The Mother of the Lord–Richard Wurmbrand

Wurmbrand wrote this and other sermons (With God in Solitary Confinement) in his head while in solitary confinement for three years under communist rule in Rumania, committed them to rhyming verse in memory, and then he wrote them down when he was released. While in solitary confinement prisoners communicated by tapping Morse code on the pipes from their cells.

richardDear brothers and sisters,

WE LIVE ON VERY LITTLE. A rich child with many toys is bored with them. A child in the slums has a box, and pushes it around. He calls it a car, a wagon, an engine. He has a stick and rides on it, and calls it a horse.

So we live on little things, but enrich them by our imagination.

Our telegraph through the wall functions perfectly. In the fourth cell to my right is a girl from the Underground Church, who has been severely tortured but does not betray. She is only eighteen. Her name is Mary.

This communication started in me a series of thoughts that I wish to share with you.

Mary—what a holy name!

Primitive peoples have always had their goddesses as well as their gods. They have, in a distorted form, a basically sound intuition, or perhaps something of the primary revelation has remained with them. There is a feminine aspect in the Godhead. Scholars who are privileged to study the Holy Scriptures in the original languages know that ruah, the Hebrew word for “spirit,” is a feminine noun. In Genesis 1:2, if you translate literally you must read, “And the Spirit of God moved in a feminine manner [merahefet] upon the face of the waters.” In Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus, the word for “spirit” is also feminine—ruha.

The angel who appeared to Joseph in a dream told him that his bride, Mary, “will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS” (in Hebrew “Jeshuah,” again a feminine word). It is as though we were to call a boy Helen or Katherine.

A man with a female name. It was this mystery that was expressed in the outward appearance of an orthodox priest: he had to have a beard, but wear a woman’s robe.

Whenever I feel God near me in this solitary cell, I always have the impression that there is also a female presence. John the Evangelist, in conditions similar to mine—alone, exiled on Patmos—saw God sitting on the throne. “And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardus stone” (Revelation 4:2,3). But there also appeared to him in heaven what was to him a great wonder, as it was to me: “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1). Commentators make all kinds of guesses about who this woman might symbolize. We have the explanation in the very beginning of the Bible, “God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). This is the image of God: male and female. So there is a female aspect in the Godhead. The Kabbala calls it “the Matrona.” God has all the perfections; He cannot be limited to the male ones.

When I was arrested under the Nazis, I saw prisoners being taken out to exercise in the prison yard. Each one was handcuffed behind his back, and they were chained one to another, so that they had to walk in a circle. A Catholic priest, noticing this, exclaimed, “A human rosary!” And, as he had no beads, he said his “Hail, Marys,” seeing every man chained to him as a knot in the rosary.

An incident like this can move the heart of a Protestant, too.

I would never consent to call Mary “Queen of heaven,” “Leader of the angelic hosts,” “Queen of the Church,” “Queen of mankind,” and so on, because I would not like to leave God unemployed. But my love and respect for her was certainly increased with my experiences in prisons.

And now, when I hear about the tortured Mary near me, my thoughts go to the mother of the Lord.

The genealogy of Jesus, as recounted by Matthew, gives forty-two generations from Abraham to Christ. But count them and you will find that only forty-one are enumerated, including Christ. Matthew was a publican, so we may presume that he knew how to count. Why did he list forty-one and say that there are forty-two? If this was a simple error, how is it that it has been perpetuated for twenty centuries? You can see that Matthew wished to hide a mystery by the fact that he really pretends to give forty-two names by a cunning device. He has three sets of fourteen names each. He repeats the name of Jechonias, the last in the second series, as the first in the third, so that the inattentive reader may never observe that one of the alleged forty-two is missing. Who is this missing forty-second link?

Another biblical curiosity: nearly all the women of the Gospels are named Mary. We have Mary, the virgin; Mary Magdalene; Mary of Bethany; Mary the mother of James and Joseph; Mary the wife of Cleopas; and one simply called “the other Mary.” This makes six. If we had one Mary more, we would have the holy number seven. Is one Mary missing? By the cross there stood only Marys, four of them. The relevant Bible verse sounds very strange: “There stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary…”

(John 19:25). But the mother’s name was Mary. Two sisters don’t have the same name. What if Mary (in Hebrew Miriam, “the star of the sea,” the star that shows the way to those who sail on the ocean of spirituality) is not used in the Bible as a name only? Perhaps it was also a title given to a certain type of Christian woman in the early church, as the Communists call each other “comrade,” and as there are titles in the army. So anybody can become a Mary, just as anybody can become a comrade, or a major in the army. A third mystery: Jesus said, “Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50). He is the first-born among many brethren. It is easy to understand what it means to hold Him in the relationship of a brother. But how can one become His mother? He says that this is possible, too.

It is a great privilege to be God’s child, but how much greater a privilege to have God as one’s Child!  Jesus tells us that this is possible for us.

Nestorius fought against calling Mary Theotokos (the one who gives birth to God), but a general council of the church defeated him. Christ is God. And Mary and Joseph held God as a baby in their arms. They washed Him, cared for Him, fed Him, and brought Him up. God was dependent upon them. Mary is unique as the first and the greatest mother of God. But this experience is not entirely reserved for her. Jesus says that the one who fulfills His will can be His mother, can be with Him in the relationship a mother has toward her child.

What does all this mean?

The highest form of love is that of a mother for her child. The child’s love toward its mother contains a grain of self-interest; it turns to its mother for every need. The child’s love toward its father is similar: Father gives the pocket money. In every human love some kind of interest is mixed. Only a mother’s love is totally selfsacrificing. She gives everything for her children, expecting nothing in return.

Mary, the mother of God, gave everything for Jesus. After the resurrection, when He showed Himself to so many, comforting their sad hearts, He did not show Himself to His mother. There was a purpose in this. Perhaps He offered her, by this, the highest opportunity: to give to God without requiring anything in return.

Those who have attained this spiritual position bear the title of a “Mary.” I think that this should be the sense of the Catholic word “marianite.” Then Protestants could not object.

And now we come back to the one missing link in the genealogy of Jesus. Perhaps the genealogy of Jesus according to Matthew is not merely a historical succession, but a ladder of initiation.

You begin by identifying yourself with Abraham, the father of all the faithful; you pass through the experience of Isaac sacrificed by his father, as Christians in many countries have to deprive their children of a happy childhood in order to remain faithful to Christ. You then become Jacob, who saw the angels ascending and descending, to teach him that in the spiritual life you cannot stop at any point. If you do not advance, you slide back. God is at the top of the ladder. Sweet communion with Him in the highest sense of the word is possible only there. You continue the initiation, reliving the lives of Judah and all the others until you arrive at the stage of Mary, of being toward God as a mother is toward her child. The Mary of two thousand years ago gave birth to Jesus Christ, the historical person of whom the Gospels speak.

But you too can have your meeting with the archangel Gabriel. Christ can be conceived in your heart, as a result of the forty preceding experiences of communion with saints of all the ages. You can be a Mary with self-sacrificing love, who wishes only to give, not asking anything in exchange. The Christ in you, the hope of glory, will be the forty-second person in the chain. Your aim will have been accomplished.

You will concentrate on one thing, to serve God who is your Child. You will not depart from this, not even when the Communists tempt you with their promises of release if you betray; not even when you are tortured.

Hail, Mary, my beloved sister in the fourth cell; God is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your heart. But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should sit near me in a royal prison cell? For indeed, as soon as the tapping through the wall of the cell gave me knowledge of your presence and of your faithfulness, my babe leapt in my heart for joy.

God help us all to arrive at the final, missing link in Matthew’s genealogy. Amen.

 

 

Wurmbrand, Richard (2011-11-08). With God in Solitary Confinement (Kindle Locations 281-333). Living Sacrifice Book Company. Kindle Edition.

“Two men enter a house through the chimney. ” Richard Wurmbrand

richardAs early as 1912, Lenin wrote the following in a letter to Russian author Maxim Gorki: “Millions of acts of violence, of illnesses and epidemics, are much less dangerous than the most purified, the slightest idea of a God…. God is the personal enemy of the Communist society.”

He also wrote, “Religion is a kind of spiritual vodka, in which the slaves of capital drown their human features and their reverence for a somehow dignified human life.”

There are those who choose to think like Lenin; but there are also multitudes who choose to believe in God.

To you it might be doubtful if God exists, but the following Jewish story surely exists:

A rabbi put the following question to a man in his congregation: “Two men enter a house through the chimney. The one is dirty, the other clean. Which of them washes himself?”

The Jew replies, “Surely, the dirty one.”

“No,” says the rabbi, “because the dirty man sees that the other is clean, so he presumes he is clean, too. The clean man, seeing the dirt on the other, believes he is dirty also and washes himself.

“Now I have a second question,” continues the rabbi. “Two men enter a house through the chimney. One is dirty, the other clean. Which one washes himself?”

The Jew answers, “Now I know: the clean one.”

“No,” says the rabbi. “The clean man looks at his hands and clothes and sees they are clean, so why should he wash? The other man sees that he is dirty all over, so he washes.”

The rabbi put a third question: “Two men enter a house through the chimney. One is clean, the other dirty. Which one washes himself?”

In despair, the Jew shouts, “Both!”

“Wrong,” says the rabbi.“If two men enter through a chimney, how can one remain clean? Did you not see that the question is foolish?”

So any human questioning of God is foolish. If there were no intelligent Creator, there would be no intelligent being to put questions or to deny the intelligent Creator. God simply exists. Even the assertion that He exists is a condescension to the unreasonableness of ordinary thinking.

Wurmbrand, Richard (2011-05-24). Proofs of God’s Existence (Kindle Locations 325-341). Living Sacrifice Book Company. Kindle Edition.

 

The Mystery of Jesus’ Sacrifice –Richard Wurmbrand

richardSuppose you were living 2,000 years ago in Palestine, that you were sinful, heavy with guilt, and Jesus told you, “Your sin is grave and deserves punishment. ‘The wages of sin are death.’ But tomorrow I will be flogged and crowned with a crown of thorns for you—I invite you to assist them when they drive nails into My hands and feet and fix Me to a cross. I will cry in anguish, and I will share the sorrow of My mother whose heart will be pierced by compassion for Me as if by a sword. You should be there to hear My cries. And when I have died, you shall know that your sins are forgiven forever, that I was your substitute, your scapegoat. This is how a man gets saved. Will you accept My suffering for your offense, or do you prefer to bear the punishment yourself?” What would you have answered?

I believe that this dilemma should be placed before a soul seeking salvation. Fifteen hundred years before the historical birth of Christ the Bible says, “Today I have begotten You” (Psalm 2:7). It also says to the penitent 2,000 years after Golgotha, “Today I die for you.” Jesus’ life and death are outside of time and space.

Would you accept? More than once in Communist prisons I have seen a pastor receive a beating to the blood in place of another prisoner. A name would be called and the pastor would simply say, “It is I.” In Auschwitz, Maximilian Kolbe, a priest, offered to take the place of a Pole sentenced to death by the Nazis. The Pole was the father of many children. The commandant of the camp accepted the substitution and the Pole was spared. Kolbe died by asphyxiation. Had you been that Pole, what would you have decided?

I lived many years in an isolated subterranean prison cell, in timelessness, something akin to the weightlessness experienced by astronauts. Just as they know no difference between heavy and light, I knew no distinction between past, present, and future. In my prison cell Jesus’ presence was immediate. His life did not belong to the past, nor was it a series of successive events. He put before me the problem I have just put to you. He told me, “You are a sinner and are condemned to eternal punishment for your transgressions, but I am ready to save you. Because of your sin, I will endure rejection, flogging, being spat upon, being crowned with a crown of thorns, the pains of crucifixion, and the agony of seeing my mother brokenhearted at the foot of the cross. My blood will cleanse you from all sin.” I had to decide whether or not to accept the sacrifice of the innocent Son of God for my sins. I believed that to accept would be a greater wickedness than all I might ever have done in my life and I flatly refused this proposal. Jesus was glad about my “No.”

Then came the real question, the thing He had had in mind from the beginning. “What if I incorporate your being into Mine, if you become part of My body, if you deny yourself as an independent self, and I will live in you henceforth and you will be ‘crucified with me’ (Galatians 2:20), ‘buried with me’ (Romans 6:4), and share the fellowship of My suffering (Philippians 3:10)? People in churches will sing, ‘safe in arms of Jesus,’ while you will be safe as an arm of Jesus, nailed like His to a cross, but also imparting goodness like His. Do you wish to become My co-worker for the salvation of mankind, alleviating sufferings, filling up ‘what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ’

I have accepted this proposal. Christians are meant to have the same vocation as their King, that of cross-bearers. It is this consciousness of a high calling and of partnership with Jesus which brings gladness in tribulation, which makes Christians enter prisons for their faith with the joy of a bridegroom entering the bridal room.

When George Vins, the general secretary of the Baptist Union of the USSR, was sentenced for his faith, believers in the courtroom covered him with flowers. His little daughter, hoisted on a stool, recited in front of the Communist judges, “Father, with Christ you are free in prison, and freedom without Him is prison.” The believers waiting outside the building received him with a Christian hymn.

The relative of a Christian prisoner in Red China said to someone who sympathized with her, “You should not feel sorry for us, for if he were not in that slave labor camp, how could the others here come to know the gospel of the Lord Jesus?”

In the same spirit we should receive the crosses of poverty, racial discrimination, personal betrayals, unfaithfulness of marriage partners, rebellion of children, and all other sorrows of life.

A man who smugly accepts Christ’s dying for him and shouts Hallelujah about the innocent Son of God receiving punishment he himself deserves should be more severely punished than before. The gospel, the good news, is the privilege of becoming a member of the Body of Christ, of suffering, of dying in pain with Him, and also of being resurrected with Him in glory.

Because sacrifice is implicit in a conversion, the call of an evangelist has the name “altar call.” Every being placed upon the altar in Jerusalem—lambs, rams, and pigeons—died. Someone dies for you. This time it is not an animal, but the Son of God. He has decreed it and nothing you can do will change His mind. You can only ask for the privilege of henceforth being able to sacrifice yourself as well, for the glory of God and for the good of your fellowmen. In return you receive the right to die to sin and to the world and its laws.

The reality of a conversion is in becoming one with Him. It is shameful and abominable to accept His substitutionary death otherwise.

Wurmbrand, Richard (2000-01-01). 100 Prison Meditations: Cries of Truth from Behind the Iron Curtain *(Kindle Locations 93-134). Living Sacrifice Book Company. Kindle Edition.

* Available for $1.00 on Kindle

excerpt from “In God’s Underground,” by Richard Wurmbrand

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excerpt from In God’s Underground  by Richard Wurmbrand
By Richard Wurmbrand
Copyright 1968 The voice of the Martyrs

[Wurmbrand relates this story from his life during World War Two to comfort a fellow prisoner in the Communist gulag they shared; who has betrayed another prisoner out of fear and at the time could not forgive himself]

When Rumania entered the war on Germany’s side, a pogrom began in which many thousands of Jews were killed or deported. At Iasi alone 11,000 were massacred in a day. My wife, who shares my Protestant faith, is also of Jewish origin. We lived in Bucharest, from which the Jews were not deported, but her parents, one of her brothers, three sisters and other relatives who lived in Bocovine were taken to Transmistria, a wild border Province which the Rumanians had captured from Russia. Jews who were not murdered at the end of this journey were left to starve, and there Sabina’s family died.
I had to break this news. She recovered herself and said, “I will not weep. You are entitled to a happy wife, and Mihai to a happy mother, and our Church to a servant with courage.” If she shed tears in private I do not know, but from that day I never saw Sabina weep again.

Some time later our landlord, a good Christian, told me sadly of a man who was staying in the house while on leave from the front. “I knew him before the war,” he said, “but he’s changed completely. He has become a brute who likes to boast of how he volunteered to exterminate Jews in Transmistria and killed hundreds with his own hands.”
I was deeply distressed and I decided to pass the night in prayer. To avoid disturbing Sabina, who was unwell and who would have wished to join in my vigil in spite of that, I went upstairs after supper to the landlords flat to pray with him. Lounging in an armchair was a giant of a man whom the landlord introduced as Borila, the killer of Jews from Transmistria. When he rose he was even taller than I, and there seemed to be about him an aura of horror that was like a smell of blood. Soon he was telling us of his adventures in war and of the Jews he had slaughtered.

“It is a frightening story,” I said, “but I do not fear for the Jews-God will compensate them for what they have suffered. I ask myself with anguish what will happen to their murderers when they stand before God’s judgement.”

An ugly scene was prevented by the landlord who said we were both guests in his house, and turned the talk into more neutral channels. The murderer proved to be not only a murderer. Nobody is only one thing. He was a pleasant talker, and eventually it came out that he had a great love of music.

He mentioned that while serving in the Ukraine he had been captivated by the songs there. “I wish I could hear them again,” he said.

I knew some of these old songs. I thought to myself, looking at Borila, “the fish has entered my net!”

“If you’d like to hear some of them,” I told him, “come to my flat-I’m no pianist, but I can play a few Ukrainian melodies.”

The landlord, his wife and daughter accompanied us. My wife was in bed. She was used to my playing softly at night and did not wake up. I played the folk-songs, which are live with feeling, and I could see that Borila was deeply moved. I remembered how when King Saul was afflicted by an evil spirit, the boy David had played the harp before him.
I stopped and turned to Borila. “I’ve something very important to say to you,” I told him.
“Please speak,” he said.

“If you look through that curtain you can see someone is asleep in the next room. It’s my wife, Sabina. Her parents, her sisters, and her twelve-year old brother have been killed with the rest of the family. You told me that you had killed hundreds of Jews near Golta, and that is where they were taken.” Looking into his eyes, I added, “You yourself don’t know who you have shot, so we can assume that you are the murderer of her family.”

He jumped up, his eyes blazing, looking as if he were about to strangle me.

I held up my hand and said, “Now -let’s try an experiment. I shall wake my wife and tell her who you are, and what you have done. I can tell you what will happen. My wife will not speak one word of reproach! She’ll embrace you as if you were her brother. She’ll bring you supper, the best things she has in the house.”

“Now if Sabina who is a sinner like all, can forgive and love like this, imagine how Jesus, who is perfect Love, can forgive and love you! Only return to Him-and everything you have done will be forgiven!”

Borila was not heartless: within, he was consumed by guilt and misery at what he had done, and he had shaken his brutal talk at us as a crab its claws. One tap at his weak spot, and his defenses crumbled. The music had already moved his heart, and now came-instead of the attack he expected-words of forgiveness. His reaction was amazing. He jumped up and tore at his collar with both hands, so that his shirt was rent apart. “Oh God, what shall I do, what shall I do?” He cried. He put his head in his hands, and sobbed noisily as he rocked himself back and forth. “I’m a murderer, I’m cloaked in blood, what shall I do?” Tears ran down his cheeks.

I cried “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I command the devil of hatred to go out of your soul!”

Borila fell on his knees trembling, and we began to pray aloud. He knew no prayers; he simply asked again and again for forgiveness and said that he hoped and knew it would be granted. We were on our knees together for some time; then we stood up and embraced each other, and I said, “I promised to make an experiment. I shall keep my word.”

I went into the other room and found my wife still sleeping calmly. She was very weak and exhausted at that time. I woke her gently and said, “There is a man here whom you must meet. We believe he has murdered your family, but he has repented, and now he is our brother.”

She came out in her dressing gown and put out her arms to embrace him: then both began to weep and to kiss each other again and again. I have never seen a bride and bridegroom kiss with such love and passion and purity as this murderer and the survivor among his victims. Then, as I foretold, Sabina went to the kitchen to bring him food.
While she was away the thought came to me that Borila’s crime had been so terrible that some further lesson was needed. I went to the next room and returned with my son, Mihai, who was then two, asleep in my arms. It was only a few hours since Borila had boasted to us how he had killed Jewish children in their parents arms, and now he was horrified; the sight was an unbearable reproach. He expected me to accuse him.

But I said, “Do you see how quietly he sleeps? You are also like a newborn child who can rest in the Father’s arms. The blood that Jesus shed can cleanse you.”

Borila’s happiness was very moving: he stayed with us that night and when he awoke the next day, he said, “It’s a long time since I slept like that.”

St. Augustine says, “Anima humana naturaliter Christiana est“–the human soul is naturally Christian. Crime is against one’s own nature, the result of social pressure or many other causes, and what a relief it is to cast it off as he had done!

In the morning Borila wanted to meet our Jewish friends and I took him to many Hebrew Christian homes. Everywhere he told his story, and he was received as the returning prodigal son. Then, with a New Testament which I gave him, he went to join his Regiment in another town.
Borila later came to say that his unit has been ordered to the front. “What shall I do? He asked. “I’ll have to start killing again.”

I said, “No, you’ve killed more than a soldier needs to already. I don’t mean that a Christian shouldn’t defend his country if it is attacked. But you, personally, shouldn’t kill anymore-better allow others to kill you. The bible doesn’t forbid that!”…

[later] Greigore explained how he had served with Borila in Transmistria, where they had massacred the Jews. “When we went to Russia again, he was a changed man,” he said. “We couldn’t understand it. He put aside his weapons and instead of taking lives, he saved them. He volunteered to rescue the wounded under fire, and in the end he saved his officer.”


excerpt from In God’s Underground  by Richard Wurmbrand
By Richard Wurmbrand
Copyright 1968 The voice of the Martyrs

Richard Wurmbrand, “Preparing for the Underground Church”

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“God is the Truth. The Bible is the truth about the Truth. Theology is the truth about the truth about the Truth. A good sermon is the truth about the truth, about the truth, about the Truth. It is not the Truth. The Truth is God alone. Around this Truth there is a scaffolding of words, of theologies, and of exposition. None of these is of any help in times of suffering. It is only the Truth Himself Who is of help, and we have to penetrate through sermons, through theological books, through everything which is ‘words’ and be bound up with the reality of God himself.

I have told in the West how Christians were tied to crosses for four days and four nights. The crosses were put on the floor and other prisoners were tortured and made to fulfill their bodily necessities upon the faces and bodies of the crucified ones. I have since been asked: “Which bible verse helped and strengthened you in those circumstances?” My answer is: “NO Bible verse was of any help.” It is sheer cant and religious hypocrisy to say, “This Bible verse strengthens me, or that Bible verse helps me.” Bible verses alone are not meant to help. We knew Psalm 23.. “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want…though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”

When you pass through suffering you realize that it was never meant by God that Psalm 23 should strengthen you. It is the Lord who can strengthen you, not the Psalm which speaks of Him so doing. It is not enough to have the Psalm. You must have the One about whom the Psalm speaks. We also knew the verse:  “My Grace is sufficient for thee.” But the verse is not sufficient. It is the Grace, which is sufficient, and not the verse.

Pastors and zealous witnesses who are handling the Word as a calling from God are in danger of giving Holy words more value than they really have. Holy words are only the means to arrive at the reality expressed by them. If you are united with the Reality, the Lord Almighty, evil loses its power over you; it cannot break the Lord Almighty. If you only have the words of the Lord almighty you can be very easily broken.” Richard Wurmbrand, “Preparing for the Underground Church”