Feast of the Annunciation
Mary lives in faith whose very essence is expansive, literally bodily expansive, a seeking faith that finds much without ever concluding its perusal. With God a final vision is never possible.
by Father Johann G. Roten, S.M. | Source:
Today's message is about the mystery of Jesus and its revelation. Today's message also deals with the vocation of Mary. This double revelation about the mystery of Christ and the vocation of Mary is for us a cause of holy rejoicing and fervent acclamation. Let us rejoice and acclaim our savior and his mother in the Spirit and with the lyrics of the Akathist Hymn, which was originally composed for the Annunciation out of reverence for the Incarnation of the Son of God. The first stanza reads as follows:
Rejoice (or: Hail), through you joy rings out again.
Rejoice, through you sorrow is put to flight.
Rejoice, O resurrection of fallen Adam.
Rejoice, O redemption of the tears of Eve.
Rejoice, O sublime peak of human intellect.
Rejoice, O profound abyss even for Angel eyes.
Rejoice, for in you the King's throne was elevated.
Rejoice, for you bear the One Who sustains every thing.
Rejoice, O star that go before the Sun.
Rejoice, O womb of the incarnate God.
Rejoice, for through you all creation is renewed.
Rejoice, for through you the Creator became a baby.
Rejoice, O Virgin and Bride!
Unfortunately, today our joy is not unperturbed--or at least not unchallenged. The Anglican bishop, John Spong, in his recent book, Born of a Woman, enthusiastically espouses Jane Schaberg's thesis of Jesus' illegitimacy. Was Jesus the child of adultery–he asks–the product of seduction? Was Mary a violated woman, the victim of rape? Could the Holy Spirit be perceived–he suggests–as validating a child conceived in either rape or seduction as a life chosen by God for the accomplishment of God's will. And the bishop, to conclude: "Given the status of women and the moral climate of the first century, would not that kind of birth and that kind of affirmation be perceived as a miracle far more stunning than the so-called Virgin birth?"
While 83% of Americans want to believe in miracles–real miracles–Bishop Spong draws the line at the Virgin birth. This may not sound like much of a theological argument. And, in fact, it is not. However, reading some of the literature mentioned, one gets the impression that the miracle of the Virgin birth is looked upon as a slur on sexual intercourse and that sexual intercourse is the one thing still venerated in this un-venerating age. And why not--at the going rate--look upon the feeding of the 5,000 as an insult to bakers, too!?
The Virgin birth is a doctrine plainly stated in the Apostles' Creed that Jesus had no physical father, and was not conceived as a result of sexual intercourse. The exact detail of such a miracle--an exact point and mode through which a supernatural event enters this world--are not part of the doctrine.
In the normal act of generation the human father is a carrier, sometimes an unwilling carrier, always the last in a long line of carriers that stretches back far beyond his ancestors into pre-human and pre-organic times, back to the beginning of creation itself. That line is in God's hand. Once, only once, and for a special purpose, God dispensed with that long line which is his instrument. Once his life-giving hand touched a woman without passing through the ages of interlocked events. Once, the great glove of nature--as C. S. Lewis said--was taken off his hand.
There was, of course, a unique reason for it. That time he was not simply creating a human being, but the man who was to be himself: he was creating man anew. Was beginning, at this divine and human point, the new creation of all things. As one spiritual writer put it: "The whole soiled and weary universe quivered at this direct injection of essential life--direct, uncontaminated, not drained through all the crowded history of nature."
This, however, is the point where the Virgin birth has to be resituated in the broader context of the Annunciation Event. Only thus can we understand and participate in Mary's own confrontation with the miracle of the Virgin birth.
Mary lives in faith whose very essence is expansive, literally bodily expansive, a seeking faith that finds much without ever concluding its perusal. With God a final vision is never possible. Even in eternity we will not see exhaustively, for all discovery only provokes renewed seeking. God is beyond measure--Augustine said--he is so much beyond measure that even when discovered he may be further sought. So that we may eternally investigate the depths of deity, the Spirit of God who searches the depth will be placed in our hearts (1 Cor 2:10,12). Yet because this spirit is already placed in our hearts (Rom 5:5), together with Mary as our model, we can begin our research–securely believing, though not understanding everything, that God always opens himself up, even here on earth, to the one who contemplates.