I was listening the other day to one of Fr. Thomas Hopko’s podcasts on “The Names of Jesus”, where he talks about the name “The Firstborn”. A very important Christian concept, particularly Orthodox and Catholic, is that Jesus, our Lord, is the Firstborn from among all of creation and the Firstborn from among the dead, and the Firstborn *RISEN* from among the dead. And it got me thinking about the Theokotos St. Mary, and why it is almost dogmatically important we consider her not just Virgin when giving birth to Christ, but “ever-virgin”.
Many Scriptural clues have been made available (the Theotokos proclaiming “I do not know a man”, the OT vessels and the Ezekiel prophecy, the asking of John the Apostle to take care of Christ’s mother, rather than one of her “alleged children”), and perhaps one reason I have always contemplated is the parallel between her and John the Forerunner, how on the one hand, the Theotokos devoted her whole life to bring Christ to the world and how the Forerunner devoted his whole life to bring the world to Christ, so that both had no time for anything else, not even a married life, but a life of complete chastity to the Lord, something that Christ also inherited, and something that the first century Christians have shocked the world with when many of them also decided to do the same, proving at the very least the truth behind the ever-virginity of Christ.
But there is also another thought in my mind that prompted me to quickly give this new post in my blog, and that is the connection of the Firstborn of Christ to the choice of Mary who God knew would dedicate her whole life in chastity for this very purpose of salvation. And she in particular had the importance of remaining chaste that it may be revealed Christ is not only the Firstborn of the Father, but the Firstborn of all creation. The implication is great: the Father has no second-born, and neither does saved creation. I sometimes wonder if many non-Apostolic (non-Catholic or non-Orthodox) really believe that there is no second-born or third-born or hundredth-born in salvation (CONGRATULATIONS! YOU ARE OUR BILLIONTH BAPTIZED CHRISTIAN, THE BILLIONTH CHILD OF THE CHURCH!!!).
We learn that everything we do, we do “in Christ”. And so Christ takes a form of a substitution for each and every human being as if God spent all His time saving that ONE person and engrafting that ONE person into His divine life, as if he/she was the Christ. Therefore, Christ who transcends time, brings us all who are circumscribed in time to become “firstborn in Him”. So if there is no second-born of the Virgin, there is no second-born of the Church. All who are baptized in Christ, who “put on Christ” are also “firstborn of the Father”, and in truth become like an “only-begotten” to the Father, who will inherit and co-heir His kingdom. But if salvation merely means saving from sins, and having a romantic relationship with Christ, as I am afraid many Protestant hymns sound like at times, then it is no problem for the average Protestant to say that Mary may have had other children.
But I would venture to say that a deeply contemplative Christian would think about the role he plays as a Christian, as a “Christ”, anointed in Jesus to be adopted into that same relationship the Father has with Jesus, and coming out of the waters of baptism and the chrism of sanctification, the priest who baptized you, like St. John the Baptist, stands in witness hearing the heavens proclaim to the newly Christened person: “this is my beloved Son, today I have begotten Him, and in whom I am well pleased!”
And then this Christened person would think: “my mother the Theotokos could never have had another child when put in a position like this. She truly wanted me to be firstborn, and so she was ever-virgin for my sake!”
And like St. John the Evangelist, this Christened person would stand at the foot of the Cross, listening to the last words of Christ, “Behold your son…Behold your mother!” Yes, Lord, I will protect the chastity and the purity of your mother, entrusting and privileging me with the grace of being Firstborn and Only-begotten in You.
Through the prayers of the Theokotos, the Forerunner and Baptist of God, and the Theologian, Apostle, and Evangelist St. John, to Christ our Lord be the glory, with His good Father and the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and unto the ages of all ages. Amen!