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Ad-dressing the Mary Condition (Part One)

March 5, 2013


From Greek: Philosophia ‘love of wisdom’


From The Works of Philo translated by C.D. Yonge:


“Philosophers say that virtue exists among men, either by nature, or by practice, or by learning. On which account the sacred scriptures represent the three founders of the nation of the Israelites as wise men {Note: I would like to bring your attention to the gifts in the story on the birth of  Christ}; not indeed originally endowed with the same kind of wisdom, but arriving rapidly at the same end. For the eldest of them, Abraham, had instruction for his guide in the road which conducted him to virtue; as we shall show in another treatise to the best of our power. And Isaac, who is the middle one of the three, had a self-taught and self-instructed nature. And Jacob, the third, arrived at this point by industry and practice, in accordance with which were his labours of wrestling and contention {Note: wresting with the angel – Spiritual Athleticism – part of the Prophesy in the Leah to Rachel Marriage Parable}.

Since then there are thus three different manners by which wisdom exists among men, it happens that the two extremes are the most nearly and frequently united. For the virtue which is required by practice; is the offspring of that which is derived from learning. But that which is implanted by nature is needed akin to the others, for it is set below them, as the root for them all. But it has obtained its prize without any rivalry or difficulty.”

First, we must understand what is meant by virtue.

Definitions of virtue, along with a few relevant ikons.

From Wikipedia:

Virtue, sword in hand, with her foot on the prostrate form of Tyranny on the Great Seal of Virginia

Virtue (LatinvirtusAncient Greek: ἀρετή “arete“) is moral excellence. A virtue is a positive trait or quality deemed to be morally good and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being. Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting collective and individual greatness. The opposite of virtue is vice.

In the Jewish Tradition, virtue is Loving God, and obeying his laws, in particular the Ten Commandments are central to Jewish conceptions of virtue. Wisdom is also celebrated in the Book of Wisdom.

Orthodox Ikon St Michael

Orthodox Ikon st George

Ikon Archangel Michael

A simple way to look at the Jewish understanding on this might be to say: if I Love God, I will obey His Commands. In truth, history has shown us we do not agree on God’s Commands. We do not agree on what is Love. In Truth, if life is with an understanding in Love, Wisdom is extant (existing, standing ).

Without going into depth on Philo’s message, I would like to bring forth a parallel. If we return to my note on the wise men from the birth of Christ story, the treasures are spiritual symbols of wisdom. The gifts brought to the Child were gold, frankincense and myrrh.

I’ve included some information on the meaning and usage of these in God’s Word.

The gifts were gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We see that each of these three gifts were very valuable, because the Bible says, “…they opened their treasures…” We know that gold is very valuable. “Frankincense” is “a fragrant gum resin from a tree used in incense” (Merriam Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary). “Myrrh” is “a yellowish brown to reddish brown aromatic gum resin obtained from a tree, with a bitter slightly pungent taste” (Merriam Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary).

“Frankincense” and “myrrh” are both mentioned seventeen times each in the Bible. Exodus 30:34-36 says, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure FRANKINCENSE: of each shall there be a like weight: And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy: And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy.”

Leviticus 2:1,2 says, “And when any will offer a meat offering unto the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour; and he shall pour oil upon it, and put FRANKINCENSE thereon: And he shall bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests: and he shall take thereout his handful of the flour thereof, and of the oil thereof, with all the frankincense thereof; and the priest shall burn the memorial of it upon the altar, to be an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.”

Song of Solomon 3:6 uses both words, and points out the great fragrance and smell of them. “Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, PERFUMED WITH MYRRH and FRANKINCENSE, with all powders of the merchant?”

Song of Solomon 4:13,14 also uses both words, and says, “Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard, Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with ALL TREES OF FRANKINCENSE; MYRRH and aloes, with all the chief spices.” Those verses bring up the matter of the trees from which these fragrances are taken.

Genesis 37:25 talks about myrrh. “And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and MYRRH, going to carry it down to Egypt.” This tells us that myrrh was not locally available in Egypt, but had to be imported from other places.

Genesis 43:11 says, “And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and MYRRH, nuts, and almonds.” Myrrh would be a valuable present down in Egypt.

Esther 2:12 shows that myrrh was considered an expensive fragrance fit for a king. “Now when every maid’s turn was come to go in to king Ahasuerus, after that she had been twelve months, according to the manner of the women, (for so were the days of their purifications accomplished, to wit, six months with OIL OF MYRRH, and six months with sweet odours, and with other things for the purifying of the women.)”

In Mark 15:23, a drink was given to Jesus on the cross that had myrrh mixed in with it, but Jesus would not drink it. “And they gave him to drink wine MINGLED WITH MYRRH: but he received it not.”

John 19:39,40 shows us that myrrh was used in preparing bodies for burial. “And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of MYRRH and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.”

A question here would be: how do these treasures translate in wisdom, or the practice of virtue? First, let’s establish an understanding on the practical aspect. If you have gold, you can buy frankincense and myrrh, but in truth, you cannot buy wisdom. If you have gold, you can buy your education, degrees, and titles. You cannot buy the ability to teach wisdom to others. You cannot buy success in truth.

Of course, one cannot buy Love.

On the Spirit

Ikon by Andrei Rublev

The purpose of this essay is to ad-dress the Mary Condition. I must cut short a further explanation in the text attributed to Philo. I feel it necessary to establish that understanding of wisdom from a foundational perspective: having this, in order to do that, or having these, in order to do those. But the greatest in All is Love. Who endured and persevered in Love that we might live? Well … I can think of a number of those in God service, but there is one who is surprisingly misunderstood: she is called Mary.

Continued  …

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