Victory Over Sin Comes through a Woman
H.H. Pope John Paul II
January 24, 1996
1. "The books
of the Old Testament describe the history of salvation, by
which the coming of Christ into the world was slowly
prepared. The earliest documents, as they are read in the
Church and are understood in the light of a further and full
revelation, bring the figure of a woman, Mother of the
Redeemer, into a gradually clearer light" (Lumen gentium,
statements the Second Vatican Council reminds us how the
figure of Mary gradually took shape from the very beginning
of salvation history. She is already glimpsed in the Old
Testament texts but is fully understood only when these "are
read in the Church" and understood in the light of the New
Spirit, by inspiring the various human authors, oriented Old
Testament Revelation to Christ, who was to come into the
world from the Virgin Mary's womb.
2. Among the
biblical accounts which foretold the Mother of the Redeemer,
the Council particularly cites those in which God revealed
his plan of salvation after the fall of Adam and Eve. The
Lord says to the serpent, the personification of the spirit
of evil: "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" (Gn 3:15).
statements, called the Protogospel, i.e., the
first Good News, by Christian tradition since the 16th
century, enable us to see God's saving will from the very
origins of humanity. Indeed according to the sacred author's
narrative, the Lord's first reaction to sin was not to
punish the guilty but to offer them the hope of salvation
and to involve them actively in the work of redemption,
showing his great generosity even to those who had offended
Protogospel's words also reveal the unique destiny of the
woman who, although yielding to the serpent's temptation
before the man did, in virtue of the divine plan later
becomes God's first ally. Eve was the serpent's accomplice
in enticing man to sin. Overturning this situation, God
declares that he will make the woman the serpent's enemy.
now agree in recognizing that the text of Genesis, according
to the original Hebrew, does not attribute action against
the serpent directly to the woman, but to her offspring.
Nevertheless, the text gives great prominence to the role
she will play in the struggle against the tempter: in fact
the one who defeats the serpent will be her offspring.
Who is this
woman? The biblical text does not mention her personal name
but allows us to glimpse a new woman, desired by God to
atone for Eve's fall; in fact, she is called to restore
woman's role and dignity, and to contribute to changing
humanity's destiny, co-operating through her maternal
mission in God's victory over Satan.
4. In the
light of the New Testament and the Church's tradition, we
know that the new woman announced by the Protogospel is
Mary, and in "her seed" we recognize her Son, Jesus, who
triumphed over Satan's power in the paschal mystery.
observe that in Mary the enmity God put between the serpent
and the woman is fulfilled in two ways. God's perfect ally
and the devil's enemy, she was completely removed from
Satan's domination in the Immaculate Conception, when she
was fashioned in grace by the Holy Spirit and preserved from
every stain of sin. In addition, associated with her Son's
saving work, Mary was fully involved in the fight against
the spirit of evil.
titles "Immaculate Conception" and "Co-operator of the
Redeemer", attributed by the Church's faith to Mary, in
order to proclaim her spiritual beauty and her intimate
participation in the wonderful work of Redemption, show the
lasting antagonism between the serpent and the New Eve.
and theologians claim that the light of the New Eve, Mary,
shines from the pages of Genesis onto the whole economy of
salvation. In that text they already see the bond between
Mary and the Church. Here we point out with joy that the
term "woman", used in its generic form in the Genesis text,
spurs women especially to join the Virgin of Nazareth and
her task in the work of salvation, for they are called to
take part in the fight against the spirit of evil.
like Eve, could succumb to Satan's seduction, through
solidarity with Mary receive superior strength to combat the
enemy, becoming God's first allies on the way of salvation.
mysterious alliance with woman can also be seen in a variety
of ways in our day: in women's assiduous personal prayer and
liturgical devotion, in their catechetical service and in
their witness to charity, in the many feminine vocations to
the consecrated life, in religious education in the family,
signs are a very concrete fulfilment of the Protogospel's
prediction. Indeed, by suggesting a universal extension of
the word "woman" within and beyond the visible confines of
the Church, the Protogospel shows that Mary's unique
vocation is inseparable from humanity's vocation and, in
particular, from that of every woman, on which light has
been shed by the mission of Mary, proclaimed God's first
ally against Satan and evil.
Weekly Edition in English
31 January 1996
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