Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

A reflection on the word “AMONG”

By Jeff Miller

While Mary is blessed among women, this indicates not a separation of Mary from other women — but specifically casts her with other women.  Mary is, as Wordsworth referred to her, “Our tainted nature’s solitary boast.” At the same time we also find that there were many types of Mary in the Old Testament. Mary is indeed among women.

Prominent among these types is Eve.  At least since the times of St. Justin Martyr, Mary has been seen as the new Eve. The parallels with Eve are many, but it is where the parallel breaks down that illustrate the difference.

As St. Ireneus wrote, “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosened by Mary’s obedience. The bonds fastened by the virgin Eve through disbelief were untied by the virgin Mary through faith.”

Eve was the mother of all the living and Mary is the mother of all the living in the order of grace.  St. Jerome puts the difference rather succinctly when he writes “death through Eve, life through Mary.”

Other examples of types of Mary in the Old Testament includes:  Sarah, Deborah, Miriam, Judith, and Esther.  Esther was especially an intercessor who gave of herself in her role as queen.  Mary, in her role of Queen Mother, totally fulfills that intercessory role that expanded in scope to include both the Jewish people and all nations.

We don’t have to stick to the Old Testament to find types of Mary and in fact there are a plethora of women saints who in their devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary came to resemble her in her obedience and love of Jesus.

It is one of the ironies of modern society that the Catholic Church is so often attacked as oppressing women while at the same time being attacked for talking so much about the Blessed Virgin. That the Church which from the beginning has recognized the role of women saints is somehow misogynous.  The Church that boasts of the genius of St. Augustine and side by side the role of his mother St. Monica.

Mary is the greatest among women and really is the “solitary boast” for both men and women.  Mary is blessed among women and the Church is also blessed with many great women. As Blessed John Paul II wrote in his “Letter to Women“:

“In this vast domain of service, the Church’s two-thousand-year history, for all its historical conditioning, has truly experienced the “genius of woman”; from the heart of the Church there have emerged women of the highest calibre who have left an impressive and beneficial mark in history. I think of the great line of woman martyrs, saints and famous mystics. In a particular way I think of Saint Catherine of Siena and of Saint Teresa of Avila, whom Pope Paul VI of happy memory granted the title of Doctors of the Church. And how can we overlook the many women, inspired by faith, who were responsible for initiatives of extraordinary social importance, especially in serving the poorest of the poor? The life of the Church in the Third Millennium will certainly not be lacking in new and surprising manifestations of “the feminine genius”.”

Jeff Miller is the man behind the humor and insight at The Curt Jester. He also keeps us all on our toes on Twitter as @CurtJester. He’s a former atheist who’s now Catholic. He has done such amazing and useful stuff as the WikiCatechism and the Weekly Benedict in e-book format. I have a secret hope that he will write a book of Catholic humor someday, but not if it means he’ll stop blogging.

icon credit: Fr. Theodore Jurievicz, Sign of the Theotokos Ortodox Church, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
from Women’s Orthodox Ministries & Education Network