Behold Your Mother By Matthew Russell S.J. Part 7. Ave, Eva!

One of the most extraordinary manifestations ot the goodness and mercy of God is the blessed fact that He did not leave our first parents for centuries, nor even for years, in doubt as to the consequences of their fall; but in the same breath in which He issued His edict of banishment He promised the redemption. Mary was foretold as the Cause of our Joy before Eve had well begun to shed the first human tears. And not only was the redemption promised as to be wrought far in the future, but the redeeming grace began there and then to act and to prevail. Father Faber ["Creator and Creature," p. 32. 53] states this in his own expansive way : "Just as the separate orders of nature and grace were by the sweet love of God started in the same act, so the promise of the Saviour and the actual operation of saving grace followed at once upon the Fall, and fallen nature was straightway placed upon the road of reparation and redemption. Thus is it always in the love of God. There is a pathetic semblance of impatience about it—an eagerness to anticipate, a quickness to interfere, an unnecessary profusion in remedying, a perpetual tendency to keep outstripping itself and outdoing itself ; and in all these ways is it evermore overrunning all creation, beautifying and glorifying it with, its own eternal splendours."

Let us continue to dwell a little longer on this primal mystery of mercy, putting the same thoughts into tamer words. As in the earliest record of God's dealings with man, the Blessed Virgin Mary's place in the divine mind is expressed with a clearness and an emphasis that we should hardly have expected; so, too, we could not have dared to expect the rapidity, the instantaneousness, with which the redemption of mankind followed upon their fall. But the fallen world had to wait four thousand years for its Redeemer; and a space of four thousand years is more than an instant, you will say. Yes, but the Creator of men hardly left in suspense for an instant His purpose of being also their Redeemer. The redemption was wrought by promise and acceptance long before the Son of Mary died upon the cross. Jesus is called in the Apocalypse "the Lamb that was slain from the beginning of the world''; for all mercy and grace from the beginning were given in view of His death and passion.
And does not Almighty God seem to be in haste to reveal the designs of His mercy to His poor fallen children ? If we were ignorant of what followed the sin of our first parents, and if we presumed to conjecture God's treatment of His rebellious creatures, we could not dare to conjecture so prompt and overwhelming a display of the divine compassion as that which startles us here at the very first. We might have supposed that our sinful parents would be cast out ignominiously from Paradise, and left to toil on through centuries of penance in dreadful uncertainty under the wrath of God, without a word of comfort and hope, and only relieved of their misery toward the very end by the promise of a Redeemer who would repair the evil they had wrought. And even this would be a marvellous stretch of the infinite mercy of God.

But God in His mercy did not try them so far. In such a supposition, how could they have hoped ? Now, God does not want from the sinner the contrition of despair, but the contrition of love and hope. Christian sorrow is not the wintry hailstorm that blasts and destroys, but the genial April shower that freshens and fertilises, while it lets us see where the sun is shining behind the clouds.

And therefore God in His inexhaustible and illimitable compassion raised up our fallen parents instantly from the depth of despair, announcing the redemption almost in the very moment of the Fall, and saying to the tempter, the enemy of the human race: "I will place enmity between thee and the Woman, and between her seed and thy seed ; and she shall crush thy head." It matters little whether the sacred text be " She shall crush '' or '' It shall crush '' : for what the Woman does is done through her Divine Son. And this is the only point that concerns us now, that in this original revelation, this first disclosure of the world's redemption, the Redeemer is before the divine mind as the Seed of the Woman, the Son of Mary; and so here, at the very beginning foretold and prefigured, we " find the Child with His Mother."

Not only foretold, but prefigured. Eve has always been accepted as a type and figure of the Blessed Virgin. Mary is the new Eve. As St. Paul says, in his Epistle to the Romans (v. 14), that Adam was a figure of Him who was to come, so it may be said that Eve was a figure of her who was to come—the Messiah's Mother. This comparison runs through all the monuments of Christian antiquity—through the writings of the Fathers, through the hymns and sacred offices of the Church. St. Justin, St. Irenaeus, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Ephraim, St. Augustine—these are some of the witnesses cited from the early centuries, constantly urging that Mary is the Second Eve, as the Second Adam is Jesus.

What magnificent conclusions follow immediately from this title, this parallelism, this juxtaposition, with regard to the pre-eminent position of the Blessed Virgin among God's human creatures, her transcendent privileges and power ! Eve was created in a state of innocence, queen of the unfallen world ; Mary was conceived immaculate, and raised to be Queen of the world redeemed; to whom also in Paschal Time we cry : Regina cæli, lætare —"Rejoice, O Queen of Heaven !'' But our everlasting Paschal Time will be a happy eternity. Heaven is not Advent or Lent, but the joyful season of the Resurrection and Ascension, which is made perfect and complete by the assumption and coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother and our Queen. Hail, Mary, second and better Eve, true Mother of all the truly living ! Ave, Eva !