The first insight regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given by the Church Fathers was the vision of Mary as the New Eve. The earliest patristic texts regarding the Eve-Mary parallel begin in the later half of the Second Century. St. Justin, the Martyr, (+165) in his work, Dialogue with Trypho, states that, "Christ became a man by a virgin to overcome the disobedience caused by the serpent ...in the same way it had originated."
The name Eve is taken from the Hebrew word, HAWAH, a verb which means "to live." "The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living."(Gen. 3:20) Eve, the first woman, was a virgin at the time that she was tempted by the serpent in the garden. Thus, Eve, a virgin, conceived disobedience and death, whereas, Mary, a virgin, conceived the Word in obedience and brought forth Life.
St. Ireneus, Bishop of Lyons, (+202) is considered the first theologian of the Virgin Mary. He took up St. Justin's Mary-Eve theme and further integrated it into his theology. Therein, Mary is treated as the New or Second Eve who is the beginning of the second Creation or re-creation of humanity through the Redemption.
He wrote, "The knot of Eve's disobedience was loosened by Mary's obedience. The bonds fastened by the virgin Eve through disbelief were untied by the virgin Mary through faith." (Adv. haereses,3:22)
Jesus Christ is the New Adam, the Lord of the New Creation ( I Cor. 15:45-49 ) and Mary the New Eve who undid what the first Eve had done. The first Eve disobeyed God and thereby brought sin and death into the world. The New Eve, Mary, obeyed and believed God's message which was given to her at the Annunciation ( Lk .1 :26-38 ), and brought salvation and life to the world in her son, Jesus, who crushes the head of the serpent. Mary, like us, shares in this victory .
Tertullian ( +220 ), another Church Father, used the Eve-Mary parallel as a secondary argument in favor of the virginal conception of Jesus Christ and emphasizes the act of faith involved. Building on the insights of Justin, Ireneus and Tertullian, the theme of the Eve-Mary parallel was expanded upon after the Council of Nicaea in the year 325.
St. Ambrose of Milan ( +397 ) writes, "It was through a man and woman that flesh was cast from paradise; it was through a virgin that flesh was linked to God." St. Jerome ( +420 ) succinctly stated, "Death through Eve, Life through Mary." (Epist. 22,2 I ). St. Peter Chrysologus ( +450 ) picked up on this theme in his writings, "Christ was born of a woman so that just as death came through a woman, so through Mary, life might return."
In our own century. Pope Pius XII is responsible for the principle papal contributions on this theme. In the Encyclical, Ad Caeli Reginam. dated Oct. 11, 1954, he wrote: "Mary, in the work of Redemption was by God's will, joined with Jesus Christ, the cause of salvation, in much the same way as Eve was joined with Adam. the cause of death."
The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council recall the Eve-Mary parallel in the document on the Church. Lumen Gentium, Chapter 8, the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They quote from the Church Fathers, Sts. Ireneus, Jerome, and Epiphanius : "What the virgin Eve bound by her unbelief, Mary loosened by her faith. "( L.G. 56 ) In the same document, the Eve-Mary parallel is treated in relation to the Church: "For believing and obeying, Mary brought forth on earth the Father's Son. This she did, knowing not man but overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, as the New Eve. who put absolute trust. not in the ancient serpent, but in the messenger of God.( L.G. 63) We, the faithful of the Church are called to follow Mary's example of trusting faith and fidelity to the Holy Will of God."
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