Preach My Psalter

Province of St. Martin de Porres

     In the second century of the Church, the ancient Fathers of the Church, inspired by God, developed their understanding of the received revelation from God about the Virgin Mary, as they contemplated and studied the Virgin in relationship to her Son, Jesus Christ in Scripture and Tradition.  Specifically, in their understanding of God’s revelation, they believed that God created the Virgin Mary in perfect holiness as the Second Eve that she would someday conceive and bear the All-Holy Son of God, Jesus Christ, as man in perfect holiness as the Second Adam.  According to the Church Fathers, after the First Adam and Eve lost their holiness, through sin, in God’s first creation of the human race, God eventually began His second creation of humanity by forming Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary in perfect holiness as the Second Adam and Eve.  In their perfect holiness, as Son and Mother, they alone would fulfill perfectly the work that God called them to do in His plan of salvation for all people.  Indeed, they could only complete this work by such holiness.  On the one hand, as for the Virgin Mary, in her perfect holiness, God called her to become the Second Eve, the Mother of His Son, Jesus Christ.  This vocation, as His Mother, involved forming Him in holy virtue to full maturity as man not only by her words, but also by her actions.  In this work of the Divine Maternity, she would become the First and Greatest Disciple of her Son, Jesus Christ, for the salvation of humanity.  On the other hand, God also called His Son, in His perfect holiness, to become the Son of Man, the Second Adam, through the Virgin Mary.  This vocation involved preaching the Gospel by His holy life, through His words and actions, especially by His suffering and death, to save all people.  In God’s providence, Jesus fulfills this work of salvation not by Himself, but through the help of His Mother.  Accordingly, the Fathers of the Church believed that the basis for calling the Virgin Mary the Second Eve was her creation by God in perfect holiness to be the maternal helpmate of her Son, the Mother of the Savior, the Second Adam.  For this reason, from ancient times, the Church Fathers have called the Virgin Mary the Panagia, the All-Holy Woman, or the Sanctissima, the Most Holy Woman.  On this basis, providentially, this perfect holiness of the Virgin Mary, as the Second Eve, prepared her to become the All Holy Mother of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, for the salvation of all people. 

     In this brief article, I will comment on certain chapters from three works by St. Justin Martyr and St. Irenaeus of Lyons, the first Fathers of the Church from the second century who helped the Church, through God’s inspiration, to develop her understanding of the Virgin Mary as the Second Eve, the All-Holy Mother of the Second Adam, Jesus Christ.  These works include the Dialogue with Trypho by St. Justin and Against Heresies and the Proof of the Apostolic Preaching by St. Irenaeus.  Here these Fathers develop parallels of opposition to argue for the perfect holiness of the Virgin Mary as the Second Eve in relationship to her All-Holy Son, the Second Adam, Jesus Christ. First of all, in some parallels, they compare the Virgin Mary and the Virgin Eve as contraries to each other spiritually and morally.  In doing so, they do not directly call the Virgin Mary the Second Eve, but they certainly profess her to be this Second Woman in God’s second creation by this comparison.  Indeed, after proclaiming the First Virgin, the Virgin Eve, a sinful virgin in God’s first creation of humanity, Sts. Justin and Irenaeus proclaim the Second Virgin, the Virgin Mary, a holy virgin in God’s second creation of the human race.  Secondly, in other parallels of opposition, they also compare the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ as spiritual and moral contraries to the First Adam and Eve.  Here, once again, they do not directly name the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ as the Second Adam and Eve, but they certainly proclaim them to be this Second Man and Woman in God’s second creation by this comparison.  In this sense, after professing the First Adam and Eve to be sinners in God’s first creation of the human race, Sts. Justin and Irenaeus proclaim the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ to be the Holy Man and Woman in God’s second creation of humanity.  On this basis, by comparing, in all these parallels, the Virgin Mary to the Virgin Eve, or the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ to the First Adam and Eve, the Church Fathers teach that the nature of their opposition to each other as human beings remains the same, for they remain spiritually and morally opposed to each other in their humanity.

     As Sts. Justin and Irenaeus develop their parallels of opposition to argue for the perfect holiness of the Virgin Mary as the Second Eve, the Mother of the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, they primarily base these parallels on Genesis, the Letters of St. Paul and the Gospel of St. Luke, as they study and contemplate them, as men of faith.  In these primary sources from Scripture, the inspired human authors, Moses, and St. Paul, through the help of St. Luke, develop parallels of opposition there.  Moses, for his part, through a revelation from God, prophesies the coming of a Woman and her Son who would save humanity from evil by opposing the Serpent and His demons.  As for St. Paul, after hearing the Gospel message from Christ Himself, including the oral Tradition of the Annunciation in St. Luke, he develops a parallel of opposition of Adam and Christ.  For this reason, Sts. Justin and Irenaeus would base their parallels primarily on the works of Moses and St. Paul after reading the Gospel of St. Luke.  As such, these primary sources from Scripture inform their parallels.  In them, Sts. Justin and Irenaeus compare either the Virgin Mary to the Virgin Eve, or the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ to the First Adam and the First Eve.  Accordingly, before commenting on the works of Sts. Justin and Irenaeus, I will first briefly comment on Genesis and St. Paul’s Letters, including the Gospel of St. Luke, the primary sources they use to develop their parallels of opposition, as the bases for the perfect holiness of the Virgin Mary.

     In their first primary source from Scripture, Genesis, after the sin of the First Adam and Eve, God inspired Moses, the human author of Genesis, to proclaim, through a parallel of opposition, the coming of a Woman and her Son who would oppose evil (Genesis 3:15).  The Church professes this Woman and her Son, prophesied by Moses as opponents of evil, to be the Second Adam and Eve, Jesus Christ and His Mother, the Virgin Mary, from the Gospel.  This first parallel of opposition from Genesis, called the Protoevangelium, informs the parallels that Sts. Justin and Irenaeus would later develop.  In this particular parallel from Genesis, Moses first compares the Second Adam and Eve to the First Adam and Eve.  For after Moses recalls in Genesis the sin of the First Man and Woman, the sin of Adam and Eve, he prophesies the virtue of the Second Man and Woman, the virtue of the Woman and her Son, who would come someday as the Second Adam and Eve to oppose the sin of the First Adam and Eve by their virtue.  As such, these men and women, Adam and Christ, on the one hand, and Eve and Mary, on the other hand, would be opposed to each other spiritually and morally as human beings.  Indeed, by their opposition to each other, the Second Adam and Eve would be holy, but the First Adam and Eve, sinful. 

     Furthermore, in the second parallel of opposition from the Protoevangelium of Genesis, Moses, inspired by God, compares the goodness of the Woman and her Son, the Second Adam and Eve, to the evil of the Serpent and His fallen angels or demons.  For the Woman herself, and her Son, in their goodness, would work on behalf of the Good God in the war against the evil Serpent and His demons.  In this sense, in this war of good versus evil, they would oppose each other as spiritual and moral agents.  As a result, in this passage, God proclaims, through Moses, that the Woman and her Son, on the one hand, and the Serpent and His demons, on the other hand, would be enemies to each other spiritually and morally by the Will of God.  This means that the Woman and her Son would be holy, but the Serpent and His demons, unholy.  Accordingly, in the Protoevangelium, God promises, through Moses, that the Woman and her Son, in their holiness as God’s servants, would defeat the sinfulness of Satan and His fallen angels by crushing their head, for by this holy act, they would destroy them.  On this basis, this verse from Genesis is the first source in Scripture that Sts. Justin and Irenaeus use as they develop their parallels of opposition to argue for the perfect holiness of the Virgin Mary in relationship to her Son, Jesus Christ. 

     The second source from Scripture that Sts. Justin and Irenaeus use to develop their parallels of opposition is St. Paul’s corpus, particularly his First Letter to the Corinthians and his Letter to the Romans.  In doing so, they use St. Paul’s comparison in his parallel of the First Man, Adam, and the Second Man, Christ, as a basis for comparing the Virgin Eve, as the First Woman, and the Virgin Mary, as the Second Woman, in their parallels of opposition.  For this reason, here I will briefly comment on the teachings of St. Paul about Christ and Adam that inform the works of Sts. Justin and Irenaeus.  

     In St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians around the year 56, he first develops an Adam and Christ parallel after he studies and contemplates God’s revelation about Adam in Genesis and also the revelation he received from Christ Himself during his life (Galatians 1:12, Acts of the Apostles 9:3-5), including the oral Tradition of the Gospel of St. Luke. Here he compares Adam and Christ as originators or fathers of humanity.  First of all, as St. Paul begins this parallel of opposition in First Corinthians by comparing Adam to Christ, he calls Adam the First Man or First Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45a) in God’s first creation.  Indeed, God created Adam in His divine image (Genesis 1:27) as the first human person, a rational and free being, who would become the original father of the human race by nature.  In doing so, He formed Adam from the “dust of the earth” and breathed His “breath of life” in him (Genesis 2:7).  Accordingly, as St. Paul recalls this revelation from God in Genesis, he says the First Man, Adam, became the first human being to receive “natural” life by God’s action (1 Corinthians 15:45-46).  Indeed, God formed him to be a “natural person” (1 Corinthians 2:14) “from the earth” (1 Corinthians 15:46-47).  Thus, after God created this First Man in His image, He proclaimed him to be really “good” (Genesis 1:31).  All the same, as good as God created Adam to be as the First Man, he became “earthly” (1 Corinthians 15:47).  According to St. Paul, this means that he became a man “of the flesh” (1 Corinthians 3:3). He became a sinner (1 Corinthians 3:3, 15:21-22, Galatians 5:16-21).  In this sense, in St. Paul’s teaching, as a man of the flesh, Adam lost God’s grace, through sin.  Consequently, all the descendants of Adam in God’s first creation bear the “image” of God after the fallen nature of the “earthly man” from conception (1 Corinthians 15:49), for they have all received the same human nature as Adam.  As a result, by his sin, the First Man, Adam, subjected all people to the mortality and corruption of death.  On this basis, St. Paul calls Adam the origin or cause of death for all people, for they “all die in Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:22).  This is not only a spiritual death, a defilement of the soul, but also a bodily death for them.

      In the second place, as St. Paul completes this parallel of opposition in First Corinthians by comparing Christ to the First Man, Adam, he calls Christ the “Second Man” or the “Second Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45, 47). The means that God formed Christ as man to be, in a sense, the Second Father of the human race spiritually (1 Corinthians 5:5, 15:3-4) in God’s second creation of humanity.  This means that Christ is their Head or Savior.  Indeed, just as a father is the head of his family, Christ is also the Head of His family, the Church.  According to St. Paul, in “the fullness of time, God sent His Son” to be conceived and “born of a woman” as the Second Adam by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 4:4).  For this reason, as the Second Adam, the Son of God, is a spiritual man, a man of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:46, Romans 4:6, 29).  As such, the Son of God became the Son of man, through a woman, by the Holy Spirit to communicate the spiritual life of “adoption” to all human beings (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:5, 1 Corinthians 15:45-46).  In this act, the natural Son of God, formed as man, as the Second Adam, called them to be recreated spiritually as adopted sons and daughters of God through the Holy Spirit (Galatians 4:5-6).  Accordingly, St. Paul calls this God’s second creation, a spiritual recreation in Christ, for human persons (2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 6:15).  They become “sanctified in Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:2, 6:11).  In this recreation, God spiritually conforms them to the image of His Son by the grace of His Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18, Romans 8:29, Galatians 4:6-7).  Indeed, by this grace of God’s Spirit, they “bear the image of the heavenly man” raised from the dead (1 Corinthians, 15:49, Romans 6:9).  As the Second Adam, Christ is the origin or cause of the resurrection of the dead of all people, for “in Christ they will all be raised to life” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).  This is, first and foremost, a spiritual resurrection for them, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, in Baptism.  St. Paul calls this the grace of justification (Romans 5:17), for they all become righteous or just.  On this basis, this grace certainly prepares them spiritually for an incorruptible bodily resurrection from the dead on the Last Day, the Day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:52-54, 5:5) .

     Furthermore, in St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans around the year 57 or 58 (Romans 5:12-21), he develops another feature of his Adam and Christ parallel by comparing the judgment Adam received for his disobedience and the gift Christ received for His obedience.  For as the First Adam received a judgment of condemnation to death for his disobedience, Christ, the Second Adam, the righteous Son of God, merited the gift of justification for His obedience.  Consequently, as the heads or fathers of their natural and spiritual descendants, St. Paul says that both the First Adam and the Second Adam communicated to their people the consequences or fruits of their actions.  On the one hand, this means that the natural descendants of the First Adam, all people, received the judgment of condemnation that Adam received for his act of disobedience.  This was a condemnation to death for all human beings.  As a result, by his disobedience, the First Adam fathered them all to spiritual death, the loss of their original grace, from their conception in their mother’s womb.  This death begins interiorly in their heart, but terminates in their bodily death.  On the other hand, the Second Adam, Christ, communicated to His spiritual descendants, members of His Body, the Church, the gift of justification that He merited for them by His act of obedience. On this basis, they became righteous, by the gift of grace they received from Christ, through His obedience.

     The third primary source for the works of Sts. Justin and Irenaeus is the Gospel.  Here I will only briefly comment on the Annunciation from the Gospel of St. Luke.  As you may recall, this passage from Scripture recounts the angel Gabriel’s revelation of God’s Word to the Virgin Mary.  As he appears before her, he first proclaims his angelic salutation to her: “Hail, full of grace!  The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28).  According to Tradition, here the angel Gabriel’s salutation or greeting to the Virgin Mary, Hail, full of grace, refers to the fullness of God’s grace that she received from Him, through her conception, as a human being.  In other words, this greeting by the angel Gabriel recalls that God formed the Virgin Mary in the grace of perfect holiness.  Indeed, the Greek word “kecharitomene” (full of grace) reveals that He created her fully sanctified in her person.  In this sense, she was never subject to sin.  The basis for God conceiving the Virgin Mary in perfect holiness was that He willed her to be the Second Eve, the All Holy Mother of the Second Adam, Jesus Christ.  As a result, she received this fullness of grace from God as the Second Eve to prepare her to become the Mother of the Second Adam.  Accordingly, after greeting her as such, the angel Gabriel reveals to the Virgin Mary that she will conceive and bear the Son of God as the Son of Man by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35).  For this reason, in her faithfulness as the Second Eve, the Virgin Mary believes the revelation she receives from God through the angel Gabriel.  In this act of faith, she faithfully offers her obedience to God’s Word: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).  Here her obedience to God is a fruit of her perfect holiness.  On this basis, in his Gospel, St. Luke describes the Virgin Mary as the opposite of the Virgin Eve, who disobeyed God, for she is the Second Eve, the All Holy Woman, who would conceive and bear her Son, the Second Adam, in obedience to God’s Word.  As such, here St. Luke’s teaching on the Virgin Mary informs the parallels of opposition that Sts. Justin and Irenaeus would develop as a basis for the perfect holiness of the Virgin Mary.

      In proceeding, I will offer my commentary on the works of the Church Fathers, St. Justin Martyr and St. Irenaeus of Lyons, who used the aforementioned passages from Genesis, the Letters of St. Paul and the Gospel of Luke to develop their parallels of opposition as the bases for the perfect holiness of the Second Eve, Virgin Mary, in relationship to her All Holy Son, the Second Adam, Jesus Christ.  The Virgin Mary certainly had to be holy as a Woman before she could ever conceive and bear her Holy Son as man.  The parallels of opposition, developed first in Genesis, the Letters of St. Paul and the Gospel of St. Luke, and later in the works of Sts. Justin and Irenaeus, reveal that the holiness of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, as the Second Adam and Eve, could never be tainted at all by the sinfulness of the First Adam and Eve or by the evil of Satan and His fallen angels.  As a result, these parallels of opposition in Sacred Scripture and Tradition reveal the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, on the one hand, and Adam and Eve, and Satan and His demons, on the other hand, to be opposed to each other spiritually and morally.  Sts. Justin and Irenaeus will proclaim this truth in their works.

     As for St. Justin Martyr, a second-century apologist (A.D. 100-165), he was the first Father of the Church to develop the Eve and Mary parallel in his Dialogue with Trypho (A.D. 161) after reading Genesis, St. Paul’s Letters and the Gospel of St. Luke.  In doing so, he considers their relationship only briefly at the end of chapter 100, but he is the first Father of the Church to do this.  As such, his brief parallel here was still a development in Marian teaching in the second century.  This is a development in the understanding of the received revelation from God concerning the person and mission of the Virgin Mary.  In his Dialogue, St. Justin develops this Eve and Mary parallel by comparing the disobedience of the First Eve, the Virgin Eve, and the obedience of the Second Eve, the Virgin Mary.  In particular, the Son of God became the Son of Man through the obedience of the Virgin Mary to destroy the disobedience of the Virgin Eve.  For just as the Virgin Eve destroyed her obedience to God’s Word by obeying the word of the Serpent, the Virgin Mary destroyed the Virgin Eve’s obedience to the Serpent’s word by obeying God’s Word as announced to her through the angel.  Consequently, on the one hand, by conceiving the Serpent’s word through disobedience, the Virgin Eve “bore death in herself”.  As a result, she became the mother of death.  On the other hand, by conceiving the Word of God in faith through obedience, the Virgin Mary became the mother of divine life through the Holy Spirit. After all, in faithful obedience to God, she faithfully believed the Word that she received from God through the angel.  This is the Word that she would become the mother of His Son, the God-Man, Jesus Christ.  Accordingly, she proclaimed: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).  For this reason, through her faithful yes to God, the Virgin Mary conceived and bore the Son of God, as the Son of Man, who would, first of all, save all repentant people, who faithfully believed in Him.  Secondly, this Son of God, who was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary as the Son of Man, would also destroy all unrepentant nonbelievers for their infidelity.  As such, all penitent people of faith would be saved from sin and death by the God-Man, Jesus Christ, by imitating the faith of His mother, the Virgin Mary, who faithfully obeyed the Word she received from the angel of God.  Conversely, all unrepentant nonbelievers would be destroyed by Him for imitating the infidelity of the Virgin Eve, who disobeyed God’s Word, by obeying the word she received from the Serpent. This Serpent, including the fallen angels, would also be destroyed by the God-Man.  On this basis, here St. Justin develops this Eve and Mary parallel to proclaim that the Virgin Eve, the Helpmate of Adam, became the mother of death for all people through her disobedience to God, but the Virgin Mary, the Helpmate of her Son, Jesus Christ, became the Second Eve, the mother of the life of grace for all human beings, by her obedience to God (Dialogue, Chapter 100).

     St. Irenaeus (A.D. 115-202), Bishop of Lyons, was the second Father of the Church to develop the Church’s understanding of the Virgin Mary in relationship to her Son, Jesus Christ, after reading the aforesaid sources in Sacred Scripture, including the work of St. Justin.  He does this, first of all, in chapter 19 of Book III in Against Heresies (A.D. 180).  In this work, St. Irenaeus presents the Virgin Mary as the second Eve, the Helpmate of her Son, Jesus Christ, in God’s plan of salvation for human beings.  True, he does not directly mention Adam and Eve in this chapter, but these first human beings, created by God, as husband and wife, who would become the first parents of the human race, certainly inform what he teaches here about Jesus and Mary.  According to St. Irenaeus, after the First Adam and Eve corrupted their human descendants, through sin, God raised up a Second Adam and Eve, Jesus and Mary, to save them through their faithfulness to God.  Accordingly, for St. Irenaeus, God called Jesus and Mary, Son and Mother, to be, in a sense, the second parents of human beings, a spiritual Father and Mother, who would work to save them in God’s plan of salvation.  In fact, he believes, in God’s plan, this work of salvation by Jesus and His Helpmate, the Virgin Mary, began a second creation of all people by adoption.  Indeed, in God’s providence, He called all human beings to “receive the gift of adoption” by becoming sons and daughters of God through a “promotion into God”.  For this reason, in the teaching of St. Irenaeus, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, became man that human beings would become adopted as sons and daughters of God.  As a result, He offered them immortality and incorruptibility, by adoption, for He was “beyond all men”, “more than a mere man”.  For St. Irenaeus, Jesus Christ alone, as the Son of God, could have saved all people as man.  He alone could have recreated them in His divine image as immortal, incorruptible sons and daughters of God by adoption (Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 19, Paragraphs 1-3).

     All the same, St. Irenaeus also teaches that because the Son of God required a real human nature that descended from the First Adam, through the house of David, He only could have offered this gift of adoption to human beings, by His human conception and birth to a virgin daughter of David.  In God’s providence, this virgin, of course, was the Virgin Mary, the Second Eve, who conceived and bore the Son of God.  In this work by St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, he proclaims that just as the Son of God received a preeminent divine generation from God the Father from all eternity, He also received a preeminent human generation in time from His Mother, the Virgin Mary.  In doing so, St. Irenaeus indicates that the preeminence of both the divine and human generations of the Son of God means that both generators, God the Father and the Virgin Mother of God, would be perfect in their divinity and humanity respectively.  As such, the Son of God Himself would also be perfect both as God and as man.  In this sense, in His perfection, the Son of God became the Son of Man from the humanity of Mary to save all human beings as adopted sons and daughters of God the Father and the Virgin Mother.  Finally, St. Irenaeus asks himself this question: Who would have ever imagined that the Son of God, generated eternally from the Father, would have saved humanity by a temporal generation from a human Virgin? Who would have ever imagined that she could have conceived the Son of God virginally as man, and remained a Virgin in bearing Him?  Only by becoming a true man from a true Virgin could the true God suffer, die and be raised up in glory for the salvation of all human beings.  Indeed, only by His conception and birth as man, through the Virgin Mary, could they all become beneficiaries of His immortal, incorruptible resurrection from the dead.  On this basis, for St. Irenaeus, the salvation of all people, by adoption, was a work fulfilled primarily by the second Adam, Christ Himself, as Principal Agent, but secondarily by the Virgin Mary, His maternal Helpmate, as the Second Eve, for He received His humanity from hers (Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 19, Paragraphs 1-3).

     Moreover, in chapter 21 of Book III in Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus develops a parallel that involves God’s creation of the First Man, Adam, from the virgin earth (Genesis 2:7) and His formation of the Second Adam, Christ, from the Virgin Mary.  In this sense, just as the First Adam did not have a natural father, but was created from the virgin earth by God Himself, similarly neither did the Second Adam, Christ, have a natural father, but was formed by God Himself from the Virgin Mary.  In this parallel, St. Irenaeus compares the morality of the First Adam created from the virgin earth to be a natural father and the morality of the Second Adam created from the Virgin Mary to be a spiritual father.  On the one hand, the First Man, Adam, received the substance of his human nature from untilled virgin soil through the Word of God.  As the First Man, he was created by God’s Word in the substance of his humanity from the virgin earth to be the natural origin or father of all human beings in God’s first creation, but he disobeyed God’s Word.  Indeed, he disobeyed the Word of God by sinning against Him. For this reason, by his disobedience, the First Man, Adam, introduced bad fruit, the fruit of sin, including death, to all human beings.  Consequently, as the father of sin, he became the father of death for all people.  On the other hand, the Second Adam, Christ, received the substance of His human nature from the Second Eve, the Virgin Mary, in God’s second creation.  Accordingly, formed by God from the Virgin Mary in the substance of His humanity, He recapitulated or summed up the creation of the First Adam in Himself, including His descendants.  As such, as the Second Adam, He was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary, through God’s Word, to be the spiritual origin or father of all human beings, by His obedience to God Himself, in His second creation.  In His obedience to Him, He introduced good fruit, the fruit of righteousness, to all people.  This means that as the origin or father of righteousness, He became the father of the spiritual life for all human beings.  According to St. Irenaeus, Christ, the Second Adam, could have only become such a spiritual origin or father of righteousness for all people, through the Second Eve, the Virgin Mary.  After all, as the Second Adam, in God’s second creation, He received from the humanity of the Virgin Mary, the human nature of the First Adam.  As a result, through this nature, He recapitulated the First Adam in Himself, including all the descendants of Adam. On this basis, in this recapitulation, He saved them as man, by His righteousness, in obedience to the Word of God (Against Heresies Book III, Chapter 21, Paragraph 10). 

     Furthermore, in chapter 22 of BK III in Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus develops, for the first time, an Eve and Mary parallel.  In this parallel, he compares the disobedience of the Virgin Eve and the obedience of the Virgin Mary.  On the one hand, as a woman, married to her husband, Adam, the First Eve was disobedient to God as a virgin in her marriage.  Consequently, by her disobedience, she became the cause of death for herself and for all human beings.  For this reason, she is called the mother of death, for she mothered all people to spiritual and bodily death.  In doing so, St. Irenaeus teaches that this First Woman, the Virgin Eve, tied all human beings in a knot, the knot of death, by her disobedience to God.  On the other hand, as a woman, married to her husband, St. Joseph, Mary, the Second Eve, was obedient to God as a virgin in her marriage.  Accordingly, through her obedience to God, she became the cause of salvation for herself and for all people.  As such, she is the mother of life, for she mothered all people to the life of salvation spiritually and bodily.  According to St. Irenaeus, this means that this Second Eve, the Virgin Mary, untied the knot of death for all people by her obedience to God.  Indeed, through her obedience, she untied Eve’s disobedience.  In this sense, by her act of obedience, she freed human beings from their slavery to disobedience, including death.  St. Irenaeus calls the Virgin Mary’s obedience an act of faith, for she faithfully obeyed the Word of God.  Conversely, he calls the Virgin Eve’s disobedience an act of unbelief, because she unfaithfully disobeyed God’ Word.  She did not have faith in what He said to her.  As such, the Virgin Eve became the mother of slavery to death, but the Virgin Mary became the mother of the life of freedom.  On this basis, what the Virgin Eve tied by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary untied by her faith (Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 22, paragraph 4).

     In chapter 19 of Book V in Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus further develops his Eve and Mary parallel.  In this parallel, he compares the influence that the holy and fallen angels had on the Virgin Eve and the Virgin Mary.  On the one hand, after hearing the deceitful word of the Serpent, Satan Himself, the Virgin Eve believed the lie she heard from Him.  Consequently, she was misled by His deception to flee from God, through disobedience.  On the other hand, after the Virgin Mary, the Second Eve, heard God’s Word from the holy angel, St. Gabriel, she believed His message was true.  This was the message that she would conceive and bear God Himself.  For this reason, the holy angel guided her to God, through His message, that she would become the Mother of God by her obedience to His Word.  According to St. Irenaeus, this means that through her obedience to God’s Word, by becoming His Mother, the Virgin Mary would become the Patroness (Advocata) of the Virgin Eve, including the Patroness of all the descendants of the Virgin Eve.  In this sense, for St. Irenaeus, as sinful as the Virgin Eve was, she was still redeemed by God, through the Patroness of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God.  On this basis, just as the Virgin Eve subjected her descendants to death through her virginal disobedience, the Virgin Mary saved the Virgin Eve, including her descendants, instrumentally from such death, by her virginal obedience (Against Heresies Book V, Chapter 19, Paragraph 1). 

     Finally, in his Proof of the Apostolic Preaching (A.D. 185), St. Irenaeus continues his development of his Eve and Mary parallel. In doing so, he applies his doctrine of recapitulation, for the first time, to Eve and Mary in relationship to Adam and Christ.  As you may recall, he first applies this doctrine to Adam and Christ alone in chapter 21 of Book III in Against Heresies.  In this work, the Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, St. Irenaeus proclaims that this recapitulation involves, first of all, Christ and the Virgin Mary summing up the original creation of Adam and Eve, through their formation as the Second Man and Woman, by the Will and Wisdom of God.  This is the beginning of God’s second creation of humanity.  On the one hand, Christ, the Second Adam, recapitulated in Himself His creation of the First Adam from the virgin earth by forming a human nature for Himself from the Virgin Mary, the Second Eve, by His Will and Wisdom.  For He was conceived and born from her as man, by the Will of God, through the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Wisdom.  On the other hand, the Virgin Mary recapitulated in herself Christ’s creation of the Virgin Eve from the First Man, Adam, for He formed her, in a sense, from Himself, the Second Adam, by His Will and Wisdom.  As such, for St. Irenaeus, recapitulation is, first of all, a work of creation.  After all, here God Himself, by His Will and Wisdom, formed the human race for a second time in the persons of the Second Adam and the Second Eve.  In this act of creation, they recapitulated the original creation of Adam and Eve.  Secondly, St. Irenaeus also proclaims that recapitulation is a work of salvation that Jesus and the Virgin Mary, Son and Mother, fulfilled as the Second Adam and Eve by their obedience to God.  In this sense, Christ and the Virgin Mary, through their obedience, summed up Adam and Eve spiritually and morally to destroy their disobedience by the Will and Wisdom of God.  Indeed, just as Christ, through His obedience, as a spiritual and moral agent, recapitulated Adam in Himself to destroy Adam’s disobedience, similarly the Virgin Mary, for her part, recapitulated Eve in herself spiritually and morally, through her obedience, to destroy Eve’s disobedience.  In this work of recapitulation in God’s plan of salvation by the obedience of Christ and His Mother, the Virgin Mary, not only did they destroy the disobedience of Adam and Eve, but they also destroyed the consequence of their disobedience, death. According to St. Irenaeus, this work of salvation, through recapitulation, involved a restoration process called recirculation. In his teaching, this work was fulfilled, first and foremost, by the actions of Christ Himself, the Principal Agent of salvation, but also secondarily by the actions of the Virgin Mary, as the Helpmate of her Son, the Savior.  Here the virtuous actions of Christ and the Virgin Mary counteracted the sinful actions of Adam and Eve.  Accordingly, as the First Adam lost his communion in God’s friendship by ordering his actions sinfully against God through disobedience, Christ, the Second Adam, for His part, recovered this divine union or friendship by ordering His actions virtuously to God through obedience.  Similarly, as the First Eve lost her communion in God’s friendship by ordering her actions sinfully against God through disobedience, the Virgin Mary, for her part, as the Second Eve, prepared her Son, the Second Adam, to recover this divine friendship by ordering her actions virtuously to God through obedience.  In this sense, here the virtuous actions of Christ and the Virgin Mary, Son and Mother, parallel the sinful actions of Adam and Eve, husband and wife, step by step, in reverse order.  This is the process of restoration of the human race that Christ and the Virgin Mary fulfilled in obedience to the Will and Wisdom of God by retracing the missteps of the disobedience of Adam and Eve as the means to undo what they did.  In this work of restoration, Christ certainly saved humanity, as Principal Agent, by His obedience to God, but His obedience depended on the obedience of His Helpmate, the Virgin Mary.  This means that He could only obey God because the Virgin Mary first offered her obedience to God as a preparation for Him to obey God.  In this sense, the Virgin Mary’s obedience to God by conceiving and bearing Christ, the Son of God as the Son of Man, prepared Him to suffer and die for humanity in obedience to God. As a result, St. Irenaeus proclaims that human beings became “reanimated and received life” through the Virgin Mary’s obedience to God, for by her obedience, God’s Son became man, through her, to offer His immortal, incorruptible life to all people in obedience to God.  For this reason, St. Irenaeus calls the Virgin Mary the Intercessor for the Virgin Eve and her husband, Adam, including their human descendants.  On this basis, by her maternal intercession, as the Mother of the Son of God, the Virgin Mary worked as her Son’s Helpmate to restore human beings to the communion of God’s friendship (Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, 30-33).

     In conclusion, the various parallels of opposition in Scripture, particularly in Genesis, the Letters of St. Paul and the Gospel of St. Luke, all inform the parallels developed in the Tradition by Sts. Justin and Irenaeus.  In these parallels, God proclaims, through the human authors of Scripture and Tradition, the perfect holiness that the Virgin Mary received from God as the Second Eve.  Through this perfect holiness, He prepared her to become the All Holy Mother of the Son of God, the Second Adam, Jesus Christ.  In this sense, in these parallels of opposition, the authors of Scripture and Tradition offer three comparisons of persons who oppose each other spiritually and morally. 

     First of all, these inspired authors compare the holiness of the Second Eve, the Virgin Mary, to the sinfulness of the First Eve, the Virgin Eve.  In this sense, for them, the Virgin Mary, in her holiness, opposes the sinfulness of the Virgin Eve; and the Virgin Eve, in her sinfulness, opposes the holiness of the Virgin Mary.  For this reason, as the holy Virgin, they call Mary the model of faith, the woman of obedience, the mother of life, the mother of freedom, mother of salvation and the untier of knots.  Conversely, in the Virgin Eve’s sinfulness as the First Eve, they call her the model of unbelief, the woman of disobedience, the mother of death, the mother of slavery, the mother of condemnation and the tier of knots.

     Secondly, the authors of Scripture and Tradition also compare the holiness of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, the Second Adam and Eve, to the sinfulness of the First Adam and Eve.  In this sense, the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, Mother and Son, by their holiness as the second couple in God’s second creation, oppose the sinfulness of Adam and Eve, the first couple, as husband and wife; and Adam and Eve, by their sinfulness, oppose the Virgin Mary and Christ.  Accordingly, in their holy relationship as Mother and Son, Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, as the Second Adam and Eve, are described, by the inspired authors, as a spiritual father and mother to humanity, not by nature, but by grace.  Indeed, in their work as Mother and Son in God’s second creation, they generate children for God, spiritually, by adoption, through the Holy Spirit.  For this reason, they are called the mother and father of life, divine life, for God’s people.  As such, the Second Adam became man through the Second Eve that all people would become recreated as holy children of God through them.  On the other hand, the inspired authors of Scripture and Tradition, describe the First Adam and Eve as the mother and father of all people, through natural generation, according to the flesh.  As their first parents, by nature, who sinned against God, they mothered and fathered them to a life of sin.  This is a sinful generation.  Consequently, they are not only called the mother and father of sin, but also the mother and father of death, for by their sin, all people suffer death spiritually from conception and will eventually die physically.

     Finally, the inspired authors of Scripture and Tradition compare the holiness of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, the Second Adam and Eve, to the sinfulness of the Serpent and His offspring, the demons.  For this reason, the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, Mother and Son, by their holiness as the Second Adam and Eve, oppose the sinfulness of the Serpent and His demons; and for their part, the Serpent and His demons, by their sinfulness, oppose the Virgin Mary and Christ.  As a result, the authors, under God’s inspiration, describe the Virgin Mary in relationship to her Son, Jesus Christ, as the maternal Helpmate of the Savior.  In their work to save human beings from evil, as Mother and Son, they crush the head of the Serpent, the father of evil, including His demons.  As such, the Virgin Mary, as the Second Eve, is called the Patroness or Advocata of all people, for she intercedes to her Son, the Second Adam, on their behalf, through her prayers, in the war against Satan and His devils.  On this basis, by her ministry as helpmate to her Son, the Second Adam, the Virgin Mary participates in the work of her Son to save human beings from the evil of the Serpent and His demons.

     In all these parallels, by the inspired authors of Scripture and Tradition, God reveals the perfect holiness of the Virgin Mary, the Second Eve, as the Mother of the Second Adam, by her opposition to the sinfulness of the Virgin Eve and the Serpent. In this sense, here she opposes all sinful persons, human and demonic, through her holiness. According to Tradition, this opposition to sinners, by the Virgin Mary, the Second Eve, is not a partial and imperfect opposition, but a complete and perfect opposition.  This means that she perfectly and fully opposes, by her perfect holiness, the sinfulness of Eve and the Serpent.  On the one hand, as the All-Holy Virgin, she certainly opposes the sin of Eve and her children fully and perfectly, but she also prayerfully intercedes to God for them for their salvation that they may repent for their sins.  On the other hand, in her perfect holiness, the Virgin Mary certainly does not pray for Satan and His demons, but remains for all eternity their perfect and complete enemy as maternal Helpmate of her Son, the Savior.  In this sense, in the Virgin Mary’s perfect and complete enmity with the sin of the Virgin Eve and the Serpent, she opposes them fully and perfectly by her perfect holiness.  As such, the parallels of opposition in Scripture and Tradition only work because the Virgin Mary was conceived by God in perfect holiness through the singular grace of her Immaculate Conception and lived a perfectly holy life on earth as the Second Eve.  On this basis, she was never subject to sin at all, neither to original sin nor to personal or actual sin, for her Son, the Second Adam, saved her, through the foreseen merits of His passion, by preserving her from sin, in creating her immaculately as a human being, the All-Holy Second Eve.

In Christ with Blessed Mary,

Friar Mariano D. Veliz, O.P.

4 thoughts on “As the Second Eve, the Virgin Mary is Perfect in Holiness

  1. Dane says:

    This was so terrific. It helped me understand the beliefs that the Catholic Church believes and promotes regarding the Virgin Mary. It’s great to see how these are the ancient beliefs of the first Christians. I’ve always been intrigued by the Apostolic Fathers, but I’ve never read their writings as much as I would have liked.
    But it’s clear from this piece, that they saw Jesus and Mary as the divine remedy to the consequences resulting from Adam and Eve.
    I appreciate how well this writing showed these parallels, and how great is God in His Wisdom to orchestrate such a plan to save us.
    Jesus: the primary
    Blessed Mary: His Holy helpmate

    Without Mary’s Yes to God, there is no Jesus, and thus, we would have no means to reach Heaven!

    Thank you, God!

    1. Thank you so much, Dane! Yes, these holy teachings are ancient, meaning they have their origin in God Himself from antiquity. Many people think that what the Church teaches concerning the Immaculate Conception of Mary is something concocted by the Church, but that is patently false. As the Second Eve, Mary had to be perfect in holiness from the beginning of her creation to be a worthy vessel or tabernacle of the Most High. Thanks again for your thoughtful comment! God bless!

  2. Katie Pitre says:

    Great in-depth analysis. Thank you!

    1. Thanks so much, Katie! I’m really glad you benefitted from reading this article. I love Mama Mary! God bless!

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