Discovering Mary in the Old Testament
Many people think Mary is only briefly mentioned in the Bible but that is not true. We are going to see that Mary is present in Sacred Scripture before she was even born through people, places and things that prepared for her role in this world. From Genesis to Revelation, the first and the last books of the Bible, Mary has an active and crucial role in the history of salvation. What exactly is that role? It is to bring Jesus to us and us to Jesus.
At every crucial point in Scripture, from the promise of Genesis 3:15, to the announcement of the incarnation of the Word in Luke 1:26, from the beginning of Jesus’ public life at the wedding in Cana in John 2:1-11, to his redemptive sacrifice on Calvary in John 19:25-27, up to the final victory over the dragon in Revelation 12, Mary is the ‘woman’ always present with Jesus her Son, always the humble handmaid of the Lord, her soul proclaiming his greatness.
Where can we look to find Mary in the Old Testament? After all, "Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament. As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New” (CCC 129). Mary is indeed hidden in many people, places and things in the Old Testament. So let’s go back and see if we can find where God made people and things that remind us of Mary…
First, we have Eve. She was created without sin, a mother, a spouse, who through her act of disobedience opened the door for mankind to fall in sin. Mary, created without sin, reversed Eve’s disastrous choice by saying ‘Yes’ to God. By doing so she opened the door to our salvation.
“For Eve, while a virgin, incorrupt, conceived the word proceeded from the serpent, and brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary was filled with faith and joy when the Angel Gabriel told her the glad tidings…and through her he was born…”(St. Justin Martyr 165AD).
Next, we have the Ark of the Old Covenant. A vessel untouchable to men that contained the words of God-10 commandment tablets, the bread of God- a jar of Manna and the staff of high priest. Mary, a virgin who knew no man contained Jesus-’The Word of God’, ‘The Bread of Life’ and ‘The True High Priest’.
The ark traveled to hill country of Judea (2 Sam 6:2). David danced and leap in front of the ark(2 Sam 6:14-15). David asked, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?”(2 Sam 6:9). David shouts in the presence of the ark (2 Sam 6:15). Like the Ark of old, Mary,the new Ark, traveled to the house of Elizabeth in the hill country of Judea (Lk 1:39-40). John the Baptist leaped in his mother’s womb at the approach of Mary (Lk 1:41). Elizabeth asked, “Why is it granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?(Lk 1:43)
Elizabeth ‘exclaimed with a loud cry’in the presence of Mary (Lk1:42).
“The prophet David danced before the Ark. Now what else should we say the Ark was but holy Mary? The Ark bore within it the tables of the Testament, but Mary bore the Heir of the same Testament itself. The former contained in it the Law, the latter the Gospel. The one had the voice of God, the other His Word. The Ark, indeed, was radiant within and without with the glitter of gold, but holy Mary shone within and without with the splendor of virginity. The one was adorned with earthly gold, the other with heavenly”-St. Ambrose (c. 339-397)
See if you can match the similarities between these women and Mary…
- Sarah had Isaac through a miracle of God.
- Rachael was the mother of Joseph who was sold for 20 pieces of silver.
- Miriam helped save baby Moses when the evil king tried to kill him.
- Other women and things that prefigure Mary are Ruth, Esther, the Tower of David and Queen Mother.
Mary was also promised to us by the prophets of the Old Testament as...
- The ‘woman’ whose offspring, Jesus, would crush the head of the serpent. Genesis 3:15
- The virgin with child, Immanuel.Isaiah 7:14
- She who is to give birth in Bethlehem through travail. Micah 5:2-3
The Old Testament speaks of Mary, and her role as the handmaid of the Lord, the daughter of the Father, the spouse of the Holy Spirit, and the mother of the Son. That’s why in her Magnificat, Mary says, “All Generations shall call me blessed”.