Nazareth: The Annunciation

There are a lot of things we don’t know.

How exactly does a Virgin Birth work?

Why does Mary get all the credit in this story, when Joseph certainly deserves the “Boyfriend of The Year” award for accepting and going along . . . and following God.

How old was Mary? Through the years a Cult of Mary has developed and thrived. Half of the Roman Catholic churches you go into you would swear the religion was all about Mary, and not about Christ. In a lot of traditional religious paintings Mary is portrayed as a mature woman, when the reality was that she was a scared Jewish teenager.

Where did Mary live? Depending on the age of the painting she may have lived in a castle, or a Dutch canal house, a Moorish castle, a Roman villa, or a Chinese pagoda . . . all of which is OK, but . . . according the the final authority, the Israeli tourist board, there are two places. Two? Right, both the Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox, by the way neither of whom were present at the “Event”, are certain they and they alone have the right spot where the Annunciation took place, and both have erected churches on the site. The tours tend to go to the most “tourist friendly” site and often the grandest, and so in this case the tours visit the Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

The current church is a two-story building constructed in 1969 over the site of an earlier Byzantine-era and then Crusader-era church.  A larger structure was commissioned by Emperor Constantine I, who had directed his mother, Saint Helena – I mean she became Saint Helena much later and I’m sure that’s not always the way good old Constantine felt about Mom.  But Helena was commission by her son, the Emperor, to found churches commemorating important events in Jesus Christ’s life and she did. And it was probably a much better idea than having Mom erect monuments to “my son, the Emperor.” There have been several church buildings on this site, the present basilica was completed in 1969 and dedicated by Pope Paul VI and is under control of the Franciscans and is the largest Christian sanctuary in the Middle East.
Inside, the lower level contains the Grotto of the Annunciation, believed by many Christians to be the remains of the original childhood home of Mary. The first shrine was probably built sometime in the middle of the 4th century, comprising an altar in the cave in which Mary had lived.

“In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.  The virgin’s name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored!  The Lord is with you.’  Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.’

‘How can this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’

The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.  Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month.  For nothing is impossible with God’

‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered.  ‘May it be to me as you have said.’  Then the angel left her.”  [Luke 1:26-39]

Just outside the Church of the Annunciation is a little mosque that choose to put up a billboard quoting the Koran reading, “And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.”

By a few cruises later someone had gotten to the sign and spray painted out the words “be accepted”, “losers” and “Koran”.

Now I know that a lot of the tourists on our tours were offended by the mosque sign.  However, I had to remind them that exclusivity is nothing new in religion.  After all, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me.”

3 thoughts on “Nazareth: The Annunciation

  1. Thanks for pointing out the “exclusivity clauses” shared by Christianity and Islam. It always amazes me that the Fundamentalist Christian Islamaphobes in the U.S., and probably elsewhere, fail to recognize that they and Fundamentalist Muslims are cut of the same cloth. Total belief that theirs is the only path to paradise and you’re either “with us or against us, you stupid infidel, you!”

    Personally I’ll go with my mother’s take on things which was: If you live your life by the Golden Rule…TRULY live it that way…IF, when you die and find you have to stand in judgement before some higher authority there will be no fault that can be found in you.

  2. God has both an excellent exclusivity and an excellent inclusivity. Truly, His son is the exclusive way to the Father. But additionally, all who are dying in Adam, will be made alive in Christ Jesus. The second death, the lake of fire, will not preclude subsequent deactivation of every enemy, including death itself. Then all, including the son himself, will be subjected to God, that God may be all in all. The resurrected Jesus Christ will reign, into the eons of the eons. But at the conclusion of the eons, sin will be put away entirely, and he will deliver the kingdom over to his God and Father.

    The good news of Jesus Christ includes information that is better than any human has ever imagined. It is good news for all, all in celestial regions, all in terrestrial regions, and all in subterranean regions. However, the ability to hear and believe it at present, is granted exclusively to ones chosen before the present eons. This, of course, is not presently appreciated by ones who are having to wait till later to enjoy their inclusion. And in fact, some of the present believers are also finding it difficult to believe certain aspects of the good news, even while admitting that the lamb of God took away the sins of the whole world. Nevertheless, the ability to hear and believe the Placer is a gift that removes fleshly boasting to as far as the east is from the west. It is as He said through His son, “You didn’t choose Me; I chose you.”

  3. Mothers are so great that even God decided to have one and I am sure that He does not mind, at all, that we venerate her. What do you think that the Mother of God deserves? Do you not look at photos of your mother and talk to her? Only non-Catholics believe that it is all about Mary in our churches.Jesus is the Son of God and God is our Father so does that make Mary our Mother? And remember that in the wedding there would have been no wine if it was not for her intercession. When you go into those churches try talking to her. She can make miracles happen!!
    And when, in your tours people comment that it looks like everything is about Mary just remind them that she is the mother of God. She does not deserve less.
    And as of Joseph, it comes to prove that “any man can be a father but it takes someone special to be a dad”.
    Merry Christmas!!!

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