Comments: An Angelic Salutation

I once had to address a group in a Women's Prison in Auckland, New Zealand at Christmas. I told them the story of the Mother of Christ, faced with this dilemma, here described by Bishop David. Some of them understood the pain that Mary must have felt - at having to tell her fiance that she was having a child, and it wasn't his. Those women were really sensitive to this Christmas story. It might just have helped some of them to know that the Mother of Christ was not immune to their experience of suffering and possible rejection by a loved one. Thank you, David for your timely reflection.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 4 December 2016 at 8:29pm GMT

I can think of only one (or two) word(s) for this writing: exquisite. And true.

Posted by Pam at Sunday, 4 December 2016 at 8:45pm GMT


Posted by David Emmott at Sunday, 4 December 2016 at 11:39pm GMT

I agree with others - that is a lovely piece of writing. A story told acutely with the woman's point of view. I had never thought through the extent of the stigma that needed to be risked in the decision to bear the child.

And under that stigma and judgmental othering, Jesus came into the world. He also entered it under the protection of his mother's faith and givenness to God. The child of a covenanted love.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 5 December 2016 at 12:08am GMT

How to explain the interplay between free will and predestination. Outstanding writing.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 5 December 2016 at 8:34am GMT

That is wonderful - acute perception, beautifully realised.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Monday, 5 December 2016 at 8:48am GMT

Very moving.

Posted by Sheila at Monday, 5 December 2016 at 12:31pm GMT

Mary's fiat has been the source of much piety, some more edifying than others. In more than thirty years as a priest it has never occurred to me that the gravity of the role, the necessity of her total submission and the risks that would bring might mean that others had turned it down before her. Brilliant!

Posted by Disgraced at Monday, 5 December 2016 at 4:23pm GMT

May I gently say that some of these devotional thoughts cannot speak to all Christians - and especially those who cannot think of the Lucan story of the Annunciation or of the Nativity (or the different Matthean stories, incompatible in certain respects with the Lucan) as literally true in any way. They are the Christians - and they would include probably most Biblical scholars - who believe that Jesus was born in Galilee, probably in Nazareth, as a son of a devout married couple, Joseph and Mary, as were his brothers and sisters. There are many works which suggest how the Matthean and then Lucan stories originated and evolved. Such a belief does not diminish the vital role of our Lord's parents in his upbringing. Humanly speaking, how much he must owed to his father Joseph (reflected in his speaking of God as Father ? - something not new but less common in earlier times) and to Mary his mother, whom Neville Ward once described as "the star of his morning and the cause of his joy".

Posted by John Bunyan at Wednesday, 7 December 2016 at 11:22am GMT

May I equally gently suggest to John Bunyan that the rest of us may not be exactly unaware of Biblical scholarship, that we may be using the medium of story to explore what lies within and around the text in a rich way that polemic cannot access. It is easy to write a rant - even a very civilised rant - but they rarely help people explore what it means (in Dante's words) to be moved at the heart's core by the love that moves the sun and other stars?

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Wednesday, 7 December 2016 at 11:27pm GMT

I am a bit sad that my words are described as "a rant". I was only saying that those devotional thoughts cannot speak for all Christians though I did go on to express the views of those others including ancient agnostics such as myself - and in my Diocese of Sydney, it is risky now even to express such views if one wants to retain a licence as a priest. I am happy if those devotional thoughts speak for many. My own limitations are probably shown again in my not readily understanding what Dante means when he speaks of "the sun and other stars" moved by love when I consider what scientists tell us now about the sun and the stars and the unimaginable vastness of the universe. (Unless this means that at the heart of this otherwise heart-less,harsh, indifferent, incomprehensible, inexplicable reality, there is love and meaning that we can find and explore at least in human - and some other animal ? life.) For me at least, at a more literally down to earth and simple level, it is, for example, the men and women whom I shall meet again tomorrow in our hospital wards caring for the sick or for fellow patients who are "moved by love", whether or not they speak of "God", and that for me is challenging enough.

Posted by John Bunyan at Thursday, 8 December 2016 at 8:26am GMT

I was reflecting on my own experience of writing John, not your words. I find it easy to write a rant. To express my anger against those who create homeless for other people. I have learned that if I reach deeper through a story then I can actually influence hearts. Dante's words end his divine comedy. I cannot easily unpick all they mean. But he believed that the love of God called the universe into being and sustained it in being. He was well aware the sun was a ball of fire. He believed real happiness came from allowing our hearts to move as naturally and lovingly

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Thursday, 8 December 2016 at 8:23pm GMT

I take it John Bunyan, from your comment here, that your understanding of this story of Mary's conception of the world's Redeemer, that you are not able to recite the Church's credal statement on the Virgin Birth. Does this adequately reflect the faith quotient of the majority of Sydney Anglicans?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 10 December 2016 at 7:39am GMT

I have always been interested to read Fr Ron Smith's comments,but with my old mind I do not really understand what is meant this time by "the faith quotient" nor in this context by "Sydney Anglicans" (i.e. is the reference to those who sometimes or frequently attend church, or the great majority who identify as C.of E. or Anglican but who never or rarely do so ?)

Regarding the virginal conception, even many Roman Catholic commentators would agree that this and the two stories which refer to it (and the words in the Creeds) are theological or metaphorical or poetic. They are not literal, scientific accounts and I think cannot be if we believe Jesus were truly human. The late Dr Arthur Peacocke, Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre in the Faculty of Theology of Oxford, explained why this is so (e.g. in George J.Brooke, ed., The Birth of Jesus : Biblical and Theological Reflections, ch 5, T & T Clark, 2000).

If there were a virginal conception, and for Jesus to be male, God would have had, miraculously, de novo, to create his Y and other chromosomes, normally derived from the sperm of a human father, and that genetic inheritance. But this means, Jesus would not have been "truly human", DNA of our DNA, but rather as Anglo-Catholic theologian and philosopher, John Macquarrie put it, "an altogether unintelligible anomaly, thrust into the middle of history". But I have said enough and probably more than enough ! Merry Christmas.

Posted by John Bunyan at Sunday, 11 December 2016 at 10:52am GMT

"If there were a virginal conception, and for Jesus to be male, God would have had, miraculously, de novo, to create his Y and other chromosomes, normally derived from the sperm of a human father, and that genetic inheritance. But this means, Jesus would not have been "truly human", DNA of our DNA," - John Bunyan -

Dear John, obviously you do not believe in the words of the angel Gabriel to Mary: "For nothing is impossible for God.

I think, John, that Jesus' human DNA came from his Mother, Mary.

While I do not believe in the 'Immaculate Conception' OF Mary. I do believe that Jesus was Immaculately conceived in Mary's womb - by the power of God the Holy Spirit.

Of course, post-partum, Mary was no longer a Virgin.- not if the actual birth was normal.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 12 December 2016 at 1:58am GMT

"Immaculate" in "immaculate conception" does not refer to a virginal conception or parthenogenesis. It means that at her conception (by the normal method of sexual intercourse) she was miraculously and uniquely preserved from the taint of Original Sin, with which the rest of humankind is -- according to this dogma -- tainted.

Whether one believes this dogma or not (and I'm very clear that I don't) let's not get confused as to what it means.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Monday, 12 December 2016 at 10:17am GMT

I believe in Original Beauty :)

The sin comes later.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 13 December 2016 at 8:20pm GMT
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