It’s 650 BC. The Prophet Jeremiah sits alone weeping as Yahweh tells him what will occur in 589 BC through the edicts of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon: The city of Jerusalem is besieged; the Temple burned; and the Tribes of Israel are exiled. As Jeremiah laments on these coming tragedies, Yahweh shares this covenant promising to end the repetitious cycles of sin and guilt:
“The House of Israel will know that true freedom comes with absolution from the transgressions against The Lord. They will all know me from the least to the greatest, since I shall forgive their guilt and never more call their sins to mind. And this shall be the covenant I will make with the House of Israel. After these days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts.” -Jeremiah 31: The New Covenant (L) 31-34
Yahweh refers to the time when through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, they and all their progeny lost their Likeness of God and Divine Justice, virtues guiding mortal’s gift of free will toward righteous decisions (true freedom). In this covenant Yahweh, a loving Father, promises to atone these sins, removing them from His children’s memory.
In the writings of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and Saint Thomas Aquinas, we learn how this covenant requires a special course of action. At the creation, Yahweh Himself established a strict separation between the mortal and divine kingdoms, preventing His personal involvement in atoning for these sins.
If Yahweh, Himself cannot atone for mortals, how will this New Covenant through the Prophet Jeremiah be fulfilled?
In His Infinite Wisdom and love for the Children of Israel, Yahweh deems it fitting for God the Son to incarnate as a mortal man to atone for the sins of mortals and erase the memory of these sins from their minds. Yahweh gains the cooperation of the Son of God who consents as Mary and Joseph did.
Extraordinary Plans Are Fulfilled By Extraordinary People…
…Devout, strong, thoughtful Children of Israel are chosen by Yahweh to carry out the plan for Jesus conception, birth and life: The Virgin Mary; her parents Anne and Joachim; her cousin Elizabeth, husband Zechariah and their son, John, who becomes John the Baptist; Mary Magdalene and her family; and many more we meet as we follow Jesus on his path to bring us to true freedom. Our focus in this blog is on Jesus’ grandparents and parents.
Anne and Joachim Become The Parents of Mary Through the Intercession of Yahweh
It takes time to prepare a perfect being to become the mother of Jesus, one without the blemish or inclination to sin. When time moves near for Jesus conception, Yahweh responds to the longing for a child by an older devout couple and the Holy Spirit intercedes. Anne was born in Bethlehem, her husband Joachim, a shepherd from Jerusalem. The high priest at the temple rejects Joachim’s sheep as offerings for the burnt ritual because he has no children.
Hearing himself ridiculed, Joachim goes into the desert to pray for a child. After fasting and praying forty days and nights, an angel of the Lord announces he and Ann will have a child they are to name Mary and dedicate to Yahweh at the Temple of Jerusalem. Joachim is over-joyed. His wife Anne receives the same message as she kneels in her garden praying as Joachim does for a child. She too is filled with joy and gratitude.
Soon after Mary’s birth, Anne and Joachim take their beloved child to the Temple in Jerusalem and as they promised the angel, dedicate her to Yahweh. Mary spends much of her childhood at the Temple preparing for a life she could not then imagine. When fourteen years old her parents arrange her betrothal to Joseph, a mature man much older than Mary, known to be devout, righteous and just. Joseph is a widow with several children. As the 25th great grandson of King David, he fulfils the lineage foretold in the covenant of the Prophet Jeremiah.
The Annunciation To Mary And Joseph
Mary continues living in her parents’ home and sits quietly in the garden when the Archangel Gabriel appears announcing “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with thee.” Mary reflects for some time on the angel’s greeting, leading the angel to explain how she was being asked to conceive and bear a son she must call Jesus. As he awaits Mary’s reply, he remarks how Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin who is in her eighties and barren, has conceived a son to be called John. Mary responds by asking how her conception can come about, since she’s a virgin. “The Holy Spirit will cover you with its shadow. And the child will be holy and will be called Son of God…” Gospel of Luke 1:26-48
Understanding the significance, joy, pain and sorrow of what is asked, Mary humbly replies, “You see before you the Lord’s servant. Let it happen to me as you have said.” Pope Benedict calls Mary’s yes “the moment when God’s will and Mary’s will align and the young virgin is prepared within for what is known as the virginal birth (both a birth through Mary, who is a virgin, and a conception that does not alter her virginity).”
Of Joseph, chosen by Yahweh as the legal father of Jesus, Pope Benedict tells us in The Infancy Narrative “That Joseph received his message of Mary’s pregnancy in a dream, shows us an essential quality of the man. Only a man inwardly watchful for the divine, only someone with a real sensitivity to God and His ways, can receive God’s message in this way…From the angel’s words Joseph understands the child Mary carries is the Messiah described in the prophesy of Jeremiah many years before, this Messiah coming from the House of David.”
It takes some time for Joseph to work through this. A man with a reputation for being fair and just, he first considers sparing Mary from scandal by releasing her from their betrothal. When Yahweh intercedes, Joseph realizes he is essential to establishing Jesus birthright and influencing the child’s upbringing. Like Mary, Joseph says yes.
The question often asked is “How can Joseph pass his lineage on to Jesus?” In the legal custom of the time, a man became a child’s legal father when he presented the child at the temple to be named. When Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple for his naming and circumcision ceremonies he receives all the privileges of Joseph’s lineage as one from the House of David.
Next week we’ll introduce Mary’s cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zachariah and be reminded how the conception of their son John when they were very elderly is also part of Yahweh’s plan for the Son of God to atone for the sins of mortal beings.
P.S. For more preparations for Christmas, go to: Elevating Holiday Tasks to Rituals Posted November 14, 2010 and Advent 2017: Preparing Our Hearts for Christmas II.
The sources used in this blog are: Studying The New Jerusalem Bible, Meditations on the Tarot and Christ and Sophia by Valentin Tomberg with Dr. Gerald Epstein, founder and director of the American Institute for Mental Imagery; Aquinas’s Shorter Summa by Saint Thomas Aquinas; Mary from the Spiritual Theological Series by Pope Benedict XVI; Jesus of Nazareth and The Infancy Narratives by Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI; The Timeline History of the World, Third Millennium Press Limited