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Chapter Three–The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary

unknown lives of Jesus and MaryChapter Three of The Unknown Lives of Jesus and Mary

Before beginning the text of this Gospel, I would like to explain that originally I had thought of combining these different Gospels to make one continuous narrative. However, in doing so I might remove variations that are important, even if I did not realize so at the time of editing. Also, it cannot be denied that there are inconsistencies between narratives, and this should be honestly presented for your conclusions. Therefore I scrapped the hours of work I had put in on a homogenized version and decided to give them one at a time, including some of the variations.

In this particular Gospel there is very little new material, yet here you have it in its integrity and can check the translation against any others that you might have (for it has been translated three or four times to my knowledge).

I say all this to apologize if you feel my way of presentation is tedious, and ask your patient forbearance. After a while we will be embarking on new and non-repetitive territory.

The blessed and glorious ever-virgin Mary, sprung from the royal stock and family of David, born in the city of Nazareth, was brought up at Jerusalem in the temple of the Lord.

This statement comes first so we can know that Mary was not a “product” of normal family life, but was the fruition of the Temple of the Lord. Here, too, we find it stated that She was ever-virgin. And as a descendent of David she was of royal lineage.

Her father was named Joachim, and her mother Anna.

Her father’s house was from Galilee and the city of Nazareth, but her mother’s family from Bethlehem.

Their life was guileless and right before the Lord, and irreproachable and pious before men.

For they divided all their substance into three parts. One part they spent upon the temple and the temple servants; another they distributed to strangers and the poor; the third they reserved for themselves and the necessities of their family.

Thus, dear to God, kind to men, for about twenty years they lived in their own house, a chaste married life, without having any children.

A chaste married life! That is, their marriage was not based on sex, nor did they think that because they were married “anything goes” in that department. Bernard Shaw rightly observed that “marriage is the most lascivious of institutions” in many instances, but not so with Saints Joachim and Anna. This expression also means that they were absolutely faithful to one another. And most importantly they were chaste in mind.

We are told that they lived in their own house because in the Middle and Far East the “joint family” is common. But they were the heads of their own household.

Nevertheless they vowed that, should the Lord happen to give them offspring, they would deliver it to the service of the Lord; on which account also they used to visit the temple of the Lord at each of the feasts during the year.

And it came to pass that the festival of the dedication [of the Temple] was at hand; wherefore also Joachim went up to Jerusalem with some men of his own tribe.

Now at that time Issachar was high priest there. And when he saw Joachim with his offering among his other fellow-citizens, he despised him, and spurned his gifts, asking why he, who had no offspring, presumed to stand among those who had; saying that his gifts could not by any means be acceptable to God, since He had deemed him unworthy of offspring; for the Scripture said, Cursed is every one who has not begot a male or a female in Israel.

This is not found in the Bible, but there is such a thing as the “oral Torah,” so perhaps this quotation is from that. Or perhaps something is missing in the texts we now have.

He said, therefore, that he ought first to be freed from this curse by the begetting of children; and then, and then only, that he should come into the presence of the Lord with his offerings.

And Joachim, covered with shame from this reproach that was thrown in his teeth, retired to the shepherds, who were in their pastures with their flocks; nor would he return home, lest perchance he might be branded with the same reproach by those of his own tribe, who were there at the time, and had heard this from the priest.

Now, when he had been there for some time, on a certain day when he was alone, an angel of the Lord stood by him in a great light.

And when he was disturbed at his appearance, the angel who had appeared to him restrained his fear, saying:

Fear not, Joachim, nor be disturbed by my appearance; for I am the angel of the Lord, sent by Him to thee to tell thee that thy prayers have been heard, and that thy charitable deeds have gone up into His presence.

Saint Paul wrote: “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness.”1 It is likely that he is quoting from an aphorism of the Essenes. Saint Joachim is not apprehensive at seeing an angel, but rather because of his unusual brilliance. Remember, in most scriptural accounts we are told that the angels simply appear like young men dressed in white–they do not shine. So Saint Joachim wonders if this radiance may be meant to impress him and make him mistake a demon for an angel. He is following the admonition later given by Saint John the Beloved: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God.”2 An essential part of esoteric knowledge is the methodology for testing spirits. This is because those who follow the path of conscious development will indeed perceive disembodied beings on occasion.

Let us not take this matter of charitable actions lightly. Once more we see that they were a major factor in preparing Saints Joachim and Anna to literally become the grandparents of God. Christians were known from the beginning for their abundant charities–and so should we. A certain amount of income should be designated for charity without fail, for this creates the maximum–and optimum–good karma.

For He hath seen thy shame, and hath heard the reproach of unfruitfulness which has been unjustly brought against thee. For God is the avenger of sin, not of nature: and, therefore, when He shuts up the womb of any one, He does so that He may miraculously open it again; so that that which is born may be acknowledged to be not of lust, but of the gift of God.

For was it not the case that the first mother of your nation–Sarah–was barren up to her eightieth year? And, nevertheless, in extreme old age she brought forth Isaac, to whom the promise was renewed of the blessing of all nations. Rachel also, so favored of the Lord, and so beloved by holy Jacob, was long barren; and yet she brought forth Joseph, who was not only the lord of Egypt, but the deliverer of many nations who were ready to perish of hunger.

Who among the judges was either stronger than Samson, or more holy than Samuel? And yet the mothers of both were barren.

If, therefore, the reasonableness of my words does not persuade thee, believe in fact that conceptions very late in life, and births in the case of women that have been barren, are usually attending with something wonderful.

Accordingly thy wife Anna will bring forth a daughter to thee, and thou shalt call her name Mary: she shall be, as you have vowed, consecrated to the Lord from her infancy, and she shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from her mother’s womb.

She shall neither eat nor drink any unclean thing, nor shall she spend her life among the crowds of the people without, but in the temple of the Lord, that it may not be possible either to say, or so much as to suspect any evil concerning her. Therefore, when she has grown up, just as she herself shall be miraculously born of a barren woman, so in an incomparable manner she, a virgin, shall bring forth the Son of the Most High, who shall be called Jesus, and who, according to the etymology of His name, shall be the Savior of all nations.

All this was known, then, to Saint Joachim and, as we shall see, to Saint Anna. But whether this was revealed by them before or after the conception of Jesus, we do not know. But that they knew what was to come, we do.

It is noteworthy that the purpose of the Virgin’s living in the Temple was to establish Her character and thus lend credibility to Her testimony regarding the miraculous conception of Her Son. God always covers all fronts, as observation will reveal.

And this shall be the sign to thee of those things which I announce: When thou shalt come to the Golden Gate in Jerusalem, thou shalt there meet Anna thy wife, who, lately anxious from the delay of thy return, will then rejoice at the sight of thee.

Having thus spoken, the angel departed from him.

Thereafter he appeared to Anna his wife, saying: Fear not, Anna, nor think that it is a phantom which thou seest. For I am that angel who has presented your prayers and alms before God; and now have I been sent to you to announce to you that thou shalt bring forth a daughter, who shall be called Mary, and who shall be blessed above all women.

She, full of the favor of the Lord even from her birth, shall remain three years in her father’s house until she be weaned.

Thereafter, being delivered to the service of the Lord, she shall not depart from the temple until she reach the years of discretion.

There, in fine, serving God day and night in fastings and prayers, she shall abstain from every unclean thing; she shall never know man, but alone, without example [precedent], immaculate, uncorrupted, without intercourse with man, she, a virgin, shall bring forth a son; she, His handmaiden, shall bring forth the Lord–both in grace, and in name, and in work, the Savior of the world.

Wherefore arise, and go up to Jerusalem; and when thou shalt come to the gate which, because it is plated with gold, is called Golden, there, for a sign, thou shalt meet thy husband, for whose safety thou hast been anxious.

And when these things shall have so happened, know that what I announce shall without doubt be fulfilled.

Therefore, as the angel had commanded, both of them setting out from the place where they were, went up to Jerusalem; and when they had come to the place pointed out by the angel’s prophecy, there they met each other.

Then, rejoicing at seeing each other, and secure in the certainty of the promised offspring, they gave thanks due to the Lord, who exalteth the humble.

And so, having worshipped the Lord, they returned home, and awaited in certainty and in gladness the divine promise.

Anna therefore conceived, and brought forth a daughter; and according to the command of the angel, her parents called her name Mary.

And when the circle of three years had rolled round, and the time of her weaning was fulfilled, they brought the virgin to the temple of the Lord with offerings.

Now there were round the temple, according to the fifteen Psalms of Degrees, fifteen steps going up; for, on account of the temple having been built on a mountain, the altar of burnt-offering, which stood outside, could not be reached except by steps.

On one of these, then, her parents placed the little girl, the blessed Virgin Mary.

And when they were putting off the clothes which they had worn on the journey, and were putting on, as was usual, others that were neater and cleaner, the virgin of the Lord went up all the steps, one after the other, without the help of any one leading her or lifting her, in such a manner that, in this respect at least, you would think that she had already attained full age.

For already the Lord in the infancy of His virgin wrought a great thing, and by the indication of this miracle foreshowed how great she was to be.

Therefore, a sacrifice having been offered according to the custom of the law, and their vow being perfected, they left the virgin within the enclosures of the temple, there to be educated with the other virgins, and themselves returned home.

But the virgin of the Lord advanced in age and in virtues; and though, in the words of the Psalmist, her father and mother had forsaken her, the Lord took her up.

For daily was she visited by angels, daily did she enjoy a divine vision, which preserved her from all evil, and made her to abound in all good.

We often hear that we are what we eat, but the truth is we are also whatever we perceive–at least momentarily–which is why the senses must be carefully guarded. As previously mentioned, it has been proven by extensive tests that watching something is to a great degree the same as doing it.

So to see God is to be God–at least to a degree. This is why in India such importance is placed on the darshan–sight–of a saint or a sacred image. And this is also why in Eastern Christianity imagery in the form of the icon is so important. It is interesting that the contemplatives of the West consider imagery a distraction, and the contemplatives of the East, Christian and non-Christian, consider imagery an essential part in developing the contemplative consciousness. But we must also remember that the religious imagery of the West is “of the earth, earthly”–that is, completely “natural” in style, whereas the imagery of the East is stylized and highly symbolic. Thus it can awaken the archetypal consciousness deep within us.

Daily the Virgin ascended to the heights of contemplation and beheld the essential Light of God. This kept Her divinized.

And so she reached her fourteenth year; and not only were the wicked unable to charge her with anything worthy of reproach, but all the good, who knew her life and conversation, judged her to be worthy of admiration.

Then the high priest publicly announced that the virgins who were publicly settled in the temple, and had reached this time of life, should return home and get married, according to the custom of the nation and the ripeness of their years.

The others readily obeyed this command; but Mary alone, the virgin of the Lord, answered that she could not do this, saying both that her parents had devoted her to the service of the Lord, and that, moreover, she herself had made to the Lord a vow of virginity, which she would never violate by an intercourse with man.

And the high priest, being placed in great perplexity of mind, seeing that neither did he think that the vow should be broken contrary to the Scripture, which says, Vow and pay, nor did he dare to introduce a custom unknown to the nation, gave order that at the festival, which as at hand, all the chief persons from Jerusalem and the neighborhood should be present, in order that from their advice he might know what was to be done in so doubtful a case.

And when this took place, they resolved unanimously that the Lord should be consulted upon this matter. And when they all bowed themselves in prayer, the high priest went to consult God in the usual way.

Nor had they long to wait: in the hearing of all a voice issued from the oracle and from the mercy-seat, that, according to the prophecy of Isaiah, a man should be sought out to whom the virgin ought to be entrusted and espoused.

For it is clear that Isaiah says: A rod shall come forth from the root of Jesse, and a flower shall ascend from his root; and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of wisdom and piety; and he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord.

According to this prophecy, therefore, he predicted that all of the house and family of David that were unmarried and fit for marriage should bring their rods to the altar; and that he whose rod after it was brought should produce a flower, and upon the end of whose rod the Spirit of the Lord should settle in the form of a dove, was the man to whom the virgin ought to be entrusted and espoused.

Now there was among the rest Joseph, of the house and family of David, a man of great age: and when all brought their rods, according to the order, he alone withheld his.

Wherefore, when nothing in conformity with the divine voice appeared, the high priest thought it necessary to consult God a second time; and He answered, that of those who had been designated, he alone to whom the virgin ought to be espoused had not brought his rod.

Actually, this kind of situation is not new. In the sixteenth chapter of First Samuel, when God sent Samuel to anoint the new king of Israel, Jesse had his sons come before him in turn. None of them were chosen by God. By questioning, Samuel learned that there was one son whom Jesse had not even called because he considered the boy of no significance compared to his other strapping, muscle-bound sons. But when that son, David, entered the room, God spoke and told Samuel that this was His chosen one. Later David sang of his having been disregarded by men but having been called by God. So it was with Saint Joseph, but in this case he was disregarding himself.

Joseph, therefore, was found out. For when he had brought his rod, and the dove came from heaven and settled upon the top of it, it clearly appeared to all that he was the man to whom the virgin should be espoused.

Either the manifestation was very overt, or many of the witnesses were clairvoyant. When we consider the thousands that witnessed the miracle of Fatima, it is not so surprising. Even now on the Greek island of Mitylene, hundreds of worshippers frequently see the astral apparitions of Saints Nicholas, Raphael, and Irene. Every year a multitude of Eastern Christians assemble on Holy Saturday in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the descent of the Holy Fire from the heavens. It has been taking place for centuries, yet an unwilling–and therefore unbelieving–world knows nothing of it except to deride.

Therefore, the usual ceremonies of betrothal having been gone through, he went back to the city of Bethlehem to put his house in order, and to procure things necessary for the marriage.

Here it is clearly indicated that Saint Joseph and the Virgin were betrothed but not married.

But Mary, the virgin of the Lord, with seven other virgins of her own age, and who had been weaned at the same time, whom she had received from the priest, returned to the house of her parents in Galilee.

And in those days, that is, at the time of her first coming into Galilee, the angel Gabriel was sent to her by God, to announce to her the conception of the Lord, and to explain to her the manner and order of the conception.

Accordingly, going in, he filled the chamber where she was with a great light; and most courteously saluting her, he said: Hail, Mary! O virgin highly favored by the Lord, virgin full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou above all women, blessed above all men that have been hitherto born.

And the virgin, who was already well acquainted with angelic faces, and was not unused to the light from heaven, was neither terrified by the vision of the angel, nor astonished at the greatness of the light, but only perplexed by his words; and she began to consider of what nature a salutation so unusual could be, or what it could portend, or what end it could have.

And the angel, divinely inspired, taking up this thought, says: Fear not, Mary, as if anything contrary to thy chastity were hid under this salutation.

For in choosing chastity, thou hast found favor with the Lord; and therefore thou, a virgin, shalt conceive without sin, and shalt bring forth a son. He shall be great, because He shall rule from sea to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth; and He shall be called the Son of the Most High, because He who is born on earth in humiliation, reigns in heaven in exaltation; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end; forasmuch as He is King of kings and Lord of lords, and His throne is from everlasting to everlasting.

The virgin did not doubt these words of the angel; but wishing to know the manner of it, she answered: How can that come to pass: For while, according to my vow, I never know man, how can I bring forth without the addition of man’s seed?

To this the angel says: Think not, Mary, that thou shalt conceive in the manner of mankind: for without any intercourse with man, thou, a virgin, wilt conceive; thou, a virgin, wilt bring forth; thou, a virgin, wilt nurse: for the Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee, without any of the heats of lust; and therefore that which shall be born of thee shall alone be holy, because it alone, being conceived and born without sin, shall be called the Son of God.

Then Mary stretched forth her hands, and raised her eyes to heaven, and said: Behold the hand-maiden of the Lord, for I am not worthy of the name of lady; let it be to me according to thy word.

It will be long, and perhaps, to some even tedious, if we insert in this little work every thing which we read of as having preceded or followed the Lord’s nativity: wherefore, omitting those things which have been more fully written in the Gospel, let us come to those which are held to be less worthy of being narrated.

Joseph therefore came from Judea into Galilee, intending to marry the virgin who had been betrothed to him; for already three months had elapsed, and it was the beginning of the fourth since she had been betrothed to him.

In the meantime, it was evident from her shape that she was pregnant, nor could she conceal this from Joseph.

For in consequence of his being betrothed to her, coming to her more freely and speaking to her more familiarly, he found out that she was with child.

He began then to be in great doubt and perplexity, because he did not know what was best for him to do. For, being a just man, he was not willing to expose her; nor, being a pious man, to injure her fair fame by a suspicion of fornication.

Here we see that justice and compassion, piety and mercy, go together. It is only since the Reformation that severity and punishment have been equated with justice. As Saint Theresa of Liseaux told the novices under her direction, the justice of God means that He understands us perfectly and cares for us totally.

He came to the conclusion, therefore, privately to dissolve their contract, and to send her away secretly.

And while he thought on these things, behold, and angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, thou son of David, fear not; that is, do not have any suspicion of fornication in the virgin, or think any evil of her; and fear not to take her as thy wife: for that which is begotten in her, and which now vexes thy soul, is the work not of man, but of the Holy Spirit.

For she alone of all virgins shall bring forth the Son of God, and thou shalt call His name Jesus, that is Savior; for He shall save His people from their sins.

Therefore Joseph, according to the command of the angel, took the virgin as his wife; nevertheless he knew her not but took care of her, and kept her in chastity.

And now the ninth month from her conception was at hand, when Joseph, taking with him his wife along with what things he needed, went to Bethlehem, the city from which he came.

And it came to pass while they were there, that her days were fulfilled that she should bring forth; and she brought forth her first-born son, as the holy evangelists have shown, our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost lives and reigns God from everlasting to everlasting.

From this conclusion we may infer that this Gospel is a compilation of traditions written down after the writing of the Four Gospels. Or that it is an editing of an earlier book. This Gospel has given us much information on the early life of Jesus as well as Mary.

Next: Chapter Four–The History of Anna, The Mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary

1) II Corinthians 11:14 [Go back]

2) I John 4:1 [Go back]

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Unknown Lives of Jesus and Mary

Introduction to The Unknown Lives of Jesus and Mary
Unknown Histories of Jesus and Mary

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