. Since she was in full unity with the Divine Will of God, and being ever full of humility, she pronounced her consent to being the chosen Mother of God, Jesus Christ.
In Latin she says: fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum. The word fiat means:
fiats (plural noun)
By her obedience, Mary enabled Our Lord Jesus Christ to come and redeem the world from Adam's sin by and through her. It is for this reason that Holy Mother Church praises Mary as the Cause of our Joy.
Even in the ancient Church, these biblical parallels between Mary and Eve were recognised as identifications of Mary as the New Eve, just as Christ is the New Adam. In A.D. 185, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, a Church Father who was taught by St. Polycarp, who himself was a disciple of St. John the Apostle, wrote about this contrast between the first Eve and the second Eve (Mary):
In accordance with this design, Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word. (Luke 1:38) But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin...And thus also it was that the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith. [Against Heresies, Book III, Chap. 22, 4]
Note how he contrasts the virgin Eve with the Virgin Mary. Both virgins obeyed the voice of an angel: one led to sin, the other to faith; one to damnation, the other to salvation.
Mary & Eve: Mothers of the living
In Genesis 3:20, we are told: "And Adam called the name of his wife Eve: because she was the mother of all the living." Eve is called the "mother of all the living" because through her human life is descended. Equally, the Blessed Virgin Mary is also the Mother of all the living, but indeed in a greater manner. Mary is the Mother of Jesus Christ, Who is Life itself and in Whom all life is to be found. The following verses point this out:
John 1:4 - In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
John 14:6 - Jesus saith to him: I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh to the Father, but by Me.
Matthew 1:16 - ...Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
Christ is the Life. Mary is, therefore, literally the Mother of Life itself. The parallel between Eve and Mary is clear. The difference being that Mary is the Mother of the Life that is infinitely greater than human existence. Those who are born of her, live and die in her Divine Son, and thus have access to eternal life in Him and become new creatures. As St. Paul says:
If then any be in Christ a new creature, the old things are passed away, behold all things are made new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Thus we see that the antitype (Mary as Mother of all the Living) is again greater than the type (Eve as mother of all the living). These parallels are evidently clear to those with eyes to see. And, naturally, the Church does see and thus She teaches it.
We've seen that the Bible indicates that Mary is the new Eve. So the question arises: in what state was the soul of Eve created? Eve was created free from all sin, i.e. she was immaculate. The entire Creation was perfect until the Fall of mankind, which doomed even Creation to imperfection. Adam and Eve were both created in a state of original justice, i.e. immaculately. They didn't lose that state of original perfection until the Fall, as described in Genesis 3.
Thus, if God created the first woman (the first Eve) without any sin, then He would most certainly created the second and greater woman (the second Eve) without any sin, in order that the antitype will fulfil and perfect the type. And that's exactly what He did. He had to do so as a matter of justice because the Blessed Virgin would be the first member of the redeemed humanity.
And now we get to the Church's dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Some mistakely think this dogma refers to the miraculous Conception of Jesus Christ in the womb of Mary. But, that is not correct. The Immaculate Conception is a doctrine that teaches that at the first moment of her existence, the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved free from all stain of Original Sin.
Pope Pius IX infallibly defined the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. In the definition of the Dogma he states:
Accordingly, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the honour of the Holy and undivided Trinity, for the glory and adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith, and for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by Our own: “We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.” [Emphasis mine; Ineffabilis Deus, 8 Dec. 1854]
The Pope clearly defines that Mary's preservation from all sin was done by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the saving merits of Jesus Christ, i.e. the Immaculate Conception was soley the work of God alone, Who applied to Our Lady the merits of the Passion of Our Lord even before He suffered. Thus, since Our Lord applied to Mary the merits of His Redemption even before He physically suffered in the flesh for us, Mary is the first human person to be redeemed by Jesus Christ, such is her special status before the Holy Trinity. She is the first of the redeemed and the first-fruits of the saved. And it was done to her because she had to be the pure vessel which would carry and bring forth the pure and All-Holy God, Jesus Christ. In order to carry the Infinite Holy One, Mary had to be perfectly holy from the first instant of her creation. Mary could not ever - not even for a second - be under the dominion of Satan. She must be - from beginning to end, and even for eternity - only under the Dominion of God, and God alone. And thus, God commanded her to be created immaculate and consecrated to Him alone as His chosen Vessel.
Jesus, Mary's Saviour
And so the question arises: If Mary was preserved from the stain of Original Sin, does that mean she didn't need a Saviour? The answer: No. Mary herself answers:
And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. [Luke 1:46-47]
God saved Mary by preventing her from contracting Original Sin. It is often explained in this wise:
Suppose a man falls into a deep, muddy hole in the forest, but is pulled out by his friend. It is true to say that the friend saved the man. He did so by saving the man from continual existence in the muddy hole.
Now suppose a man sees a woman walking toward that same deep, muddy hole, and catches her just before she falls in. He stops her from falling into the hole in the first place. Did he save the woman? Certainly. And he did so in a greater way, by preventing her from falling into the hole in the first place and thus from suffering any of the harmful consequences.
In such wise, did God to Mary. Our Lord saved Mary from falling into the hole, that is, sin. For us, He saves us after we have already fallen in, like the man who is rescued by his friend. Christ is the Friend who pulls us out after we shout out for His help. But for Mary, He saved her from even falling in, by preserving her free from Original Sin at conception and from actual sin throughout her life. He did this for her in view of her unique role as His Mother. The sinlessness of Mary is indicated by numerous types in the Bible.
We have now come to our conclusion. It should be evident from this cursury look at types, antitypes and Scripture, that what the Church teaches about Our Lady being the New Eve and Immaculately Conceived is true. It is Divine Revelation, handed to us by none other than Christ Himself. It has been preserved throughout the centuries by the only institution to whom was committed the teaching of the Faith: the Catholic Church.
Protestants express doubt and disbelief at the notion that God would create Mary completely free from sin. But in doing so, they are forgetting an important fact: that God created Adam and Eve without sin.