The Gospel According To Tomàs

Hail Mary, Full Of Grace | Extracted From The Gospel According To Tomàs | The Virginity Of Mary And The Birth Of Christ

The Virginity Of Mary And The Birth Of Christ | Hail Mary, Full Of Grace | Annunciation

Sometimes, when I read my Bible, I pause in the reading and say to myself: ‘This bit’s real.’ It would be fair to say, I have issues with Mary, because, contrary to what we are taught to say, Mary isn’t my mother. Rather: Mum is.

One bit of the Bible-text says this:

And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for people were saying, “He is beside himself.” … And his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Mark 3: 21; 31-35.)

Here she comes. She is in considerable distress. I can imagine that. I can relate to that. To save her boy from whatever he’s got himself into this time. And you’re not telling me there isn’t something inside that.

Her boy is beside himself. Radical. Radicalized. Radicalizing. A misunderstood word.  /ˈradɪk(ə)l/ adjective & noun. 1 Forming the root, basis, or foundation; original, primary. 2a Inherent in the nature of a thing or person; fundamental. b Of action, change, an idea: going to the root or origin; far-reaching, thorough. c Advocating thorough or far-reaching change. d Characterized by departure from tradition; progressive; unorthodox.

‘He has a demon! And he is mad!’ – thus ‘the Jews’. (e.g. John 10: 20.)

Come home!

It’s all she wants. His family want him back now.

But it is an exclusive cult: there is an inside and there is an outside; and on the outside, they are not meant to understand, lest they be converted. He has defined himself as different from anything she was.

Only at the end does Jesus say to his Mum – and with savage, bitter irony: ‘Woman, behold your son.’ And then he dies.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.


We ask that we might find Mary in our hearts as a Yes! place for Jesus. It is also recommended that we pray to Jesus that we may be further in oneness with Mary. It is self-emptying, such that we only exist insofar as we are responsive to God’s Word.


Last term, and put-out to pasture, the old Archbishop Emeritus came over to stay for a few days and did the odd class with us. He spoke of Yes! as the meaning of Mary’s virginity. And we were not very nice about him. One or two took umbrage. One or two got the hump.

In a sense, his Grace, the Arch, basically wanted to move anyone he’d ever known from a high-place – a mountain – received theological ‘truth’ – to an imminent, human plane. Earthing the spiritual. Recalibrating metrics of life’s believability toward a spiritual sense of things. He might have asked the impermissible question: what happened?

His Grace described it. God’s love as a cloud. This descended upon Mary – and subsumed her. Within the cloud, Mary capitulated utterly. She became only and purely a response to God’s love. As he spoke, the Arch cradled her. He carried her in his lap – in his hands. His Grace was a consecrated bishop. He was faith.

He sat squat, a rounded man, hands cupped and ankles crossed, fingers interlocked, with parted thighs. Rumpled, washed, speckled. A lifetime’s skin… There could be no doubt His Grace spoke through long-term personal relationship with Mary.

It was Julian went for him:

‘So are you saying Mary was a Virgin? Or are you not saying Mary was a Virgin?’

Nasty. No, it wasn’t pretty. Julian twisting his silver ring.

For a moment, what Julian had said to the Arch simply failed to communicate. No, for a moment, that dumped on the air meant nothing. Then His Grace said:

‘There is a range of possible meanings we may understand in the question of Mary’s virginity. For example, there are understandings of the word virginity entailed in the action of giving birth.’

Julian said: ‘Duh! So had she had sex or hadn’t she?’

Trigger words. No, it wasn’t pretty.

On that went for a little while. At length, Julian’s point seemed reluctantly conceded. Then the Arch told us a new story, an additionally human event, the more to baffle us.

Controversially, he told us that Mary could not have been Joseph’s first wife, for this would not have been the way of things in the society of that time. His belief was that Joseph must have taken Mary into his household through pity. That would be normal, he said, for Joseph to bring a young, vulnerable girl, who is about to have a baby, within his protection, not meaning to enjoy with her marital relations, but through kindness.

‘And this story of the inn and stable,’ the Archbishop said, ‘it can’t have been like that really. Joseph has travelled with Mary to stay with his family, at home in Bethlehem, and they don’t want Mary in their house, for reasons which I am sure we can understand. It must have been there was considerable resistance to Mary. But Mary gives birth, and who can resist a baby? That’s what happened. It must have been.

‘I’m convinced that must have been how it happened really.’

Later that term, toward the beginning of Advent, we met boys who had been here before, in Valladolid, and now were in regular seminary. They had heard and recited verbatim all the Archbishop had said to them. Their spot-on impressions of each of the fathers were scathing. For boys in their cleverness can be rather good at that sort of thing.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.