Finding Mary

The Blessed Mother bears many titles: Theotokos (“God-bearer”), Mother of God, Star of the Sea, Immaculate Conception, Queen of Heaven, Seat of Wisdom, and scores more.

All of them honor her in different ways and help us to appreciate more fully her role in the life of her Son, her rightful place in the Church and the reasons for loving and venerating her. Catholics, of course, do not worship Mary and never have, despite the erroneous claims of many Protestants and evangelicals to the contrary. Martin Luther had a strong Marian devotion and called her the “highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ.... She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough” (Sermon, Christmas 1531).

It is in the Scriptures that we can so appreciate especially the place of the Blessed Mother in salvation history, which means that we see her not just in the New Testament, but in the Old Testament as well. As the Second Vatican Council taught, “These earliest documents, as they are read in the Church and are understood in the light of a further and full revelation, bring the figure of the woman, Mother of the Redeemer, into a gradually clearer light” (Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, No. 55).

As we journey through Advent and prepare ourselves for the Christmas season, the Virgin Mary in the Old Testament is revealed especially. Take just one example in Isaiah: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel” (7:14; see also Mi 5:2-3; Mt 1:22-23).

That is why the cover feature for our November-December issue offers a lovely meditation by Father Dwight Longenecker, “Images of Mary: Can we find the Blessed Mother in the Old Testament?” (Pages 6-8).

And in seeing Mary in the Old Testament, we appreciate those books as well. Father Longenecker writes: “The prophecies of Mary his mother, the apostles and the Church, and the sacraments are all hidden there. St. Augustine said, ‘The New Testament is hidden in the Old, and the Old is made manifest in the New.’” Which is why finding Mary in the Old Testament permits us to see her Son even more clearly and to emulate her as disciples, she who is the first and greatest of the disciples. Vatican II memorably wrote: “The Blessed Virgin was on this earth the virgin Mother of the Redeemer, and above all others and in a singular way the generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord” (Lumen Gentium, No. 61). TCA

Matthew Bunson, D.Min., M.Div., is editor of The Catholic Answer and The Catholic Almanac and author of more than 40 books. He is a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and a professor at the Catholic Distance University. You may e-mail him at mbunson@osv.com.