One of the few things I enjoy when I’m in the Big City is being able to attend daily Mass. I usually go early, and the nuns and postulants are among the regulars, as well as several working, retired and possibly 1 or 2 homeless persons. Today, the Feast of the Annunciation was celebrated, which means we said the Gloria and the Creed. Now, on Sundays, many of us hold onto the missal so we have the new wording in front of us and our “autopilot” memorization of the old prayers is less likely to kick in. Today, however, just as on the Feast of St. Joseph last Monday, I found myself scrambling for the right page in the missal. I was not alone. It was a bit humorous, really, to hear everyone start out strong at the beginning of the Gloria, then stumble, fumble with their missals, and join back in. Perhaps another 10 years and we will have all the new wording programmed into our memories.
Today’s readings struck me in regards to the interfaith debate about the “Virgin” birth. I could not help but wonder why there should be any doubt, after careful study of the verses in Isaiah and Luke.
Isaiah 7:14 – “…the virgin shall be with child and bear a son…”
Luke 1:26-38 – read the whole passage of the angel Gabriel’s conversation with Mary. In particular, verses 34-35: “But Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’ And the angel said to her in reply, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.'” That does not sound to me like she is going to get pregnant in the usual way. And why not? Cannot the all powerful God, who can do all things, cause a virgin to conceive and bear His son? If He can create the world out of nothing, create a man out of dust, He can surely do that.
I thought maybe it might have to do with our different translations. I looked in the King James version. It says fairly the same thing as I have quoted here, from my New American Bible, St. Joseph Edition. King James also uses the word “virgin” in the verse from Isaiah. The Revised Standard Version uses the words “young woman” instead, but the passage from Luke reads much the same as the Catholic translation, including calling Mary a virgin.
In light of this, I find it hard to believe that anyone could think otherwise, when the Bible clearly states that the “virgin” Mary was “overshadowed by the power of the Most High” in order to conceive Jesus. Perhaps one day we will reconcile more of our differences and become more truly “one body in Christ”. I hope so.