*inimicitias ponam inter te et mulierem et semen tuum et semen illius ipsa conteret caput tuum et tu insidiaberis calcaneo eius
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. *
Genesis 3, 15 [The Latin Vulgate]
St. Paul has taught that all members of the Church strike the devil’s head by their obedient acts of faith in and through Christ. ‘The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet’ (Rom 16:20). Mary is the pre-eminent member and prototype of the Church, since it was by her salutary and meritorious consent that her offspring came into the world to save mankind. Through Mary’s collaboration with the Holy Spirit, we have received the grace which Christ merited for us in our opposition with the devil. We defeat him (crush his head) in each battle when we resist his temptations and observe the will of God. The presence of the female pronoun in the Vulgate reflects the Marian theology of the ECFs who drew a parallel between Eve and Mary. Our Lady has crushed the serpent’s head by providing the fruit of her womb as opposed to the forbidden fruit which Eve offered Adam in her disobedience. Mary undid Eve’s disobedience by having borne her offspring in total opposition with Satan together with her Son through his grace by her obedient act of faith. ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb’ (Lk 1:42). The serpent had vanquished Eve through whom mankind (Adam) fell from the original state of holiness and justice. Mary, on the contrary, slew the serpent by hearing the word of God and observing it (cf. Lk 11:28). ‘Behold, the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word’ (Lk 1:38). So through her our Saviour came into the world to reconcile mankind with God.
Hence, Mary crushed the head of the serpent by divine mediation through her act of faith working through love; so the reading “She (Ipsa) shall crush your head” doesn’t equate her with Jesus or elevate her to Godhood. The final victory is still attributed to her Son, by God having become incarnate because of Mary’s faith and charity in her enmity with Satan in the fullness of God’s grace. Theologically there is no difference, despite the philological changes. Thus, depending on where one wishes to place emphasis, either the woman or her offspring can be said to crush the head of the serpent. As Catholic apologists have pointed out, this isn’t an “either-or” proposition, but rather a “both-and” proposition. The seed of the woman (ipse) will crush the serpent’s head , or the woman (ipsa) will crush the serpent’s head because she will bring the Messiah into the world by her humble act of faith and charity in God’s grace. Both statements are true, and the latter doesn’t take away from Jesus being the ultimate cause of the devil’s destruction by way of universal rectification in strict justice. Only by divine mediation could Mary have crushed the serpent’s head as the mother of our Lord. It was through the incarnation that God actually reconciled the world to Himself. And it was through Mary that the incarnation occurred. Jesus redeemed the world in his assumed humanity which he received from his mother through her act of faith.
“Blessed are you” (ευλογημενη — eulogēmenē), perfect passive participle, is a Hebraistic equivalent for the superlative; “Blessed are you among women” is a Hebraism for “You are the most blessed of all women.” Certainly Luke doesn’t mean to merely say that Mary is a blessed woman or that she is just as blessed as any other women would be in her position. By the deference she shows, Elisabeth subsequently acknowledges that her kinswoman is greater and more highly favoured than even her, who is to give birth to John the Baptist, in the order of grace, because she is the mother of her Lord, the divine Messiah (cf. Lk 1:43). For this reason Mary is blessed above all women in the order of grace. In the words of the Baptist: ‘After me is coming someone who is more powerful than I — I’m not worthy even to bend down and untie his sandals’ (Mk 1:7).
Observe the following OT passage:
תְּבֹרַךְ֙ מִנָּשִׁ֔ים יָעֵ֕ל אֵ֖שֶׁת חֶ֣בֶר הַקֵּינִ֑י מִנָּשִׁ֥ים בָּאֹ֖הֶל תְּבֹרָֽךְ׃
Blessed of women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent.
Judges 5, 24 [Hebrew OT: Westminster Leningrad Codex]
The second clause qualifies the first clause. The expression “blessed of women” implies Jael is blessed above women because of her singular deed in collaboration with YHWH. And how is it that Jael is “blessed above women”, or “most blessed”?
She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen’s hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples.
Judges 5, 26