“Mary, a disciple of Christ”: a word from St. Augustine of Hippo

A good word from St. Augustine of Hippo on Mary as a disciple of Christ. This reflects some themes from my message this past week, “He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary.”

But look here, my brothers and sisters, concentrate more, I beg you, on what follows, concentrate more on what Christ the Lord said as he stretched out his hand over his disciples: This is my mother and these are my brothers; and whoever does the will of my Father who sent me, that person is a brother to me and a sister and a mother (Mt 12:49-50). Didn’t the Virgin Mary do the will of the Father? I mean, she believed by faith, she conceived by faith, she was chosen to be the one from whom salvation in the very midst of the human race would be born for us, she was created by Christ before Christ was created in her. Yes, of course, holy Mary did the will of the Father. And therefore it means more for Mary to have been a disciple of Christ than to have been the mother of Christ. It means more for her, an altogether greater blessing, to have been Christ’s disciple than to have been Christ’s mother. That is why Mary was blessed, because even before she gave him birth, she bore her teacher in her womb.

Just see if it isn’t as I say. While the Lord was passing by, performing divine miracles, with the crowds following him, a woman said: Fortunate is the womb that bore you. And how did the Lord answer, to show that good fortune is not really to be sought in mere family ties? Rather blessed are those who hear the word of God and keepit (Lk 11:27-28). So that is why Mary, too, is blessed, because she heard the word of God and kept it. She kept truth safe in her mind even better than she kept flesh safe in her womb. Christ is truth, Christ is flesh; Christ as truth was in Mary’s mind, Christ as flesh in Mary’s womb; that which is in the mind is greater than what is carried in the womb.

Mary is holy, Mary is blessed, but the Church is something better than the Virgin Mary. Why? Because Mary is part of the Church, a holy member, a quite exceptional member, the supremely wonderful member, but still a member of the whole body. That being so, it follows that the body is something greater than the member. The Lord is the head, and the whole Christ is head and body. How shall I put it? We have a divine head, we have God as our head.

St. Augustine, Sermon 72/A, 7.

He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we continued our new preaching series entitled “Living the Creed: Connecting Life and Faith in the Apostles’ Creed.” This series walks through the Apostles Creed as a basic summary of our faith but also as a way to live our faith out with God in the world. Each weekend of this series will explore the biblical and theological roots of the Apostles Creed, while also providing specific spiritual practices and approaches to living out what we know as we ‘proclaim and embody’ the Creed in our daily lives.

This weekend I began preaching on the second article of the creed, which begins with this statement: “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.”

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on 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.’” (Luke 1:35)

Conceived by the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit as the source of Creation (Genesis 1:1-2; Psalm 104:30)

The Holy Spirit as the source of Divine life for a Divine work (Matthew 1:20-23)

Born of the Virgin Mary

The story of Israel and miracle babies (Isaac, Moses, Samson, Samuel)

The necessary incarnation of God (John 1:14; Romans 5:12-21)

The surprising work of God (Luke 1:26-38; Galatians 4:4-7)

The Mystery of Jesus: Fully God and Fully Human

Fully God

Fully Human

The Mystery

Living this part of the Apostles’ Creed

Thank God for the Holy Spirit’s creative power

Thank God for the Virgin Mary’s humility and openness to God

Thank God for drawing near for our redemption


Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize John 1:14 or Galatians 4:4-7
  • Draw, ink, or paint Luke 1:26-38 as a basis for prayer. Take time to talk with God as you depict the scene in your own way. What is God speaking to you?
  • For further background on this portion of the Apostles’ Creed, consider reading:

The Beginning of the End: a poem for resurrection

Rembrandt van Rijn, The Three Marys at the Tomb, sketch; c. 1655.

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.” Now I have told you.’ So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.'”

Shadows stretched long and deep from the sunrise
on that day,
tracing the rough-hewn stone edge of the tomb.
On that day,
Mary’s somber footsteps shivered with surprise
in the way
the Savior’s silent tomb became a womb,
in the way
the angel’s earthquake language shook her life
on that day.
The death grip rescinded, new life subsumed
on that day
grief and joy, loss and gain. All revivified
in the way
Jesus struck death down in dying at noon;
in the way
divine power enfleshed, emerges alive
on that day.
No words from Mary’s lips, her vision trued
in the way
the beginning and the end were circumscribed
on that day
in flesh and bone through heaven’s glorious wound.

Encountering the Merciful Love of God :: Fra Angelico, “The Annunciation”

Fra Angelico - Annunciation
Fra Angelico, The Annunciation; tempera on wood; between 1433 and 1434.

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:46-48)

“Love is blind.” At least, that’s how the saying goes. The phrase means that when love is at work, a person is prone to overlook, or just plain fail to see, the problems within the person being loved.  There is some truth to that. But the kind of love we all deeply desire is not a blind love, but a love that truthfully sees everything about us and still loves us. Love that is blind—that turns away from reality—is false love, while love that sees—that leans into reality—is real love. John 3:16 is such a revered passage of Scripture because it describes God’s love not as blind but as real love:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

When the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, announcing God’s plan to bring the Messiah to birth through her, Mary was astounded. Her question, “How will this be?”, was both a question about the manner of the Messianic birth since she was a virgin and simultaneously a question about the possibility that something like this could occur in human history. When Gabriel emphasized God’s decisive plan to intervene through Jesus as Messiah, such knowledge eventually leads Mary to erupt with praise:

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. (Luke 1:46-47, 50)

That little word ‘mercy’ (Greek: ἔλεος) is an echo of the Hebrew word hesed, which refers to God’s uniquely steady and faithful love. Mary grasps, and shares with us today, that God sees what is really there in the world and still chooses to love humanity from generation to generation throughout the earth. Mary becomes a picture not only of humble obedience to God’s call, but also boisterous praise of God’s real, eyes-open love for humanity and all creation.

Christmas Eve 2021 at Eastbrook

Join us for worship services on Christmas Eve at Eastbrook Church for a celebration of the glory revealed in Jesus, the newborn King!

Join us in-person or online for Christmas Eve 2021! We will have 4 identical services today at 1:00, 2:30, 4:00 and 5:30 PM.

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:20-25)