“But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” Gal 4:4–6.
The New and Eternal Covenant is a sacred exchange of persons. In Rabbi Yeshua’s incarnation God took on human nature so we could become “partakers of the divine nature” 2 Pet 1:4. Mary is the bridge between God and man. Rabbi Yeshua told Nicodemus exactly how we become partakers of the divine nature. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God” Jn 3:3.
Nicodemus was puzzled because he assumed that, “born anew,” meant a physical rebirth. Rabbi Yeshua explained that it would be a spiritual rebirth. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” Jn 3:5.
Every man is born through a woman. Rabbi Yeshua made Mary the mother of us all. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” Jn 19:26–27. This is necessary for the New and Eternal Covenant. To exchange persons with Rabbi Yeshua we have to be his brothers and sisters, children of the same mother. For a spiritual rebirth we need a spiritual mother.
Rabbi Yeshua told the scribes and Pharisees, “While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brethern stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brethern?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brethern! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother’” Mt 12:46–50.
Bishop Sheen told us, “If God labored six days in preparing a paradise for man, he would spend a longer time preparing a paradise for his Divine Son. As no weeds grew in Eden, so no sin would arise in Mary, the paradise of the Incarnation. Most unbecoming it would be for the sinless Lord to come into the world through a woman afflicted with sin. A barn door cannot fittingly serve as an entrance to a castle.”
At the Fall God told Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” Gen 3:15. Adam’s wife had been called Woman before the Fall. The woman would be the new Eve, the new mother of all living, as ezer kenegdo the great defender against Satan. And, with the words, “her seed,” God promised a Redeemer. It is the man who gives seed. “Her seed” could mean only a virgin birth.
Isaiah prophesied, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young virgin [Hebrew: almah] shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” Is 7:14. Isaiah’s Hebrew word almah comes from the root alm. Almah meant a very young girl, often before puberty. An almah would not likely have been of sexual interest to an elem, a boy at that age, and so an almah was always assumed to be a virgin. The same root alm also gives us the Hebrew word alum, hidden, secret, unknown. Its opposite, ladaat, ties together knowledge and sexual relations. Centuries later the archangel Gabriel told the almah, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” Lk 1:35.
Moral traditions were strictly enforced in those days. The Torah required that a young woman of marriageable age be a virgin. “But if … the tokens of virginity were not found in the young woman, then … the men of her city shall stone her to death” Deut 22:20–21. An almah was apt to be a virgin at the time of her marriage! In fact, pre-pubescents were called in Hebrew alumim, hidden ones.
Isaiah could have written betulah, which specifically means a virgin. He did not use betulah because a betulah can be any age. Up to that time, the sign of a miraculous conception had been an old woman bearing a child. In the Old Testament we find, “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’” Gen 17:17. And in the New Testament, “But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years … But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John … And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.’” Lk 1:7,1:13, 1:36–37.
Isaiah’s almah pointed to a very young woman to highlight the contrast between John the Baptizer, the last Hebrew prophet, who would be born of an aging mother, and the Messiah himself, who would create the world anew.
Isaiah specifically identified Mary by using the definite article. By writing ha’almah, “The young woman,” rather than “a young woman,” Isaiah pointed specifically to the Blessed Virgin, Mary of Nazareth, identified at Eden Gen 3:15, Cana Jn 2:4, Calvary Jn 19:26, and in heaven Rev 12:1, the only woman conceived free from sin who would be at war against Satan in every moment of her existence.
The Immaculate Conception
The apocryphal literature and private revelation through Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich are less than reliable but all we have on the parents of Mary of Nazareth. They tell us that a woman named Hannah (a Hebrew word for grace), whom today we call Anna or Anne, was married to a man named Joachim. This has been widely accepted among the faithful and therefore has become a part of Church tradition.
We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.
As a consequence of her immaculate conception Mary of Nazareth entered the world entirely without actual sin, and without the stain of the original sin. We recall that the pain of childbirth was part of the stain of the original sin Gen 3:16. Mary of Nazareth bore baby Yeshua entirely without the pain and trials of childbirth. It is only fitting that the Son of God would prepare a sinless vessel to enter into the world. The rest is an incomparable blessing for us all.
During the Church’s history, many theologians asked whether the immaculate conception meant that Mary did not need to be redeemed. Even St. Thomas Aquinas could not find sufficient justification for it. But God gives insights to whom he will. Bl. Duns Scotus in the early fourteenth century argued that Mary is indeed like the rest of us redeemed by the grace of her Son. However, he said that since grace exists outside of time it can be applied in a way that transcends time. Therefore Mary was preemptively delivered by Rabbi Yeshua’s grace from original sin. Duns Scotus wrote (in Latin), potuit, decuit, ergo fecit. (he could do it, it was fitting that he do it, therefore he did it). Church authorities saw Rabbi Yeshua‘s inspiration in this concise teaching and recognized that it admirably resolved the matter so as the centuries passed it gradually entered the realm of authoritative Church teaching.
Her Hebrew Name is Miryam
In elegant Hebrew Miryam is pronounced with the accent on the second syllable, miryám. In informal Hebrew and in Aramaic it is pronounced with the accent on the first syllable, míryam. Miryam is unusual among Hebrew names in that it does not have a distinct meaning, appropriate for a woman who personifies humble emptying of self for God.
The Latin Maria, as in Ave Maria, splits the difference, placing the accent on the middle syllable, María.
Mary Was Betrothed
If anyone says that the Blessed Virgin was an “unwed mother,” we may gently remind him that he is giving an opinion on Jewish marriage law and ask him to research it before addressing the subject in public.
The Jewish Virtual Library article on Marriage tells us: “Kiddushin is far more binding than an engagement as we understand the term in modern America; in fact, Maimonides speaks of a period of engagement before the kiddushin. Once kiddushin is complete, the woman is legally the wife of the man. The relationship created by kiddushin can only be dissolved by death or divorce. However, the spouses do not live together at that time, and the mutual obligations created by the marital relationship do not take effect until the nisuin is complete.”
After a girl is betrothed by payment of the mohar (bride-price) to her family she is a married woman. In Moses’ time the betrothal was a complete marriage that included the right of sexual relations. “And what man is there that has betrothed a wife and has not taken her?” Deut 20:7. The Hebrew word asher-eras is translated “betrothed” in the RSV2CE, and “espoused” in the DR, indicating that both translations have the same meaning.
Jewish marriage law today allows many forms. For instance, an Ashkenazi ceremony is very different from a Sephardic ceremony. But Mishna tractate Kidushin (sanctification) sets forth the elements required by the Jewish Oral Torah, which was in force in Rabbi Yeshua‘s time, before the Ninth of Av in AD 70. The marriage ceremony always begins with kidushin, betrothal, from the Hebrew root kof-dalet-shin, sanctified or consecrated, set apart for a sacred purpose. The ceremony includes the providing and reading of the ketubah (marriage contract), drinking wine and reciting blessings, and the exchange of objects of value. At the end of the kidushin, before two witnesses, the groom gave his new wife something of value, and declared, “Behold, you are consecrated unto me with this and according to the law of Moses and Israel.” In Jewish law, by these words, the groom marries the bride. The kidushin consecrates the bride to be the wife of this particular man, and no other.
In Rabbi Yeshua’s time, after kidushin the husband and wife did not live together; cohabitation was prohibited until the nisuin, elevation. The young husband and wife stayed in their respective parents’ homes, usually for about a year, while the husband built a house, furnished it, and became proficient at a trade. When the husband was fully ready the happy couple celebrated the nisuin, and the wife moved into her husband’s home. For the nisuin the bride and groom stand under the khupa, the wedding canopy that represents the couple’s new home together. They recite the seven marriage blessings and share a glass of wine. The groom then breaks a glass under his foot. Today the rabbis complete the kidushin and nisuin on the same day.
Observant Jews see the two part ceremony as reflecting a higher spiritual reality. In it the kidushin represents God descending on Mt. Sinai to give his people Israel the Torah and its commandments as a sacred wedding ring. When Moses told Israel, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words” Ex 24:8, God and Israel were betrothed to one another. However, the nisuin occurs when each Jew performs the 613 mitzvot during his lifetime, consummating the marriage into a perfect unity with God. “‘Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure’ — for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints” Rev 19:7-8.
We know that this law of kidushin and nisuin was in force in the time of Rabbi Yeshua because it appears in Mishna tractate kidushin. In the Talmud, Mishna is the written-down Oral Torah, ancient pre-Christian law. Gemara is post-Christian rabbinic law.
Rabbi Matityahu tells us that, “Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly” Mt 1:19. Joseph was unwilling to subject beautiful Mary to the trial by bitter waters. “And the priest shall … make the woman drink the water … if she has defiled herself and has acted unfaithfully against her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her body shall swell … and the woman shall become an execration among her people. But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be free and shall conceive children” Num 5:26–28. Instead Joseph intended to quietly follow the Mosaic law of divorce: “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a bill of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house” Deut 24:1. Both of these laws applied only to a married woman.
St. John Paul II, in Redemptoris Custos § 18, confirmed that the Catholic Churchrecognizes this Jewish legal tradition. “According to Jewish custom, marriage took place in two stages: first, the legal, or true marriage was celebrated, and then, only after a certain period of time, the husband brought the wife into his own house. Thus, before he lived with Mary, Joseph was already her husband.”
Translation issues in two foundational Catholic documents have given rise to some confusion.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Catechism of the Catholic Church § 497 says, “The Gospel accounts understand the virginal conception of Jesus as a divine work that surpasses all human understanding and possibility: ‘That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit’, said the angel to Joseph about Mary his fiancée. The Church sees here the fulfilment of the divine promise given through the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son” Is 7:14.
The Hebrew kidushin means their relationship was consecrated, sanctified, as Catholic marriage consecrates the relationship between a man and woman. The translator evidently chose fiancée to indicate that Joseph and Mary were fully committed to one another as husband and wife in Jewish law but had not yet celebrated the nisuin.
After their house was ready, Joseph and Mary celebrated the nisuin which allowed them to move in together. We know this because Joseph was “a just man” Mt 1:19, obedient to Jewish law, and from, “And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt” Mt 2:14, as well as “And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth” Mt 2:23. Since he was often called “Jesus of Nazareth” Mk 10:47, we know that Joseph and Mary raised him together in a home in Nazareth.
Let us go to the Latin Typical Edition, the final authority for all Vatican translations:
§ 497: Narrationes evangelicae conceptionem intelligunt virginalem tamquam opus divinum omnem comprehensionem et omnem possibilitatem superans humanas: « Quod enim in ea natum est, de Spiritu Sancto est », dicit angelus ad Ioseph circa Mariam eius sponsam (Mt 1,20). Ecclesia ibi adimpletionem perspicit Promissionis divinae datae ab Isaia propheta: « Ecce virgo in utero habebit et pariet filium » (Is 7,14), secundum versionem graecam Mt 1,23.
“Ad virginem desponsatam viro, cui nomen erat Joseph, de domo David: et nomen virginis Maria” Lk 1:27. And to the Douay-Rheims Challoner, a literal translation of St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate: “To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary” Lk 1:27.
The Latin Typical Edition describes Mary as espoused. This word espoused, familiar to most English speakers, means one who has a spouse. Spouse, of course, is the English neutral term for husband or wife.
The Revised Standard Version Second Catholic Edition
The Revised Standard Version Second Catholic Edition (RSV2CE) translates Mary’s question to the archangel Gabriel: “How can this be, since I have no husband?” Lk 1:34. The RSV2CE translators knew that the Blessed Virgin Mary speaking to St. Gabriel addressed the subject in the most delicate possible terms. Mary and Joseph had not yet celebrated the nisuin. Since Jewish marriage law prohibited sexual relations until the nisuin, Mary had no husband with whom she could have had marital relations.
Mary told the angel, using the appropriate Hebrew-Aramaic yada, that she never had sexual relations with a man. Mary was speaking Aramaic, which at that time was very similar to Hebrew. In Hebrew the word yada means both to know in the sense of having information, and also sexual relations. “Now Adam knew [yada] Eve his wife, and she conceived” Gen 4:1. This Hebrew idea of “knowing” one’s wife teaches us that in becoming “one flesh” Gen 2:24 we know one another in an extraordinarily intimate way. Let us now go to Rabbi Lucas’ original Greek: “pos [how] estai [will be] touto [this] epei [since] andra [man] ou [not] ginosko [I know]” Lk 1:34. There’s nothing at all in it about a husband.
The Originals Are Correct
The Blessed Virgin Mary was full of grace. “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, full of grace [Greek: kecharitoméne], the Lord is with you!’” Lk 1:26–28. The literal meaning of kecharitoméne is “woman who has been graced.” Full of grace is more colloquial, but accurate.
The betrothed Blessed Virgin was a married woman at the moment of the Annunciation.
“The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth … and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, full or grace, the Lord is with you!’ … And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Lk 1:26–30. Gabriel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” Lk 1:35. This is the only place in all Scripture where an angel treats a human with deference, as if the angel knew she would soon be his queen. In every other encounter the angel is clearly in charge. And Mary gave her consent. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” Lk 1:38.
Gabriel, pronounced ga-vri-el, is a Hebrew word meaning, “The power of God.” The Hebrew root for gvura, courage, is gbr, power. El (short for Elohim) is God. He had told Zechariah, “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God” Lk 1:19. The awesome power of God came to this young virgin and humbly asked her consent. The archangel’s greeting, “Full of grace,” in St. Luke’s Greek kecharitoméne, literally, “woman who has been graced,” was a salute to the authority she would soon have over him as queen of heaven.
Our Father had earlier described only himself as “full of grace,” more literally “great loyal love,” in Hebrew rav khesed Ex 34:6. St. John describes Rabbi Yeshua as “full of grace,” in Greek pleres charitos Jn 1:14. And St. Luke describes St. Stephen using the same Greek pleres charitos, “full of grace” Acts 6:8, in that way telling us that his martyrdom was a special witness to Rabbi Yeshua.
At that time men believed that the Roman emperor was the most important man on earth. People greeted each other with “Hail Caesar,” instead of using their names. Even after Caesar’s time, Roman emperors were still called Caesars. The archangel, therefore, by addressing her with “Hail” followed by the title he gave her, indicated that God considered her the most important person on earth.
Rabbi Yeshua told us, “Every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” Lk 14:11, 18:14. Compare the humble virgin, Mary of Israel, with the most powerful woman of her day, the first empress of the Roman Empire. Today, the humble virgin is revered as queen of heaven by one billion Catholics and two hundred million Orthodox Christians, but who remembers Livia Drusilla?
Sometimes people ask, “Wasn’t Rabbi Yeshua‘s conception also immaculate? Certainly it was, but Holy Mother Church reserves the phrase immaculate conception for Mary of Israel alone. Instead we simply say that Rabbi Yeshua always and everywhere obeyed Avinu Malkenu, our Father, our King. Lk 22:42; Jn 5:30; 6:38.
Full of Grace
The New Testament, in both the RSV2CE and the Douay-Rheims translations, describes the Blessed Virgin Mary Lk 1:28, Rabbi Yeshua, Jn 1:14, and St. Stephen Acts 6:8, as “full of grace.” However, Holy Mother Church reserves “full of grace” for the Blessed Virgin Mary. St. Gabriel the Archangel greeted the Blessed Virgin, “Hail, full of grace [kecharitomene], the Lord is with you!” He used a Hebrew phrase, probably meleat hakhesed, that St. Luke translates to Greek as kecharitomene, a fullness below that of Rabbi Yeshua but above all the angels and saints. All Latin translations of kecharitomene since the earliest days have been gratia plena. Lk 1:28. When the New Testament refers to Rabbi Yeshua and St. Stephen as “full of grace” its original Greek is pleres charitos.
The Blessed Virgin’s kecharitomene, fullness of grace, came from her Immaculate Conception, a singular grace by which she was preserved free from all stain of sin. After the original sin, God told Woman, “In pain shall you bring forth children” Gen 3:16. No sin, no pain. The birth of little Yeshua was a joyful event without the slightest pain or inconvenience to the Blessed Virgin. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us: “Christ came forth from the closed womb of His Mother, and, consequently, without opening the passage. Consequently there was no pain in that birth, as neither was there any corruption; on the contrary, there was much joy therein for that God-man ‘was born into the world” ST III.35.6.R1. The joy in heaven was unimaginable. “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” Lk 2:13–14.
Compare Abram with Mary. “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.’ So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.” Gen 12:1–4. Abram was obedient to God.
However, Mary knew that Elizabeth was old and six months pregnant with her first child, and would need help Lk 1:36. Immaculately conceived, she was fully God’s image Gen 1:27 and needed no command to help. “Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth” Lk 1:39–40.
Catholic tradition holds that Elizabeth and Zechariah lived in the town of Ein Kerem in Judea, and there gave birth to John the Baptizer. At that time Ein Kerem was located in the Judean hills halfway between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Today it is in a far southwestern suburb of Jerusalem. There, on a hilltop, stands the Church of the Visitation. Probably Mary left for Ein Kerem early in April.
The distance from Nazareth to Ein Kerem is nearly 100 miles across the Judean hills. Camels were used on the busy national and international caravan routes, but for this rugged terrain a donkey, with its stamina and sure-footedness, would have been the likely choice. Mary would have followed the custom of ladies to sit sideways as she rode.
Mary would have been accompanied by other travelers, probably some who were familiar with the path through the hills. The strong winter rainstorms would have ended by early April, leaving the hills fresh and green with abundant wildflowers, herbs, and vegetables to eat along the way. The journey would have taken perhaps a week to ten days. She must have been tired by the time she arrived.
We can imagine Mary knocking on the door, Elizabeth opening it, and the two women looking at one another. The child in Elizabeth’s womb, John the Baptizer, leaped for joy, as Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit! Lk 1:41. Mary was already filled with the Holy Spirit. We can only imagine these two joyful women telling one another about their miraculous pregnancies. We can only imagine Mary’s joy as she prayed the last words of her Magnificat: “He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.” Lk 1:54–55.
Both Zechariah and Elizabeth were “righteous before God,” so we can be certain that, eight days after Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptizer, they named him and circumcised him. This is a very important time in Jewish life, so we can also speculate that Mary stayed until then to participate in the festivities.
By then it would have been early July. The burning sunrays would have made the return trip across the Judean hills very hot for a young woman three months pregnant. Joseph was always a strong and protective family man. We can imagine him coming to Ein Kerem to be with Mary’s family for John’s birth, the naming, and the circumcision, and then accompanying her on the long journey home.
Rabbi Yeshua’s Arrival
Rabbi Yeshua could easily have come into the world as a 33 year old man, already on the Cross on Calvary Hill, declared, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” Lk 23:46, and returned to heaven. Would that have accomplished our redemption? If the Father had so willed, yes.
Rabbi Yeshua willed to give three years of his incarnate life to a public revelation for us. In that case he could have come into the world for his Baptism in the Jordan Mt 3:16–17. If the Father had so willed, that too would have sufficed.
Rabbi Yeshua willed to grow up with the Blessed Virgin Mary and with St. Joseph. What an awesome tribute to Mary, that nine-tenths of the most important life ever lived on earth was devoted entirely to her. If the Father had so willed, that surely would have sufficed. In that case Rabbi Yeshua could have come into the world in Bethlehem announced by angels. “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!’” Lk 2:13–14.
Rabbi Yeshua wanted even the experience of living within the Blessed Virgin’s womb for nine months. He could have begun his arrival at the moment the power of the Most High overshadowed Mary and lovingly placed within her the human soul and tiny body of Baby Yeshua Lk 1:35.
Surely that would have been enough. But Rabbi Yeshua wanted one more thing for his arrival. The archangel Gabriel had to ask her permission! The Son of God loved Mary so much that even he would not simply take her body and use it as he wished. Gloria in excelsis Deo! Why? From the beginning God had given headship to married men Gen 3:16; Eph 5:22. But it had to be a loving headship Eph 5:25. Each husband would have the right to his wife’s body, but he could exercise that right only with her permission. Every husband has to respect his wife’s dignity.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass sends us forth to bring Rabbi Yeshua’s birth at Bethlehem into the world. Christmas is all about a Baby. When a human baby is born he instantly becomes the center of his home. His parents excitedly reorganize their lives to take care of him, to look at him lovingly, to make plans. That’s what the Father had in mind for Baby Yeshua, born in the tiny village of bet lekhem,”house of bread” to become “the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” Jn 6:51.
The Wedding Feast
The Earthly Wedding Feast
Rabbi Yeshua established his earthly mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, as his gevira. She was able to intercede with him even when he was not inclined to help a bride’s father. Rabbi Yokhanan begins his account of the wedding feast at Cana with, “On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there” Jn 2:1 The Blessed Virgin is mentioned first. Yeshua, the Son of God, is almost an afterthought. “Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples” Jn 2:2.
When they arrived at the wedding feast Rabbi Yeshua was still obedient to His Blessed Mother Lk 2:51. When Mary, who surely remembered that she had been betrothed to Joseph, realized that the wine had run out she was the first to react: “They have no wine” Jn 2:3. In this she first revealed herself as the mother of Yeshua but also of all living. During the kidushin, the first part of the wedding, the rabbi recites the blessing over the wine, which accompanies the betrothal blessing. The couple then drinks from the cup. If they had run out of wine then, there could be no betrothal, no marriage. Everyone would have had to go home, and the family would have been ridiculed. For the nisuin the bride and groom stand under the khupa, the wedding canopy that represents the couple’s new home together. They recite the seven marriage blessings and share a glass of wine. If they had run out of wine during the nisuin, the couple could not consummate their marriage together. But even if they had enough wine to complete the ceremonies, at a Jewish wedding there is much rejoicing and merriment, but it would have turned to ashes when the wine failed. Family and friends would have returned to their homes heaping ridicule on a wedding feast where there was not enough wine for the guests. Either way, ridicule. In the small villages of that time, where most people remained in the same village all their lives, it would have been vividly remembered.
Yeshua replied to his mother, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come” Jn 2:4. “When Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” Mt 3:16–17. Several people had seen this sign of Yeshua‘s divinity and probably were already telling their friends. Yeshua knew that another show of his divine power would reveal his mission to all and start his public ministry that would end at the Cross. He knew the excruciating pain of Gethsemane, of his scourgers’ every stroke, the soldiers’ every thorn, all three falls that smashed his face into the dirt, every nail driven through his wrists and legs, and his final death agony. He was reluctant to start.
All the Hebrew prophets had told their people: Do what God tells you. Now the Hebrew virgin became the successor of the Hebrew prophets of Israel by speaking for the living God: “Do whatever he tells you” Jn 2:5. After she spoke those words his public ministry was on and she became obedient to him.
Just as Solomon could not refuse his gevira, Bathsheba, Rabbi Yeshua could not refuse his mother at Cana. He had created her immaculate, the woman of shining glory whom all generations would call blessed. Perhaps the Father’s fourth commandment flashed across his memory: Honor your father and your mother Ex 20:12. He gave the bride’s father what he wanted, but also so much more. Look what happened next. “Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.” Jn 2:6. The servants at the wedding filled them to the brim, reflecting that nothing more could be poured into the Old Covenant. Rabbi Yeshua would within three years bring into being the greatest Jewish rite of purification the world has ever known, re-presented forever under the appearance of bread and wine.
The Eternal Wedding Feast
That wedding feast at Cana, where Rabbi Yeshua provided the wine, itself was a foretaste of a wedding feast like no other. “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready’” Rev 19:6–7.
Mary uniquely participated in Rabbi Yeshua’s redemption of the human family. At the Annunciation she freely cooperated in giving Rabbi Yeshua his human body, the very instrument of our redemption. “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” Heb 10:10. Mary always intercedes on behalf of the Lamb’s betrothed, to give us the new wine of her Son, inviting us all to the wedding feast in heaven.
Even today she has been especially a mother to Jewish souls. Auguste and Joseph Lemann, the Jewish twins who became Catholic priests, Alphonse and Theodore Ratisbonne, the Jewish brothers who each became a priest and monk, Aaron Jean-Marie Lustiger, the Polish Jew who became Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, Israel Zolli, the Chief Rabbi of Rome during the Holocaust who entered the Church in 1945, Father Elias Friedman, the South African Jewish medical doctor who became a Carmelite priest and founded the Association of Hebrew Catholics and many, many more, and also to me.
Mary’s Glorious Assumption into Heaven
After Rabbi Yeshua gave his mother the Blessed Virgin Mary into the care of St. John the Evangelist Jn 19:27 she lived with him to a very advanced age. St. Paul reminds us that, “wages of sin is death” Rom 6:23, but the Blessed Virgin, immaculately conceived, never sinned, and so she was not subject to death. Pope Pius XII, in his apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus § 44, declared: “The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”
Holy Mother Church is careful to use phrases like, “At the end of her earthly life,” because we have no divine revelation on whether she merely went to sleep or experienced a peaceful death even for a moment, so we speak only of her “dormition,” falling asleep. We do know for certain that she was assumed body and soul into heaven, and that, up to now, the only two souls in heaven who already have their glorified bodies are Rabbi Yeshua and the Blessed Virgin. The rest of us will receive our glorified bodies at Rabbi Yeshua‘s Second Coming.
Many Catholics believe the Blessed Virgin was assumed body and soul into heaven where the Jerusalem Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos 2:33 now stands in the Kidron Valley, on the foothills of the Mount of Olives, originally just outside Jerusalem. Other Catholics believe she was assumed into heaven on Mt. Koressos in Ephesus, in what is now Turkey, where St. John is said to have brought her for safety and tranquility during the Jewish and Roman persecutions of that time.
How can we know this, since no eyewitness accounts have survived? By the absence of relics. Whenever a Catholic martyr passed into eternity the early Church quickly took relics so as to pay homage to the saints. Holy Mother Church placed a relic of a saint in every church altar, thereby connecting each Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with a martyr in heaven for Rabbi Yeshua, the king of martyrs. The bones of those martyred in the Coliseum, for instance, were quickly gathered up and preserved. Cities vied to be known as the last resting place of the most famous saints. Rome had always claimed the tombs of Kefa and Paul—Kefa’s tomb is under the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica.
We know that after the Crucifixion St. John the Apostle cared for Mary; early Christian writings say John went to live at Ephesus and Mary was with him. Relics of the Blessed Virgin, as the mother of Rabbi Yeshua, would have been the most sought after. Her earthly life may have ended there or at Jerusalem where the Church of the Dormition now stands. Neither city claimed her remains, nor did any other. That could only have been because there were no bones to claim, and everyone knew it.
Mary as Hebrew Prophet
In the era of the Babylonian Exile, God sent many prophets to call Israel back to holiness. In our time Rabbi Yeshua has been sending His greatest prophet, his immaculate gevira, queen mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who began her days of prophecy at Cana with the simple instruction, “Do whatever he tells you” Jn 2:5. She had appeared in Guadalupe in 1531, right after Martin Luther led so many souls out of the Catholic Church, in Rue du Bac in 1830 at the time of the Paris Revolution, at Lourdes in 1858, the year before Darwin published his Origin of Species, in Fátima in 1917 when the Russian Revolution began, at Beauraing and Banneux in 1933 when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, and in Poland in 1937 to St. Faustina, the year before Kristallnacht when the Holocaust began, to tell of Rabbi Yeshua’s infinite mercy. In recent years she has been appearing more frequently, in Zeitun, Egypt, in 1968, in Akita, Japan, in 1973, in Cuapa, Nicaragua in 1980, and Litmanova, Slovakia in 1990.
She is a greater prophet even than Moses. God told us, “There has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” Deut 34:10. Mary did much more than know the Son of God face to face; she brought him into the world and raised him. He spent thirty years with her and three years in his public ministry. God told Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them,” Num 20:12 but Rabbi Yeshua raised Mary at the end of her earthly life § 966, body and soul, into the promised kingdom of heaven.
The Blessed Virgin is still, after Rabbi Yeshua, foremost among the Hebrew prophets. At Fátima she told three little children, and through them us all, “Do whatever he tells you” Jn 2:5. Because Satan often tries to confuse us by counterfeiting Marian apparitions, we may accept as authentic only those approved by the Church. Each local diocesan bishop makes that decision for apparitions within his diocese, and his decision is ordinarily respected everywhere in the Church.
John the Baptizer was the last of the old Hebrew prophets. Rabbi Yeshua created the world anew. The Blessed Virgin is a Hebrew prophet for the New Israel, a Hebrew prophet fulfilled by the Mashiakh Mt 5:17, announcing to the world the need for obedience to her Son Jn 2:5, and for the constant prayer and devotion on which our salvation depends.
The question often arises, “Does the Vatican review the local bishop’s decision?” That is extremely rare. By far the most controversial “apparition site” is Medjugorje. Because of its extraordinary level of controversy in the United States, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith directed the apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Vigano, to write a letter, dated October 21, 2013, stating, “It follows, therefore, that clerics and the faithful are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such ‘apparitions’ would be taken for granted.” This stands worldwide for now as the Church’s most recent and authoritative statement. EWTN’s review, Medjugorje, as revised November 6, 2013, under “What the Church permits,” says: “While the earlier statements permitted Catholics to go to Medjugorje, and even include priests acting as chaplains, the 2013 statements raise serious questions about the possibility of doing so.”
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes is unlike any place on earth.
The Medical Bureau
Ruth Cranston’s pamphlet, A Protestant Looks at Lourdes, tells the medical story. She is a Protestant who “went to Lourdes out of an irrepressible curiosity.” Since the apparitions of 1858, the Lourdes Medical Bureau, an international organization of about 2,000 physicians representing every medical specialty, has worked on about 7,000 unexplained cures. Ruth Cranston quotes Dr. Francois Leuret, President of the Medical Bureau during her visit in 1953, “During my time here,” Dr. Leuret continued, “Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus, Protestants of all sects, have been among our colleagues; atheists and unbelievers, too. It’s this study of the cures by men of such different viewpoints that guarantees our good faith.”
To certify a miraculous cure, Lourdes has three stages of recognition. Only after the cure has been medically certified as an “unexpected cure” is the file sent to the local bishop, who also sends a copy to the bishop of the diocese where the person who was cured lives. The Church’s standards are so stringent that, among the 7,000 “unexplained” cures the Lourdes medical community has reviewed over more than a century, the Church has certified only 69 as miraculous!
The followers of John the Baptizer asked Rabbi Yeshua, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Mt 11:3, Rabbi Yeshua replied, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me” Mt 11:4–6.
“Go and tell John what you hear and see.” Most of the people who visit Lourdes have rock solid Catholic faith. But persons who doubt the Church should visit as well. We’re talking about eternal life. Pascal’s Wager observes that, on pure logic, either God exists or he does not exist. It is a breathtaking leap of faith to conclude that God does not exist, because if the atheist is wrong he has lost everything. Is it not worthwhile for every atheist to visit Lourdes, bring a doctor who can help him understand the 69 certified miraculous healings and thousands more that are beyond current scientific explanation and see for himself whether Rabbi Yeshua and the Blessed Virgin really exist?
The Spiritual Lift
However, from the Catholic Church’s wider perspective, by far the most important presence at Lourdes is the Blessed Virgin Mary herself. At the Grotto of Lourdes, “This grotto has become an astonishing school of prayer, where Mary teaches everyone to contemplate with love the face of the Christ.”
The Lourdes Sanctuary invites web site visitors to place a candle, place a petition at the Grotto, request a Mass, meditate on the Rosary, or simply say a prayer. On site visitors can take a bath in Lourdes water, go to Confession, participate in a Mass, a Blessed Sacrament Procession, Marian Procession, Adoration, and Way of the Cross. And there is much more for those who wish to deepen their relationship with the Blessed Virgin.
The Church has a motto, Christus laborabit. “Be there! Christ will do the work!” Of course, Rabbi Yeshua does all the healing at the request of his Blessed Mother, but prayer drives it all. Rabbi Yeshua wants us to ask. “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” Mt 7:7–8. “Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” Jn 16:24. We don’t always get what we ask for, but we always get what Rabbi Yeshua knows is best for us in the long run.
Echoes of Mary
§ 963-975 Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church
Bible Study on Mary – Scott Hahn 1:18:27
Miracles at Lourdes 21:10
Ave Maria 4:44
Tim Staples on Mary 56:36
Ven. Fulton J. Sheen, The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996), p. 20.
Moses, though married to Zipporah, chose to remain in the sanctity of separation all his life to be at every moment available for God’s commands.” Midrash Exodus Rabbah 19:3; 46:3.
By Church tradition, Mary’s color is blue. Many Catholics associate her with blue, or blue and white, and some Catholic women dress in blue, or blue and white, as a sign of their faith. When Second Exodus looks at many images of the Blessed Virgin, blue and white seem to appear more often than others. The Blessed Virgin Mary of course does not have special Church-approved colors. We see Our Lady of Guadalupe in red and blue, and sometimes we see the Blessed Virgin in other colors.