BASICS OF CATHOLICISM: 7. THE INCARNATION
May 6, 2019
Part 2 – The Virgin Mary and the Annunciation
The great truth and mystery of God taking on our human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ is referred to as the “Incarnation.” In his “incarnate nature,” nothing of His divine nature is lacking – such that He is one person in two natures. By taking on our human nature and its limitations, God wills to accomplish salvation through His own acceptance of death as one without sin – forever destroying the power of sin and death. Finally, it is this great mystery of the Incarnation that is the foundation of the life of the Church and the sacraments – just as God can take on human flesh so as to save us, so too He can work through the Church and her sacraments to make present and effective the fruits of His saving works.
How does God come into our human nature? Simply put, by being born into it. Accordingly, it was both fitting and necessary for God to choose one who would be His mother: the Blessed Virgin Mary. That Mary is “blessed” is through the gift that God bestowed upon her in granting the fruits of salvation
to her in advance: that she is “conceived without original sin” – a great gift and mystery that we know as Mary’s “Immaculate Conception.” That Mary is without sin is evident in the greeting given to her by the archangel Gabriel, who calls her “full of grace” (see Luke 1:28); that is, she is lacking in nothing of God’s life within her. Mary without sin is therefore a fitting “vessel,” worthy of conceiving and giving birth to God. That Mary is a virgin has two important significances. First, as also revealed at the Annunciation by the archangel Gabriel, she will bear a son “by the power of the Holy Spirit,” and not by way of nature of being in relationship with a man (see Luke 1:34-35). She remains a virgin within and through her motherhood as God Himself, in the Holy Spirit, brings her to conceive a child – and thus, the child is both fully God and fully human. Second, we hold that Mary is “ever-virgin,” meaning that (once more) she remained a virgin through conceiving and giving birth to Jesus, and she had no other children. While the Scriptures do speak of Jesus’ “brothers,” these are not children of the Virgin Mary, but are understood as close relations to Jesus (such as cousins, etc.).
In relationship to the mystery of God becoming man, it is therefore Mary who is the chosen one through whom God, in the fullness of His divinity, takes on the fullness of the human nature – being conceived in Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. With the one important exception of Jesus’s being conceived by the Holy Spirit, all other elements of His taking of human nature are like our own: being conceived and dwelling in the womb of his human mother, being born, developing as a human being from His very conception onto adulthood, etc. It is from Mary that the fullness of His human nature is received.
While much more could be said here regarding the role of Mary and of Mary herself as the greatest of all disciples – exemplified in her “yes” to God’s plan after it is shown to her by Gabriel – what is also very notable for us in reference to Mary is how she remains in the closest relationship to Jesus among all human beings - through her relationship of motherhood. That Jesus willed from the cross to give Mary to all of us as our mother (see John 19:26) likewise establishes her as having a close and eternal relationship with all of us. Therefore, in this context of the Incarnation, we can ask Mary to help us to embrace this truth and all the beautiful truths of our Catholic faith – as she is our mother too.
For further reading: In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 484-511 speak of the Virgin Mary and her participation in God’s saving works.