#55 ARK OF THE NEW COVENANT

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“… There was a woman whose dress was the sun and who had the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head…” (Rev. 12: 1)

Introduction

There are several interpretations to the passage of Revelation 12:1. But one that stands out is the identification of the woman with Mary. Saint John, the writer of the Book of Revelation, had identified this woman in the last verse of the preceding chapter as the “Ark of the Covenant”. We know this because the division of the scriptures into chapters and verses is a later addition to the Bible. So when John wrote, he was describing this Ark which appeared in the heavenly temple. Mary is the New Testament (NT) fulfillment to the Ark of the Old Testament (OT). Mary is the new and greater fulfillment of what was prefigured by the Ark of the OT. What follows is a step by step comparison of the OT Ark with its NT counterpart and why Mary should be honoured as sinless and pure.

Striking Resemblance

The Ark of the Old Covenant was the holiest and most powerful article on Earth outside of God Himself. It was a sacred chest which contained the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments among other things (Deut 10:5). The Ark also carried and represented the spiritual presence of God on Earth. When God spoke to Moses, it was from between the two cherubim which were on the Ark (Num 7:89; Ex 25:21-22). Let us now look at how the Bible identifies Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant.

The Ark of the Old Covenant contained the written Word of God (Deut. 10:5). The Virgin Mary contained the Word of God made flesh, Jesus (Jn. 1:1,14). Revelation 19:13 says, “And He [Jesus] was clothed with a garment sprinkled with blood; and his name is called, the Word of God.”

The Ark of the Old Covenant was “overshadowed” by the power and presence of God (Ex 40:34 -35). The Virgin Mary was “overshadowed” by the power and presence of the Most High (Lk 1:35).

The tabernacle was constructed to contain the holy Ark (Ex 40:2-3). When God would come down upon the tabernacle and the Ark to speak to Moses, we read in Ex 40:34 – 35 that God’s glory cloud or visible presence (called the “Shekinah”) “overshadowed” it. The rare word which is used to describe how this unique presence of God would “overshadow ” the Ark is episkiasei in the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint.

Exodus 40:34-35 – “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud overshadowed it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”

The very same word “episkiasei” is used in the New Testament which is written in Greek to describe how the presence of God will “overshadow” the Virgin Mary. The Scriptures uses this language only about the Ark and about Mary.

Luke 1:35 – “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

The clear implication is that the presence of God overshadows Mary and comes down upon her – since she is the New Ark – just as it overshadowed the Ark of the Old Covenant. This reveals that Mary, while just a creature and infinitely less than God, is the new Ark. She has a unique connection to God, a unique holiness, sanctification and power.

Parallel Lines that Intersect

Consider the amazing parallels that Scripture gives us between what happened to the Ark of the Old Covenant in 2 Samuel 6 and what happened to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, in chapter 1 of Luke’s Gospel. 2 Samuel 6 is the most complete story in the Bible concerning the Ark of the Old Covenant. Luke 1 is the most complete story in the Bible concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary.

2 Samuel 6:9 – “David feared the Lord that day and said, How can the ark of the Lord come to me?”

Luke 1:43 –”[Elizabeth said]: And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? ”

Elizabeth says the same thing to Mary that David said about the Ark because Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. The only difference between the two statements is literally that “mother” is used where Ark was used. The Bible is telling us that the mother of the Lord  is the Ark. This is confirmed without any doubt as we carry the story further.

David leapt Before the Ark: 2 Samuel 6:16 – “As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Saul´s daughter Michal looked down through the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord…”

The Infant (John the Baptist) leapt in the presence of Mary: Luke 1:41-44 – “And it came to pass, that, when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit… For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.”

The Ark stayed for three months: 2 Samuel 6:11 – “ The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obededom the Gittite for three months, and the Lord blessed Obededom and his whole house.”

Mary (the Ark) remained with Elizabeth for three months: Luke 1:56-57 – “Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.”

David set out to fetch the Ark from Judah: 2 Samuel 6:2 – “Then David and all the people who were with him set out for Baala of Judah to bring up from there the ark of God.”

This occurred when Mary ( the Ark) went to Judah: Luke 1:39-40 – “During those days Mary set out and travelled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.”

Revelation of the Ark

The Book of Revelation also indicates that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant:

Revelation 11:19,12-1 – “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail. [12:1] And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.”

The Bible was not written with any chapters or verses indicated. It was not until the 12th century that chapters and verses were added to the Bible. The author of Revelation, St. John, wrote what begins chapter 12 in one continuous stream immediately after what ends chapter 11. At the end of chapter 11, we read that the Ark of Jesus’ covenant was seen in Heaven. The very next verse is Revelation 12:1. Therefore, the words which end chapter 11 flows immediately into the words which begin chapter 12 without any interruption.

That means that the appearance of the Ark of Jesus’ covenant at the very end of chapter 11 is immediately explained by the vision of “the woman” clothed with the sun which begins chapter twelve, the very next verse (Rev. 12:1). This indicates that “the woman” clothed with the sun, who bore the Divine Person in her womb (the Virgin Mary), is the Ark of the New Testament.

The Ark contained the manna from the desert: Hebrews 9:4 – “…the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna , and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant.”

Mary contained the manna from Heaven, Jesus: John 6:48-51 – “I am that bread of life…This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven…and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

There can be no doubt that the manna in the desert (Exodus 16) prefigured Jesus as the Bread of Life. Jesus makes a connection between the two in John chapter 6. He makes reference to the manna in the desert, and then says that His flesh is the true manna from Heaven. Well, the manna from the desert was placed inside the Ark of the Old Covenant. That prefigures Jesus Christ Himself being contained within Mary, His Mother.

In Hebrews 9:4, we also see that the rod of Aaron was placed within the Ark of the Old Covenant. In Numbers 17, we read that this rod budded to prove the true high-priest. The rod of Aaron then signified the true high-priest. In the New Testament, Jesus is described as the true high-priest.

Hebrews 3:1 – “ Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.” Also see Hebrews 6:20, 9:11, and other passages all attest that Jesus is the true high-priest. The inescapable conclusion is that Aaron’s rod being placed within the Ark prefigured Jesus Christ, the true high-priest, being contained within Mary.

SINCE MARY IS THE ARK OF THE NEW COVENANT, THAT MEANS THAT SHE IS THE MOST SACRED THING ON EARTH OUTSIDE OF JESUS CHRIST

Holy So Holy

The Ark of the Covenant was the holiest thing on earth outside of the presence of God Himself. The Ark was contained in the tabernacle, within the holy of holies. The Ark’s presence is what made the holy of holies so sacred.

2 Chronicles 35:3 – “Put the holy ark in the house which Solomon the son of David king of Israel did build.”

The Ark was so holy that when the people of God followed it they had to keep a respectful distance.

Joshua 3:3-5 – “When you shall see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests of the race of Levi carrying it, rise up also, and follow them as they go before: And let there be between you and the ark the space of two thousand cubits: that you may see it afar off, and know which way you must go: for you have not gone this way before: and take care not to come near the ark .”

People who unlawfully touched the Ark were killed.

2 Samuel 6:6-7 – “Azor put forth his hand to the ark of God , and took hold of it: because the oxen kicked and made it lean aside. And the indignation of the Lord was enkindled against Azor, and he struck him for his rashness: and he died there before the ark of God.”

The men of Bethshemesh were killed because they had dared to look into the Ark.

1 Samuel 6:19 – “ And he smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the Lord, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men…”

We see how sacred God considered the object which was to come into close contact with His spiritual presence.

SINCE MARY IS THE NEW ARK, SHE HAD TO BE HOLY AND CREATED FREE FROM SIN

God gave the most precise specifications for the construction of the Ark. He ordered that it be made with the most pure gold (Ex 25:10-13,24).

It’s interesting that the Ark not only had to be overlaid with gold all around, but there is a specific reference to it having a “crown of gold round about.”

The Ark of the Old Covenant had a gold crown: Exodus 25:11 – “And thou… shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about.”

The Virgin Mary (the New Ark) also has a crown: Apocalypse 12:1 – “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.”

The Ark of the Old Covenant had to be perfect and holy because it was the seat of God’s unique spiritual presence. God’s holiness could not be tarnished by contact with that which had defects. Likewise and to a greater degree, the Virgin Mary, as the new Ark and bearer of Jesus Christ, had to be created without sin and in a state of perfection.

She did not merely contain the spiritual presence of God, but Jesus Christ (God Himself). She did not merely contain the written word of God, but the Word of God made flesh (Jn 1:1). Consequently, Mary must be perfect. She had to be free from all sin, ever-virgin and untouched by man.

If the Ark of the Old Covenant, which contained the written tables of the Law and was overshadowed by the spiritual presence of God, had to be overlaid with the most pure gold and had to be constructed according to the most precise specifications of God, how much greater is God’s “construction” of Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant? The fulfillment is always greater than the type. Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, must be and is greater than the Ark of the Old Covenant.

Just like the Ark of the Old Covenant, Mary must also have tremendous power over the Devil and God’s enemies. She must have a unique power of intercession with God, in bringing down His blessings and in aiding the people of God, just as the Ark of the Old Covenant did.

The Ark of the Old Covenant had awe-striking power. When it was taken by the Philistines, extraordinary things happened to them and to their false god, Dagon (1 Samuel 5:1-5).

The Philistines began to be destroyed for having taken the Ark. This prompted them to return the Ark to their enemies, the Israelites.

1 Samuel 5:7 – “And the men of Azotus seeing this kind of plague, said: The ark of the God of Israel shall not stay with us : for his hand is heavy upon us, and upon Dagon our god.”

The waters of the Jordan were miraculously dried up by the Ark.

Josh 3:13-14 – “ [And the Lord said to Josue ]: And when the priests, that carry the ark of the Lord the God of the whole earth, shall set the soles of their feet in the waters of the Jordan, the waters that are beneath shall run down and go off: and those that come from above, shall stand together upon a heap. So the people went out of their tents, to pass over the Jordan: and the priests that carried the ark of the covenant went on before them… ”

Mary, the New Ark, has this power and even more; for the fulfillment is greater than the type, and the New Testament is greater than the Old. We are told that the angels fought for the woman against the dragon (Rev 12:7). As we learnt from previous articles, Mary “by her fair humility and holy life conquered (the devil) and beat down his strength”. For Alphonsus Ligouri, “Jesus and His Mother have overcome Lucifer.” And for Saint Bernard, “this proud spirit (the dragon) was beaten down and trampled under foot by this most Blessed Virgin; so that, as a slave conquered in war, he is forced always to obey the commands of this Queen. She is our Queen and our Ark of refuge as she is for her Son our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

#54 LIKE SON LIKE MOTHER

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“…her offspring will crush your head and you will bite her offsprings’ heel.” (Gen 3:15)

Introduction

I mentioned earlier in this series of talks that there is a literal and spiritual meaning to the text of the Scriptures. And in many instances there are connections between the Old Testament and God’s self-revelation in Christ as presented in the New Testament. And since salvation history has often presented us with both male and female characters working together to bring about God’s redeeming work, we also see that some of the women in the Old Testament were figures pointing to Mary who is to bring the promised Messiah into the world. One of these women figures is Eve, whom the Book of Genesis describes as “the mother of all the living” (Gen 3:20).

Saved by the Dame

Mary’s role in history makes no sense apart from ints context in salvation history; yet it is not incidental to God’s plan. God chose to make His redemptive act inconceivable without her. The Scriptures trace a consistent pattern from Creation through the Fall, Incarnation and Redemption, with her name woven into its rich tapestry. Mary was in God’s plan from the very beginning, chosen and foretold from the moment God created man and woman. In fact, the early Christians understood Mary and Jesus to be the reprise of God’s first creation. Saint Paul spoke of Adam as a type of Jesus (Rom 5:14) and of Jesus as the new Adam, or the “last Adam” (1Cor 15:21-22,45-49).

The early Christians considered the beginning of Genesis – with its story of creation and fall and its promise of redemption – to be christological (pointing to Christ) in its implication that they called it the Protoevangelium, or “First Gospel”. While this theme is explicit in Paul and the Church Fathers, it is implied throughout the New Testament. For example, like Adam, Jesus was tested in the garden of Gethsemane (Mt 26:36-46, Jn 18:1). Like Adam, Jesus was led to a “tree,” where he was stripped naked (Mt 27:31). Like Adam, He fell into the deep sleep of death, so that from His side would come forth the New Eve (Jn 19:26-35; 1Jn 5:6-8), His bride, the Church.

A similar connection can be drawn between Mary and Eve as we have done with Jesus and Adam. Eve disobeyed God and brought sin and death (Gen 3:1-6), Mary chose to be God’s handmaiden and brought Christ the author of New Life (Lk 1:38). Eve spoke to, believed and obeyed a fallen angel, the Serpent (Gen 3:4-6). Mary spoke to, believed and obeyed a good angel, Gabriel (Lk 1:26-38).  Eve is the mother of all the living (Gen 3:20). Mary, as the Mother of Jesus, is the mother of all the living and even of life itself (Gal 4:4; Jn 1:4, 14:6; Mt 1:16). From the earliest days of the Church, these biblical parallels were recognized as identifications of Mary as the new Eve, just as Christ is the new Adam.

From Genesis to John

The motif of the New Adam is nowhere so artfully developed as in the Gospel according to Saint John. John does not work out the ideas as a commentator would. Instead, he tells the story of Jesus Christ. Yet he begins the story by echoing the most primeval story of all: the story of creation in Genesis.

This most obvious echo comes “in the beginning.” Both books, Genesis and John’s gospel, in fact, begin with these words. The book of Genesis sets out with the words “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). John follows closely, telling us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God” (Jn 1:1). In both cases, we are talking about a fresh start, a new creation.

The next echo comes soon afterward. In Genesis 1:3-5, we see that God created the light to shine in the darkness. In John 1:4-5, we see that the Word’s “life was the light of men” and it “shines in the darkness”. Genesis shows us, in the beginning, “the Spirit of God…moving over the face of the waters” (Gen 1:2). John, in turn, shows us the Spirit hovering above the waters of baptism (Jn 1:32-33). At that point, we begin to see the source of the new creation recounted by John. Material creation came about when God breathed His Spirit above the waters. The renewal of creation would come with the divine life given in the waters of baptism.

Seven Days

In the first two chapters of John’s gospel, he correlates the seven days of creation in Genesis, with the first seven days of Christ’s ministry. After the prologue (Jn 1:1-18), John’s story continues “the next day” (1:29) with the encounter between Jesus and John the Baptist. “The next day” (1:35), again, comes the story of the calling of the first disciiples. “The next day” (1:43), yet again, we find Jesus’ call of two more disciples. So, taking John’s first discussion of the Messiah as the first day, we now find ourselves on the fourth day. After this John introduces his next episode in stunning fashion, the story of the wedding feast at Cana, with the words, “On the third day.” He could not mean the third day from the beginning, since he already proceeded past that point in his narrative. He was more specifically referring to the third day from the fourth day, which brings us to the seventh day – and then John stops counting days.

We cannot help but notice the similarity. John’s story of the new creation takes place in seven days, just as the creation story in Genesis is completed on the sixth day and sanctified on the seventh, when God rests from His labour. The seventh day has come to be known as the Sabbath, the day of rest, the sign of the covenant (cf. Ex 31:16-17). We can be sure, then, that whatever happens on the seventhh day in John’s narrative will be significant.

Why Woman?

It was on the seventh day that Jesus, his disciples and his mother Mary went to the wedding feast in Cana. When the wine ran out, Mary pointed out to her Son, “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3) and He calls her “Woman”. We have shown how this appellation was not a way of putting someone down but a word of respect and deference. But it is also indicative of something else. Jesus could have easily called Mary “Mama”, “Mother” but he chose to call her “Woman”. He will call her “Woman” again when he hangs dying on the cross. Jesus’ use of the word represents yet another echo of Genesis. “Woman” is the name Adam gives to Eve (Gen 2:23). Jesus, then, is addressing Mary as Eve to the New Adam. This heightens the significance of the wedding feast they are attending. Some may ask: “How can Mary be His bride if she is His mother?” We must consider Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming salvation of Israel:  “You shall no more be termed Forsaken…but you shall be called My Delight is in Her, and your land Married. For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices oover the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isa 62:4-5). A lot is suggested in these two verses:  Mary’s virginal motherhood, her miraculous conception, and her mystical marriage to God, who is at once her Father, her Spouse and her Son.

“Woman” redefines Mary’s relationship not only with Jesus but also with all believers. Like Eve, whom Genesis calls “mother of all the living,” Mary is mother to all who have new life in baptism. At Cana, then, the New Eve radically reverses the fatal decision of the first Eve. It was woman who led the old Adam to his first evil act in the garden. It was woman who led the New Adam to His first glorious work.

Victory is Hers

The figure of Eve reappears later in the New Testament, in the book of Revelation. There, in chapter 12, we encounter “a woman clothed with the sun” who confronts “the ancient serpent, who is called the devil” (vv. 1,9). These images hark back to Genesis, where Eve faces the demonic serpent in the garden of Eden and where God curses the serpent, promising to “put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed” (Gen 3:15). The images in Revelation also point to a New Eve, one who gave birth to a “male child” who would “rule all the nations” (12:5). That child could only be Jesus; and so the woman could only be His mother, Mary. In Revelation, the ancient serpent attacks the New Eve because the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 is fresh in his memory. The New Eve, however, prevails over evil, unlike her long-ago type in the garden of Eden.

God says that there will be enmity – hostility, division, opposition – between the Devil and “the woman.” In the same context we read of the seed of the woman, and the victory which will be granted through the woman and her seed. In the Bible, a man’s children and descendants are spoken of as his seed. The seed of the woman, therefore, is something unique. It refers to a child which is produced by a woman alone. This obviously refers to the virginal conception and birth from the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus’ mother. The “seed” of the woman refers to Jesus Christ. The woman herein identified as having opposition or enmity with the serpent is clearly Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. The woman is not Eve, who gave in to the serpent. It is Mary.

When the Saints Echo

Commenting on the passage where God foretells the defeat of the serpent, St Alphonsus Ligouri says, “Who could this woman be but Mary, who by her fair humility and holy life always conquered him and beat down his strength?” The statement “I will place enmity” and not “I place enmity…” indicates that the woman is someone else other than Eve. Some argue if the offspring referred to is the Woman (Mary) or her Son (Jesus). Ligouri adds that, “it is certain that either the Son by means of the Mother, or the Mother by means of the Son, has overcome Lucifer.” Saint Bernard remarks that “this proud spirit was beaten down and trampled under foot by this most Blessed Virgin; so that, as a slave conquered in war, he is forced always to obey the commands of this Queen. Beaten down and trampled under the feet of Mary, he endures a wretched slavery.” Saint Bruno says, “that Eve was the cause of death” by allowing herself to be overcome by the serpent. But Mary, by conquering the devil, “restored life to us.”

These saints were following a long tradition of the Church about Mary’s role in salvation history which we also see in Saint Irenaeus, the second century bishop of Lyons. For Irenaeus, this teaching about Mary fits into what he called creation’s recapitulation in Christ. Building on Saint Paul, he wrote that when Christ “became incarnate and was made man, he recapitulated in Himself the long history of humanity, summing up and giving us salvation in order that we might receive again in Christ Jesus what we had lost in Adam – that is the image and likeness of God”. Mary has an important place as the New Eve in this recapitulation. “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. The knot which the virgin Eve tied by her unbelief”. Elsewhere he stated, “If the former (Eve) disobeyed  God, the latter (Mary) was persuaded  to obey God, so that the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve. We are quick to add that whatever feat Mary achieved, she did by the power of the Trinity to whom she is always united as Daughter, Spouse and Mother. We must come to her to learn how to overcome the evil one.

The Immaculate one

God says that He will put enmity or opposition between the serpent and the woman. As a result, Mary must be completely preserved from sin . For when one sins, one does not have opposition to the Devil, but rather gives in to the Devil. The only way the woman could have complete and definitive opposition to the serpent is by preservation from sin and from the sin of Adam. The fact that Mary is this “woman,” and therefore completely free from the domination of sin and the Devil, is the reason that Jesus calls Mary “woman” throughout the New Testament.

The saints once more encourage us to call upon her. Saint Albert the Great remarks that Mary seems to say, “My children fly to me; cast your eyes on me and be of good heart; for as I am your defender, victory is assured to you.” St Bernadine of Sienna adds that She is even the Queen of hell since she tames and crushes them and brings them to submission. For this reason the sacred Canticle which we call the Catena refers to Mary as “terrible as an army set in battle array”. Only by aligning ourselves with her can we win the battle against the forces of evil.

#52 COMPASSIONATE MOTHER

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“…Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5)

Introduction

I believe that another reason we are often confused about devotion to Mary is because we have a poor understanding of Family and the role of a Mother in the household. We call God “Father”. And Christ is our brother because he taught us to pray, “Our Father” (Mt 6:9). He also calls each of us to behold our mother (Jn 19:27). If we see our relationship with God and the saints as a family affair, we will come to appreciate our faith in God more deeply and how much he wants us to be a part of his divine household.

Adventure Time

Ideas about Mary fill the pages of Scripture from the beginning of the first book through to the end of the last. She was there, in God’s plan, from the beginning of time, just as the apostles were, and the Church, and the Saviour, and she will be there at the moment everything is fulfilled. Still her motherhood is a discovery waiting to be made.

In Scripture, there are only a handful of passages referring to motherhood, matriarchy and maternity. This contrasts with the hundreds of citations about fatherhood, patriachy and paternity. What is wrong with this picture? Perhaps motherhood is so little understood and appreciated because mothers are so close to us. Infants, for example, do not even understand that Mother is a separate entity until they are several months old. Some researchers say that children don’t fully come to this realisation until they are weaned. It is admissible that we may never be able to distance ourselves psychically from our mothers, except of course, you don’t have a first hand experience of a mother. But I doubt that very much. We shall speak about motherhood in details later. For now, we must catch up on one motherly trait that we see in Mary – loving concern for the welfare of others.

Oh Woman!

The stage is set for Jesus’ first public sign. He arrives at the wedding feast with His mother and His disciples. A wedding celebration, in the Jewish culture of the time, normally lasted about a week. Yet we find, at this wedding, that the wine ran out very early. At which point, Jesus’ mother points out the obvious to her Son: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3). It is a simple statement of fact. But Jesus seems to respond in a way that is far out of proportion to His mother’s simple observation. “O woman,” he says, “what have you to do with Me? My hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:4).

In order to understand Jesus’ seeming overreaction, we need to understand the phrase “what have you to do with me?” Bear in mind that after the brief chit-chat between them, Jesus fulfills the request He infers from Mary’s observation. If He intended to reproach her, he surely would not have followed His reproach by complying with her request. A commentary note in the New American Bible on this verse tells us that “Woman” is a polite and normal form of address and not a way of putting someone down.

Some people make a case about Jesus’ choice of words. “What have you to do with me?” It has two connotations. It is a Hebrew expression of denial of common interest (cf. Hosea 14:8,9; 2Kg 3:13). The expression is also used to express permissiveness. The expression was also used by a man possessed by a demon to address Jesuus and acknowledge his authority over the man and the demon. “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” “I beseech you, do not torment me,” he continues, thereby affirming that he must carry out whatever Jesus commands (Lk 8:28; Mk 5:7).

At Cana Jesus defers to His mother, though she never commands Him. She, in turn, merely tells the servants, “Do whatever He tells you”. Some saints and spiritual writers see in Mary’s action at the Wedding in Cana, a display of a high degree of charity. “So great was Mary’s charity when on earth,” Saint Alphonsus Ligouri says, “that she succoured the needy without even being asked; as was the case at the marriage feast of Cana when she told her Son that family’s distress: ‘They have not wine’”. Since goodness is always worthy of emulation, we should imitate Mary’s loving concern for others.

Ours for the Asking

John the Evangelist as well as the spiritual writers are pointing to the fact that this woman knows the way to her son’s heart. And we should take advantage of it. Mary for her part is not presumptuous of her Son’s kindly nature and tells us to approach him after she has alerted him to our request. Mary is clearly not our mediatrix with God the Father but she is our mediatrix with her Son. It will be presumptuous of us to think that we can ask Jesus for anything by our own strength. Jesus is God and the prayer of a sinner is an abomination before God (Prov 15:8). You stand a better chance brokering a deal with his mother, who incidentally is your mother too. Anyone who grew up in a home knows that a mother has a special key that unlocks the heart of any member of the family.

The functional home, with a Father, Mother and children (and even extended family members), is the closest analogy we have to the inner dynamism of our relationship to God and the saints (cf. Eph 2:19). God is our Father, Jesus is our Big Brother and Mary is our Mother. Her place in God’s household is undeniable.  I like to quote Scott Hahn as a way of closing this piece. He says that, “The breakaway Christian churches that diminish Mary’s role inevitably end up feeling like a bachelor’s apartment: masculine to a fault; orderly but not homey; functional and productive—but with little sense of beauty and poetry.”