Mary and Rachel: Biblical Women in Travail

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For the Mass Readings on the 4th Sunday of Advent (Year C), Dr. Pitre comments on the readings that give us the account of Mary’s Visitation to Elizabeth and the prophet Micah’s prophesy of Micah 5 about the Birth of the Messiah.

In this video, which is a segment of the abovementioned video, Dr. Pitre discusses the parallels between the Old Testament figure of Rachel in the Book of Genesis, as implicitly referenced by Micah 5, and Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Notable quote from this week’s video from the 4th Sunday of Advent (Year C):

“…[S]ometimes our non-Catholic brothers and sisters, non-Catholic Christians, will say, you know, why do you Catholics give so much honor to Mary? Don’t you think it’s just too much? Is just too much emphasis. You’re taking away from Jesus by honoring her. Not according to the Bible.

I mean notice here, who is it that inspires Elizabeth to utter these words of honor over Mary? It’s the Holy Spirit. So apparently the Holy Spirit didn’t have a problem with Elizabeth blessing Mary. Same thing, it’s the Holy Spirit who inspires the author of Luke’s gospel, Luke, to tell us that Elizabeth was humbled in the presence of Mary. None of this takes away from Christ, it’s Christ himself who makes Mary mother of the Messiah, that makes Mary mother of God. And so Elizabeth doesn’t honor either Christ or Mary, she honors Mary because of Christ. It’s a both and, not an either or.”

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obviously the prophecy is focused on geography talked about this before and geography matters where is Bethlehem well Bethlehem is in the south it's in the southern territory the southern part of the Holy Land which was referred to as Judah right so this particular town Bethlehem was famous not for its size it was a small place but for its associations with King David so Bethlehem was the earth place of David it was the place of his family in First Samuel chapter 17 it tells you that David lived in Bethlehem along with his father Jesse and the sons of Jesse there so in a prophetic context when Myka brings up the city of Bethlehem as soon as you say Bethlehem our first entry Jew would think David the City of David the king of David alright second though you'll notice there's a little little second name added here a little appendix so to speak it doesn't just say but you O Bethlehem it says but you O Bethlehem Ephrathah right now why does it add a frother well I'm not exactly sure but I can't help but notice the fact that Ephrathah has mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament as a town that's close to Bethlehem that's linked with Bethlehem but which is first mentioned in the Bible with reference to a woman in the Old Testament the mother of Israel whose name was Rachel so you might remember in the Old Testament Jacob is the father of Israel Jacob was the brother of Esau is the son of Isaac and his name is changed by God to Israel and he becomes the father of the 12 sons who are the 12 tribes of Israel so you could say in a very literal sense that Israel Jacob is the father of Israel the people right um he's the patriarch well he was also married to a woman named Rachel and Rachel likewise was the mother of Israel she was the matriarch so to speak of the 12 tribes of Israel and what's interesting is if you go back to the book of Genesis chapter 35 we have a story of Rachel's death and burial and guess where this mother of Israel dies and is buried she's buried at Bethlehem Ephrathah so let's look at the passage for just a minute this isn't the Old Testament reading for today I'm just throwing this in as a little a little Advent gift to you so this is a little extra christmas gift a little von Jaap here but i think it's interesting because in Genesis 35 we see the mention of a froth which is linked into Ephrathah in the prophecy of Micah so the Michael wants you to think back to this text were about to read so Genesis 35 16 says this this is the story of the death of Rachel the mother of Israel it says then they journey from Bethel and when they were still some distance from ephra Rachel travailed and she had hard labor and when she was in her hard labor the midwife said to her fear not for you will have another son and as her soul was departing for she died she called his name Ben Oni but his father Jacob called his name Ben Yaman or Benjamin so Rachel died and she was buried on the way to F Roth that is Bethlehem and Jacob set up a pillar upon her grave it is the pillar of Rachel's Tomb which is there to this day they might be thinking okay dr. Peter what does that have to do with Micah 5 or any of that well two things first just notice that Bethlehem Ephrathah echos the story of the place where Rachel was buried and sure enough to this day not just to the day that Genesis is written but to the present day you can go to Rachel's tomb near Bethlehem and people do go to Rachel's Tomb there Jewish people go there to honor Rachel as the mother of Israel and there is a practice among some Jews even of asking for Rachel's inter session to pray for the Jewish people and the reason they do this is because the book of the Prophet Jeremiah chapter 30 and 31 says that Rachel is weeping for her children because they were no more now Jeremiah is writing hundreds of years after Rachel had died and yet he describes her as alive and mourning with her children praying for her children so to speak interceding for them so the Jewish tradition developed that Rachel wasn't just the mother Israel that she was also a kind of great intercessor on behalf of Israel and that somehow through dying in childbirth right she kind of embraced that suffering and became the suffering mother of Israel so if you go back to the first reading for today notice what Micah says there he's describing the coming of the Messiah and look what he does he links the prophecy of the Messiah to this image of a woman who is in travail go back so the prophecy says from you Bethlehem Ephrathah shall come forth from me one who is ruler of Israel whose origin is from old from ancient days he shall give them up until the time when she who was in travail has brought forth well who was this woman who was in travail in the Old Testament near Bethlehem Ephrathah it was Rachel the mother of Israel who through her suffering brings a child into the world Benjamin the last of the twelve tribes and so I just bring this up because um rachel is a is a link an Old Testament link to Mary as mother of the Messiah and all the time to do this in this video but in a book in my book Jesus and the Jewish roots of Mary I have a whole chapter I'm really excited about this particular part of the book showing how the New Testament depicts Mary as the new Rachel as the new mother of the church the mother of Israel and in particular as the mother of Sorrows just as Rachel was sorrowful and and suffered for and with her children in the Old Testament so now Mary as the new Rachel suffers and since mourns for the sorrows of her children but also intercedes for them and prays for them as a Colonel intercessor with her people in fact the Jews had a tradition that when Abraham and Jacob like some of the other patriarchs Abraham or Moses when they would pray and ask God to bless the people Israel on one occasion God wouldn't listen to their prayers but when Rachel interceded for the people of Israel God heard her prayers because of the sorrow and the suffering she didn't dirt as the mother of Israel so all that to say mica here is describing this future time when the mother of Messiah who's kind of like a new Rachel is going to give birth to the Messiah in Bethlehem which is by the way where Rachel was buried so these all connected images to Rachel there and that through her a ruler is going to come forth in Israel whose origin is from ancient days and the Hebrew here is literally from the days of olam the days of the age or you can translate that from the days of eternity so all the church fathers saw in that a kind of shadow or clue that this future king is gonna be born in Bethlehem near where Rachel's Tomb was was that this future king wouldn't just be an earthly king that he would be a divine Messiah right because his origin was from eternity a pre-existent messiah who was not created when he came into the world but rather existed with the Lord and then it assumes a human nature in the Incarnation and comes to us as man in this little city of Bethlehem the town of David the town near where Rachel the mother of Israel was buried by Rachel's Tomb