By Fr. Christopher Foeckler, MJ • St. Josaphat Formation Center, Phoenix, AZ

In the Book of Genesis, after Adam and Eve had been tricked to eat the forbidden fruit, the Lord said to Satan: “Because you have done this…I will put enmity between you and the Woman, between your offspring and hers, he will crush your head while you strike at his heel.” (Gen 3:15) This passage is called the Proto-evangelium because it is the first announcement of the Good News of Redemption. But who is this ‘Woman’ the Lord speaks of? It certainly cannot be Eve who has just capitulated to the devil and thus is now enslaved to him. 

St. Paul says that “in the fullness of time the Lord sent his Son, born of a Woman, born under the law to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption.” (Gal 4:4) Now, of course, Mary is the woman to whom the Lord God’s Son is born by the power of the Holy Spirit as we learn from the announcement of the Angel Gabriel to her in Nazareth.(cf. Lk 1:26-38) Moreover, during that encounter the Angel calls Mary “full of grace” to indicate that she is, indeed, free from sin. So, obviously, the Virgin Mary is the ‘Woman’ of the Proto-evangelium. Yet, to what importance is this fact if her Son is the One to crush the devil?

The role of Mary as the ‘Woman’ unfolds in St. John’s Gospel where ‘Woman’ is mentioned only twice in all four gospels, once at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry at Cana and again at the very end on Calvary. Mary notices the lack of wine at the wedding feast and tells Jesus about it, Who responds saying: “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” (Jn 2:4) We know the rest. The second time is at the very end of Jesus’ mission while He is on the Cross when His hour had come: “When Jesus saw his Mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, Jesus said to his Mother, ‘Woman, behold your son.’” (Jn 19:26)

Why would Jesus call his Mother ‘Woman’ in either circumstance except to indicate the role that Mary was playing as the ‘New Eve,’ as the Church Fathers call her. For it was Eve who instigated the fall of Adam from grace by offering him the fruit; and it was Eve who later became ‘the mother of all the living’ once they were out of the garden. Mary, on the other hand, instigates the Redemption or the restoration of grace by precipitating the ‘hour’ of the Lord and later during that ‘hour’ becoming, at the Lord’s words, the spiritual mother
of all His beloved children. 

Hence it was appropriate that the same Evangelist records the vision of the “Woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” (Rev 12:1) It is this Woman whose Assumption into heavenly glory we celebrate this month.

This post is also available in: Hindi Italian Polish Slovak Spanish Ukrainian