The Mother Of Christ by Father Vassall-Phillips Part 12


Tertullian, though an African, belonged to the Roman Patriarchate. For the Patriarchate of Alexandria let us turn to Origen. Towards the end of the second century Origen wrote as follows:

"Elisabeth prophesies before John, Mary prophesies before the Saviour's Birth. And as sin began from a woman and then came to man, so too, the beginning of salvation has its origin from a woman."

In another passage he puts these words into the mouth of Elisabeth:

"It behoved me to come to thee, for thou art blessed above all other women; thou art the Mother of my Lord : thou art my Lady who bearest the undoing of the curse."

In neither of these places does the great Alexandrian expressly call the Blessed Virgin the Second Eve. Unhappily his Homilies upon the Annunciation, where very probably he did so, have been lost. I think that these words very probably can be justified by the significant fact, that Origens disciple, St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, in the one authentic Homily still extant from his pen, has written as follows :

"Because the first Virgin Eve fell, seduced by Satan, Gabriel brought his message to the Virgin Mary, that the one Virgin might answer to the other, and birth might answer to birth. Deceived by flatteries Eve gave birth to words of death; Mary receiving the [Angel's] message gave birth to the Incarnate Word, the Word of Life. In con sequence of the words of Eve, Adam was driven from Paradise; the Word [that was born] of Mary revealed the Cross, by which the Thief entered into Adam's Paradise."

This primitive Tradition was handed down faithfully through the ages. We find it scattered through the writings of the Fathers. It was summed up with conciseness by St. Theodotus of Ancyra, when he wrote that God who formed the first virgin without reproach, Himself made the second Virgin also without fault or guilty. It had been expressed by St. Epiphanius speaking for Palestine, Egypt and Cyprus in the words : " Eve became the cause of death to Man, Mary the cause of life "; so that Cardinal Newman tells us that "the contrast between Eve and Mary had passed almost into a proverb " at the time when St. Jerome wrote: "Death by Eve, life by Mary."

This doctrine is expressed with much exuberance of language in the writings of St. Ephrem the Syrian in the first half of the fourth century. Thus we find him writing in the person of the Church of Edessa :

"Verily indeed Thou and Thy Mother are alone in being in every respect altogether beautiful. For in Thee, O Lord, there is no spot, nor is there any stain in Thy Mother."

And again:

" Those two innocent, those two simple ones, Mary and Eve, had been indeed quite equal the one to the other : but, afterwards, one became the cause of our death, the other of our life."