Many high school students will arrive to their religion class or Confirmation programs with a strong disposition of doubt when it comes to the 'Catholic stuff about Mary'. Even those students who have been catechized and practice their Catholic Faith, like the apostle Thomas, need to make connections and experience the 'ah ha moment' to believe with confidence.
In the face of this challenge, the catechist asks a good question...Where to begin?
Instead of jumping into the four marian dogmas (Immaculate Conception, Mother of God, Perpetual Virginty and Assumption), you would do well to first lay the biblical foundation. Just remember 'one word' and 'four books'. A quick Bible study on the word ‘woman’ will take you through four books: Genesis, Luke, John and Revelation.
Start with Genesis because that’s where the story of Mary as the ‘Woman’ begins. In Genesis 3:15, the Hebrew word, ha-ishah which we translate as ‘woman’ actually means ‘woman of distinction’. She’s the Woman of Distinction because she is full ofgrace. So highlight the angelic salutation, 'Hail, full of grace' in Luke. Then move on to John. John knew Mary well because they were together at the cross and he took Mary into his home. He wrote both the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation. In both books, the word 'Woman' keeps coming up as an identifier for Mary. Also, Revelation is a nice way to wrap up the Bible lesson on the Woman because, like Genesis, it is such a cosmic book.
God told Adam and Eve to not eat of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. It was Eve, the first woman, who was tempted by the serpent (the devil) to eat the fruit and disobey God. She ate the fruit and gave the fruit to Adam. As a result they both fell out of union with God.
This affected us because we inherited this sin called Original Sin. God responded with a curse and a promise against the devil. He said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers. He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel”(Gn 3:15). In other words, the devil would be crushed and defeated by Jesus. Jesus is the offspring of Mary therefore, this woman, this new Eve, is Mary, the mother of Jesus. There is total enmity (opposition) between Mary and Satan because she is the one immaculate creature that he could not bring down in sin.
Like the first woman, Mary was conceived without sin, and she also had freedom to choose to do God’s will. Unlike Eve, she chose to preserve her sinlessness. When Mary was a young woman, God sent the angel Gabriel to her to announce his plan for her and for us. This plan was to bring us back into union with God, so that we can have a type of union with God that Adam and Eve had. The Angel greeted her, “Hail full of grace” (Lk 1:28). Since she is full of grace and grace displaces sin, she is without sin.
This greeting identified Mary as the New Eve, the Immaculate One, the Untouchable Ark who would carry Jesus in her womb for nine months.“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High" (Lk 1:31).
When the wine ran low Mary’s motherly instinct became activated. She knew the problem and she knew the solution. She said to Jesus, ‘They have no wine”. Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:3-4). She then tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you”. This sounds like Jesus was being disrespectful by calling his mother ‘woman’.
Nothing could be further from the truth. He would never dishonor his mother because that would violate the fourth commandment. On the contrary, Jesus was giving honor to Mary. Again, this is because that word 'woman' here is the Greek word "gynai". It's a title that means, 'woman of distinction' or 'the epitome of womanhood'.
In the same Gospel of John, we arrive at the defining moment when the offspring of the woman crushes the head of the serpent. While he defeated sin and evil by offering his life for us on the cross he looked down and spoke. At that epic moment, he addressed his mother with the cosmic title. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son” (Jn 19:26). And with these words, the woman, the new Eve, full of grace, is now our mother.
It began with a promise that a woman would be in total opposition to the serpent in Eden. It ends with that same woman and the dragon in an epic, cosmic, and apacalyptic battle.
“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter” (Rev 12:1-5).
The scary part is that the dragon is after us too, the followers of Christ. "Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus" (Rev 12:17). But, fear not, for we know how it will end...
“In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” - Our Lady of Fatima (pray for us).
I am a life-long Catholic, husband, dad, teacher and former football coach. I've been teaching the Catholic Faith to young men, religious educators and catechists since 1998. My academic background, MA is in Theology and Catechetics. I am the creator of www.apexcatechetics.com, the home of high quality catechetical resources for those who teach the Catholic Faith.