Conception of the Theotokos

As James notes on his blog, today, 9 December, is the feast of the conception of the Theotokos. Joachim and Anna, the parents of the Virgin Mary, were childless and old. They longed for a child. God answered their prayers, and Joachim and Anna conceived Mary. Mary’s parents died not long after her birth, and she was raised in the Temple in Jerusalem.

Some people “pooh pooh” the idea of Mary having a miraculous start. It just all seems too, well, biblical. How many stories are there of childless couples praying to God? This is just a “pious fiction.” After all, how does Mary’s raising in the Temple fit in with the biblical account of Jesus’ infancy?

But think about it. Isn’t this just like God? More to the point: Isn’t this, as James notes, just so Incarnational? Growing up, my understanding of the faith was pretty dualistic and a tad Manichean. No, no, it wasn’t intentional. It’s not as though my parents, family, and church were intentionally teaching heresy. They would have agreed with the Chalcedonian definition, for example. But being Protestants, we had Maryphobia, and a bit too much love for the rational (as opposed to, not the irrational, but the mysterion). We were anti-Catholic, thus almost all our understanding of Mary was framed in “not like Rome.” So we, in our great reforming, restorationist zeal, wanted to cut what we took to be this caricature of Mary down to size. Including her miraculous birth of barren righteous parents.

Well, I want the bath water back with the baby. Scripture abounds with the importance of Mary and her role and mission in God’s plan of salvation. We Protestants need not back away from that. Even and especially today as we honor the memory and faith of Joachim and Anna. Though Scripture does not mention Mary’s parents, we need not be embarrassed by the rich Tradition of the Church concerning them. It’s never been sola scriptura anyway. Even Protestants have always had “Scripture and–“.

Thank God for the Incarnation! Thank God for Mary. Thank God for the ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna. May we, like them, entrust ourselves and all our lives to Christ our God.