MARY, THE SOUL'S EXPECTANT LIGHT
The season of Advent leading up to Christmas begins in the Gospel of Luke (1:26-38) in the following way:
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
And the angel came to her, and said, ‘Hail, O favoured one, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women.’
But she was troubled at this saying and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.
And the angel said unto her, ‘Do not be afraid Mary: for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God will give unto him the throne of his father David: And he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.
Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How shall this be, since I have no husband and know not a man?’
And the angel said unto her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you: therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
And, behold, your cousin Elisabeth, has also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing is impossible.
And Mary said, 'Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it to me according to your word.' And the angel departed from her.
That’s quite an encounter! It is known as the Annunciation. Luke was the most novelistic gospel author and his ability to paint evocative word pictures means this is still a much-loved story. The feast day of the Annunciation is on 25 March – chosen for its logic, the biological distance from December 25th the date marking baby Jesus’s birth. But spirit does not function through rational linear time. Spirit is experienced holistically.
So the Annunciation usually slots into Advent with its four Sundays during which we enter the mystical aura of the holy birth. Through this inner rhythm, repeated each year, our souls can attune to the spirit and penetrate ever more deeply into the meaning of Advent.
The announcement to Mary is a pivotal moment that sets in play the incarnation of a Sun Being, containing within itself the fullness of the Logos. This was different from the gods and goddesses of old – appearing as a swan, or a shower of gold or even in human form. This was about a mighty cosmic spirit that became known as the Christ, ‘the Anointed’, narrowing itself to becoming fully human, experiencing all that humans experience – including death.
For this a chosen human soul, a baby born of woman, was vital.
There is an old teaching that sees every person, name, event, place, plant and animal as being a symbol of something deeper, thus becoming a sign for us concerning universal principles beyond the physical. The gospels, written by initiates, are not speaking just about events in the first century. They point to the future and they speak to us now. That means the Annunciation is also our personal story, the story of our soul. I was introduced to this meta-physical approach by Mario Schoenmaker as a powerful soul-based tool for understanding the Bible. It enables seekers to enter its deep truths of our personal journey, and the spiritual principles alive within us relating to the questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? So let’s call on Bible Metaphysics to explore this lovely annunciation story.
There are two protagonists in this passage from Luke's Gospel. First the angel Gabriel. We each have an angel, which is our spiritual intuition, the inner guiding voice that reveals truth. Gabriel however is higher - an archangel. These high beings work to unite peoples and groups, guiding them towards fulfilling higher intentions, according to the setting and historical time. In the immediate sense Gabriel’s message was pertinent to the purpose of the Jewish people. Although there is more to it.
Gabriel comes to Mary, a young virgin. Her name Mary, from Miriam, Mariam and Maria, originated in Egypt, from myr meaning ‘loved’ or ‘beloved’.
How do we comprehend this loving young woman? First, even before we look at the facts of the story as Luke records them, we need to ask a potent question: can I find Mary within me?
The answer will come via a feeling that wells up from your soul. For Mary represents an elusive part of the soul. Our soul’s home is in the heavens. And there is a virginal purity that dwells in our soul, a memory from the heavens that remains when we incarnate. And as we experience the world, this virginal purity remains quietly in our soul, elusive as a rare precious pearl.
We are often frustrated by its inaccessibility, yet if we do not direct these feelings outwardly as frustration, but sit with the pain of longing, and accept the often perplexing feeling of something anticipated, and if we value the tears that sometimes emerge when we are stirred by something of great beauty, then we are experiencing Mary.
Is it any wonder that the medieval mystics raised Mary to a goddess status calling her Theotokis (God Bearer); Mother of Divine Grace; Queen of Heaven; Morning Star; Star of the Sea; Mystical Rose; Ark of the Covenant; Fount of Wisdom.
It doesn’t matter whether Mary was really a virgin. The Mary element is virginal and immaculate. It comes directly from spirit and is given to every person who incarnates into this world, regardless of status, personality, intelligence, or race. The inner Mary that we have in common with the entire human race makes every man, woman and child equal before the throne of God even though it has been forgotten by most. But the memory somehow lingers. We need to become conscious of this feminine principle residing in our soul and honour it as truly precious.
Mary lives in Nazareth, which is a community of Nazarenes who follow their own ways. The name means ‘branch’ or ‘separated’. In the first century it is probably no more than a hamlet, an insignificant village compared to showy Jerusalem or grandiose Roman Tiberius. Yet it is here that world changing events are anticipated.
A teaching for us here is that outward show and display are not conducive to the soul’s growth. Galilee, where Nazareth is situated is a fertile, well-watered region meaning ‘circle’. And just as nature’s riches encircle the small village, so we must be open to nourishment inwardly, and not the temporary ‘enrichment’ of fame, status or wealth the world provides.
Like the Essenes, Nazarenes are preparing for the advent of the Anointed and Nazarene initiates understand how it will take place. To this end adolescent girls are being guided in devotion and goodness. For it has been foretold that one of them will become mother to this saviour.
The purpose of Mary's incarnation is to bring forth the Christ child. She came into existence for this sole purpose. This is something modern humans find difficult to conceive because in the world our minds are occupied with our goals both worldly and related to the real purpose of our lives here. We become dissatisfied, restless and irritable, and no matter what we do, these questions continue to plague us.
Too often we blame our personal problems and lack of purpose on the world, when we need to open ourselves to this feminine principle, the listening, receptive, mother aspect within our being which will lead us into the womb-like realm where mind and emotions cannot intrude. Then we will realise that our purpose, the reason we came to earth, is the same as for Mary. The virginal and pure substance of our soul is longing to bring forth the holy child within our being, for this to become a living reality within our soul.
As long as we overlook the tenderness of our own being, the love-yearning within our soul, the mystical longing and anticipation that draws us to the eternal ground of our being, then the inner Mary is unable to reach our conscious mind and heart.
The message of Archangel Gabriel, that intuitive divine voice within us, is directed to that part of our soul where love simply wants to express itself. Gabriel will speak to you when you are inwardly prepared to receive the Christ spirit within your being. Then as they were to Mary, Gabriel’s words to you will be:
‘Hail, O favoured one, the Lord is with you!
But Mary is troubled. And sometimes we are afraid to accept magnificent words like this. For our desire nature is also part of our soul, the fearful part that moves towards pleasure and away from pain. And if we are not in touch with that pure light within the soul, we grasp the deceptive voices within us to make us feel okay, the lies and delusions that only boost the ego.
Yet your inner intuition tells you that you are accepted and loved by the divine realms. ‘Fear not,’ Gabriel declares to Mary. Be certain that you are beloved of the gods and have been prepared for the birth of the holy child. This is what will take place. It is what must be. So listen well:
'You will conceive. You will bear a son. He will be great. He will be called the Son of the Most High. He will have the throne of David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever. His kingdom will have no end.'
Note the repetition of ‘will’. This is nothing less than the divine will in play.
Although these promises and powers apply to Jesus who will become the Christ, they also apply equally to the birth of the holy babe and the coming of the Christ, the I AM, in you and me. It is within the very will of the gods that this is to take place.
The child will be great, the archangel announces. What does it mean to be great? We all have an egotistical tendency to want to be ‘great’, to be recognised, acknowledged and appreciated. But the two biblical names in accordance with metaphysical principles tell us what greatness means – it is to claim the throne of David, whose name means love; and to reign forever over the house of Jacob. His name means ‘supplanter’; he’s the smart one who cheated to get the birthright of his older brother. Jacob is our intelligence focused on getting what we desire. The divine love and Christ power of I AM will subject this mundane intelligence to its own higher mind.
Mary asks a question from the world, a little doubt. How can it be? I haven’t yet slept with a man. But the archangel doesn’t even acknowledge a problem because the narrow dictates of the world do not apply here. This is because of two promises of a far higher nature, given to Mary, and to us. Firstly, the Holy Spirit will come upon you; secondly, the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Notice the word ‘will’ again. This spirit and this power will help to bring forth the Christ, the Holy One, within our soul. And it is an affirmation that we are never abandoned by the spirit, even if at times it may seem so.
And Mary then declares, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it to me according to your word.’ It’s a powerful statement: behold! Look now, see who I AM! I know that your word is true, and I dedicate my love and inner beauty to the Lord’s service.
Our soul too can become the Lord’s handmaiden, which is a special role that draws one close to the source. It means to listen in silence and quietness to the ruling voice of our intuition. It means to believe and affirm what our spirit is telling us, and to know that this spirit needs a response, and we give it through the dedicated offering of self in loving service.
As Christmas eve draws close let us fully honour the pure light and love of Mary, the holy mother, and embrace the divine child to be born in Bethlehem, which means ‘house of bread’. When we open our whole being to the Christ in us, the I AM, then this is truly our bread of life. For the power and grace of Christ restores our true purpose through which we will become a blessing in the world.