Nova Eva

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Nova Eva is a devotional name for the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, and is possibly the most ancient doctrinal title of Our Lady in the Early Church. Eastern and Western Fathers of the Church alike express the doctrinal message that goes back to Apostolic times and which constituted the universal teaching of the Early Church: the doctrine of Mary’s necessary participation in the redemption of humanity as the New Eve. (Miravalle, Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate) Mary as Nova Eva represents the first theological reflection of the Mother of God, the title’s remote origins tracing back to Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor at the turn of the first century. The title’s development can be broken into three stages: it’s remote origins before Nicaea, the enthusiasm and contributions by Church Father Ephraem, and the full flowering of the patristic vision in the homiletic literature of the fifth century.(Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church)

Our Lady as the Nova Eva finds its origin in the Bible, stemming first from the Pauline doctrine of the second Adam: “since by man came death…in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15: 21-22) Dogma of the Church recognizes Christ as the New Adam, as the One who redeemed mankind from the original sin inflicted by Adam and Eve on all.

“When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.”

The Eve of the Old Testament is tempted by the serpent and disobeys God. Eve became for mankind a cause of death, and it is through her that death came into the world. The human race, through Eve who is a virgin, is lost: as death had come through Eve, still a virgin, it was proper that life should come again through a Virgin, or rather of a Virgin; and because the serpent had deceived that one, it was but right that Gabriel should bear the good tidings to the other. It is Mary’s obedience to the God that makes up for the disobedience of Eve. In the mystery of the Annunciation the Virgin Mary takes the role of the New Eve:

“And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God…And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to be according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Genesis 3)

The Virgin Mary was found obedient, Eve disobedient. While Eve was a virgin, she did not obey, becoming the cause of death to herself and humanity, so Mary, being obedient became for herself and all of humanity the cause of salvation. (St. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses) Irenaeus of Lyons is one of many Church Fathers to give insight on the Eve-Mary parallel when he states: “Even though Eve had Adam for a husband, she was still a virgin…by disobeying, she became the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race. In the same way, Mary, though she also had a husband, was a still a virgin, and by obeying, she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race…the knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience. What Eve bound through her unbelief, Mary loosed by her faith.” (Gambero, Mary and the Church Fathers)

Consequently, the Eve-Mary parallel is one that contrasts ‘disobedience and obedience, sorrow and joy, woman cursed and woman blessed, a despot devil and a captive devil, darkness and light, sin and salvation, fall and restoration, condemnation and redemption, death and life, paradise lost and paradise regained.’ Church dogma, Sacred Tradition, and the modern life of the Church reflect ongoing belief in, and devotion to Mary as the New Eve. Throughout the history of the Church, people have turned to the Blessed Virgin Mary as a spiritual mother, as the one who is cause of their invitation to life because she ‘gave birth to Him who lives, to Life itself, the Lamb of whose glory, as of fleece, a garment of immortality has been fashioned…’ Justin Martyr, the first author to use the Eve-Mary parallel writes ‘In Holy Scripture, Eve is called mother of the living.’ (Gambero, Mary and the Church Fathers) It is Mary who fulfills this title in her obedience to God in becoming the bearer of the Redeemer.

The Virgin Mary is, in some genuine sense, responsible for the redemptive effects achieved by her Son; she co-operated in the objective Redemption. In the tradition of the patristic East the Second Eve is “cause of salvation,” “gate of salvation,” she paid Eve’s debt to sin, “helped justice enter in.” She is “cause of life”; she “brought immortality to the world.” Through her “Eve has been redeemed”; through her “the world has been set free.” She has deposed the devil from his despotic rule; she trampled Satan underfoot, through her the “demons have been hurled into hell.” (Mariology v. II)

She appears in this way as the Coredemptrix, “with the Redeemer.” Within Church teaching lies the doctrine of Mary as Coredemptrix, as she who was the instrument with which mankind was redeemed. Drawing upon the Old Testament the Church finds Eve to be co-peccatrix, “with the Sinner,” because it was Eve who freely gave the “instrument” of the Fall. It is Eve who gave the “forbidden fruit” to Adam, the Peccator, “the Sinner,” whose sin as father of the human race led to the loss of grace for the human race. This makes Mary Coredemptrix because she freely gave the instrument of the Redemption in her Fiat, in giving her body to bear Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. St. Ephraem called Mary “the price of the redemption of captives,” and it is in this way that the Church looks to her as “Mother of the Living.” Through her obedience and faith, Mary became the New Eve as the Coredemptrix. (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica)

Further Quotes and Poetry on the Nova Eva: “A virgin, a bit of wood, and now death symbolize our defeat. See now how these three things have become for us a principle of life. For Eve there is Mary; for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil there is the wood of the Cross; for the death of Adam there is the death of Christ. Do you see the demon prostrated by the very weapons which had rendered him victorious?”

Amphilochius of Iconium, On Christmas …O Mary, O Mary, the Maker of all things was your firstborn Son! O humanity, who became the bodily substance of the Word and for that reason became more honorable than the spiritual virtues of heaven! For Christ did not want to clothe himself in the form of archangels or in the form of the immaterial figures of the principalities, virtues, and powers; rather, through you, he clothed himself in your form, which had fallen and become like that of the brute animals. …but where now is that hostile and bewildered dragon? Where is that cursed and execrable dragon, who had claimed that this throne would be raised to the heights of heaven?

Caelius Sedulius (d. ca. 440-450) Because of one man, all his descendents perished; And all are saved because of one man. Because of one woman, the deadly door opened; And life returned, because of one woman. (Elegia)

We are the blind offspring of the children of pitiful Eve, Bringing with us the shadows born of an age-old error. But when God deigned to assume the mortal form Of a human nature, then came forth from the Virgin A world of salvation…

References[edit]

  • Miravalle, Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, 6
  • Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church
  • Gamero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church
  • I Cor 15:21-22
  • Genesis 3
  • St. Epiphanius, Our Lady
  • St. Cyril, Our Lady
  • Luke 1:26-39
  • St. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses
  • Mariology v. II
  • St. Irenaeus
  • Mariology v. II
  • St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate
  • Our Lady
  • Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church
  • Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church

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