MARY PREFIGURED IN WOMEN OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
Quae cum exisset ad illum, benedixerunt eam omnes una voce, dicentes: Tu gloria Jerusalem; tu laetitia Israel; tu honorificentia populi nostri: JUDITH xv. 10.
And when she was come out to him, they all blessed her with one voice, saying: Thou art the glory of Jerusalem, thou art the joy of Israel, thou art the honour of our people: JUDITH xv. 10.
WE know that our Lord was prefigured by His Saints of Old living on earth before His coming. Abel showed forth His Innocence, Job His Patience, Melchizedech His Priesthood, Isaac His Death, Jonah His Burial and Resurrection, Moses His Ministry, Samson His Strength, David His Royalty, Solomon His Wisdom. We shall not therefore be surprised to find His Mother foreshadowed by the women and especially by the heroines of Israel. But, as St. Thomas would have us remember, in considering a figure, we should only look for likeness in one or other point, and should not be surprised to find many dissimilarities. There is no question of identity, but only of a certain resemblance in one respect or another between the great figures which stand out in our Sacred Writings—shadows of the substance—and Jesus and Mary who were to come.
We have already considered Eve as, in motherhood, a type of Mary. Our Lady undid Eve's work and became, in the supernatural order, the Mother of the Redeemed, as in the natural order Eve is the first mother of us all.
Isaac lying bound upon the altar of sacrifice is one of the great types of our Lord. We expect therefore to find in the mother of Isaac a type of the Mother of Christ. It will not, then, be surprising to find that the maternity of Sara, like the maternity of Mary, was beyond the laws of nature. When her son Isaac was born, his mother said : " God hath given me cause to laugh with joy; whosoever shall hear it shall laugh with me." If Sara rejoiced together with her friends at her marvellous childbearing, how much more do not the Angels and all the Saints join in the joy of Mary the Virgin at the Birth of Christ. There is, how ever, as is invariably the case, a contrast between the type and the antitype. St. Ambrose prays to God : " Receive me in that flesh which fell in Adam. Receive me not from Sara but from Mary—from Mary the Virgin incorrupt, the Virgin free, through grace, from every stain of sin."
Of Rebecca we read that " she was an exceeding comely maid, and a most beautiful virgin and not known to man." In the Providence of God she was prepared to be the spouse of Isaac, as Mary was prepared to be the Spouse of the Holy Spirit. The charming idyll runs as follows: Abraham, now an old man, sent his trusty steward back to the land of his birth, there to choose from amongst his own people a fitting wife for his son Isaac. As the messenger—his journey ended— came to the city of Naahor, " when he had made the camels to lie down without the town near a well of water in the evening, at the time when women are wont to draw out water, he said : O ! Lord the God of my master Abraham, meet me to-day, I beseech thee, and show kindness to my master Abraham. Behold I stand nigh the spring of water, and the daughters of the inhabitants of the city will come out to draw water. Now therefore the maid to whom I shall say: ' Let down the pitcher that I may drink,' and she shall answer: Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also'; let it be the same that Thou hast provided for Thy servant Isaac, and by this I shall understand that Thou hast shown kindness to my master. He had not yet ended these words within himself, and behold Rebecca came out . . . and the steward ran to meet her, and said: ' Give me a little water to drink of thy pitcher'; and she answered: ' Drink, my lord.' And quickly she let down the pitcher upon her arm and gave him to drink. And when he had drunk, she said : ' I will draw water for thy camels also, till they all drink.' And pouring out the pitcher into the troughs, she ran back to the well to draw water, and having drawn she gave to all the camels. But he musing beheld her in silence."