The World's First Love by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Part 21.

The Bible never speaks of marriage in terms of sex, but as "knowledge," for example, "Joseph knew not Mary" (Matt. 1:19) "Adam knew Eve and she conceived." (Gen. 4:1) The reason it does this is in order to show how close a husband and wife should be: they are intended by God to be as close as your mind and that thing which you know. For example, you know that two plus two equals four, and you cannot think of anything coming between your mind and that. Your right arm is not united to your body so closely as anything which you know is united to your mind.

So Mary says: "How shall this be, seeing I know not man?" Mary did not say: "I will never marry, therefore, I cannot become the Mother of Jesus." That would have been disobedient to the angel who asked her to become the Mother of Jesus. Neither did she say: "I do not want a husband, but let the Will of God be fulfilled," for that would have been untrue to herself and her vow. Mary merely wanted to be enlightened concerning her duty. The problem was not her virginity. She was familiar enough with the prophecy of Isaias to know that God would be born of a virgin. Mary's only concern was, that since up to this point in history motherhood and virginity had been irreconcilable, how will God arrange it? Her objection to the Virgin Birth was on the basis of science. The solution certainly cannot be natural; therefore it must be supernatural. God can do it, but how? Long before modern biology put a query to the Virgin Birth, Mary asked the scientific "How?" The angel answers that, in her case, birth will come without human love, but not without Divine Love, for the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit, Who is the Love of God, will descend into her, and He that will be born of her will be "the Son of God."

Mary saw at once that this allowed her to keep her vow. All she wanted, anyway, was to love God. At this moment, when the Spirit of Love ravished her soul, so that she conceived the Christ within, there must have come to her the fulfillment of those ecstatic ravishments that creatures seek in the flesh but which they never quite attain. The flesh in its peaks of love when it becomes united to other flesh falls back upon itself with satiety, but here in this union of human love with Divine Love there is no throwback to self, but only the sheer delight of the ecstasy of the spirit. In flesh-love the ecstasy is first in the body and then indirectly in the soul In this Spirit-love, it was Mary's soul that was first ravished and, then, not by human love but by God. The love of God would so inflame her heart, her body, her soul that when Jesus was born the world could truly say of Him: "This is a Child of Love."

Being told how Divine Love will supplant human love, and how she can be a Mother while remaining a Virgin in the great mystery of generation, Mary now gives her consent: "Be it done unto me according to Thy Word," that is, as God in His Wisdom wills it, so do I. And at that moment the Word was conceived in her: "The Word became Flesh and dwelt amongst us." Before the Fall, it was woman who came from man in the ecstasy of sleep. Now it is man who comes from a woman in the ecstasy of the Spirit.

One of the most beautiful lessons in the world emerges from the Annunciation, namely, the vocation of woman to supreme religious values. Mary is here recapturing woman's vocation from the beginning, namely, to be to humanity the bearer of the Divine. Every mother is this when she gives birth to a child, for the soul of every child is infused by God. She thus becomes a coworker with Divinity; she bears what God alone can give. As the priest in the order of Redemption, at the moment of Consecration, brings the crucified Saviour to the altar, so the mother in the order of creation brings the spirit which issues from the Hand of God to the cradle of earth. With such thoughts in mind, Leon Bloy once said: "The more a woman is holy, the more she becomes a woman."

Why? It is not that women are naturally more religious than men. This statement is merely a rationalization made by men who have fallen from their ideals. Man and woman each have a specific mission under God to complement one another. Each, too, has its symbol in the lower order. Man may be likened to the animal in his acquisitiveness, mobility, and initiative. Woman may be likened to the flower, which is fixed between Heaven and earth; she is like the earth in her bearing of life; she is like the Heaven in her aspirations to blossom upward to the Divine. The mark of man is initiative; but the mark of woman is cooperation. Man talks about freedom; woman about sympathy, love, sacrifice. Man cooperates with nature; woman cooperates with God. Man was called to till the earth, to "rule over the earth"; woman to be the bearer of a life that comes from God. The hidden wish of every woman in history, the secret desire of every feminine heart, is fulfilled in that instant when Mary says: "Fiat" "Be it done unto me according to Thy Word."

Here is cooperation at its best. Here is the essence of womanhood - acceptance, resignation, submission: "Be it done unto me." Whether it be the unmarried daughter who cares for the mother with her Fiat of surrender to service, or the wife who accepts the husband in the unity of the flesh, or the saint who accepts little crosses proffered by her Saviour, or this Unique Woman whose soul submits to the Divine Mystery of mothering God made man - there is present in varying degrees the beautiful picture of Woman in her sublimest vocation making the Total Gift, accepting a Divine assignment, being submissive for heaven's holy purposes.