The story of Adam and Eve has fascinated us throughout the entire Christian era. It is a symbolic and foundational story – and it is one shared not only by the Jewish and Christian faiths but also by Islam (in a slightly amended form).
So why is the story of Adam and Eve featured on this Feast day where we honour Mary?
Often we only focus on Adam and Eve’s free will decision – one that leads them to disobey God – and we then contrast this with Mary’s free will decision to say ‘yes’ to God. And this is a valid reflection.
But perhaps today we might look at Adam and Eve and see that their story, at its deepest level, highlights the fact that God has been the creative force behind human evolution and has loved humanity from its very origins. More so it gives us a reference point and contrast through which we might see that the ‘new moment’ of creation – when the Word became flesh – is truly a new step in our evolution in that through Jesus we find our way to the Father and to sharing life to the full with God.
As Paul writes, God “chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him…In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ”
In this sense evolution, and human life itself, had been leading to the point where Mary is born and is then destined to be chosen to be the ‘Christ-bearer’. Mary is destined to become fundamentally instrumental in the coming of Jesus Christ into our world. This Feast day highlights that from her conception she is ‘immaculate’ or ‘free from sin’. That is, from her earliest moments Mary is seen to be as one full of grace and as one who does not surrender to anything that would lead her away from faith in, and loyalty to, God.
Thus today we celebrate Mary’s role in our salvation, but we do so in a special way that leads us to focus on her very beginnings and we draw inspiration from her gift to us.
The Second Vatican Council echoed the words of St. Ambrose and taught that Mary as the Mother of Jesus, was therefore a ‘type’ of the Church in the order of faith, charity, and perfect union with Christ.
In this sense let us imitate Mary. She is the first of the disciples and the model for our following of Jesus. Mary is for us a perfect example of how to live a life of faith, how to be charitable in all our dealings and how to seek union with Jesus in all we do.
With Mary let our daily cry be, “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is a member of Holy Spirit Province, Australia.