Tuesday, February 4, 2014

THE VIRGIN BIRTH OF JESUS (NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH HIS VIRGIN CONCEPTION OR BLESSED VIRGIN MARY'S IMMACULATE CONCEPTION)

MONEY QUOTE:
Witness also St. Augustine’s faith in the miraculous quality of the virgin birth: ‘That same power which brought the body of the risen Jesus through closed doors brought the body of the Infant forth from the inviolated womb of the Mother.’



There is some confusion about our Blessed Mother and her need to be purified in the temple some weeks after the Virgin Birth of Jesus.  I contend she did not truly need to be purified in the "Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary" and that Jesus did not need the offerings of the poor offered in the temple to "redeem Jesus" in the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. This would be in line with Jesus' not needing John's Baptism of repentance in the River Jordan, as Jesus as God and Man committed no actual sin nor had any hint of Original Sin.

So what is the Church's teaching on the Virgin Birth? Here's a pretty good synopsis:


The essential truth of the Virgin Birth, as taught continually by the Fathers and defined by the Church, does not concern the presence or absence of pain during Jesus’ birth. The central truth of the Virgin Birth is that Christ was born of Mary miraculously, as a sign and confirmation of His divinity. The Virgin Birth has always been distinguished from the Virginal Conception, because it was a separate and distinct miraculous event. It was not a natural birth, nor is it explainable by natural causes. Our Lady’s physical virginity, with all that it implies, remained integral and intact before, during, and after the birth of Jesus. St. Bernard, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure, and the Catechism of the Council of Trent all teach the painlessness of the birth as a logical consequence of its miraculous nature."

In a video posted on the website of the Franciscan Fathers of the Immaculate, Fr. Geiger explains:
"The perpetual virginity of Our Lady is a dogma of the Church, part of the deposit of the Faith, from which no Catholic may dissent. The Church has always defined the dogma of Our Lady’s perpetual virginity as Her virginity before, during, and after the birth of Jesus.

"The virginity of Mary before the birth of Jesus refers to the fact that Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary, flesh of Her flesh, by the power of the Holy Spirit, without a father. Virtually all Christians, Catholics and Protestants, hold this position.
"To speak to you about the Virgin Birth, of the virginity of Our Lady during the birth of Jesus. This is an essential part of the Church’s definition of Our Lady’s perpetual virginity. This truth is based on Sciptures; in Isaiah 7:14 we read: ‘Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel.’
"St. Thomas Aquinas writes in the Summa Theologica that this verse teaches both the virginal conception and the virgin birth of Jesus from Our Lady: "A virgin shall conceive AND bear a son…" Both the conception and the birth are miraculous, with no natural explanation.
"The Fathers and the medieval theologians continually used the analogy of light passing through glass: just as light passes through glass without breaking it, so Our Lord is born of the Virgin Mary without breaking the seal of Her virginity.
"The definition of the Lateran Council in 649 A.D. states that, in addition to conceiving Jesus without the seed of man, that She gives birth to Him ‘without any detriment to Her virginity.’ The Council of course goes on to say that Her virginity "remained inviolable even after His birth."
"Less than fifty years later, at the Council of Toledo, in 693, the Church teaches the doctrine very clearly: ‘And, as the Virgin acquired the modesty of virginity before conception, so also She experienced no loss of Her integrity, for She conceived a virgin, gave birth a virgin, and after birth retained the uninterrupted modesty of an intact virgin.’ This obvious sense of this definition indicates that we are speaking of physical virginity.
"The Fathers of the Church are careful to treat this mystery with reverence and prudential mortification of the tongue. Never do they speak about the physiology of the virginity in regard to Our Lady because, after all, She is the mother of God, and not a scientific case study… Notice the delicacy of St. Ambrose in the 4th century: ‘Mary is the gate through which Christ entered the world when He was brought forth in the virginal birth, and the matter of his birth did not break the seal of virginity.’
Witness also St. Augustine’s faith in the miraculous quality of the virgin birth: ‘That same power which brought the body of the risen Jesus through closed doors brought the body of the Infant forth from the inviolated womb of the Mother.’
"St. Gregory the Great, in the 7th century, makes it clear that the virgin birth is a miracle only comparable to the Resurrection, and one in the face of which reason must give way to faith.
"Finally, all this seems to be fairly simple if we understand that the virgin birth is not a natural but a miraculous birth, matched only by the escape of Jesus from a sealed tomb… The Fathers of the Church tell us, interpretating Isaiah (7:14), that if a virgin conceives and bears a son, that son must be God. The miraculous physical virginity of Our Lady is the fundamental guarantee of the divinity of Christ."
In the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1992, we read: "The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ’s birth «did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it.» And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the ‘Ever-virgin’." (Paragraph 499.)
Pope John Paul II reaffirmed this dogma in an address to a Marian Study Conference in Capua, Italy, on June 10, 1992 teaching that: "The Church, in confessing her faith in the Mother of God’s virginity, proclaims as factually true that Mary: a) truly conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit without human intervention; b) truly and virginally gave birth to her Son; c) remained a virgin after His birth in everything that concerns the integrity of the flesh.  She lived in total and perpetual virginity after Jesus’ birth.  Together with St. Joseph, who was also called to play a primary role in the initial events of our salvation, she devoted herself to serving the Person and work of her Son." 

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

"On Calvary, Mary united herself to the sacrifice of her Son and made her own maternal contribution to the work of salvation, which took the form of labour pains, the birth of the new humanity." - Pope John Paul II

Henry said...

"I contend she did not truly need to be purified in the "Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary" and that Jesus did not need the offerings of the poor offered in the temple to "redeem Jesus" in the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple."

This contention is incorrect. It confuses the New Testament of redemption from sin, with the Old Testament of redemption from an obligation by means of making an offering or payment of a price. It is analogous to an obligation to serve a military term, from which obligation (in some countries) one might be relieved by payment of a specified price. This payment would be a redemption in the Old Testament sense. In Hebrew, the OT and NT concepts of redemption are expressed by entirely different words. The confusion in this post (and the previous discussion) results from the use of the single English word "redemption" for these entirely different concepts.

Jesus was born of Jews under the Mosaic law and was subject to it. The redemption he required under this law had nothing whatsoever to do with the concept of sin or any need for redemption from it.

Let me respectfully suggest that anyone (especially, any priest) who would purport to explain OT redemption--of Jesus or of the analogous ritual purification of Mary (again, not having anything to do with her having been made unworthy in any modern sense)--should know at least the content of the Catholic Encyclopedia article on "Redemption in the Old Testament":

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12681a.htm

In brief: The first-born male of every Jewish family was consecrated to Yahweh and had to be redeemed at the price of five sicles or about $2.75 (Exodus 13:2, 13; Numbers 18:16; etc.). . . . . . Many Israelites carried out their dedication to God, under the form of the Nazarite vow. Most, however, availed themselves of the redemption allowed by the Law [by payment of the specified sum]. The poor who could not afford this amount had to pay the price fixed by the priest, according to their means (Leviticus 27:2-8). [E.g., by an offering of two turtledoves, etc.]

It was this redemption of Jesus that was obtained by the offering of Mary and Joseph at his presentation in the temple. Again, nothing whatsoever to do with any need of his or anyone else for "redemption" from sin. Instead, he was thereby redeemed from his obligation to consecration under the Mosaic law.

Henry said...

"The poor who could not afford this amount had to pay the price fixed by the priest, according to their means (Leviticus 27:2-8). [E.g., by an offering of two turtledoves, etc.]"

Specifically, this was the "offerings of the poor"--required by the Judaic law for the redemption of Jesus from his consecration as a first-born male--that was belabored in the previous discussion of that Marian collect.

George said...

Under the Judaic religious law of the time, a person who was ritually impure was not able to participate in certain holy activities until cleansed.
In the Blessed Virgin's case(and other women of the time) this was immersion in the mikveh. Converts to Judaism had to undergo this ritual purification.This could be seen as a pre-figurement to our confession(although it didn't result in the washing away of sins).
Was Mary ritually impure? If you want to say technically,objectively, yes. In actuality? No.
Your use of the analogy of military service is not bad, but there are those who are exempt from military service altogether. At any rate, there was no question of The Blessed Virgin complying with all religious requirements of the time, being an observant Jew. Now with the Presentation of Jesus,this was an obligation to be satisfied for first-born sons.

FrJBS said...

Henry is right. Christian purification and redemption is not the same as Jewish purification and redemption, although Christ builds upon the ancient Jewish practices.

This is very basic stuff, and should not be so confusing.