RCIA – Catholics and Mary (continued) Catholics and the Communion of Saints

Statue of Mary with Snake Underfoot

Do a web search for an image of Mary standing on a snake.

There are statues, and art work, showing Mary with a snake underfoot.

The inspiration for this image comes from the scripture Genesis 3: 15, when God punishes the serpent for deceiving Eve.

In many bibles this is translated as “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head and you will strike his heel.” NRSV

The he being Jesus, the offspring promised to the woman, who would crush the serpent’s head, by his victory on the cross.

 

I then found on many Catholic websites this verse quoted as

shewill crush the serpents head, which is achieved through her offspring Jesus.

The Douay-Rheims bible translating the Latin Bible, the Vulgate, of St Jerome, gives this verse as;  I will put enmities 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.”

 So, which is right?

 

Having a look at Bible Hub gives the Hebrew for the word he or she, given in the translation, transliteration hu, with the Strong’s number 1931.  In Strong’s Concordance and Lexicon this word is translated as he, she or it.

http://biblehub.com/text/genesis/3-15.htm

So, they are both right.

To bring things up to date the Jerusalem Bible translates the verse as; “I will make you enemies of each other: you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. It will crush your head and you will strike its heel.”

 A footnote is also given with this explanation;

The Hebrew text, by proclaiming that the offspring of the serpent is henceforth at enmity with the woman’s descendants, opposes the human race to the devil and his ‘seed’, his posterity, and hints at ultimate victory: it is the first glimmer of salvation, the proto-evangelium.  The Greek version (Septuagint) has a masculine pronoun (‘he’ not ‘it’ will crush…), thus ascribing the victory not to the woman’s descendants in general but to one of her sons in particular: the words of the Greek version therefore express the messianic interpretation held by many of the Fathers.  The Latin version has a feminine pronoun (‘she’ will crush…) and since, in the messianic interpretation of our text, the Messiah and his Mother appear together, the pronoun has been taken to refer to Mary; this application has become current in the Church.

It then, would mean both, he and she, 

How can this be?

Remember that it is Mary’s ‘Yes’, in Luke 1: 38; “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me”, that makes this possible.

Alongside her Son, Jesus, Mary has crushed the serpents head.

Added to this, Jesus was promised to Adam and Eve and this allows me to make a bold claim that there is no religion older than Christianity.

That’s one guaranteed to get a discussion going.

It also explains why Jesus often calls his mother “woman” as this is the honorary title given in Genesis 3:15 where is says the  offspring of the woman, not the man (hinting at the virgin birth), will crush the serpent’s head.

Such little things often contain great truths.

The Church then sees Mary as having a redemptive role with her son, Jesus.  She is called co-redeemer meaning with or alongside, but not equal to, Jesus.  This is also contained in Genesis 3:15 as the pronoun used can be translated as he or she.

 

Holy Days and Feast Days
September 8: The Virgin Mary’s Nativity – Feast
December 8: Immaculate Conception – Holy Day
January 1: Holy Mary Mother of God – Holy Day
February 2: The Presentation of Our Lord – Feast
March 25: The Annunciation – Holy Day
March 31: The Visitation of the Virgin Mary – Feast
July 26: St Anna (Canada) – Feast
August 15: Assumption – Holy Day

 

The Communion of Saints

From the Apostles Creed;

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.

 

Have a look at page 51 in the book, “How to Survive being Married to a Catholic” under the section “Why pray to the saints?”  Here’s what it says;

A Christian without a community is a contradiction in terms.  Christians are essentially a family of believers.  They become members of that family when they are baptised – and that is the original meaning of the word “saint”.  It simply meant “baptised”.  As time went on the word “saint” came to refer to those Christians who led lives of outstanding holiness and who were remembered and honoured after their deaths.

When Catholics talk about “the communion of saints” they are using the word “saint” in its original meaning.  They mean all the baptised – those who are alive now and those who have departed from this world and now live on with Christ.

Death does not destroy our union with Christians who have gone before us.  We remain members of one family because we all share the life of Christ.  That is why Catholics feel able to ask the saints in heaven to pray for them.

 

Catechism of the Catholic Church

ccc962 – “We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always attentive to our prayers”  (Paul VI, CPG – Credo of the People of God).

 

As baptised believers then, we are all saints with a small ‘s’.

How do some become Saints with a big ‘S’?

 

In the Catholic church if a particular individual was felt to have lived a particularly exemplary life, then some time after their death there may a move to have them declared a saint.  A local movement then may ask their priest to present this cause to the bishop and a number of steps follow;

 

  1. As soon as the cause is opened for consideration, the person is called a Servant of God.
  2. After the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints determines that they did indeed live a life of heroic virtue, they’re called Heroic virtue doesn’t mean that they were perfect or sinless, but that they worked aggressively to improve themselves spiritually and that they never gave up trying to be better and grow in holiness.
  3. After the Church establishes one miracle, their cause is presented to the pope to see whether he deems them worthy of being called This step is called beatification and is the next to last step.
  4. Another miracle and their cause is presented to the pope again for his judgment. If he determines that the evidence is clear and that contrary reports aren’t credible, he may initiate the canonization procedure.  If all goes well, they’ll probably be recognised as a Saint.

(from the book “Catholicism for Dummies)

 

Why does the Church do this?

ccc828 – By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hopes of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors.  “The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church’s history.”   Indeed, “holiness is the hidden source and infallible measure of her apostolic activity and missionary zeal.”

 

The Saints are examples for us and an encouragement to us.

 

Their failings are often as instructive as their successes.

Saint Peter, who denied Christ three times, was often impulsive and put his foot in it, but went on to be the first pope and was martyred in Rome.

Saint Thomas who doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead, but became a saint.

James and John fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane, even though Jesus asked them to stay awake and pray with him, went on to become saints.

St Augustine (345-430AD) is his youth had enjoyed wine, women and song.  For 20 long years his saintly mother, St Monica, prayed for him, until one day, he and his son Adeodatus embraced the Christian faith, repented of their sins, got baptised, and entered the religious life.  He later became a bishop and finally a saint and doctor of the Church.

(also from Catholicism for Dummies)

 

Then there are personal favourites;

Some of mine are; St Joseph, St Peregrine, St Jude, St Francis of Assisi, St John of the Cross, St Maximillian Kolbe and Edith Stein.

Saint Maximillian Kolbe was a polish monk and priest who was sent to Auschwitz.  He swapped places with a man who was condemned to die with nine others as an example to deter escape attempts.  The ten were starved to death and Maximilian was finished off with a lethal injection.

Edith Stein – St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, was a German Jew who converted to Catholicism and became a nun.  She was arrested by the Nazis because of her Jewish background and refused a chance to escape, preferring to die with the other prisoners.

St Peregrine 1265-1345AD – a lay brother of the Order of Friar Servants of St Mary, he would have spent his days in prayer and manual labour and visiting the sick.  He suffered from varicose veins and one of his legs became ulcerated and then cancerous.  He was miraculously healed after leaving his sick bed to pray in front of the crucifix.  He fell asleep and dreamed of Jesus coming down from the cross.  He awoke and returned to his bed.  When the doctor came to see him the next morning he had been healed.  He continued to work among the sick and dying.  On his death there is a tradition that three people were healed after paying their respects at his coffin.  He was beatified in 1609 and canonised in 1726.  He is known as the Patron Saint of People with Cancer.

 

Prayer

O God, in St Peregrine you gave us an outstanding example of faith and patience.  We humbly ask you that, by imitating him and by the help of his prayers, we will believe more fully in your healing help, bear the sufferings of this life without wavering, and come with joy to the peace of heaven.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

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