As we enter the month of May, it is fitting to reflect on the mother of the Son of God and our mother, Mary. Gazing on her image, we can observe the feminine power and majestic traits that devotees of the Blessed Virgin come to know in her: strength, grace, loving protection. She stands solid yet gentle; regal yet humble, arms outstretched in a solicitous welcome to all of her children who implore her assistance, looking down on the inhabitants of earth from her throne in heaven with maternal fondness and ready to intercede for us in all of our needs. Her image directs our eyes and our hearts heavenward, always toward her Son. We find comfort and consolation when we honor her and ask her intercession. In her humility, she is not in competition with her Son for honor, but points always, not to herself, but to Jesus.
Old Testament Types of Mary
From the beginning of history, God was preparing the world for the entrance of the Blessed Virgin. The early Church Fathers wrote about many of the female figures and images as Old Testament types of Mary who prefigured her and prepared the way for her. According to Fr. Frank Chacon and Jim Burnham’s Beginning Apologetics 1, Three of these Old Testament types of Mary are Eve, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Queen Mother. All of these types or symbols of Mary reflect and prefigure her maternal strength and sacredness, and the honor that is due to her.
The New Eve
According to Fr. Chacon and Mr. Burnham, As Eve’s disobedience caused the fall of man, Mary, with her obedient fiat assisted her Son with his redemptive mission. As Christ is the new Adam, Mary is the new Eve, and Mary, the new Eve, reversed the sin of her predecessor with her obedience to God and her assent to the mission he entrusted to her. St. Justin Martyr in the year 155 A.D. says, “Eve, a virgin and undefiled, conceived the word of the serpent and bore disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy when the angel Gabriel announced to her the glad tidings that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her and the power of the most high would overshadow her, for which reason the holy one being born of her is the Son of God. And she replied, ‘Be it done unto me according to your word'” [Lk 1:38]. (Dialogue with Trypho, 100) Although Eve was originally given the title of mother of all the living, Mary becomes the true Mother of all the living when she gives birth to the Savior, Jesus. Together, Jesus and Mary crush the head of Satan and make possible our eternal life with God.
Ark of the Covenant
The Old Testament Ark of the Covenant has always been perceived as being a type of Mary. Bearing the Son of God in her womb, Mary is the holiest and purest human, as the Ark of the Covenant was the holiest of all objects. The Ark housed the written word of God, while Mary was a temple for the living Word of God. The Ark is held in the highest esteem and revered as sacred, as is the Mother of God. There were strict instructions on how to keep the Ark safe and free from all stain, just as Mary is the wholly pure and sinless woman, the only creature to be born without the stain of sin.
Hail, Holy Queen!
In the Old Testament, the wife of the king was not the queen, but the king’s mother, as is noted in 1 Kings. After King David’s death when Solomon succeeded him, King Solomon presented the queen’s throne to Bathsheba, his mother: “Then Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, and the king stood up to meet her and paid her homage. Then he sat down upon his throne, and a throne was provided for the king’s mother, who sat at his right. (1 Kings 2:19) The Old Testament custom prepares the way for Mary to become the Queen Mother of the Son of God. “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” (Rev. 12:1) We crown Mary in the month of May to commemorate her queenship over the world. St. Louis de Montfort expresses the immensity of her power: “Mary has the authority over the angels and the blessed in heaven. As a reward for her great humility, God gave her the power and mission of assigning to saints the thrones made vacant by the apostate angels who fell away through pride. Such is the will of the almighty God who exalts the humble, that the powers of heaven, earth and hell, willingly or unwillingly, must obey the commands of the humble Virgin Mary.”
The Month of Mary
In the fullness of time, Mary fulfilled her mission to give birth to the Savior, Jesus Christ, and so we give her honor, especially in the month dedicated to her. Along with May crownings, when garlands of blossoms are placed on her head to signify her beauty and virtue, many churches and homes erect alters dedicated to Mary and the recitation of the Rosary is common in May as well. The warmth and beauty of the season is reminiscent of her own tender care and loveliness. She is “full of grace” and “blessed among women,” and we ask her maternal intercession with her Son for all of our needs, trusting that she will obtain the answer to our requests.
O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known that any one who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help or sought thy intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence,
I fly unto thee,
O Virgin of virgins my Mother;
to thee do I come,
before thee I stand,
sinful and sorrowful;
O Mother of thy Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in thy clemency hear and answer me.
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