Listen to this beautiful text from the prophet Zephaniah 3:14-18:
Sing, Daughter Zion; shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.
On that day they will say to Jerusalem,
“Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp.
The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”
“I will remove from you all who mourn over the loss of your appointed festivals, which is a burden and reproach for you.
The reading from the Prophet Zephaniah speaks of the Daughter of Zion, the personification of the city of Jerusalem. Let us reflect on the significance of this title of the holy city of Jerusalem and see how and why the Church appropriated the title for Mary, Mother of the Lord.
Daughter of Zion is the personification of the city of Jerusalem. Zion was the name of the Jebusite citadel that later became the City of David. In the many texts of the Old Testament that speak of the Daughter of Zion, there is no real distinction to be made between a daughter of Zion and the city of Jerusalem itself.
In the Old Testament, the title Virgin of Israel is the same as the Daughter of Zion. The image of the bride of the Lord is found in Hosea, Chapters 1-3: It reflects the infidelity of the people to their God.
Jeremiah 3:3-4 speaks of prostitution and the infidelity of the bride. Virginity in the Old Testament is fidelity to the Covenant. In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul speaks of the Church as a pure virgin. Here, virginity is the purity of faith.
Throughout the Old Testament, it is in Zion-Jerusalem that God shall gather together all of his people. In Isaiah 35:10, the tribes of Israel shall gather in Zion. In Ezekiel 22:17-22, the prophet describes God's purification of his people that shall take place "within" the walls of the city, in the midst of Jerusalem.
The Second Vatican Council formally called Mary "Daughter of Zion" in the dogmatic constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium
(No. 52). The Church's appropriation of this title for the Mother of the Lord has a rich Scriptural foundation. The title “Daughter of Zion” evokes the great biblical symbolism of the Messianic Zion. Mary illustrates the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures which ascribed value to the eschatological role of woman as mother both of the Messiah and of the new people of God: the individual person and the whole people being very closely united, in line with the cultural structures of Israel.
For the prophets, the Daughter of Zion was the spouse of the Lord when she observed the covenant. Mary's role as Daughter of Zion, or for that matter any of her roles in the life of God's people, can never be understood independently of Christ and of the Spirit, which he bestows upon all humanity in dying on the cross.
says that all theology and Marian piety belong to the mystery of Christ and to the mystery of the Church.
Mary, Daughter of Zion, is the archetype of the Church as Bride, Virgin and Mother. It is not only biological virginity, but also spiritual virginity, which means fidelity to the Scriptures, openness toward others, and purity in faith.
Mary's words to the servants at the wedding banquet in Cana (John 2:1-12) are an invitation to all peoples to become part of the new people of God. Mary is the new "Daughter of Zion" because she has invited the servants to perfectly obey Jesus the Lord. At Cana this new Daughter of Zion has given voice to all people.
Both at Cana and at Calvary (in John's Gospel), Mary represents not only her maternity and physical relationship with her son, but also her highly symbolic role of Woman and Mother of God's people. At Calvary, more than any other place in the fourth Gospel, Mary is "Mother Zion": her spiritual maternity begins at the foot of the cross.
As "Mother Zion," she not only welcomes and represents Israel, but the Church, the People of God of the New Covenant. At the foot of the cross, Mary is the mother of the new messianic people, of all of those who are one in Christ.
She who bore Jesus in her womb now takes her place in the assembly of God's holy people. She is the new Jerusalem: In her own womb was the Temple, and all peoples shall be gathered back to the Temple, which is her Son. The Mother of Jesus is indeed the Mother of all of God's scattered children. She is Mother of the Church. Mary is the first Daughter of Zion, leading all of God's people on the journey toward the Kingdom.
Let me leave you with the words of the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI, in his apostolic exhortation on Christian joy, Gaudete in Domino
[Mary] has grasped, better than all other creatures, that God accomplishes wonderful things: His name is holy, He shows His mercy, He raises up the humble, He is faithful to His promises. Not that the apparent course of her life in any way departs from the ordinary, but she meditates on the least signs of God, pondering them in her heart (Luke 2:19; 51).
Not that she is in any way spared sufferings: she stands, the mother of sorrows, at the foot of the cross, associated in an eminent way with the sacrifice of the innocent Servant. But she is also open in an unlimited degree to the joy of the resurrection; and she is also taken up, body and soul, into the glory of heaven.
The first of the redeemed, immaculate from the moment of her conception, the incomparable dwelling-place of the Spirit, the pure abode of the Redeemer of mankind, she is at the same time the beloved Daughter of God and, in Christ, the Mother of all. She is the perfect model of the Church both on earth and in glory.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO Salt and Light Catholic Television Network
Photo: CNS photo/courtesy of Vatican Museums. Mary holds the child Jesus in this painting by Benozzo Gozzoli showing the mystical marriage of St. Catherine. The work will be included in a Jan. 20 to June 12, 2011, exhibit in Forli, Italy, highlighting the life of Renaissance painter Melozzo of Forli.