The Virgin Mary
by M. P.
Matthew 1: 18)
The very core of all true Christian belief is that the Lord Jesus Christ is the one God of heaven and earth; and the foundation of this belief is that in His incarnation He was born of a virgin. Without this, Jesus Christ was not God but man, and if He was only a man, then He was a charlatan for He declared Himself to be the Son of God and one with the Father.
The virgin birth is clearly taught in the Scriptures and it cannot be denied without tearing them apart and denying any authority to them. Our text is an example of this categorical teaching: "When . . . Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit." Mary's part in the effecting of the Lord's advent was a vital one and a study of it offers teaching which is of value to us as we strive to make it possible for the Lord to effect such an advent with us. This He does to the regenerate man who has opened his heart and mind so that the Lord may enter into him.
As we well know, Mary served as the Divinely chosen instrument of the Lord's incarnation. Concerning her state, her genius, her inherited nature, we know little; why she was chosen above other women we cannot really tell. Yet there is much that we can know and that is revealed. We are taught that Jehovah assumed the human according to His Divine order, (TCR 89) which means that "it was necessary, in order for Him actually to become man, that He should be conceived, carried in the womb, born, educated gradually acquire knowledge, and by it be introduced into intelligence and wisdom." (Ibid.)
This mode of birth must surely have meant that Mary herself had to be introduced in an orderly manner into a state to receive the Divine seed (the Holy Spirit which came upon her) and had to be prepared for motherhood itself.
There can be little doubt that Mary was brought into a state of reflection concerning the Messiah, and a longing for His coming. We know that she must have heard of the angel's promise to Zacharias of the birth of John, for she left immediately after the annunciation to herself to visit Elizabeth, whose pregnancy had been confirmed to her by Gabriel. "And, behold, thy cousin Elizabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren." (Luke 1: 36) John's mission had been plainly declared to Zacharias: "To make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1: 17) Mary belonged to the remnant of the Jewish Church who had a simple and firm faith in the coming Messiah. The story of Gabriel's appearance to Zacharias must have kindled a new hope within her heart; she must have been full of a longing to see Him who would save her people.
Yet, it was also necessary that Mary be prepared for motherhood, just as all women are prepared for this high use. Here her preparation lay in the fact that she "was espoused to Joseph." The Writings tell us that the Lord could only be born to a virgin who was in legitimate marriage. (Jus. 38) We remember that Jewish espousal meant that Joseph had sought Mary in marriage and had obtained both her consent and that of her father. This was considered to be equivalent to marriage, although it was only after a passage of time that the marriage was consummated. Espousal was not to be violated any more than marriage; such violation was punish able by death. Thus the espousal of Mary had introduced her into the beginning of the state of marriage, and this was necessary for orderly conception; for a woman should be prepared for motherhood by initiation into marriage, and so be led to look to, and long for, the bearing of children.
We see, then, that in consequence of these preparations Mary was in thought concerning the Messiah, and longing expectation of His early coming. She was also prepared for motherhood by her expectation of marriage with Joseph.
In due course the time arrived when Mary's use could begin and the angel Gabriel appeared to her in Nazareth, saying, "Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women." (Luke 1: 28) These words prepared Mary still further, inducing in her a state of fear and awe, a state which inmostly affected her, for "she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be." (Luke 1: 29) In this state of humble receptivity, the angel said to her further, "Fear not Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus." (Luke 1: 30,31) To which Mary, still filled with awe, replied, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" (Luke 1: 34)
Mary's question was not one of doubt, but of wonder. The angel replied with the familiar words which describe the mode of the Lord's conception in the virgin's womb: "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." (Luke 1: 34) That which with man comes from the father, the soul itself, with the Lord was the Divine-clothing itself in the womb of Mary. This was the Holy Spirit, the Divine proceeding from Jehovah which was the seed from which the human was conceived. This was none other than the Word, the Divine Truth proceeding, which had created the world, and which had been given in representative form to all the past churches, and which now was made flesh. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. . . . All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made. . . . And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." (John 1: 1, 3)
"The human by which God sent Himself into the world is the Son of God." (TCR 92) This He Himself frequently taught and it is evident from the fact that that human was conceived of Jehovah God as father. The human was assumed by God Himself in order that He might descend into the world and come among men. Nevertheless, while he is called the Son of God, it was also proper that He be called the Son of Mary; but this can only be said of that which was from Mary. "That by the Son of Mary is meant merely the human, is very evident from man's generation, in that the soul is from the father and the body from the mother. . . . As to the Lord the Divine in Him was from Jehovah the Father, and the human from the mother; and these two united are the Son of God." (Ibid.)
In the process of glorification, of course, the human from Mary was gradually expelled. "When He glorified His Human, He put off everything pertaining to His mother and put on everything of His Father." (TCR 94) Throughout His life, as He conquered the assaulting hells, He removed all human limitations and frailties which had been assumed in the act of incarnation, until after the passion of the cross the tomb was empty of all that had been taken from Mary-there remained only the glorified Divine Human Itself.
Thus while it was true to say of the Lord that He was the Son of Mary; it is no longer true to do so now. "It is believed that the Lord as to His Human not only was, but also is, the Son of Mary; but in this the Christian world is under a great mistake. That He was the Son of Mary, is true; but that He is so still, is not true; for by the redemption He put off the human which He derived from the mother, and put on a Human from the Father; consequently the Human of the Lord is Divine, and in Him God is Man, and Man God." (TCR 102)
In this connection it is to be noted that while in the world the Lord Himself never called Mary His mother. He did not reject her as the woman by whom He had made His incarnation-from the cross he tenderly placed her in the care of John the apostle-but He knew that to call her mother would be to deny Himself as Divine in the eyes of many and would deny the process of glorification which He was undergoing and by means of which He was casting off all that He had from her.
Furthermore we are taught that Mary herself, now in heaven, declares that it is not her wish' that she should be called the mother of God, saying, "that she had been the mother of the Lord, for He was born of her; but that He, having become God, put off all the human He had from her, and that, therefore, she worshiped Him as her God, and wished no one to acknowledge Him as her son, because the whole Divine is in Him." (Ibid.)
It is not appropriate, therefore, that we now refer to the Lord as the Son of Mary; He is the Son of God. To do otherwise is to place ourselves in danger of either worshiping Mary, on the one hand, or implying a denial of the divinity of the Lord, on the other.
That the Lord was born of a virgin was, as we have seen, of the greatest importance in establishing His divinity; yet the representation is also significant. The virgin, by whom the Lord was born, signifies, we are told, the church as to the affection of truth. (Jus. 37) The affection of truth here spoken of is not simply the natural man's desire for knowledge and the power and wealth which knowledge brings. It is an affection for truth which seeks truth for its own sake, or rather for the sake of the good which may be done by means of it. The Lord comes to man by means of such an affection for truth, even as He made His incarnation by means of the virgin Mary. Yet, we may ask how such an affection of truth comes into being so that it may be the means of the Lord's coming to us. The answer is that this affection of truth is implanted in us by the Lord Himself. Such an affection is among the remains which are given to all men when they are in states of orderly delight. These remains, which are both affections and knowledges, are given to us to serve as the very basis of our regeneration, as the resting place of the Lord within us, as that of the Lord with us into which He may come. They are hidden and only come to view when we call them forth by struggling to shun evils' as sins against God.
It is true that if the Lord did not implant within us an affection of truth for the sake of good we could never be saved, for there would be nothing in us in which He could rest. In the same way it is true that the Lord could not have come into the world unless there had been a virgin who was in a state of longing for the Lord's coming. The affection of truth is essential because without it we do not seek an authority outside of ourselves; without it we do not seek to establish a true conscience; without it we have no beginning for a new life.
Thus at Christmas time we will recall to our minds the beautiful story of the Lord's birth and will remember the humble and willing part that a young Jewish woman played. In doing so our hearts will be full of gratitude for the vision we have been given of the Lord Himself, and for the redemption from the power of hell which He brought about. At the same time we will not forget that it is necessary that the Lord make the same coming into each one of us; He came to the whole of mankind, but He reaches out always to come again individually into the lives of every man. He can only come if we nurture in our own minds the love of truth, a love of learning from the Divine Word in order that we may make His truth active in our lives here on earth-in our relations with our neighbors and in our obedience to His commands,.
The Lord came into the world for no other purpose than that these things should be effected in the hearts of men. "Mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel." (Luke 2: 30-32)