The process of purification is seldom easy, but this is the great work required in all mystery schools, which Mary had long since accomplished beyond that attained by the many. For she had come as all persons do, through many lifetimes of sorrow, hardship, work, play and experience, but had been able to arrive at a greater place within her true Self. That is, she had received God-Realization.
Mary, or Mare, is interpreted by the Spanish as "The Star of the Sea." Esoterically, the sea is the desire nature, and the star is the spirit which rises above the lower nature, even as Grecian mythology portrays Venus, the goddess of love, rising star- crowned from the sea, being symbolical of the separation of love from passion.
Many interpretations have been given the name Mary, so common to women in the gospels, never used before in the Scriptures unless it is a diminutive of the Hebrew Miryam, the sister of Moses. The meaning of Mary is sometimes given as "bitter," sometimes "exalted of the Lord," but the most simply correct is said to be "My Lady." Indeed, that sounds most like her -- Madonna, as one who was high-born and blessed.
The Firstborn of God should open the womb from within outward, having been conceived on the inner realm. It could not receive seed from the outside to be built upon and then emerge again having an earth foundation. The seed was received and developed inside to show that the Christ can only be born within us, and cannot enter from without to be born.
God took a rib from Adam's side to make woman, who became imperfect; then He brought forth from the perfected woman's womb a perfect man. Having first created man alone, at Creation's dawn, God now worked with woman alone, with Mary, (though He eventually gave to each a partner). From the substance of her body was fashioned the mold which would receive the Spirit of the Son.
The annunciation was the climax of the passing of the Blessed Virgin through the nine lesser mysteries in order that she might meet the Christ, the Lord of the Sun, in the earth.
This involves the first of the four Greater Mysteries and has been described as the high exaltation of Mary at the season of Resurrection. These nine initiations through which Mary prepared for the Annunciation are called "Novenas" by the Church, for they are supposed to have occurred during a period of nine days, which is, however, purely symbolical.
The ability to comprehend the great phenomena of nature, both the visible and the invisible forces at work throughout the earth, requires the illumination as gained by means of the nine Lesser Mysteries. There are nine strata of the earth and in each of the nine Initiations one of these is investigated. This work is traced briefly in the record of the Seven Creative Days as given in Genesis.
It was Mary's privilege through a series of mystical experiences at this time to review this vast work. As the cosmic Days were recapitulated before her, she obtained power over the element predominant in that particular earth "Day" and all the life forces connected therewith. On the "Seventh Day," as the triumphant messenger of Light who had witnessed the Fall of man and had seen the Christed Plan for his redemption, she was caught up into the highest heaven to be "worthily robed," and was here arrayed in luminous white and crowned with many sparkling jewels, which is symbolic of the radiance of her own beautiful soul body.
Upon the midnight hour of the "Eighth Day" Mary was subjected to the test given to Solomon, and like the wise king she, too, chose the highest. "Since thou hast found grace in my eyes, ask what thou wilt and it shall not be denied thee even to the half of my kingdom."
Mary replied: "For myself I ask nothing, but for the human race, all. Let the Messiah be born." Upon the "Ninth Day," again lifted up into the exaltation of the heavens amidst the joyous songs of angels, she was crowned with the mystic inscription "Mother of the Divine One." The glory of this divine experience had its climax in the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel with his message of the Annunciation. The angel's coming was accompanied by a brilliant light like that of a star, together with a fragrance past all earthly sweetness. The light and a fragrance, most like unto roses, became a part of Mary's consciousness, which remains with her still. She saw in the Eternal Records that divine plan of human redemption which should come through the sacrifice of the Christ, together with her own divine role in this supreme cosmic drama. In the words of one St. Bernard, "Jesus Christ, the flower of Jesse, wished to blossom from a flower, in a flower during the season of flowers." And it was from a small, white bloom.
Mary sees in herself only the lowliness of the handmaid, but she is aware also that the powerful arm of God has exalted her littleness to a throne, accomplishing great things in her, and she foresees that all generations shall call her blessed.
Could a more "unlikely" prophecy than this be imagined? It was about the year 6 B.C., and a young girl no more than fifteen years old, without any fortune or social standing whatever, unknown to her fellow countrymen and living in obscurity, was confidently proclaiming that all generations would call her blessed.
Twenty centuries have passed since then and we may compare the prophecy with reality. History now has had all the time it needs to discover whether or not Mary's prediction was correct and whether humanity today really does exalt her above Herod the Great, then arbiter of Palestine, and above Caius Julius Caesar Octavian Augustus, then master of the entire world.
Mary had remained three months with Elizabeth, not seeking the public eye, but both of them communing with God in prayer, in obedience to the Holy Spirit who filled them, meanwhile increasing in their own soul the zeal for His glory and for the salvation of His people.
Mary trusted so entirely the Divine Wisdom to disclose her secret, that on return to Nazareth, she made no mention of it. But when Mary returned from her visit, Joseph also had come to see her in Galilee, for it was not three months since their betrothal. It was soon plainly apparent to him that she was with child, and he began to grow uneasy and doubtful not knowing what course should be taken, for he was a just man and not willing to expose her to the suspicion of their acquaintances.
The penalty of their law, as given in the twenty-second chapter of Deuteronomy, prescribed a terrible punishment for maidens who transgressed.
"If a man have espoused a damsel that is a virgin, and someone find her in the city and lie with her, thou shalt bring them both out to the gate of that city, and they shall be stoned . . ."
This was not the case if the engaged couple themselves had a child. Though it was against regulation, such a birth was not unusual and was honored as though they had taken the final vows.
Joseph could not willingly bring such a punishment to pass, and he therefore decided to handle the matter discreetly, without publicity, by proposing privately to put an end to their marriage agreement. This would set her free to handle the situation in whatever way she saw fit.
While he was meditating upon this the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep and said, "Joseph, Son of David, fear not to take that young woman. For that which is within her is of the Holy Spirit and she shall bring forth a Son and shall call his name Jesus (Saviour), for he shall save his people from their sins." Then Joseph arose from his sleep and glorified the God of Israel, who had shown him such favor.
Thus did the angel apprise this God-fearing man of the Treasure lying hidden in his life. For he is henceforth to be the faithful steward in God's family on earth, guarding and cherishing the two Beings in all creation most precious in the sight of Heaven, the exalted Mother and her Babe.
In the Old Testament, dreams had been a not-infrequent means for God's use in communicating His will to man.
After the angel's warning, Joseph took Mary into his home. The usual wedding (nissu'in) ceremonies were probably celebrated. Friends and relatives, no doubt, attended the modest little feast but certainly remained in ignorance of the profound mystery hidden within the bosom of the new family.