Esther & Mary

The Church Fathers give Mary the title, “The Second Eve” based on a continued interpretation of Romans 5:11-21.  Paul compares Jesus to Adam in this passage. V. 15- “For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.” As Adam’s actions & sin brought death, Jesus’ actions & perfection bring life. A few steps further- Eve’s disobedience to the command not to eat the fruit birthed death while Mary’s obedience to God’s will- mothering Jesus Christ brings life. As St. Jerome wrote in Epistle 22- “death by Eve, life by Mary”. Eve was visited by the serpent & agreed to sin while Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel & agreed to the sacred task of carrying a different kind of fruit- Jesus Christ.

 

From a 9th century prayer, Ave Maris Stella (Hail, Star of the Sea):

“Taking that sweet Ave,

which from Gabriel came,

peace confirm within us,

changing Eva’s name.”

 

Could Mary also be a second Esther figure? Purim was celebrated last week, so Esther has been on my mind. I see some Esther-Mary connections:

 

Favored by the King

“Esther was taken to King Xerxes at the royal palace in early winter of the seventh year of his reign.  And the king loved Esther more than any of the other young women. He was so delighted with her that he set the royal crown on her head and declared her queen instead of Vashti.” [Esther 2:16-17] Esther followed the instructions of Hegai, the eunuch, who helped prepare her & knew what pleased the king.

 

“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus… For nothing is impossible with God.” Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.” [Luke 1:30-31;37-38] Mary followed the instructions of Gabriel, who helped prepare her for her important task.

 

Both Esther & Mary received their respective challenges with courage & grace, stepping out in faith.

 

Self-sacrifice for A Cause Bigger Than Self

“All the king’s officials and even the people in the provinces know that anyone who appears before the king in his inner court without being invited is doomed to die unless the king holds out his gold scepter. And the king has not called for me to come to him for thirty days…

If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this? On the third day of the fast, Esther put on her royal robes and entered the inner court of the palace, just across from the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne, facing the entrance.  When he saw Queen Esther standing there in the inner court, he welcomed her and held out the gold scepter to her. So Esther approached and touched the end of the scepter. Then the king asked her, ‘What do you want, Queen Esther? What is your request? I will give it to you, even if it is half the kingdom!’” [Esther 4:11;14-5:3]

 

The Jewish people were at risk. Esther was in a position of influence. Esther eventually put aside concern for her own well-being & status. Esther is a hero as a result of what appears to be God-ordained circumstances, & her willingness to step forward.

 

“This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. ‘Joseph, son of David,’ the angel said, ‘do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit’.” [Matthew 1:18-20]

 

Mary risked shame & unknown specifics of the future as a result of accepting this most unusual task of pregnancy & motherhood. Mary accepted. Mary & Joseph moved forward in obedience & acceptance.

 

While it is unwise to suffer under unmitigated communion- service to others at the expense & destruction of yourself- or with a self-righteous martyr complex, perhaps deeper consideration of what causes do I live for would be helpful? What would I be willing to die for? Lose social standing for? Be rejected for? Face unknowns for?

 

Esther & Mary were ordinary women put into the right place at the right time who accepted the challenging requests- Esther speaking up for the Jews & Mary receiving the task of mothering Jesus Christ. Perhaps you are an ordinary woman [or ordinary man like Joseph & Mordecai!] who will have an opportunity for something amazing! Are you willing? How have you, how do you, & how will you respond when a difficult task requiring courage & faith is asked of you?

 

“Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. [Luke 1:46-49]

 

A song from Esther Veggie Tales: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Bihr7vPgS4

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