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Understanding the Bible Series:
Our Lady in Type and Prophesy in the Old Testament

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

With the beginning of the month of October I thought especially there are many books on Our Lady that I could recommend. I strongly recommend if you don’t have a copy, The Secret of the Rosary by Saint Louis De Montfort. Simple but deep faith, and St. Peter Julian Eymard’s, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament.

Most people are not familiar with this writing of Peter Julian Eymard on Our Lady and the Holy Eucharist. And really that is the key to understanding the mystery of the Eucharist. In other words, God became man and He is in the Eucharist in His human nature. Christ’s human nature is a channel of the grace that He as God confers – but I repeat – through His humanity. So these two books.

I believe our sequence last class was our first lecture on the Bible, and our second on marriage. Am I correct? Now here is what I thought: the first course is on “Understanding the Bible.” However, though, we could of course spend not just one hour, we could spend hours every week for the next year in commenting on the Bible as Bible. However, my hope for this semester is to concentrate on what we call “themes” in the Bible, and for today I would like to distribute a one page outline on Mary in the Old Testament.

Our next class will be a synthesis of Marian biblical theology in the New Testament. This then, is Mary as revealed by anticipation in the Old Testament. You should all then get a copy of this outline.

It is then, on the Scriptures but concentrating on Our Lady. The overall subject then is, Our Lady in Type in Prophecy in the Old Testament.

First a word of explanation: when we use the word “type” we mean that the Old Testament gives us by anticipation what we call “types”, “symbols”. First of all, of Christ and then of His mother. Now there are both persons and there are events in the Old Testament that anticipate the New Testament. In other words, Christ our Lord has many “types” as we call them. Persons in the Old Testament who typified the Messiah to come. Correspondingly, even as there were types of “Christ” in the Old Testament, so we speak of types and figures anticipating Mary in the New Testament.

You should all have by now, I hope, a copy of the outline. Anyone not have a copy of the outline?

This is not obvious what we are going to talk about. It is however, crucially important for understanding the Scriptures in the Old Testament as anticipations of the New. Our subject then, is Mary in the Old Testament as Type and Prophecy.

First, what is the general principle for using what we call “types” or “prophecies.” A typical sense must be revealed in Scripture or tradition. In other words, there must be some ground in the Church’s teaching as there is, for Mary’s having been anticipated in the Old Law. The general principle in the Church, - I have a Latin phrase – is “Lex orendi est lex credendi.

What are we saying? That we can judge (it is a law) we can judge what God wants to teach us, by the way that the faithful of the Old Law had prayed. Prayer is a very good index of what people believe. The phrase, “Lex orendi, est lex credendi” means, “The law of prayer is the law of belief”. As people pray so they believe. And consequently, in the Old Testament the prayer of the Old Law for example, all of the sounds they typify by anticipation what the Holy Spirit revealed in the Old Testament about Mary who was not due, of course, to come until the New Testament. In other words, the way people pray is an index of what they believe. The way the Old Testament prayed is a reflection of what they believed here, not only about Christ the forth coming Messiah, but about His mother.

A few examples regarding Our Lady: The principle type of the Blessed Virgin in the Old Testament is Eve. Eve is the prototype (term used) the primary type or symbol by anticipation of the Blessed Mother of God on four levels. These are just examples that can be multiplied times ten.

First as Mother: Even as Eve was the mother in the physical order, the mother of all the living; as Eve was the mother of all human beings. She was our great, great, great (and you keep multiplying the word great) grandmother. That is Eve. So Mary is also mother and our mother, but clearly not our mother in our human nature as a physical body that we have. Mary is the spiritual mother of the human race.

Now each of these by the way has volumes written on. For example, Father Fred Miller. Who by the way he has just resigned as head of the Blue Army. Pray for a worthy successor. Father Miller was my student in theology in New York. His doctoral thesis, which he did in Rome, was on the spiritual motherhood of Mary.

Many volumes have been written on this subject. It is a course all by itself. Mary’s spiritual maternity, but you get the logic. Even as Eve is the physical mother of the human race in terms of our human ancestry, so Mary is our spiritual mother in just one sentence: She must be our spiritual mother, because except for her there wouldn’t be Christ, and without Him we wouldn’t have any grace. And this by the way is an article of faith. That Mary on that very fundamental level is the spiritual mother of mankind. Why? Because she is the mother of the Author of Grace. When we receive Holy Communion, the body that we receive is the body of Jesus. But Jesus had a mother, and as Augustine says, “Caro Jesu, caro Maria” “ the flesh of Jesus is the flesh of Mary”. You wouldn’t have the Eucharist except for Mary.

Again the spouse. Even as Eve was espoused to Adam, so Mary is the principle type of the faithful spouse of Christ on the spiritual level. In other words, two people can be espoused either physically or spiritually. Let me tell you, and if two people who are to be espoused physically are not also living an espoused spiritual life, that marriage is in trouble from the day it is celebrated. In other words, there is such a thing as being espoused to someone, deeply in love with someone and with that person (cooperating with that person) in generating an offspring.

The vow of celibacy (and unworthily I still can’t believe that I did it) is spiritual or supernatural espousal with Christ. In other words we are to reproduce ourselves, all of us married or not. We are to reproduce ourselves in spirit, supernaturally. And one of the great tragedies of the modern world, (surely our American world) there are so many husbands and wives who may reproduce themselves physically, but are not reproducing themselves in their very physical offspring spiritually. Am I making sense?

Mary then is espoused to Christ. And then we may say is procreating offspring supernaturally or spiritually. Again the contrast, one Father of the Church after another brings out the tragic contrast between what the first women did by her disobedience, she brought sin into the world. So Mary by her obedience in the first and most fundamental act of obedience that Mary made was her obedience to becoming the mother of the Messiah. Even as through Eve’s disobedience sin came into the world, so through Mary’s obedience grace has come into the world. And again, and this is a whole litany of contrasts of what Eve is to the human race naturally, so Mary is to the human race supernaturally, or by grace.

Then for among many other examples, but for outstanding prototypes of Mary in the Old Testament are: Sarah, Deborah, Judith and Ester. Others too, but these are the four outstanding. And over the years in teaching courses in Mariology, it is just a most enjoyable course to see how these outstanding women in the Old Testament were prototypes of Mary in the New Testament.

Now the prophesies - first the principle: In other words, when we speak about Marian prophesies in the Old Testament and we do, and I am giving you the four principal ones. From my graduate studies in Rome after my ordination I got a doctorate degree in theology. I went out of my way to get graduate courses in Mariology, most satisfying. And there are now some seminaries in the United States (oh the prospect looks good) there are actually seminaries in America that have courses in Mariology. Things are really looking up!

In any case, what is the basic principle for both identifying a Marian prophecy from the Old Testament and then interpreting that Marian prophecy? There are four principal ways: First the Church’s liturgy. Thus, for example, in the very early Church, Mass was offered in honor of Our Lady, they called it, “Dormition” “falling asleep”. And that was about 1500 years before Our Lady’s Assumption was defined. Things therefore that can be in the liturgy and “approved” would have to be by the Bishops of Rome over the centuries. Then finally, centuries, centuries later at long last the Church comes up with a definition, because it had been true all the while. Notice? So in the liturgy we find especially these four prophecies about Our Lady appearing in the readings in the Eucharistic prayers and in feast days. Again, doctrine, what the Church teaches becomes then a safe norm for our identifying an Old Testament prophecy as being true. Even though the Church does not formally define, that say in the proto-evangelium, which we will explain in a few minutes. Now that is a Marian prophecy, because the Church uses it we can then safely say it is an authentic Marian prophecy.

Spirituality and this is much more widespread than we in the Western Church recognize. And as I am sure I told at least some of you. My father died when I was a year old, my mother was Byzantine and it never occurred to me to question it. We had a Byzantine calendar in the kitchen, where else? It had a feast of Our Lady for every single day of the year.

And one reason for minimizing Marian devotion in Western Catholicism is the result of Protestantism. We Catholics have become apologetic. Almost embarrassed by our devotion to Our Lady. I repeat, historically in teaching over the years – Did I mention to you in six Protestant seminaries? Oh, did I ever let loose on Our Lady in the Protestant seminaries! And they better take notes if they wanted to pass the course. Delightful! One of the joys of theology - teaching the Truth to heretics! Of course you smile and don’t call them bad names, but you tell them the Truth.

So, there is much more Marian spirituality in the Church then I am afraid most of us Western Catholics recognize, and it is especially in the imitation of Our Lady. In other words, following Our Lady and her path is a virtue. And as you know there are virtues that Mary practiced that Christ did not practice. Name two virtues that Mary had that Jesus did not have. Faith and hope.

In other words, Christ did not have faith for the best of reasons. He didn’t need it. And Christ did not have hope because He already possessed the Beatific Vision! He was a living God with human nature, was as we say, hypostatically united in one person with the divinity.

In any case, Marian spirituality should be much more developed in the West than it is. We are far behind Eastern churches. And one of the main reasons our present Holy Father is doing everything in his power – I can say this, he is actually praying that the Lord will not call him into eternity until the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches are once more reunited. And one reason is because, although they are orthodox and don’t accept the papal primacy they have an extraordinary devotion to our Lady, and to speak of spirituality in the Eastern churches is almost to say it is both the imitation of Christ and the imitation of Mary. And let me tell you this, there is nothing that our feminist possessed world needs more than the imitation of Mary. Do you agree?

Then hard and simple: Again over the centuries, Marian art is cosmic symbolism, and we should become familiar with and should use. For example: I may have mentioned I am signing a contract for the publication of a handbook for the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I was in Tulsa, Oklahoma for a lecture yesterday. And in my free time between planes, I did writing, and I made sure that in beginning the manuscript I had A.M.D.G. and B.V.M.H. Do you know what those symbols mean? This is class isn’t it, and I am suppose to teach you something! A.M.D.G. - that means ad majorem dei gloriam (For the greater glory of God).

As novice in the Society of Jesus the paper that we wrote if we did not put A.M.D.G. at the top of the page of the left side and B.V.M.H. on the right side I don’t think we would have been allowed to take our Jesuit vow. B.V.M.H. - “for the greater glory of God” and “the honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary”. And when I write notes to myself, or when I take spiritual notes especially in chapel write letters - I say,“Dear Jesus:” then I tell Him what I think He wants me to do. I regularly put on top of the page on the left side A.M.D.G. and on the right side B.V.M.H. It just makes sense.

Now the four principle prophecies of the Old Testament on Our Lady: First what is called the “proto-evangelium”. “Proto” as you know means “very first”. We speak of protoplasm, right? We speak of prototype. Proto in Greek means the very, very first. The fundamentally first, so the fundamentally first gospel is in the third chapter of Genesis. It reads, and any time you find a Bible which has this wording in it - oh treasure it! It is a precious possession because so few Bibles have this anymore.

Chapter three. Remember, this is after our first parents sinned. Verse fourteen, “And the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because thou has done this thing, thou are cursed among all cattle and beasts of the earth. On thy breast shall thou go and earth thou shall eat all the days of thy life.’ ”

Then verse fifteen: “I will put enmities between thee and the women and thy seed and her seed. She shall crush thy head and thou shall lie in wait for her heel.” I repeat any Bible that has the feminine gender in the fifteenth verse of the third chapter of Genesis should be kissed. It is a good Bible!

How many of your Bibles have that? In other words, there are of course other legitimate interpretations. The Church has never formally defined that the fifteenth verse of the third chapter of Genesis that the “women” is Mary. That the “seed” is Christ and that “she” through Christ will overcome the devil. Nor has the Church formally defined that the devil will finally be crushed by Mary - Mary’s heel! But it is all over the liturgy right? It is all over art. Am I clear? And the great cathedrals of Europe showing Mary remember, crushing the serpent’s head.

That then is called the proto gospel - the very first gospel where, and the terminology is used now (I am not too comfortable with it calling it) “Good News”. In English at least, “good news” has such a variety of meanings and they are not all spiritual. As I am sure you do know, but no point in going to the blackboard. The first two letters - “eu” in Greek mean good or well. And then the last part, from the Greek but in Latin “angelium” is a message. Then the “eu” becomes an “ev”. Why? Because when there is a vowel following the “u” in Greek it becomes a “v”. Now Eucharist - “euch” but here it is therefore “good news”.

So the Gospel which literally means “the good message”, which the angel, remember on Christmas morning, told the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy!” What is that “good news”? The one that God already foretold in Genesis after our first parents sinned. That is the very first Marian prophecy. I repeat never defined by the Church, but commonly recognized in our liturgy and our art over the centuries.

Second: The Virgin Birth. This time it is Isaiah 7:14. This is the famous prophecy of the Virgin Birth. “The holy virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.” And listen to this: in the Cardinal Law’s translation (the Catechism of the Catholic Church), I think I told you, it used the Revised Standard Version, the Episcopalian Bible for the Scripture quotations in the English translation of the Bible. So I promptly went to my copy of the Revised Standard Version. Sure enough the Episcopalian Bible reads, “Behold a young women shall conceive” Nothing prophetic about that! In fact, if she is not young enough she won’t even conceive. And there is one thing I want to get across as a result of this course, be sure you know what a good Bible is. And though you may want to use another not so good Bible for other reasons, at least know what is either good about that Bible or what is bad about it. That is a Jerusalem Bible. How many times Doubleday either called or wrote. “You did not use the Jerusalem Bible!” quoting from some manuscript that I turned in for publication. “Of course not! The Jerusalem Bible is wrong!” It is a good translation if you are using the Bible but it has, oh big potholes! It needs a lot of repair work.

Now just to note the Septuagent translation was used by the Jews for at least two hundred years before Christ. What is the Septuagent translation of the Bible? This is the Old Testament. The Septuagent, and the word Septuagent from the Latin septuagenta which means seventy. Tradition has it that somewhere around the third century before Christ, because many of the Jews lived outside of Palestine, and even in Palestine, many people did not speak Hebrew. The language of the learned, educated, business world centuries before Christ in the Roman Empire was Greek. As a result the Old Testament was translated into Greek. And the Old Testament Greek for this word in Isaiah is “parthenos”. Which in Greek is an inviolate virgin.

Well, I think we have touched on this before. By the year one hundred because Christians were appealing to Isaiah as a prophetic anticipation of Christ’s virginal conception by His mother, the Jews figured this is too much! We better change our Bible. So the Jews did change the Bible. What did they do? They did two drastic things to their Bible. First of all they removed by major surgery seven books from the Old Testament, all of which had been used by the Jews until then. And they retranslated the biblical Hebrew into Greek, and where their Greek said, “Parthenos” they made it “a young women”.

Now the virgin’s son must be God otherwise His name could not be “Emmanuel-God with us”. Now talk about this. I know Cardinal Law and he knows me. But that same Revised Standard Version of the Bible used in the unapproved English translation of the Catechism in the New Testament. In the New Testament, Saint Matthew quotes Isaiah. Find Chapter 1:23. So here, verse fourteen, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” And now, Bill, do you have the 23. Real what you have in Matthew. “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.” So imagine improving on Matthew! Matthew whose gospel is in Greek says “virgin”. Yet these stubborn people will not even take Matthew’s word. Am I making sense? There is no question when the angel told Joseph, recall, not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. Why, because the child in her womb was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And then Matthew says, quoting Isaiah 7:14. But of course the Episcopalians know better than Saint Matthew what Isaiah really said. OK. And listen to this, the Revised Standard in Isaiah is a “young women”, in Matthew it is a “virgin”. At least they are honest enough to put the reference in Matthew to Isaiah, and they don’t put in what Matthew puts in. Clunk!

That is the second great Marian prophecy. I should say by the way, that among the courses I took in Rome was a semester course on these four prophecies. Three classes a week for fifteen weeks. So there are just great riches hidden behind each one of these prophecies about Our Lady in the Old Testament.

Third Marian prophecy in the Old Testament. This is from Micheas or Micah as it is also called. Quote, “You Bethlehem, out of you shall He come forth who is to be the ruler of Israel. He will give them up even to the time when she who is in labor shall bring forth.” Remember what the wise men, the Magi asked Herod? When the star that brought them towards Palestine and they want to know where are they to find the Messiah - the one who is to be born to the Jews. And Herod’s wise men told them, “In Bethlehem”. Bethlehem was foretold as the place where the Messiah would be born. And ironically, He was not conceived in Bethlehem, why was He born in Bethlehem? Because He was a descendent of David which is the birthplace of David. Mary was of David’s family. Mary’s son was a ruler, and Matthew 2, “The magi were duly informed.”

Now a prophecy most Catholics don’t know about - Christ’s full man in Mary’s womb. “The Lord has created a new thing upon the earth. A women shall encompass a man.” (Jeremias or Jeremiah 31:22.) Except for the size of His body in Mary’s womb, Christ was full grown. His body was of course miniscule. “So the Lord has created a new thing upon the earth. A women shall encompass a man.” Foretelling that the child in Mary’s womb would be (except on size or quantity) a full-grown man. Mary unlike other mothers, Christ was full man from conception. His humanity was complete except for growth. Already in conception Christ’s human mind knew; Christ’s human will was free and operative.

Student interrupts to ask question: “Father this brings to mind a question in my mind and I am referring to the gospel where after Christ was found by Jesus and Mary in the temple, when He was twelve years old and it said that, ‘He went home with them and grew in wisdom and age and grace.’ I am wondering how do you join that to this?”

Well, there are two ways of explaining Christ’s growing. The first explanation is that Christ saw fit to manifest His perfections gradually. His wanting to possess the fullness of manhood, it is something else to manifest only gradually the fullness of His manhood. But secondly, even though we would take literally that Christ did, nevertheless, grow (say when He came back with Mary and Joseph in the temple in Jerusalem) could Christ grow? Yes, and part of His becoming man was the humiliation of growing, not growing in the sense that He was ignorant before. When we grow we really grow, because, well, we start with nothing. Christ however, grew (to repeat in two ways) Christ grew in manifesting gradually what He always possessed. But Christ also we may say grew in possession of those things which are not of the essence of His human nature. Could therefore Christ, can we say, grow in His knowledge? Yes. How? Experientially. In other words, Christ knew who He was. Christ had His full humanity from the moment of His conception. However, Christ did want to grow in the possession of those graces or gifts, which were not essential to His being who He was, but in order to humiliate Himself He allowed Himself to grow in knowledge and wisdom. Not because He needed it, but because He wanted to be humiliated by having to, as we say, grow in that which He already possessed absolutely from the first moment of His conception. So then we may say that Christ grew in manifestation, Christ also grew by His experiencing what He had not known before by experience. But, we don’t have to experience something to know it. A doctor does not have to have cancer to know how to deal with malignancy. In any case thanks for the question.

Student comment: “What you’re describing was covered by Saint Paul when Christ grew by nature divine, never claimed equality but emptied Himself of His divinity in order to assume His humanity. That is the Gospel’s teaching.”

Christ humanity Himself in everything that He could without compromising on the one hand His divinity, or even His all holy humanity. Yes, and there is nothing sinful about being ignorant.

As in Christ’s case His ignorance was not that He did not know, but rather by ignorance by not manifesting or making known what He did know. We may say (we don’t have to), we may say that Christ did not know many things by experience. He allowed Himself to grow in experiential knowledge even though He knew what He knew without having to experience it, say even before He was born.

Just a few words, summary fashion on the value of seeing Mary in the Old Testament. First, since the Second Vatican Council, as we know, the Old Testament has become so prominent in the Liturgy. In almost every Mass most of the first readings are from the Old Testament. In the Divine Office, the Old Testament, most of the Divine Office is Psalms. Psalms are Old Testament. So first the value of recognizing (and these four are not by any means exhaustive) there is great wisdom in recognizing then, Our Lady no less than her divine Son was foretold in the Old Testament. And just as the Old Testament tells us a great deal about Christ that we don’t find in the New Testament. So the Old Testament tells us things about Mary that only in generations to come as the Catholic Faith will see more and more of Marian prophecy.

My anticipation: the praise of Mary, the holiness of Mary and especially her virtues and among her virtues the two that we keep repeating (Christ Himself did not possess) her faith and her hope and trust in God. And how this needs to be known, because of the work I am doing I try to read at least a couple of hours a week from feminist literature, intelligent, reason, blasphemous, and these are women who are writing. Educated women and most of the leading feminists in the United States are either nuns or ex-nuns. Most of them! Except for the feminist movement our Catholic schools would be open today! We better cope.

And it means for our purpose we’d better know both, we women what say I should be as a women and we men what women should be. Mary is the prototype of what women pleasing to God like His Mother should be.

I don’t think I have ever read a more devastating, cruel, bitter, book review of any book than a book on Our Lady reviewed by in “The New York Times” just blasting the author for portraying Mary as a “Model of a Modern Woman”. If you read some really intelligent and theologically acute literature the venom of the feminist women against Mary is deadly. And I think I should say this, in other words, we need to realize that womanhood had a prototype and a model no less than Christ is the model for both genders, but Mary especially for women.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen.

Copyright © 2005 Institute on Religious Life

Conference transcription from a talk that Father Hardon
gave to the Institute on Religious Life

Institute on Religious Life, Inc.
PO. Box 410007
Chicago, Illinois 60641

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