Paradigm of Motherhood

In Mary, Eve discovers the nature of the true dignity of woman, of feminine humanity. This discovery must continually reach the heart of every woman and shape her vocation and her life.

Share this in your social media

The Book of Genesis attests to the fact that sin is the evil at man’s “beginning” and that since then its consequences weigh upon the whole human race. At the same time it contains the first foretelling of victory over evil, over sin. This is proved by the words which we read in Genesis 3:15, usually called the “Proto-evangelium”: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed; she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.” […]

These words give us a comprehensive view of the whole of Revelation, first as a preparation for the Gospel and later as the Gospel itself. From this vantage point the two female figures, Eve and Mary, are joined under the name of woman. […]

Mary, the new Eve

As a rule, from this comparison there emerges at first sight a difference, a contrast. Eve, as “the mother of all the living” (Gn 3: 20), is the witness to the biblical “beginning”, which contains the truth about the creation of man, made in the image and likeness of God, and the truth about original sin.

Mary is the witness to the new “beginning” and the “new creation” (cf. 2 Cor 5:17), since She herself, as the first of the redeemed in salvation history, is “a new creation”: She is “full of grace”. […]

The comparison Eve-Mary can be understood also in the sense that Mary assumes in herself and embraces the mystery of the “woman” whose beginning is Eve, “the mother of all the living” (Gn 3:20). First of all She assumes and embraces it within the mystery of Christ, “the new and the last Adam” (cf. 1 Cor 15:45), who assumed in His own person the nature of the first Adam. […]

In the tradition of faith and of Christian reflection throughout the ages, the coupling Adam-Christ is often linked with that of Eve-Mary. If Mary is described also as the “new Eve”, what are the meanings of this analogy?

Return to the original plan of God

There are certainly many. Particularly noteworthy is the meaning which sees Mary as the full revelation of all that is included in the biblical word “woman”: a revelation commensurate with the mystery of the Redemption.

Eve is witness of the biblical “beginning”, which contains the truth about human creation in the image of God, and about original sin. Mary, the first of the redeemed, is the witness of the new “beginning” and the “new creation”
The expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise – Cathedral of Strasbourg (France)

Mary means, in a sense, a going beyond the limit spoken of in the Book of Genesis (3:16) and a return to that “beginning” in which one finds the “woman” as she was intended to be in creation, and therefore in the eternal mind of God: in the bosom of the Most Holy Trinity. […]

In Mary, Eve discovers the nature of the true dignity of woman, of feminine humanity. This discovery must continually reach the heart of every woman and shape her vocation and her life. […]

Calling of the woman to motherhood

The eternal mystery of generation, which is in God himself, the one and Triune God (cf. Eph 3:14-15), is reflected in the woman’s motherhood and in the man’s fatherhood. Human parenthood is something shared by both the man and the woman. Even if the woman, out of love for her husband, says: “I have given you a child,” her words also mean: “This is our child.” Although both of them together are parents of their child, the woman’s motherhood constitutes a special “part” in this shared parenthood, and the most demanding part.

Parenthood – even though it belongs to both – is realized much more fully in the woman, especially in the prenatal period. It is the woman who “pays” directly for this shared generation, which literally absorbs the energies of her body and soul. It is therefore necessary that the man be fully aware that in their shared parenthood he owes a special debt to the woman. No programme of “equal rights” between women and men is valid unless it takes this fact fully into account.

Decisive maternal contribution in the human personality

Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman’s womb. The mother is filled with wonder at this mystery of life, and “understands” with unique intuition what is happening inside her. In the light of the “beginning”, the mother accepts and loves as a person the child she is carrying in her womb. This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings – not only towards her own child, but every human being – which profoundly marks the woman’s personality.

The biblical exemplar of “woman” culminates in the Divine Maternity. In Mary’s maternal “fiat”, God begins a New Covenant with humanity
Our Lady of Montmartre – Church of Saint-Pierre de Montmartre

It is commonly thought that women are more capable than men of paying attention to another person, and that motherhood develops this predisposition even more. The man – even with all his sharing in parenthood – always remains “outside” the process of pregnancy and the baby’s birth; in many ways he has to learn his own “fatherhood” from the mother. One can say that this is part of the normal human dimension of parenthood, including the stages that follow the birth of the baby, especially the initial period.

The child’s upbringing, taken as a whole, should include the contribution of both parents: the maternal and paternal contribution. In any event, the mother’s contribution is decisive in laying the foundation for a new human personality. […]

The motherhood of Mary in the New Covenant

The biblical exemplar of the “woman” finds its culmination in the motherhood of the Mother of God. The words of the Proto-evangelium – “I will put enmity between thee and the woman” – find here a fresh confirmation. We see that through Mary – through her maternal “fiat, (“Let it be done to me”) – God begins a New Covenant with humanity.

This is the eternal and definitive Covenant in Christ, in His Body and Blood, in His Cross and Resurrection. Precisely because this Covenant is to be fulfilled “in flesh and blood” its beginning is in the Mother. Thanks solely to her and to her virginal and maternal “fiat”, the “Son of the Most High” can say to the Father: “A Body you have prepared for Me. Lo, I have come to do your will, O God” (cf. Heb 10:5, 7).

Motherhood has been introduced into the order of the Covenant that God made with humanity in Jesus Christ. Each and every time that motherhood is repeated in human history, it is always related to the Covenant which God established with the human race through the motherhood of the Mother of God. ◊

Excerpts from: ST. JOHN PAUL II.
Mulieris dignitatem, 15/8/1988

Subscribe to our emails!