I tweeted yesterday that everything in the Old Testament is summarized and completed by Mary’s assent.
In the Annunciation story the old order passes away and the new order is begun. The Annunciation and Mary’s “yes” is the end and the beginning.
Gil Bailie, in his excellent God’s Gamble explores the idea that history as a meta-narrative only begins with the Jewish people. Only in the Old Testament do we find the idea that there is an over arching providence directing all human history. The pagans were bound by a cyclical view of nature and history–one that was controlled by fate or the whims of mercurial demi gods.
With the Jews a consciousness that there is an omnipotent, benign providence behind it all, and that there is a beginning point and an end point starts to take form. It really begins with Abraham, who hears the call and follows God. Each step along the way the Old Testament shows humanity in the microcosm of the Jewish people, to be learning more about the ways of God. Almost by trial and error the understanding of God and man’s relationship with God unfolds.
Abraham learns to make a covenant with God and learns that human sacrifice is not required. Moses unlocks God’s covenant of law and the sacrificial system and David’s relationship unlocks the nature of sin and repentance. Elijah experiences God as the still small voice….and the examples can be multiplied. As the saga of the Jewish people unfolds a wide and deeper understanding of God unfolds.
All of it is leading up to something. All of it is going somewhere. All of it is of a purpose. There is a desire and a destiny locked in the stories, but it is a mysterious and unknown destiny. In various ways in past ages God revealed himself to the Jews, but then in the fullness of time God sent his son–born of a woman.
When Mary of Nazareth experiences the encounter with the angel and accepts the will of God to co operate with his incarnation all of it is fulfilled and completed. The question was asked. Now the answer is given. When we ponder Mary’s gift therefore we see that all the Old Testament stories are mystically completed in her acceptance of God’s will. Not only is she the second Eve, but she also points the way to all the other answers which will be completed by her Son. He fulfills all the law and the prophets in ways that would take a lifetime to contemplate and complete, and her “yes” was the turning point of history. Her co-operation reversed Eve’s fall, opened the door to Abraham’s true son, conceived in her womb the Son of David, the second Moses, the living law and the fulfillment of every prophecy.
I’m grateful therefore for two books on this same theme from fine, young Catholic scholars:
Brant Pitre’s Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary delves into this very mystery. Pitre recognizes that Mary seems to play a small part in the New Testament, but he reveals how, in the whole of Scripture–and in the Jewish beliefs and customs of her day–the Blessed Virgin Mary plays a far more prominent role than many first thought. In eight chapters he goes through the vision of Mary as the New Eve, the New Ark, The Queen Mother, the Perpetual Virgin, the Birth of the Messiah, the New Rachel and The Foot of the Cross. These images are nothing new. Scott Hahn has explored this territory as has Mark Shea in his three books on the Blessed Virgin. I have also dealt with the themes in my own Our Lady? A Catholic Evangelical Debate Pitre takes the study to a new depth however, in bringing to light not only the relevant Scriptural passages, but he also brings into the discussion his vast knowledge of the contemporary Jewish literature and customs of the time.
If Pitre does an excellent job of unearthing the Old Testament roots of Marian devotion, Edward Sri does service for the New Testament passages. In Rethinking Mary Sri delves into the relevant passages of Luke, John and Revelation to show how packed these Biblical passages are with deeper meaning.
The work of a new generation of Catholic Biblical scholars like Pitre and Sri is truly exciting. With top notch credentials, excellent communication skills and an eye for accessibility they are not only helping thousands of Catholics understand the Biblical foundation for their faith, but they are also making a great impact of the field of Biblical scholarship. Too often the liberal Bible scholars have separated from the conservatives and the two warring sides seem to take entrenched and increasingly isolated positions. Sri, Pitre, Bergsma, Barber, Kincaid, Hahn, Huizenga and others are following the lead of Pope Benedict XVI in eschewing easy fundamentalism while also turning away from an all too easy liberal critical method. Taking the best discoveries of modern Biblical scholarship and archeology, they are able to also bring common sense and a deep respect for the Scriptures as they should be understood within the worshipping and praying community of the faithful.
I would encourage readers therefore to read more books! Read more books about the Bible and your Catholic faith and start with anything by Pitre, Sri and the rest of the aforementioned. To get regular Catholic Bible study input visit The Sacred Page where these scholars blog. At Catholic Productions you’ll find videos, DVDs, audio books and podcasts by Brant Pitre and others. Edward Sri has his own website and he also works with the folks at the St Augustine Institute.
Worried about the goings on in the Catholic Church at this time? Take heart that this new generation of Bible scholars are doing such great work and dig deep with them into the Sacred Scriptures–the written word that reveals the Incarnate Word.
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