JESUS’ BIRTH

 

In this Christmas season it was heartwarming to be reminded by the Migdal Edar story of why God had planned all along to have Jesus born in a manger. It would be fitting too, in this season, to reflect upon the miraculous circumstances of how Jesus’ birth came about.

It doesn’t take much thought to appreciate that in order to rescue mankind from his fallen state Jesus had to be both God and man, a constraint that required Mary, as a human, to have conceived Jesus outside the domain of fallen mankind. Hence the virgin conception, which permitted God to participate directly in the birth of Jesus.

The details of the conception itself require a bit more reflection. What we know of this process is supplied in Luke 1:34 and 35:

“Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered, and said unto her, 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.”

Before delving into my own speculation on how this passage might best be interpreted, I wish to refer to statements already presented by eminent theologians in order to glean the wisdom of my betters and thus avoid superficiality and rash associations in my own assessment.

In fact, I had already read from and interviewed credentialed theologians of my own Protestant denomination and received for my efforts nothing but half-hearted attempts to skirt the issue. Some would-be expositors were courageous enough to admit to confusion on the topic. I turned next to the Catholic viewpoint, expressed by no less a personage than Pope John Paul II, as extracted by Fr. Bill McCarthy.

Mother of the Son, Mary is the ‘beloved daughter of the Father’ in a unique way. She has been granted an utterly special likeness between her motherhood and the divine fatherhood. And again, every Christian is a ‘temple of the Holy Spirit’, according to the Apostle Paul’s expression (1 Cor 6:19). But this assertion takes on an extraordinary meaning in Mary: in her the relationship with the Holy Spirit is enriched in a spousal dimension, I recalled this in the Encyclical Redemptoris Mater: ‘The Holy Spirit had already come down upon her, and she became his faithful spouse at the Annunciation, welcoming the Word of the true God. . .’”

– excerpted from the eleventh of Pope John Paul II’s series of catecheses on the Blessed Virgin

“In recounting the birth of Jesus, Luke and Matthew also speak of the role of the Holy Spirit. The latter is not the father of the Child. Jesus is the son of the Eternal Father alone (cf. Lk 1:32-35), who through the Spirit is at work in the world and begets the Word in his human nature. Indeed, at the Annunciation the angel calls the Spirit ‘the power of the Most High’ (Lk 1:35), in harmony with the Old Testament, which presents him as the divine energy at work in human life, making it capable of marvelous deeds. Manifesting itself to the supreme degree in the mystery of the Incarnation, this power, which in the Trinitarian life of God is Love, has the task of giving humanity the Incarnate Word.”

-excerpted from the twenty eighth of Pope John Paul II’s series of catecheses on the Blessed Virgin

In reviewing these excerpts, we see that the Catholic Church has indeed reflected on the nature of Mary’s conception of Jesus. What do we find in this? First, in agreement with Luke’s presentation, that the Holy Spirit was intimately involved in the conception. Second, that this intimate involvement, coupled with the perceived gender of the Holy Spirit as male, led to the characterization of the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Mary as “spousal”. But along with that characterization, we also find the obvious denial, based on the Father’s functional role as Father, that the Holy Spirit is the father of Jesus.

Here we have an awkward and confusing, even contradictory, explanation of the roles of Father and Holy Spirit in the conception of Jesus. At the root of this confusion is the perception of the Holy Spirit as male. As a consequence, I find the Catholic viewpoint of Jesus’ conception to be intellectually sterile and return to my own musings on the topic.

If a female gender is applied to the Holy Spirit, the confusion evaporates. One can see in Luke’s presentation Mary being overshadowed by both the Father as the Highest and the Holy Spirit as the spiritual Mother of Jesus. As I view it, the role of the Holy Spirit in this epic event is to respond to the Father’s will for the conception of Jesus by fashioning to perfection the DNA in the male seed that is to represent the attributes of God in Jesus, implant that seed into Mary’s egg, and top the process off by giving birth to Jesus’ spirit-filled soul.

I further view this process as a fulfillment of the prophecy given in Genesis 3:15:

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

Given in this scenario that the Holy Spirit, as the ultimate Woman, fashioned Jesus’ seed, then it would be this seed of the woman that would bruise the heel of satan’s seed. This explanation is, to my mind, consistent with both Scripture and common sense.

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