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 holy; he will be called Son of God”- Luke 1:35
This is the nearest that we get to a description of the virginal conception of Jesus. The presence of God “overshadowed” the mercy-seat enclosed by the cherubim in the holy of holies in the Temple at Jerusalem. This same presence “overshadows” the young woman called Mary. The language is quite a deliberate inference, though great care is exercised in being ‘proper’ via appropriate language.
The lordly angel of God brings a message that must have been devastating to Mary: that from the heart of God there was new being in her body.
It is sometimes said that once we have accepted the miracle of the resurrection, then we can accept the other miracles. This may be either trite or true, but it is apparent that the miracle of the virginal conception of Jesus is linked to the miracle of the resurrection. Both are a work of the Holy Spirit. The “same Spirit” that hovered over the waters at Creation “overshadows” Mary and raises Jesus from the dead. It is creation, creation, creation. We envision here the creation of the universe, the emergence in creation of a person who mirrors the face of God, and the bursting through creation of a risen human life that enters the ultimate source of the Spirit of God in the heavens. Nevertheless, we should be careful about any absolute connection that carries equal historical reference. The supernatural conception at Nazareth and Resurrection at Jerusalem are two different events, though both depend on the Creator- Spirit of God
The birth of Jesus is a natural birth: Born of the Virgin Mary. Virgin goes with Mary like Christ goes with Jesus and Baptizer goes with John. But “Virgin” goes with the conception, not with the actual birth, though it is tied to the destiny of the one who is born. The birth is in humble circumstances at Bethlehem. That it is “the city of David” by tradition may have influenced the choice of Bethlehem. After all, the promises of God were made to the “House of David”. How wonderful if the prophet from Nazareth who emerges as Messiah could be shown to have links with David! This would not only be figuratively on Joseph’s side “descended from the house and family of David”, but powerfully reinforced in actually being born where David was brought up.
The prophet Micah had declared that from “Bethlehem of Ephrathah” would come forth “one who is to rule Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2). This confluence of symbols and expectations has drawn some scepticism about Bethlehem as the place of Jesus’ birth. It is apparently not considered that God could have used such ‘connections’ to reinforce the divine intentions inscribed in this new life.
The virginal conception of Jesus proposes a direct link into the heart of God. It connects the majesty of the glory of God with the child conceived in Mary of Nazareth. It links that child with the Son of God in heaven and says that they are one. The shekinah glory of God came to the tent in the wilderness of Israel’s wanderings and we may infer that it comes also to Nazareth .
The incredibly vivid perceptions of the writer of the Fourth Gospel led him to describe Jesus’ birth by writing that “he pitched his tent among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth”. I will never forget reading those words for the first time in the Greek text: it was like hearing and feeling the enormous spiritual passion of the writer for the first time. Christians should weep for joy when they read these words. The vision of God in Trinity unfolds for them, since his coming to “dwell among us” is a work of the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father. The Son in God’s heart is at one with the child at Bethlehem of Judea and the messianic prophet from Nazareth in Galilee. It is a creative unity is a focus of the mystery of God. We are rightly admonished by those who have laboured over the texts to be careful of unwarranted absolute connections.
Mary is every mother in giving birth. But one day the messenger from God came and the Holy Spirit ‘overshadowed’ her.