(This conference was delivered during the Asian Oceanic Servite Gathering on October 8-10, 2009 at Vailankanni, India.)
Current ecological crisis considered as a moral crisis is the foundation for a newly constructed faith-based model for ecological dialogue, eco-spirituality and education. Papal and episcopal statements call for a moral concern and response to the growing urgency of the ecological crisis. Analyses and interpretations by scholars in the second century Church on the doctrine of Mary as the new Eve are presented and reinterpreted to create a viable model with the potential to nurture ecological awareness and responsibility in the contemporary Church with insertion of Marian perspective in eco-spirituality.
The construction of an ecological Marian theology in recent years has its roots in the 1974 visionary pastoral letter of Pope Paul VI, Marialis Cultus (To Honor Mary). This is very much elaborated from the writings of Catholic feminist theologian and Sister of St. Joseph Elizabeth Johnson, Catholic Ecuadorian-American theologian Jeanette Rodriguez, and those of other major feminist, womanist, and liberationist theologians.
THE MORAL CHALLENGE OF THE ECOLOGICAL CRISIS
During the last 15 years the Catholic Church in the light of its social teaching, has been appealing to all people of faith to bring a faith-based voice to the ecological crisis which is interpreted as a moral crisis Beginning in 1990, pastoral statements on the moral nature of the escalating ecological crisis were issued by Pope John Paul II and many Bishops. Pope John Paul II, in his January 1, 1990, message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace, stated that “many ethical values, fundamental to the development of a peaceful society, are particularly relevant to the ecological question”….
American eco-theologian Berry (1990) suggests that a commitment to ecological responsibility and integrity must be rooted in the Christian virtue of love, molded around Christian doctrinal teachings, and must demonstrate an ethic that accepts a belief in God’s all-inclusive love for creation. The concern and call of the Church’s leadership has provided the Church with a rare and exciting opportunity to respond to its contemporary ecological concern through a creative re-envisioning of its most ancient story–the creation story. In a commentary on the Yahwist second creation account, Kselman (1988) states that the water from the earth transforms the desert into a garden filled with the bounty of the earth; in the center of the Garden stands the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge. In Genesis 2:7 the human being is connected to the ground or soil from which he was formed. The human being’s responsibility in Eden is to cultivate the garden and to obey the divine prohibition of eating from the tree of knowledge. The naming of the animals by the human being (vv. 19-20) is indicative of human dominion over the created world (as in Gen. 1:28-30); it recalls the divine name giving in Genesis 1. The creation account reaches its climax in the creation of woman as a helping counterpart to the man: the creation of woman from man does not imply subordination, any more than the creation of man from the earth implies subordination. The subordination of woman to man is effected by the frustration of the divine intention of equality.
The Church’s ancient story of creation and redemption contains within its truth a potential for a deeply ecological understanding. The biblical story of Adam and Eve as God’s keepers of the garden and caretakers of the life in the garden is recapitulated in the Christian story of redemption through the new Adam and new Eve. The new Adam imagery is elucidated in 1 Corinthians 15:45: Thus it is written, the first man Adam, became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit…. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.
MARY, THE NEW EVE, THE SOURCE OF GOD’S NEW CREATION
As early as the second century, the Church Fathers reasoned that since there was a new Adam, there also must be a new Eve. The new Eve, they concluded, is the Virgin Mary who, with Jesus Christ, the new Adam, participates in the work of God’s redemption of creation. In response to Eve’s transgression, the divine pronouncement is that “I [God] will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed” (Genesis 3:15).
“In Mary–The Second Eve”, Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote, “the Seed of the woman” is the Word Incarnate, and the Woman, whose seed or son He is, is His mother Mary”….
By adducing passages from both Eastern and Western patristic writings, Cardinal Newman sought to prove the historical authenticity and integrity of the doctrine of Mary as the new Eve. Recognized as the oldest reflection on the Virgin Mary outside of the New Testament writings, the rudimental teaching on the Virgin Mary as the second Eve, or new Eve, has its origins in writings of the second century Christian apologist Justin Martyr. (A.D. 120-165), St. Irenaeus (120-200), and Tertullian (160-240). Of these Tertullian represents Africa and Rome; St. Justin represents Palestine; and St. Irenaeus Asia Minor and Gaul;–or rather he represents St. John the Evangelist, for he had been taught by the Martyr St. Polycarp, who was the intimate associate as of St. John, so of the other Apostles. (1982)
The parallelism that involves the images of the virgin Eve and the Virgin Mary was first concluded by St. Justin and he articulated it in the following way: “For Eve, being a virgin and undefiled, conceiving the word that was from the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death; but the Virgin Mary, taking faith and joy, when the Angel told her the good tidings, that the Spirit of the Lord should come upon her and the power of the Highest overshadow her, and therefore the Holy One that was born of her was Son of God, answered, “Be it to me according to Thy word…” (as cited by Newman, 1982)
It has been reaffirmed in the modern Church by its inclusion in the Vatican Council II document, Lumen Gentium, which states the following: [By] the grace of almighty God, [Mary] served the mystery of redemption. Rightly, therefore the holy Fathers see her as used by God not merely in a passive obedience. For, as St. Irenaeus says, she, “being obedient, became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.” Hence in their preaching not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert with him: “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience. What the virgin Eve bound through her unbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.” Comparing Mary with Eve, they call her “the mother of the living,” and still more often they say: “death through Eve, life through Mary” (1966).
Pope John Paul II, affirming his own deep devotion to Mary, adopted as his papal motto Totus Tuus (translated as, I am completely yours, O Mary). He writes, “Each of us must understand that such devotion not only addresses a need of the heart, a sentimental inclination, but that it also corresponds to the objective truth about the Mother of God. Mary is the new Eve, placed by God in close relation to Christ, the new Adam. (1994) It is Mary’s mystical motherhood of God and her partnership with Christ, the new Adam, that gives birth to God’s new creation.
MARY–ALL HAVE CALLED HER BLESSED. PATRIARCHAL MARIOLOGIES AND THE SUBORDINATION OF WOMEN
Catholic feminist theologian Johnson (2003) presents a strong critical view of the early Church’s hierarchal patriarchy and its perception of women. Specifically, Johnson’s work engages and dialogues with the dogma, the attitudes, and the resulting practices of the early Church whereby women were marginalized and deemed to be of lesser significance than men within the scheme of creation. In Johnson’s view, “patriarchal mariologies function to subordinate women”. The sharp parallelism between Eve and the Virgin Mary has served to fragment and objectify all women, and to project onto their lives an overlay that lacks the depth, complexity, and the reality of all that it means to be fully human. Identifying the patristic Eve-Mary parallelism as the source of the problem, Johnson makes the observation that the patriarchal assessment of Mary’s perfection as a woman “functions paradoxically to disparage all other women”
Sawyer (1996) states that the belief in Eve’s responsibility for introducing sin into the world can be found in Christian writing dating from the New Testament period and writes, “The first evidence we find … is in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11.3). This observation of Eve’s vulnerability later becomes a pronouncement of her guilt: “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Tim. 2.14). The argument for female subordination based on the order of creation is now overtaken by the belief that woman is the originator of sin. This one passage from a short epistle became the foundation text in Christian theology about women and their role and status in the church. In it the figure of Eve is of central importance: she is the first sinner and she is also the embodiment of all womankind”.
A woman was objectified either as a “symbol of virtue or … as the originator of sin” (Johnson, 2003)–not as a person in her own right. Shaped in the minds of the Fathers, Mary not only becomes “an extremely useful means of domesticating women and others”, but the model of a passive, submissive, virginal Mary also cultivates and affirms a pervasive attitude of male superiority, which extends to the earth itself.
In Women, Earth, and Creator Spirit, Johnson (1993) opines, “I propose to explore the thesis that the exploitation of the earth, which has reached crisis proportions in our day, is intimately linked to the marginalization of women…. Within a sexist system the true identity of both women and the earth are skewed. Both are commonly excluded from the sphere of the sacred; both are routinely taken for granted and ignored, used and discarded, even battered and “raped,” while nevertheless they do not cease to give birth and sustain life”.
OTHER FEMINIST, WOMANIST, AND LIBERATIONIST MARIAN VOICES
Johnson and other feminist theologians have joined their voices with liberationist theologians and others of the global community in a powerful crescendo that claims their right to speak with their own voices reflecting their own existential reality. Their voices reflect the reality of people who have experienced marginalization within a society which compromises those who are perceived as inferior and as lacking significant moral and intellectual resources through which to contribute to and participate in the leadership and decision-making process of the governing establishment.
The African American author, Walker, in her book “In Search of Our Mothers’ Garden”, informs a “theology rooted in the experiences of women of African descent.” Womanist theology is distinguished from feminist theology in its primary concern with the effects and expressions of global racism and economic disadvantage among African American, African, and other poor women of color.
When speaking about a primary aspect of the patriarchy’s model of Mary that constitutes its ideal of womanhood–that of the submissive handmaid–the importance of speaking with one’s own voice and choosing one’s own words to convey an existential reality is highlighted by observations made by African American womanist theologians Martin, Williams, Copeland, and Grant.
The symbol of the servant, as a Christian model is, even when applied to Jesus, a motif that contains ambivalence, according to Grant (1993). Because servanthood generally has been socially devalued and degraded, as a Christian model, it becomes a moral and spiritual liability, according to Grant. Instead of servanthood, Grant offers discipleship as a model of spiritual integrity for African American women. Feminist theologian Ross (1998) expresses a similar view, stating that the “servanthood of Christ as a model can serve an important purpose for those in positions of power” (p. 83), but, with womanist theologians, agrees that it is a model fraught with moral ambiguity for African American women and for other groups whose histories include societal marginalization.
Creating and presenting new ways of thinking and speaking about Mary has been the work of liberation theologians in Latin America, Africa, and in other global communities where political, economic, and social justice issues have been compromised. The model of a liberation Mariology is the text of Mary’s prophetic song, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). Johnson credits Catholic feminist theologian Ruether with “one of the most significant interpretations” of the Magnificat and writes, “Here with her declaration that God casts down the mighty from their thrones and lifts up the lowly, Mary proclaims the saving power that enters history to reverse the present order of power and powerlessness. As a woman from among the poorer classes of a colonized people, she herself “represents the oppressed community that is to be lifted up and filled with good things in the messianic revolution.” Her story embodies God’s preferential option for the poor and challenges economically advantaged people to be converted to their cause. (2003) Mary as a liberation model is a principal actor and participant in the envisioned new paradigm and a recipient of its socially radical benefits. She is “allied with the struggle of poor people, especially women, for justice and peace” (Johnson, 2003)
THE DIVERSE EXPERIENCES AND THE CONFLICTING REALITIES OF WOMEN IN THE FIRST CHRISTIAN CENTURIES
A critical view of women’s lives within the first century Greco-Roman socio-cultural context also provides valuable insight toward a reconstruction of the experiential reality of Mary of Nazareth as a poor, first century Jewish woman. While the patriarchal polarization of the female image into either the Eve or Mary model has its origins in the way women were viewed, as related through biblical literature and non-biblical literature dating from the Greco-Roman period, an analysis of the socio-cultural attitudes surrounding the identity and place of women during the first century will disclose an intricate web of diverse experiences.
Sawyer (1996) reconstructs the religious and social contexts within which women lived in the first century. Within the broader Roman society, women within the Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Judaic, and Christian communities were “at the heart of domestic life, overseeing male servants and slaves, and responsible for the education of their sons and daughters” She makes the observation that “both Hellenism and Judaism were essentially patriarchal in theory and practice, and both shared similar fears and assumptions concerning women’s nature, and in particular their sexuality”
Describing the place of women within Judaism, Sawyer (1996) states that “it would seem that Judaism, unlike the majority of the cults of the Greco-Roman world, excluded women not only from being active in the rituals of sacrifice and duties relating to the cult, but actually segregated them from the men observing the ritual, and the male priests performing it…. The Jewish home was “considered to be the nucleus of the religion and primarily the domain of women. It was the religious practices that were centered within the home that actively involved the participation of women. These practices situated under the domestic domain of women also provided the earliest religious teaching to the children within the domestic setting…. Judaism’s encounter with Hellenism carried a different set of implications than Judaism’s encounter with Roman culture. “Here women can be wealthy in their own right, use their wealth to support their synagogues, and take up powerful positions within them”. However, as Sawyer notes, it is the restrictive Greek attitudes toward women that seem to be the overriding influence on Jewish attitudes toward women”.
The emergence of Christianity as a religious movement having its roots in one of the expressions of rabbinic Judaism is thoroughly analyzed for its historical, social, and political implications for society in general and for women and other marginalized people in particular. The new egalitarian community that was founded by Jesus was made possible within the realm of Spirit. As the Spirit was bestowed upon Jesus at his baptism, so it was bestowed upon all who accepted his teaching and followed his way. As an egalitarian community, the followers of Jesus were challenged to let go of the rigid codes of the patriarchy and to reverse their perception of hierarchy: “whoever wishes to be first among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all”.
Sawyer’s historical, socio-cultural analysis and utilization of a contemporary gender theory methodology allow for the fluidity of categories regarding gender roles, thus making it possible to accommodate the many differing religious roles assumed by ancient women in their religious expressions and practices. Reflecting on this study of “divergent images of women and their experiences in the context of ancient religion”, She says “a similar diversity is being encountered and engaged by contemporary women.”
THE CHALLENGE OF MARY AS THE NEW EVE TO THE THIRD MILLENNIAL CHURCH
The challenge for the Catholic Church to find a traditional doctrinal theme capable of being reinterpreted ecologically can be answered by the second century Church dogmatic teaching that identifies the Virgin Mary as the new (second) Eve. When the Church identifies Mary as the new Eve, it gives recognition to the presence of the same attributes and responsibilities given to the first Eve.
As Adam’s helpmate, Eve also had a part in Adam’s responsibility for the upkeep and care of the garden. Their task as caretakers was that of nurturing, maintaining, and sustaining the harmonic balance of the life communities within the garden. In Eco-Spirituality, Cummings (1991) wrote: “In the caretaker interpretation of “subdue the earth” (Gen. 1:27), human beings are people who care about the earth and its resources, and care for the whole network of interdependent beings. For a caretaker the issue is not mastery or control but harmony. A caretaker does not impose order from outside but from within, guarding the existing integrity of the whole interdependent system.”
According to Genesis 3:20, “the man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all living.” Biblically, Adam’s recognition of his wife as Eve, which in Hebrew means elemental source and nurturer of life, occurs prior to the conception of their first child. Through an intuitive knowledge, Adam was able to recognize and understand the natural role of his helpmate as that of life source. Adam understood that Eve as life source was also responsible for its nurture. Adam called his wife Eve, “because she was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20).
With Adam, Eve has the specific role and responsibility of bringing forth life, and nurturing all life communities of the garden. Eve’s role as elemental life source implies a universal relationship between all life communities and her nurturing responsibility may be understood as that of providing sustenance and harmonizing balance between the diverse life communities within the garden.
Relationship, responsibility, redemption, and renewal are the essential qualities of which the Virgin Mary’s image as the new Eve is composed. When ecologically re-envisioned, the image of the Virgin Mary as the new Eve has the potential to inspire and nurture a deep ecological sensitivity and to motivate the practice of ecological responsibility. Just as Eve was recognized by Adam as the mother of all living, the source and nurturer of all life, so was Mary recognized by the early Church Fathers as the new Eve, the source and nurturer of God’s new creation.
An ecological reading of Luke 1:38 and 1:46-55 reveals and supports a natural and social ecological sensitivity, as called for in the pastoral letter by the U.S. Bishops. When Mary said “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38), she made herself totally available to God. Her acceptance of God’s word into her mind and heart made it possible for it to receive flesh through her body. Mary’s uncompromising “yes” to God is critical in the Church’s recognition of Mary as its most excellent model of faithful discipleship. Her action demonstrates the required surrender of the hearts and minds of those who would participate in God’s work of redemption and renewal in the world. When God’s word is accepted into the hearts and minds of the people of God, it finds expression in the world through their moral and ethical sensitivity and practice. In the preface of the liturgy of Holy Mary, the New Eve, Mary is celebrated as the “first fruits of your [God’s] new people, [and] the first disciple of the New Law” (NCCB, 1992).
The knowledge that the “Word” and seed of God’s new creation was to be incarnated through her flesh inspired great reverence and devotion in Mary. She proclaimed, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47). John Paul II, in his 1990 World Day of Peace message, encouraged the new people of God to be open to the inspiration of God also when he said, “The aesthetic value of creation cannot be overlooked…. The commitment of believers to a healthy environment for everyone stems directly from their belief in God the Creator…. Respect for life and for the dignity of the human person extends also to the rest of creation, which is called to join man in praising God.
As the new Eve, the mother of all living, Mary’s motherhood encompasses all creation, connecting all life in a relationship of interdependence and mutuality. Ecologically, this image provides sacred and warm ties of universal kinship between all of earth’s life communities.
Liturgically celebrated as “the new earth, in whom justice dwells” (NCCB, 1992), Mary heralds the arrival of God’s new creation when she envisions and affirms the coming transformation characterized by a restorative balance to the natural and social ecology of creation’s communities through the incarnation of God’s Son. She proclaims, “He has scattered the proud in their conceit…. He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1: 52-53).
Mary’s universal motherhood permits the new people of God to recognize and affirm solidarity with all human communities. Catholic social teaching makes the assertion that “our faith calls us to work for justice; to serve those in need; to pursue peace; and to defend all the life, dignity, and rights of all our sisters and brothers. This is the call of Jesus, the challenge of the prophets, and the living tradition of our Church. (NCCB, 1990)
The science of ecology is concerned with the maintenance of the natural relationship between all of earth’s communities of life and their environment. Berry (1990) understands ecology to mean not only “the relation of an organism to its environment, but also as an indication of the interdependence of all the living and non-living systems of the earth”. Mary’s image as the New Eve, the mother of all living, provides a very powerful sacred and warm image that is supportive of the scientific and ethical concerns of ecology. It should follow that reverence for Mary, as the mother of all living, must also inspire a respect for all life.
CONSTRUCTING AN ECOLOGICAL MARIAN THEOLOGY
Johnson made the observation that “the image of Mary has allowed the Christian imagination to think very creatively and very differently about understanding Mary” (2001). How should we consider Mary in the 21st century?” Johnson proposed a framework based on the pastoral letter Marialis Cultus (To Honor Mary) by Pope Paul VI. It serves as Marian spirituality, while providing a framework for constructing a millennial Marian theology.
Paul VI determined that a re-envisioned theology of Mary would need to have five features in order to qualify as good Marian theology. Such a theology would need to be biblical, liturgical, ecumenical, anthropological, and theological.
Rooted in the testimony of Scripture, an ecological theology of Mary is biblical in that it draws from the ancient biblical story of creation and redemption. By consenting to give birth to God’s Son, through whom redemption would be accomplished, Mary is rightly recognized as the mother through whom God would begin a new creation. Recapitulating the ancient story of biblical creation, the Fathers of the emerging Church developed a view of Mary that helped them to articulate her role in God’s work of redemption of creation. Mary, through her incarnation of the new Adam, becomes the new Eve, the source of life for God’s new creation and, therefore, the mother of all living.
Ecology, the branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environments, has a correlation with Mary’s motherhood; through the universal motherhood of Mary, the new Eve, there is an interrelationship that exists between all life communities. All life communities, therefore, are interdependent–each needing to sustain the other and to be sustained by the other.
“A creative Marian theology should be in tune with the liturgical seasons, especially Advent, where Mary joins the Church in expecting the Messiah, and Pentecost, the coming of the Spirit to the Church” (Johnson, 2001). An ecological theology of Mary has liturgical integrity because of Mary’s motherhood to Jesus Christ, the founder of the Church. The seasons of Advent and Pentecost are seasons of birth and new beginnings. During Advent, the Church awaits, with joyful expectation, the anticipated birth of Jesus. Born of Mary, Jesus Christ will bring redemption and healing to the earth. Because she participates in God’s work of redemption, Mary not only is the mother of Jesus Christ, creation’s redeemer, but she also is the mother of the redeemed, new creation. As the mother of God’s new creation, she is God’s new Eve, the mother of all living. Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Church, also celebrates the birth of the Church. Through the presence and witness of Mary and Jesus’ disciples, the Holy Spirit gave birth to the Church.
Mary’s pre-eminent motherhood is celebrated in the penitential rite of the liturgy of Holy Mary, the New Eve with the opening prayer, “Lord our God, you chose the Blessed Virgin, formed by the Holy Spirit, as the first fruits of the new creation; grant that we may reject the old ways of sin, embrace wholeheartedly the new life of the Gospel, and honor faithfully the new commandment of love” (NCCB, 1992 Vatican Council II, 1966a).
“A creative Marian theology should [be ecumenical, having] the potential to unify Christian Churches rather than being a source of division between Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Protestantism” (Johnson, 2001). Motherhood, in Jungian psychology, is understood “as a force that feeds and protects all humans, is the most important of all the “archetypes” that lurk in humanity’s collective unconscious; [consequently], any religious practice that fails to answer this need [for motherhood] will fail to satisfy its followers. (“A Mary for All,” 2003)
Barker, a Hebrew scholar whose work involves establishing links between Judaism and early Christian practices, has observed that “much of the poetry dedicated to Mary, comes from … the “wisdom tradition” of the Jewish religion. This takes the form of passages in which wisdom is perceived as a form of feminine divinity….”
Further, not only does Christianity grant the Virgin Mary a unique relationship with God, but Islam does so as well. Muslims consider Mary to be the “most honored woman in Islam … the only one to have an entire chapter named after her in the Koran” (“A Mary for All,” 2003).
An ecological theology of Mary, therefore, has both ecumenical and interfaith potential. Primarily, as history’s foremost Jewish mother, Mary’s unique relationship with God is acknowledged and revered cross-culturally; secondly, the desire for a healthy environment, economic and social justice is cross-cultural and at the foundation of every religious tradition. A God-centered understanding of creation and of the environment makes possible a respect and reverence for creation. Ultimately, the respect and reverence for creation will lead to the revelation that human societies are not separate from creation, but are situated within creation, mutually interdependent one with the other, as with all life.
Oikos, the Greek root of such words as ecology, economics, and ecumenical (eco reflects the Latin translation of the Greek oikos) is translated as household, vicinity, habitat, or environment. On its most basic level, the organized effort to raise ecological questions may be understood as an effort to address the ecological crisis with the household of creation, transcending cultural and religious categories. As the new Eve, Mary’s motherhood connects all life communities–natural, biological, and the human–as members of one household, where the health and survival of each is dependent upon the other.
Anthropologically, “a creative Marian theology must take into consideration the changing role of women in society” (Johnson, 2001, p. 3). Johnson notes that the call for a creative Marian theology by Paul VI takes into account his observation that As Mary rejoiced in God’s new creation growing within her womb, so too should the new people of God rejoice in the natural goodness, balance, and beauty of the Earth’s habitats. Given the ecological signs of the times, guarding and preserving the natural balance of Earth’s ecosystems are part of their discipleship commitment and their devotion to Mary as the mother of all living.
Since the time of the early Church Fathers, the writings of solitary visionaries and visionary scholarly religious communities have celebrated the power and beauty of Mary’s image as the new Eve. Twelfth century mystic Hildegard of Bingen celebrated Mary’s primal motherhood in a chant entitled O Virdissima Virga (O Greenest Branch)
In the choral refrain of an anonymous song from the 15th century, Eve’s original sin is transformed into Gabriel’s salutation.
The text of a contemporary Marian hymn, “Mary, Woman of the Promise,” by Fleischaker (1995) captures and conveys several ecological themes of the re-envisioned new Eve and was selected as the winner in a regional Hymn Society competition seeking contemporary Marian hymns. “Mary, woman of the promise; vessel of your people’s dreams: Through your open, willing spirit waters of God’s goodness streamed. Mary, song of holy wisdom sung before the world began: Faithful to the Word within you, as you bore God’s wondrous plan. Mary, morning star of justice; mirror of the Radiant Light: In the shadows of life’s journey, be a beacon for our sight. Mary, model of compassion; wounded by your offspring’s pain: When our hearts are torn by sorrow, teach us how to love again. Mary, woman of the gospel; humble home for treasured seed: Help us to be true disciples, bearing fruit in word and deed”.
How should we consider Mary in the twenty-first century? This can be sought through the proposal of a second question: can the gift and legacy of the second century Church’s image of Mary as the new Eve become a meaningful contemporary Marian model?
Given the critical assessment of the ecological crisis as a moral dilemma by the Church’s present leadership, an ecologically re-envisioned new Eve is a model that third millennial people of faith cannot afford to ignore. It is a model that communicates connection and relationship, teaches and nurtures ecological sensitivity and responsibility toward all life communities, and it has the capacity to revitalize Marian connection and devotion.
An ecologically re-envisioned Mary as the new Eve breathes new life and new meaning into this powerful and beautiful image. Reverence for Mary as the new Eve can inspire an openness to the presence of the Holy Spirit, nurture a respect for all living things, and motivate a compassionate response to the needs of life wherever present.