I was at a Catechetical training seminar in my parish and the presenter on topic of the creed when touching on the Blessed Virgin Mary said that lots and lots of characters prefigure Mary in the old testament. The same way that lots and lots of characters prefigure Our Lord.

What the criteria for 'prefigurement' is when it comes to Mary? Clearly no one was all that great in the OT and still show us some aspect of Jesus.

Also, do only women prefigure Mary?

  • Are you asking who/what prefigures Mary, or how to tell if a character prefigures Mary? The answers seem to be addressing the former question, but before I start down-voting the answers, I want some clarification on the question. – Flimzy Sep 1 '11 at 17:03
  • @flimzy Yeah, Warrens answer gives some examples, no need to downvote it. I am asking 'how to tell' though. Who/what would be a bad question since it asks for a list (albeit a finite one). – Peter Turner Sep 1 '11 at 17:10

Not only women prefigure Mary. One of the recurring analogies to Mary in Orthodox hymnody and theology is as the burning bush. As the burning bush was aflame with the light of God, yet not consumed, so also was the Theotokos filled with God, yet (a) not burst asunder, and (b) not only that, but her virginity remained even in giving birth to God. Another example, and a very good one too: the Ark of the Covenant. As the Ark carried the old covenant, so Mary carried within her womb the new covenant. Tradition carries this analogy so far as to give us the story that, upon arriving at the temple to stay (as the consecrated firstborn of Joachim and Anna), the high priest assigned her the Holy of Holies for living quarters (at that point, the Ark was lost).

One would presume that the closer one is to Mary, the more often the Holy Spirit will inspire us to see her prefigured in the Old Testament, just as the closer one is to Christ, the more illumined with His Light the Old Testament will shine for us. Does that answer your question? You will see Mary in the Old Testament if the Spirit leads you to find her there, just as Christ makes Himself known therefrom as well.

  • Yes, that was a wonderful answer! – Peter Turner Sep 1 '11 at 16:46
  • Since, being of a more protestant persuasion, I cannot agree with the "Mary remained a virgin even after birth", I can't accept that example. But the second, the Ark... that is really something! I like it, lots (even, as said, as more of a protestant). – Jürgen A. Erhard Sep 1 '11 at 18:18

A few figures come to my mind immediately:

  • Eve - "mother of all living" (Genesis 3:20)
  • Sarah - chosen to bear Abraham's special son
  • Esther - put in a position to strategically influence the king regarding her people
  • Elizabeth - Mary's cousin and mother of John the Baptist

Of course, no other figure ever had the Holy Spirit overshadow her and conceive the perfect God-man, Christ. However, the parallels between Sarah's and Esther's willingness to do what was called of them (and the miraculous nature of Sarah's old, barren womb being reopened) mimics Mary in some extents.

The similarities between Mary and Elizabeth are more striking - while Elizabeth was obviously not a virgin, there was still a vision of an angel announcing their future offspring (the vision regarding Elizabeth came to her husband - Luke 1).

I can't say for sure if "only women prefigure Mary" - but cannot think of any men who do.

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