The OT book of 1 Samuel begins the story of the kings of Israel. It begins with the story of Hannah, who was an OT type of Mary. Let’s quickly summarize her story. She was the wife of one Elkanah and she had no children. Each year, Elkanah and Hannah went to Shiloh to offer sacrifice (the Tabernacle was in Shiloh then). One year, Hannah prayed for a son at the Tabernacle; the priest Eli saw her and prayed the Lord would grant her request. After a time, she gave birth to a son, named Samuel. She promised him to the service of the Lord, and Samuel grew into a prophet, who ministered to the Lord. In time, Samuel became a judge of Israel – the last judge. I urge you to read 1 Sm 1:1-2:11 now.
Now let’s compare Hannah to Mary; in particular to the stories surrounding the Annunciation and childhood of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel. First and most famous are the similarities between the prayer of Hannah after the birth of her son, and the prayer of Mary after the conception of her Son. It’s a bit wordy, so please see the Prayer Comparison HERE. It’s quite obvious that the prayers are almost the same, the only meaningful difference being Mary’s proclamation that all generations will call her blessed, which certainly came true as her child was “the Son of the Most High” (Lk 1.32).
Let’s look at a few more similarities. First, Hannah’s role in Salvation History was that of mother of Samuel, a key prophet and the last of the judges, who anointed the first kings of Israel. Mary’s role was also that of Mother, of the Messiah, the King of kings. Both Hannah and Mary had a role in Salvation History: that of being mothers. Their sons are also interlinked: Samuel was, in many ways, a type of Jesus.
Next, let’s consider the episodes regarding an announcement of their impending conception – they both had such an episode, involving another person. In Hannah’s case, the priest Eli comforted her and prayed the Lord with would give her the child she so wanted. In Mary’s case, the angel Gabriel spoke to her and announced she would be the mother of the Messiah. And in both cases, a miraculous birth followed: Hannah, who was barren, gave birth, and Mary who was a virgin, also gave birth.
Next, we note both Hannah and Mary had similar responses to Eli & Gabriel; both replied with simple humble and both referred to themselves as maidservants:
18 And she [Hannah] said [to Eli], "Let your maidservant find favor in your eyes." (1 Sm 1:18)
38 And Mary said [to Gabriel], "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." (Lk 1:38)
Next, let’s notice the role of the Tabernacle/Temple in both:
24 And when she [Hannah] had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine; and she brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh; and the child was young. 25 Then they slew the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, "Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the LORD. 27 For this child I prayed; and the LORD has granted me my petition which I made to him. 28 Therefore I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he is lent to the LORD." And they worshipped the LORD there. (1 Sm 1:24-28)
22 And when the time came for their [Jesus & Mary] purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord") 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." (Lk 2:22-24)
We see common images in both: the Tabernacle/Temple, and a sacrifice offered. Also, both descriptions begin with, “And when,” followed by a designated liturgical time (after weaning/time of purification). In both stories, Hannah/Mary took “him up” to the Tabernacle/Temple, implying ascent – it was a common phrase of Israel to use this phrase when describing a journey to the place of the Holy of Holies.
Finally, we see a similar expression applied to the boy Samuel and the boy Jesus:
26 Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the LORD and with men. (1 Sm 2:26)
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man. (Lk 2:52)
Both were with the Lord, even from childhood. But perhaps this belongs to the typology between Samuel and Jesus, rather than that of Hannah and Mary.
So this is all very well, but what does it mean for us? On the literary and moral side, it shows us that motherhood is itself a great good, one that has essential roles in Salvation History. It was the mother Hannah who chose Samuel for the Tabernacle ministry, as it was the mother Mary who said “yes” to angel’s proposal that she should raise the Son of God. Motherhood, in and of itself, is a great thing and should never be seen as “just being a mother.” It is a great vocation, as meaningful in Scripture as that of prophets and kings.
On the analogical and eschatological side, we can see the meaning of “the Church” better, as Mary was a type of the Church, the bride of the Holy Spirit. The above comparisons are few, but describe several images: motherhood, humility, service, the Tabernacle/Temple, sacrifice, and a child who grows in the Lord. Are these not images of the Church? It is the Church that offers the eternal Eucharistic Sacrifice, in a liturgical setting (i.e., in our “temples”.) It is the Church that does this in humble service, day after day, serving the entire Mystical Body. Our participation in this sacramental life of the Church is how we grow in the Lord, how we make our own ascent to the Lord.