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Scripture teaches that the union of Adam and Eve in marriage, and subsequently that of their descendants reflects the ultimate union between Christ and his Bride the Church. The husband reflects Christ and the wife reflects the Church, aka all believers. Their marriage being a microcosm of reality. They are a “type” as it were, a symbol of reality. The study of types in the Bible is called Typology. Here’s the thing then, if Christ is the new Adam, then who is the new Eve? Is there a New Eve?
At first glance, one could easily say “the Church” since she is the Bride of Christ. But Eve was more than just the bride of Adam. She was also called “Mother of all the living” (that’s actually why she got the name “Eve”, this is not insignificant to her identity). She also not just a image of the Church in abstract, but of a future concrete woman who was prophesied to give birth to future concrete deliverer (Genesis 3:15). This woman is clearly Mary. Just then as Adam is the proto-example of Christ, later fulfilled by Christ Himself, so if Eve is the proto-example of the the Church, first fulfilled by Mary and then subsequently all other believers. This is because whilst Eve is an image of the Church and thus believers including Mary, Mary alone fulfills the role uniquely in a way that no other believer can. She alone fulfills the role as both Mother and as Bride. Just as Eve is Bride of Adam and Mother of all the living, Mary is part of the Bride of Christ and the spiritual mother of “those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus (Revelation 12:17).”
So by virtue of being a believer, she is the bride and royalty. By virtue of her Son being the King, she is the Royal Mother, or Queen Mother as it were. As such, she is the Mother-in-law, as it were of the Bride, all believers. If these paradoxical roles seem bothersome, then contemplate her being Virgin-Mother. Mary is deeply and intrinsically tied into the mystery of the incarnation since through her humanity and deity met, in the person of Jesus Christ. Which is why the Church call her Theotokos and hold her such high regard, because her significance is tied to the significance of her Son. And sometimes problems with Mary often reflect on ones understanding of Christology. Often to, what people think is blasphemous when said of Mary personally, they will not have issue with when said of the Church corporately. Mary simply embodies the epitome of what all believers are called to partake in. Christ does so as a divine *person* (since regardless of his human nature, his personhood is the same). But Mary does as a *human*, thus created person and is an example of our future.
There is another aspect however of her unique Motherhood that is often overlooked. Christ received his humanity entirely from her. It is by virtue of his union with her humanity, that he becomes con-substantial and united to the rest of us. And we are receiving Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist to eat unto everlasting life. But from where did Christ receive his body? From where did he receive his blood? If as Paul says, by virtue of partaking of one bread and thus one body, we become one body in Christ. Such that believers are called the body of Christ. Then Mary in a real sense is not just our Mother in spirit but in flesh (1).
None of this takes away from Christ in anyway. For Orthodox Christians it is normal that just as when you hear Adam, you sense Eve in the background, so too when you hear Christ, you sense Mary in the background. This is not going too far. Consider the prophecy of Messiah, given in Genesis 3:15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Who is said to be the one who crushes the head of the Serpent? Messiah right? Well consider this account of Jael in Judges 4:21-24, 5:24. She is one of few women in scripture to have such a major as saving Israel from their enemies.
“But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died. Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead. On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites. And the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him.”
How did Christ crush the head of the Serpent? By becoming the last Adam and being nailed to a “tree”. Reversing the damage done under the first tree. Just as Jael crushed the head of her enemy not nailing it. But just like Adam and Eve had key roles, so too Christ and Mary had key roles. Though one takes centre stage. The other is not out of the picture. And this war of the Serpent being against the woman too. God said he would put enmity first between the serpent and the woman. Revelation 12 goes on to describe the dragon as being the serpent in Genesis, who not only goes after the Christ-Child, but the Woman. Mary by her role was a vessel in order to bring salvation under a second “tree”. Look at what is said of Jael afterwards:
“Most blessed of women be Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, of tent-dwelling women most blessed (Judges 5:24).”
Then see what is said of Mary: “And the angel came in to her, and said, Hail, you that are highly favored, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women (Luke 1:28)
“For he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed (Luke 1:48)
It is possible that Mary would have remembered that reference. Or come to realise it later. She would have known that in her was being fulfilled the promise of Genesis 3. People at the time learned large portions of scripture by heart, since most couldn’t read. And it was expensive to have Torah scrolls made. Mary it seems too was quite familiar with it as well. Just consider the song she sings right after (Luke 1:46-55).
Where Old Adam and Old Eve failed, the New Adam and New Eve did not. Reversing what the first had done. That is why, whilst Eve was miraculously taking from Adam, this time Christ was miraculously taken from Mary. And just as Adam was taken from the virgin/pure Earth, so Christ was taken from the virgin pure Mary. So to just as Eve heeded the voice of an angel, bringing about the downfall of Mankind, likewise Mary heeded the voice of an angel bringing about the salvation of Mankind. Personally I find it great that a woman is the person that stands above all mankind as a fully glorified and the most glorified human person that there ever will be. Despite the hardship and problems that women have faced throughout history, God has honoured that a woman, Mary, stands as the prime of all mankind. That to me is amazing. In this too, my soul “magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call her blessed (Luke 1:46-48).”
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