Once upon a time, time stood still. If you don’t understand, give it time — you will.
Angels are prime rib, Grade A, choice cut. In comparison, man is not even the dry dregs of what Taco Bell calls ground beef; which is something like .002% real meat I think. Lucifer — once the top angel — was told by God that he would have to serve man, to which Lucifer said something like: “What’chu talkin’ bout, Willis?!” That’s when all hell broke loose, so to speak, and St. Michael kicked Satan to the curb.
This is to point out just how far above us (in all ways) angels are, since it makes the angel Gabriel’s salutation to the Virgin Mary all the more profound. “Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with thee.”
That’s “Hail,” as in a formal greeting, unique to addressing a superior or even royalty. Angels don’t mince words or use colloquialisms; they are pure intellect and get to the point. In the Old Testament, they might see a king getting ready to croak on the battlefield and say things like: “Quit your whining, wipe your nose, and man-up. The Boss is watching.” (I’m paraphrasing.)
“Full of grace” is no throwaway line either. Our Father in Heaven is very generous in distributing His graces, but no other creature has ever been dealt a full house. The lowest of angels is higher than the highest of humans, with one exception — the Immaculate Conception.
A common misconception is that “the Immaculate Conception” refers to Jesus’ incarnation, but it actually refers to Mother Mary’s own miraculous arrival. “Of all women God prepared Mary from her conception to be the Mother of the Incarnate Word.” She was born free from the corruption of Original Sin in order to be an appropriate home for God. God thought those nine months inside the womb were very important; so important, in fact, that the conditions had to be absolutely perfect. Fast-forward a couple thousand years and much of Western civilization completely disregards the significance of whatever goes on with that glob of expendable ectoplasm. Whatever happens in utero stays in utero.
So, out of the fullness of time, God picked that specific time and that specific place and that particular woman to be the mother of the son of the Father of Creation. And God doesn’t miscalculate. (Word on the street is He doesn’t even have an eraser on his pencil.) He permits us to make mistakes, so that He can turn them into something beautiful. He gives us breath, shows us life, and it takes our breath away. Like a virtuoso playing the electric guitar, if there’s a bad note, God bends it into something exquisite; takes a sad song and makes it better, hey Jude?
And he’s got no deadlines, because he’s outside of time. We creatures get impatient, but the right time shows up at just the right time. Don’t rush a master.
God knows when it was, but the First Adam was placed in Paradise and out of his rib God created woman — the First Eve (I want my baby back, baby back, baby back…). Let’s face it: these two kids messed up big time. They had it all until some smooth talking snake oil salesman convinced them otherwise. It’s still the same old story, a fight for love and glory. Our Creator said to our first parents that they were free to have anything in the garden with one exception: don’t eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. But Lucifer, the fallen angel, incognito as a serpent, does what devils do best and that’s tempt by deception. He told them they could be like God if they disobeyed and ate from the taboo tree. They’d have knowledge of good and evil and freedom of choice. (So to speak.)
For another perspective on the beginning of the Bible, you have to go to the end of the Bible; in John’s Revelation (12:1):
 And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars:  And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered.  And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns: and on his head seven diadems:  And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son.
The question is, is the woman in labor a prefigurement of Our Blessed Lady, or is she a symbol representing the Church? The answer is: Yes. (Catholics are not “either/or” people, they are “both/and” people.)
Now, at first blush, the book of Revelation seems like it should’ve been called the book of Hallucination, for all its mindbending, bad acid trip symbolism — it reads like Yellow Submarine for adults. Remember, no minced words; everything means something. The same John who wrote John’s Gospel also wrote Revelation, a.k.a., “John’s Apocalypse”, and we know he has a thing for dropping hints. The “Woman” is clothed with the sun (The Church is clothed with the Son). And the moon under her feet (the changeable things of the world under her feet). And on her head a crown of twelve stars (the twelve apostles). The red dragon is obviously Satan (or the serpent), and when he was cast down from heaven, one third of the angels went with him, so that’s “his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth.” Mary experienced no labor pains (one of the perks of being immaculate), however, the Church went through hell on earth while being birthed, so that explains her travailing in birth, etc.
Keep in mind that John was the one at the foot of the cross with Mary when Jesus said to her, “Woman, behold your son,” and then He looked at John and said, “Behold, your mother.” The keyword here is “Woman,” because that turns us back to Genesis ch. 3, back in the Garden of Eden where God promised redemption, and delivered a firm warning to the serpent.
 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.
Woman is the archenemy of Satan, not God. God does not have an equal or an opposite. The Devil and evil exist only because God permits their existence, in order to draw a greater good from them. The Church is Christ’s Bride. Anybody that tells you the Catholic Church is anti-woman has it exactly backwards. They are the Bride and Jesus the Bridegroom, as Scripture says again and again. Jesus performed His first miracle at a wedding, at the request of His mother; turning water into wine. (Alcoholics everywhere converted.) Blood and water, by the way. The Bible refers to wine as “the blood of the grape”.
Mary simply told Jesus that, “They have no wine,” and, at first He seemed aggravated, saying, “What would you have me do? My hour has not yet come.” Seems like a typical conversation between a Jewish mother and her boy. She says nothing more to Him on the subject, but turns to the waiters and utters her final words in the entire Bible. It’s a simple directive, and yet the most significant statement in all of the Good Book. It encapsulates the message of the whole Holy Book. “Do whatever He tells you.” His will be done. Eventually the Jewish guilt kicks in (which is later converted to Catholic guilt), and Jesus tells the waiters to fill the six stone water jars with water, and — presto chango — vino!
Continuing with the theme of typology, let us refer back to the Old Testament once again, because, “the Old Testament is the New concealed, but the New Testament is the Old revealed” – St. Augustine
King Solomon was the son of David and Bathsheba. When he inherited the throne from his father, he was known for his remarkable wisdom and fairness. In fact, he wrote the book on Wisdom — literally. The Book of Wisdom, a.k.a., The Wisdom of Solomon. If you read Wisdom, one thing is made perfectly clear: Wisdom is Woman; that is to say, she is continually referred to as a she. Luck be a Lady, and so also be Wisdom. And when one wanted a favor from King Solomon, by the way, one asked Solomon’s mom, Bathsheba, the Queen Mother. This was actually fairly common in those days; the Queen Mother having more influence than the wife of the king. Of course, the King had final authority, but Mom’s input was vital. The Fourth Commandment: Honor thy father and thy mother goes for kings too; as well as The King of Kings.
Bathsheba was a Mary type, a prefigurement of the perfected final edition. Both Mary and Joseph were from the House of David, i.e., from the Davidic bloodline. It was prophesied in the Old Testament that the Christ would come from the House of David as an all-powerful King, so the Jews were thrown a bit of a curve ball when He showed up as a humble, impoverished carpenter from the ghettos of Nazareth. Remember, prior to giving birth, Mary and Joseph had to go from Nazareth to Bethlehem in order to comply with a decree by Cesar Augustus. Then, after our Lord was born, they had to flee to Egypt, since word spread of a king-child being born, Cesar had all firstborn males killed so no king would horn in on his territory. (Hey, didn’t the same thing happen to Moses in Egypt?! Wow! It’s like déjà vu all over again.) Oh, and this gets us back to the Book of Hallucination … um, Revelation: (12:4-7):
and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son.  And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod: and her son was taken up to God, and to his throne.  And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God, that there they should feed her a thousand two hundred sixty days.
So the Great, all-powerful King of Kings, humble, impoverished carpenter from Nazareth and Bethlehem and Egypt eventually went back to the ghettos of Nazareth. “Jesus enters the world in poverty to teach the lesson of detachment from earthly things.” And, since that’s the case, then what of the Queen Mother? Could it be that she would be a modest and meek peasant girl, the humble handmaid of the Lord? Shu-betcha!
A lot of people mistakenly believe that Catholics worship the Virgin Mary the same way they’d worship God; that would be idolatry. (Adoration is reserved for the Creator, not His creations.) If you have a deceased loved one, you might talk to them as if they were still there with you. Well, that’s what Catholics do with Mary and the saints. We don’t ask Mary for things, we ask Mary to pray for us, because … here’s the thing — SHE’S THE MOTHER OF GOD! And she’s 100% purer than we are, so it’s good to have the mother of the incarnate Word to put in a good word for you. We ask Mary to ask her son to turn our water into wine.
When Gabriel presented all of this to Mary, the angel waited for her consent. Think about that: the ultimate example of God’s display of man’s Free Will; the weight of the fate of the entire human race was placed on the shoulders of this 15-year-old peasant girl saying “I do” to this miraculous marriage proposal. And she could’ve opted out. Once upon a time, time stood still, and then: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to thy word.“ And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and our wayward water world was turned into wine.
But, before I let you go, I have to tell you about the Ark of the Covenant. (The lost trunk Indiana Jones was looking for.) Hello, it wasn’t a trunk, it was the dwelling place of God Himself in the Old Testament. Moses was told to have an ark built out of the finest acacia wood covered with gold inside and out and then to place three holy items within it: a golden jar of manna (the bread from heaven), Arron’s rod (from the priestly house of Levi), and the stone tablets on which the Law was written. Amen, amen, I say to you, God commanded that a Perfect container be made to hold within it His Word (inscribed on the tablets); The Bread Of Life (the manna); and the Priest of the New Covenant (Arron’s rod).
Now think: is there any other carrying case you know of which housed these holy items? C’mon, a container that says things like: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit finds joy in God my Savior”?
Mother Mary was the Perfect earthly vessel to carry The Word, The Bread of Life, and The Priest of the New Covenant. No impurity could touch the ark, just as no impurity ever touched the Blessed Virgin, who was completely without sin. In the Old Testament, somebody named Uzzah touched the ark and immediately dropped dead. That’s when King David threw a hissy fit, because he was terrified and said, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” and then he abandoned it in hills of Judea for three months. But when he found himself in the presence of the ark once again, he danced and leapt for joy.
Now leap ahead to the New Testament and to Mary’s Visitation of her cousin Elizabeth, who was six months pregnant with John the Baptist. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, John was sanctified and leapt in his mother’s womb, inspiring her to proclaim, “Blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb!” Amen, amen, I say to you, the presence of the Lord caused the baby to dance and leap for joy. David abandoned the ark for three months; but Mary stayed with Elizabeth until she gave birth three months later.
I don’t know how God feels about Simon and Garfunkel’s album “Bookends”, but He sure does seem to like the concept. Our story begins in the Garden of Eden; it begins its fulfillment in the Garden of Gethsemane. The First Adam falls because he ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which was given to him by the First Eve, who was deceived by the serpent. The New Adam is the Redemption, because He Is the fruit of the Tree of Life (The Word on the Wood of the Cross), who was birthed by the New Eve, who crushes the head of the serpent when her beloved son conquered death. And the man-made crown of thorns became a real crown. Hell hath no fury like The Woman scorned. Especially when she’s The Mother of Perfection.