Monday, July 25, 2016

Genesis Notes — The Woman: Both Blessed and Suffering

The Annunciation - Luke 1:26-38
The Visitation - Luke 1:39-56
The Presentation in the Temple - Luke 2:22-35
The Wedding at Cana - John 2:1-11
The Crucifixion - John 19:25-27
A Vision of Heaven - Revelation 12:1-7

We are still breaking away from Genesis with Genesis: God and His Creation to look at the answer to the promise that the woman and her seed would defeat God's enemy. I strongly encourage anyone interested to get this study and read Lessons 6 and 7 for themselves. As if these scenes aren't powerful enough on their own, looking at their connection to Genesis adds such depth of meaning that it takes my breath away. This is the sort of thing where I see the "proof" that the Bible is divinely inspired.
Jan de Molder, The Visitation

The Visitation - Luke 1:39-56
Elizabeth "was filled with the Holy Spirit." Her utterance has the power of prophecy. In blessing Mary and the Child in her womb, Elizabeth gives voice to what all creation would want to sing out with "a loud cry" at the coming of the "woman" and her "seed" promised so long ago. Notice that Elizabeth does not separate the Child from His Mother. Her blessing is on both of them together. Her reverence is for both of them when she humbly asks why she should be the glad recipient of a visit from "the mother of my Lord." Even the child in her own womb, John the Baptist, leaps for joy when he hears Mary's voice. So closely are Mother and Child linked in this passage that the sound of Mary's voice is enough to produce rejoicing in the prophet-in-utero. John and his mother, Elizabeth, represent Israel, waiting for Messianic consolation. Jesus and His Mother, Mary, are God's comfort for His people. They are the flesh-and-blood icon of the Woman and her Seed from Genesis.

Menologion of Basil, Presentation of Jesus at the Temple

The Presentation in the Temple - Luke 2:22-35
And now in this passage we learn from Simeon that the Mother will also share in the suffering of the Son ("a sword will pierce through your own soul also"). Were we prepared in Gen. 3:15 for the possibility of suffering?

Yes, we were. We could anticipate a ferocious battle between the serpent and the seed of the woman, both inflicting wounds on the other. The suffering shouldn't surprise us. But how and why would Mary share in this suffering?

We must remember that Jesus opened up to all His followers the possibility of sharing in His suffering for sinners. His call to those who would follow Him to take up their crosses daily represented a call to obedience to God's will, no matter what, AND an invitation to suffer for sinners. That is what the Cross meant to Jesus. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8) He intended to make it possible for all who belong to Him to join Him in that redemptive suffering (see CCC 618) ...

Simeon's prophecy to Mary makes it clear that she was the very first Christian to share in His suffering for sinners. Her place in this is unique, of course, because of her unique relationship to Jesus and to God. It was not simply that His suffering would make her sad. Simeon's unusual words somehow place Mary there with Jesus on the Cross when the solider pierced Him through with a sword to make sure He was dead. She was the first one to be joined to Jesus in her suffering, but not the last. Down through the ages, the Church has called her children to join their human sufferings, in whatever form they experience them, to the perfect suffering of the Lamb of God on the Cross, Who takes away the sins of the world. Ever since the fall, suffering is inevitable. Remember that it is the lens that restores spiritual sight. The Cross teaches us not to shrink in fear from suffering but to actually rejoice-rejoice!!-in it. Why? Because through it we see God and ourselves in truth, through it we cry out to Him for mercy, and through it, the world is won back to Him.
This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

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