Advent with Barth: Conceived by the Holy Spirit

Friday, December 21, 2018

We now turn to the previous clause in the confession, conceptus de Spiritu sancto (conceived by the Holy Spirit).

The natus ex virgine (born of the virgin) described the negative side of the miracle of the miracle of Christmas.

The birth of the Lord was a birth without a previous sexual event, without a male to beget.

It is thus the sign of the inconceivable, of the incarnation of the Word, the Holy One, the Lord of all things.

As just shown, an independent meaning cannot attach either (in the sign) to the person or the sex of Mary, or (in the thing signified) to human nature.

Actually no one is left to be God’s fellow-worker.

All that “Mary the virgo” actually signifies is that man is really the other upon whom and with whom God acts in His revelation.

We have had to say all this already in elucidation of the negative formula.

Its necessity, i.e., that it is spoken with exegetical correctness, is established by the first and positive formula, conceptus de Spiritu sancto.

It states that the conception of Jesus Christ prior to His birth of the Virgin Mary was the work of God the Holy Spirit.

To that extent it was a miraculous birth and as such the sign of the incarnation of the eternal Word.

The formula conceptus de Spiritu sancto thus fills the blank, as it were, indicated by the formula natus ex Maria virgine.

It indicates the ground and content, where the latter indicates the form and shape, of the miracle and sign.

from Karl Barth, “The Miracle of Christmas”, Church Dogmatics I.2, page 196

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