I took this picture of the statue of the Immaculate Conception crushing Satan underfoot (just visible from this angle) — which is on top of a high pillar in Piazza di Spagna in Rome — when I went the rest of the chaplains of Lourdes to greet the Holy Father in thanksgiving for His visit to Lourdes. That was late in 2008.
I did a pretty exhaustive study of the old papyri and scrolls and codexes which include Genesis 3,15, including mentions of the Fathers of the Church and other sources. The gist of the conclusions — to be amply provided in the popular version of the thesis should I ever get to that, please God — is as follows:
The Hebrew text indisputably presents a masculine pronoun for the one crushing Satan’s head, with this masculine pronoun refering to the Son of the Immaculate Conception, her “seed”, He, this “seed”, being the head of the collective person to which this “seed” refers (which Saint Paul calls the Body of Christ, which Pius XII calls the Mystical Body of Christ). The Mother of the Redeemer, you have to understand, is not, as Saint Bernard points out, the mother of a monster, of the head only, but is the mother of the members of the body as well, all of us.
Some of the Fathers of the Church, and then some late manuscripts, inserted a feminine pronoun, so that it is the Woman of Genesis 3,15 herself who crushes Satan on his head. This made it into many of the Vulgate manuscripts.
Some make the insistence on the feminine pronoun a litmus test of orthodoxy in the Catholic faith. Reactionary, knee-jerk defenses of our Lady are just an insult to her and to her Spouse, the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Sacred Scriptures. Let’s follow the text, shall we? And see where it goes? The text, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is always going to give us something more than we expect. As it should be.
And if we do that, are we insulting the Fathers of the Church? Catholic tradition? Catholic art? Catholic everything? Um… no. We should give the Fathers a bit more credit than that, shouldn’t we? To write in a feminine pronoun when it is clearly masculine is no mistake, nor are they denying the effect of the masuline pronoun. They are cleverly showing the masculine pronoun’s result in a shorthand way. More on this in a future (hopefully soon) post for inquiring souls! I’m terribly suffering because of WordPerfect’s non-use of the fonts used by WordPress.
At any rate, the idea of the Hebrew text, which the Fathers of the Church tried to put across with their change of the pronoun in their translations, is this: The Mother of the Redeemer (the Redeemer who crushes Satan), is herself part of the Mystical Body of that Redeemer, of Christ. When He makes His move to take the initiative to crush Satan on the head, destroying Satan’s power over us, He takes us with Him into this battle, for we are members of His Body. When this Redeemer lays down His life, getting crushed on the heel as He crushes Satan, He lays down our lives before our heavenly Father as well. Her life is also laid down. Her heart is described as being pierced through with sorrow. Because she is free from Adam’s sin, unlike us, she is pure and agile of spirit, able to see what we need when she looks upon her Son upon the cross, getting crushed by Satan even as He crushes Satan. She sees all our sin from the first man to the last wrecked upon her Son. She knows what we need more than all of us put together could even begin to know what we need. She sees that we need the forgiveness and grace of her Son. She intercedes for this. She is mediatrix of all graces. She is the perfect human counterpart to the redemption wrought by Christ. So appropriate is it in justice that a mere human being interceded for these graces for us — perfectly — that she can be called the co-redemptrix.
But I’ll get to this later, please God, with much discussion of the text. The point here is that our Blessed Mother was destined by our Lord from the beginning to be the one who, more than any human being, would, with our Lord Jesus, her Son, crush Satan on the head, destroying his power over us. When our Lady, when the Immaculate Conception is invoked in an exorcism, this gives great honor and glory to God, who rejoices that His Mother is so powerful, by His grace, over Satan. And that is why invoking the Immaculate Conception, with the joy of a son invoking the protection of his mother, is so powerful before the Lord Jesus. Her role in exorcism is not ever to be underestimated. Pointing to the Immaculate Conception during exorcisms with insistence is a great aspect of Father Amorth’s ministry. That needs to be said. Anyway…
In Genesis 3,15 she is singled out: “I will put enmity between you [the Serpent] and The Woman…” We do well to single her out during exorcisms. This is to the greater honor and glory of God, of the Head of the Mystical Body, that “seed” of the Woman. Thanks, blessed Mother!