Saturday, August 19, 2006

Mary the Conqueror

This past week we celebrated the feast of the Assumption (if we use the Anglican Missal). The reading from the book of Judith has been understood by the Church to prefigure the unique vocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in a way that may seem to strange to us. The picture is one of the violence of war, and the slaying of a cruel enemy in the spirit of the ancient judges (reminiscent of the story of Jael, the wife of Heber – Judges 4:17f).

In the 16th chapter of Judith we read:
6: But the Almighty Lord hath disappointed them by the hand of a woman.
7: For the mighty one did not fall by the young men, neither did the sons of the Titans smite him, nor high giants set upon him: but Judith the daughter of Merari weakened him with the beauty of her countenance.
8: For she put off the garment of her widowhood for the exaltation of those that were oppressed in Israel, and anointed her face with ointment, and bound her hair in a tire, and took a linen garment to deceive him.
9: Her sandals ravished his eyes, her beauty took his mind prisoner, and the fauchion passed through his neck.
10: The Persians quaked at her boldness, and the Medes were daunted at her hardiness.
11: Then my afflicted shouted for joy, and my weak ones cried aloud; but they were astonished: these lifted up their voices, but they were overthrown.
12: The sons of the damsels have pierced them through, and wounded them as fugitives' children: they perished by the battle of the Lord.
13: I will sing unto the Lord a new song: O Lord, thou art great and glorious, wonderful in strength, and invincible.

The head of Holofernes, cut off by the fauchion, ought to remind us of the Biblical Protoevangelium: “And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” - Gen. 3:14, 15

I have often thought that the unimpressive stature of the hobbits- in The Lord of the Rings - the smallest of persons and seemingly unfit for battle by reason of frailty- should remind us that without the faith and obedience of Mary, the Woman (so identified by Christ in Cana, and from the cross), the enemy would never have been overthrown, and we would not have been delivered from sin and death. Only one person shared direct involvement with Christ in the greatest miracle of all, the Incarnation, to become the Mother of God. Her seed bruised the serpent’s head in the one real war.

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