Born Of A Virgin
The Rev. Jon Roberts
Calvary Episcopal Church
Indian Rocks Beach, FL
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” 35 And the angel said to 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. 36 And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
The Annunciation, Leonardo da Vinci, 1462
Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy
Virginity can be lost by a thought.
St. Jerome, the so-called “Doctor of the Church, by Roman Catholics, was mainly known for his translation of the Bible into Latin, in the early 5th century. Jerome was his nickname. His full name was Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymous. It’s easier to call him Jerome. What is not easy in understanding is the virginal birth, he would attest. It was a topic that would make him highly favored among women. When in Rome, he surrounded himself with very well-educated, noble women, from patrician families. Political leading families in the Roman Empire were losing their foothold of power, mainly due to immorality regarding sexual lust, orgies, and extreme hedonism. The Italian provinces were being invaded and people were seeking protection. They turned to the Christians for answers, as their faith in God seemed to weather the assaults. These noble families gave support to Jerome and his pursuit to translate the Hebrew and Greek texts of Holy Scripture into their native Latin. The paternal order, through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, through David, Solomon, Jesse, Jesus and the disciples seemed primary. It was the topic of the virgin birth of Mary and further an in-depth study about what Jesus meant in how we treat celibacy, being chaste and pure, in the face of sexual perversion, that some criticized Jerome of being ‘vulgar.’ You didn’t talk about sex back then. No wonder his translation would be called by his critics as Jerome’s “Vulgate” as he preached on the importance of women in the Bible, and especially the incarnation as an intimate exchange of God’s divinity being conceived in God’s humanity.
You cannot get around the topic of the Virgin Mary without talking about sex, so on this last Sunday in Advent, with the evangelist pointing the way, let’s go down this path. What makes a woman a virgin? Simply put, she has not had sexual intercourse with a man. I hope this does not make anyone feel uncomfortable. The angel Gabriel announced to Mary she would conceive a child and she will name him Jesus. The word virgin is used three times in Luke’s narrative, to drive home the point she was indeed pure. From that moment, we may begin to ask ourselves, “How is this possible, if she and her fiancé, Joseph, have not had relations?” They have not been wed. They have not had a honeymoon. She would have to eventually tell him, but the good thing is the same angel, Gabriel was sent to tell him as well what was about to happen, and once again, “Do not be afraid.” It is good Gabriel told Mary and Joseph, individually, not to be afraid. If you are a woman today, somewhere in your late teens, a virgin, would you be afraid if an angel was sent by God to deliver you that message? The shock of it may set you back a bit. You may faint.
Can a virgin give birth? Yes, but it’s very unlikely says Melinda Wenner Moyer of the online journal, The Explainer. She conferred with leading doctors who teach at Michigan State, Oregon Stem Cell Center and Pennsylvania State in her article, “Can a virgin give birth?” It is a very biological breakdown of what must happen inside the womb of a woman for this to take place and the odds of it happening. Scientists have discovered that in creatures such as wasps, fish, birds and lizards, they can have healthy offspring without sex, but what about humans? This study may have been considering this time of year when Christians gather around a manger scene, adoring the birth of the Christ, who was born of a virgin. To be clear, she did not have sexual intercourse to give birth.
Experts say that for a virgin to get pregnant, one of the mother’s eggs would have to do two things for another egg that is also in the womb. It would need to provide the biochemical changes needed to fertilize the second egg and then to abnormally divide to compensate for the lack of contribution from the male sperm DNA. That’s the easy part. These two events could possibly occur in the eggs of precursor eggs, one out of several thousand produced would also need to have to have two specific genetic deletions to produce a viable offspring. Through a series of reactions, starting with a calcium spike, usually given by the sperm that enters, there is a second meiosis where the egg loses half its DNA to make room for the sperm DNA. Without the male’s contribution of calcium and the instructions for gene expression the embryo dies. This is called Parthenogenesis. Without the male sperm there is only one way around this. The mother would have to have both genetic deletions that do not depend on calcium or gene expression instructions. This can be done in the lab, to coerce this lack of paternal influence, but then again, it is not natural. The statistical probability of a virgin birth, in nature, is 1 out of 2 billion fertile women. In our world today, with about 4 billion women, with only 2 billion capable of giving birth, we should expect to see one virgin birth. “Can a virgin give birth?” The answer is, “Yes, but it’s very unlikely.”
When Gabriel announces to Mary, he says, “And now you will conceive in your womb.” This is when God’s Spirit passes along the necessary gene expression of His divine nature into the human nature of Jesus, His Son. It is as this moment, God’s human life is conceived in the womb. Gabriel continues, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” “Do not be afraid.” Whether we want to argue if Mary had sin or not, we could make the argument, she was the best choice who had the least thought of sin in her mind or heart. If not, her virginity could be lost in a thought.
Jerome will speak on this in another letter he wrote, regarding Jesus’ treatment of the adulterous woman. You may recall that the men in the city wanted to stone a woman for adultery. He told them, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” They asked him about what he meant, wondering if Jesus was saying adultery was not a sin. He told them, it is not only wrong to lay down with another man’s wife, but it was a sin to think, to lust in your hearts and minds, about doing it. Sin is conceived as a thought. Life is conceived as a thought. The purity of Mary was the necessary, fertile ground for God to live. It is for this reason we honor the Blessed Mother and why we speak about her each Sunday in our Creed, “Jesus, who was born of the Virgin Mary.” Can you be the one who is blessed because you are pure in heart? This should be our final Advent preparation. We should prepare the way for Him to live in us by what we think. Christmas time has so much feeling, but there must be true thought applied as well. Creation and the power of the universe begins inside our hearts, our minds, and our souls. Think about the possibilities. You, who are in a lowly state; vulnerable, wondering about what the future holds, must be ready. You must be prepared by clearing all the debris and filth from your house. The irony, Jesus being born in a manger. That was to prove how powerful he was, to be born in a lowly servant, who was pure, in a lowly place which was dirty. If Jesus is to live in us, we must be pure and we must make every attempt to be clean for our savior. If not, our virginity could be lost in a thought.
 St. Jerome, 342-420AD
 Luke 1:26-38
Eamon R. Carroll, January 9, 1962, Catholic, Marian Studies at https://ecommons.udayton.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2541&context=marian_studies#:~:text=virgin%20from%20whose%20pure%20flesh,the%20truth%20of%20the%20Incarnation.&text=bring%20to%20our%20human%20bodies%20the%20grace%20of%20an%20unstained%20integrity.
 Matthew 5:27-28