The birth of Jesus was prophesied in many and varied places in the Old Testament. The birth of John the Baptist was also prophesied (Malachi 4:5-6; Matt. 11:14). But Mary, the Mother of Jesus our Lord, had her birth and existence prophesied as well. On this her birthday let’s take a look at some of those texts with some commentary from me.
We begin right at the beginning in the Book of Genesis. Original Sin had just been committed by Adam and Eve. Eve said the serpent deceived her. God put Satan under a curse and then pointed forward to a new Eve who would say, “yes” where Eve had said, “no.” God warned Satan:
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Gen. 3:15)
God therefore points to Mary and to the unique quality of her motherhood. She alone brought forth our Savior who, by his divine power and human obedience crushed the head of Satan. And, since women are not said to have seed, this unusual phrase attributed to Mary, points to her as being the sole source of Christ’s humanity (by God’s power) and that the Heavenly Father was Jesus’ true Father.
A second prophecy of Mary comes in Isaiah. King Ahaz is resisting Isaiah’s message not to fear Aram and Ephraim who are poised to invade Judah. When King Ahaz is told to ask for a sign he refused. Isaiah impatiently replies thus:
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
Many modern Scripture scholars dismiss this as a reference to Mary, arguing it could not be a sign for Ahaz who died hundreds of years before its fulfillment. They also argue that “virgin” could just mean “maiden” (or young wife) and not refer to a true virgin conceiving. But apparently the Holy Spirit and St. Matthew never got the memo since they apply this Prophecy to Mary. (cf Matt, 1:23)
Isaiah also points to Mary in the following text. And while contextually he speaks of Jerusalem allegorically as a Mother giving birth, the details were only fulfilled by Mary.
This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. What kind of house will you build for Me? Or where will My place of repose be? Has not My hand made all these things?And so they came into being,” declares the LORD. “This is the one I will esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at My word….Hear the uproar from the city; listen to the voice from the temple! “Before she was in labor, she gave birth; before she was in pain, she delivered a boy. Who has heard of such as this? Who has seen such things? (Is 66:1-2; 6-8)
This text is why many of the Church Fathers teach that Mary brought forth Jesus miraculously and without the pain of childbirth. Although the people of Isaiah’s time did not see or hear of such things, those of Jesus’ time have heard and seen it fulfilled.
The Prophet Micah also points to Mary in the following text:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come forth for Me One to be ruler over Israel—One whose origins are of old, from the days of eternity. Therefore Israel will be abandoned until she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of His brothers will return to the children of Israel. (Micah 5:2-3)
Yes, salvation would wait until Mary was born, said “yes” in the place of Eve’s “no” and, by God’s power, brought forth Jesus our eternal savior and ruler.
The following text is from he Book of Revelation. And, since it was written after the birth and life of Christ on this earth it is not, strictly speaking, a prophecy. However, it is in the form of a meta-history. As such, it poetically and sweepingly writes of the great conflicts between good and evil, God and Satan that raged before Christ and, to a lesser degree after. I have here rearranged the text a bit to unite the heavenly war verses:
And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and crying out in the pain and agony of giving birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: a huge red dragon with seven heads, ten horns, and seven royal crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars from the sky, tossing them to the earth….Then a war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But the dragon was not strong enough, and no longer was any place found in heaven for him and his angels. And the great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
We see here a kind of heavenly prophecy of Mary in the sign of the Woman clothed with the sun who was pregnant and giving birth. Ancient traditions hold that when God revealed his plans to save humanity by joining them, Lucifer, a high ranking angel balked at the plan and pridefully resisted it. Angels were far more worthy of God’s gifts than the mud doll humans. Lucifer thus led a rebellion and there was war in heaven.
And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, ready to devour her child as soon as she gave birth. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was caught up to God and to His throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where God had prepared a place for her to be nourished for 1,260 days.
There are many layers here. Historically, the woman can only be Mary since the Son she gives birth to can only be Christ. Allegorically the woman can also represent Israel and the Church. Though Satan sought Christ and searched for him all his earthly life, after an apparent victory at the Cross, the text tells us that Jesus was caught up to heaven where he is enthroned. The woman fleeing into the wilderness may remind us of the flight into Egypt but the 1260 days (three and a half months) is more likely a reference to yet another layer of this text, wherein Mary images the early Church. In 70 AD the early Church in Jerusalem fled to desert to the city of Pella as the Romans laid siege tot he City for three and a half months.
The wrenching depiction of Revelation 12 ends with an ominous note:
And the dragon was enraged at the woman, and went to make war on the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea.
Here too, we can note that the woman is both Mary and the Church. Mary as Mother of Christ is also our Mother since we are members of the Body of Christ. And, if Mary gave birth to the Head of the Church (Christ) she also gave birth to the Body of Christ and all its members. The Church too is mother to us since she is the Bride of Christ as we are born from the chaste union of Christ and his Bride, the Church. And here we see a prophecy that we who are the children of Mary and the Church will suffer persecution in this “paradise lost.” We therefore must cling to our Mother the Church and to Mary. We must also cling to the Lord and his sacraments for we have an enemy, Satan, and he stands on the shore of the sea (the sea was a symbol for chaos) looking for opportunities.
May our Lady hide us in her mantle and may our Lord and his Angels bestow on us every good grace.
May our Blessed Lady be highly venerated on this, her birthday.