The Angel Gabriel knew his mission and was swiftly about it. He came because the Redemption of mankind was at hand. But as man had been responsible by disobedience, for the Fall, so a man had to be responsible by obedience for the beginnings of our restoration. A maid had unleashed upon mankind the evils of the Fall; a maid must speak the words that restored mankind to its lost heritage.
In a moment the Angel would ask her consent to mother the coming Redeemer.
His angelic eyes would have turned away from her had she been a child of sin.
Could the destroyer of sin, about to come, enter the world through a woman stained by Adam’s and Eve’s guilt?
Mary was too important for Redemption to be herself unredeemed. She was soon to mother the all pure Son of God; she dare not be herself even slightly soiled.
She was to be Mother of the Son of the Most High, Partner with the Eternal Fatherhood of God, Bride of the Holy Spirit. Could such a one be the victim of Sin, her own personal sin or sin inherited from the father of the human race?
Gabriel knew he stood before the body that was to give flesh to the stainless Redeemer of mankind. She must be pure in thought, word, will, and affection.
He was in the presence of the soul that was to envelop Christ from conception through all His formative years. She could not be, even in passing, the partner of the Devil, the Adversary, the Spirit of Evil.
Her character and cast of thought were to be passed on to her Child. She would teach Him and be the model for the long years of His human development. God would not take her for so precious and exacting a task if He found her spotted and warped and out of true balance and line.
What Gabriel saw was a woman not touched by grace, but full of it; not a girl of whom God approved, but with whom God had taken His abiding residence.
This was no ordinary saint, nor even one of the extraordinary souls selected by God for some high responsibility among men. Here was a woman filled by God with grace from on high. Here was a maid fit to be mother to the Son of the Eternal.
FARTHER BACK STILLThe story of Mary goes far, far back into history, long before we even hear her name.
It begins with the sin of a woman. Eve too had been full of grace. Because she was to be the mother of all God’s children upon earth, God had given her His love and His grace. Then in the sad flirtation of Paradise, she turned from God’s love to embrace the love of the crawling serpent, evil in its most repellent form. Her hand had led her husband to temptation and her love had lured him into sin. And as the unlucky two gazed upon the ruins of their world, they heard the rustling of the underbrush where the serpent slithered away in slimy triumph.
Dead was their inner life.
Gone was their right to call God their Father.
Already they felt within them the stirrings of vicious temptations from which they had been spared. They had used their will to choose God’s enemy in preference to Him and their will felt sick within them. All history opened before them ready to be written in blood and tears.
And they knew their guilt.
Then the voice rang out in promise. The slithering in the underbrush stopped as the voice of God brought the
Adversary to sharp halt. This time the threat was directed at him.
“I will place enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; and she shall crush your head; and you shall lie in wait for her heel.”
Falling back from his reared position in the dead leaves, Satan must have heard the words in bewilderment. The woman? what woman? He was surely not afraid of Eve. He had already won over her the easiest of victories. Was there some woman soon to come with heel destined to grind his head into the mud? As he scampered away to drop his evil disguise and to resume in hell and on the earth he had wrecked his thousand still uglier forms, Satan must have puzzled, wondered, watched, appraised every good woman who resisted him to some extent, grown a little cynical about the threatened woman, and finally become almost careless.
He probably invented for womankind the title “the weaker sex.” Eve had sorrowed, but she had not sought him out to slay him. She had wept, but she had not caused him any major anxiety. Actually she saw sin triumphing about her.
Her strong first-born, Cain, invented murder to practise it upon her dearly loved Abel. She bore her children in pain to see them reach the age of reason and turn it into the age of sinful consent. Satan soon lost all fear that Eve would be the woman, her heel finding his head.
The Jewish nation produced more than its share of notable and noble women. The Greeks and the Romans were proud of Vestal Virgins and devoted matrons. Each in turn Satan regarded with speculative eyes. Their heels never sought or by chance found him. His head they did not bloody or bow.
Sometimes we can believe that Mary was hidden away in the obscure village of Nazareth and in the tiny cottage of Ann and Joachim in a divine and effective effort to hoodwink the Adversary. Undoubtedly he was watching the palaces and the mansions. He did not dream that from pious poverty and the humble home of a royal line would come the Woman of Prophecy.
Yet Mary was the one. From her would come the Seed which descended from Abraham, the Seed that would conquer the prolific seed of Satan. Her virginal heel would rest squarely upon the head of the Adversary. He would, while she lived and once she was enthroned in Heaven, dread her with unholy hatred born of experience. Mary would never for a moment be in his power.
He would be under her heel, not she under his.
She would be neither his partner, his pawn, his victim, nor his slave.
She would bring forth the expected Seed that meant the ruin of the Adversary, Satan, the brutal enemy of God. Her otherwise gentle heel would force his head back into the depths of hell.
All this demanded untouchable purity. All this meant a woman far beyond the power or dominion of Satan. All this implied an immaculate Maid who was a spotless Mother, and who had never been other than Full of Grace and with God.