Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Chiastic Structure - Mary in the Gospel

A friend of mine handed to me an old copy of Beowulf book; when I opened it, I saw traces of pencil notes on each line (paragraph):

KxB ……. KxB
-         for your assessment Dr. Georgopoulous

To me, this was once a workbook of philology student who might be working in detecting the Chiastic structure.  

Chiastic Structure

The term chiastic derives from the mid 17th century term chiasmus, which refers to a crosswise arrangement of concepts or words that are repeated in reverse order. []

Examples of chiastic structures are the A,B,C...C,B,A pattern and the ABBAABB…ABBA pattern:

A                                  A
  B                         B
 C                C
                                                      D    D                      

Parallel members A & A', B & B', so on will have in common subject matter, significant vocabulary, and/or phrases.

Occasionally, balancing members are antitheses (e.g., A: The good live; A': The wicked die).

Various structures of chiasmus are commonly seen in ancient literature to emphasize, parallel, or contrast concepts or ideas.

This structure is sometimes called palistrophes, chiasms, symmetric structures, ring structures, or concentric.

Bible: As an ancient literature

Chiastic structures are also seen in Old and New Testament, where biblical writers used chiasmus to give meaning to their writings or to highlight details of particular importance.

[Mark 2:27] And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

This is a good example of four-step chiasm [A,B,B,A]:

          A                                                                 A
   the Sabbath                                                  the sabbath.

         B                           B 
               for man                 not man

Since October is month of the Holy Rosary that speaks about who Mary is; allow me to share here what Apostle Paul and Luke says about Mary and how they both emphasize her in their writings:

[Galatians 4:4-7] But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Those Acting for
The Saved

(the Father)
Abba! Father (God)
His  Son
Spirit of His Son into our hearts
The Woman 
We are Sons (we receive   adoption)
The Law

The Law


Here’s what Fr. Giovanni Maria Bigotto’s analysis in his book Mary in the Gospel:

In the diagram above it is easy to see how the various parts are linked to each other. The text makes us understand that while Jesus is born of the woman, we are born as sons of God. There is a causal link: the birth of Jesus allows us to be born as sons of God. While Mary was chosen to be the mother of the Son, we were chosen to be sons of God, bearing within us the same Spirit of Jesus and being able, like him, to cry, “Abba, Father!”

Note the two parts of the chiasm: the descending part is made up of those who are involved in our salvation, God, the Father, the Son and the Woman who welcomed him, the ascending part including those who have been saved and are now filled with the Holy Spirit, that is, all those who were subjects of the Law. [Mary in the Gospel pp. 18-19]

[…] Paul, in Galatians 4:4-7 […] places the woman into the first half of the chiasma, where he positions the authors and collaborator of salvation, while in the other half he places those who are saved. [p.64]

Luke, like Paul, used different structure to give meaning to his writings and to highlight details of particular importance:

[Luke 1:42-45] and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”


Mary, the Mother

Elizabeth, the Mother

Jesus Christ

John the Baptist

Mary- The First Blessing


Mary- The First Beatitude


This is a circular structure; The Lord is at the base and at the summit, while the beginning starts with the blessing to Mary and ends with the beatitude to Mary.

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