who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary
This is the next post in my series on the Creed. For the previous discussion click on “Conceived by the Holy Spirit“. We have looked at the Holy Spirit side of this line; today we look at the Mary side.
Humans seem to need role models, an ideal that they can aspire to, someone they can look up to – but not so much beyond them that all identification disappears. This great person is like me in so many ways – and also this great person has reached much, has achieved much – and inspires me to become more like him or her.
That was part of the role of Jesus. Jesus was a human being just like you and me – people could identify with him and yet, in his life and teaching and dying, people received energy to become a better person; to become more like Jesus; to, in fact, become more like God, in whose image and likeness we are being made to be. In whose image and likeness Jesus is.
So, you can understand why the early church, the early centuries of Christianity, were so insistent that Jesus was fully human.
But, more and more, people seem to have this tendency of making Jesus less and less human. Until we get to the point of not being able to identify with Jesus – he just doesn’t seem to be like us. At all.
And so, as Jesus drifts upwards beyond our reach, Mary seems to have filled the gap. Mary is clearly fully human. And so she, it seems, starts to take over the role that Jesus had.
But you are not really surprised when Mary too starts drifting upwards beyond our reach. People begin to obsess about her purity. Her difference from us. Her virginity. Many Christians start teaching that not only was Mary a virgin when she conceived Jesus, but they teach that she is perpetually a virgin. Before, during, and after Jesus’ birth. [Yes – for many, the mind boggles at “during”.]
Mary, I think, plays a very significant part in Jesus’ story. She is always there at noteworthy moments. She plays a very significant part in Christian history – just look at Christian art, and all the images of Mary.
To worship Mary in any way that should be worship reserved for God alone is just being confused. But the great tradition of asking Mary to pray for us is not much different to asking another person to pray for us.
Historically, Mary stands as a strong young woman, named after the great sister of Moses. Mary has been an inspiration for good down 20 centuries.
There is a wonderful Anglican maxim: all may; some should; none must. And it can well be applied to engaging with Mary. If someone finds Mary inspiring, great – she certainly has an important role in my life. For some people, engaging with the place of Mary would be very beneficial. But there’s no requirement to.
All may; some should; none must.
This is the eleventh post in a series on the Creed.
The first is Apostles’ Creed.
The second is I believe in God.
The third is a source of the Apostles’ Creed.
The fourth is I believe in the Father.
The fifth is Handing over the Creed.
The sixth is I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son
The seventh is Don’t use the creed in worship
They eighth is Truly God truly human
The ninth is Conceived by the Holy Spirit
The tenth is Don’t use the creed in worship (part 2)
Image source 16th century church of Ura Kidane Mihret on Lake Tana, Ethiopia.