Author Topic: Questions about Mary  (Read 6459 times)

Weedon

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Questions about Mary
« on: March 26, 2021, 03:15:21 PM »
In order to save Marie’s thread from further drift...

By the way, the Basil quote I alluded to earlier is:

For "he did not know her" - it says - "until she gave birth to a Son, her firstborn." But this could make one suppose that Mary, after having offered in all her purity her own service in giving birth to the Lord, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, did not subsequently refrain from normal conjugal relations. That would not have affected the teaching of our religion at all, because Mary's virginity was necessary until the service of the Incarnation, and what happened afterward need not be investigated in order to affect the doctrine of the mystery. But since the lovers of Christ [that is, the faithful] do not allow themselves to hear that the Mother of God ceased at a given moment to be a virgin, we consider their testimony sufficient. -- St. Basil the Great, Homily [PG 31, 1468]

A friend of mine (Pr. Larry Beane) once likened this to the tradition of St. Peter being crucified upside down and St. Paul being beheaded outside Rome. In just the same way, the Church hands on this tradition, this bit of info, about Mary, and the point Pieper was at pains to safeguard was that there is nothing in Scripture per se that must be read as necessarily CONTRADICTING this tradition; but no one can be called a heretic for denying it (since it is tradition, not inspired Scripture) provided his Christology is otherwise sound. The reason he connects it with the Christology, I believe, is because of the close connection between the closed womb birth (alluded to in SD VIII:24) and the notion of why Joseph and Mary may not have had conjugal relations. The person who would deny the possibility of either closed womb birth or subsequent preservation of virginity because they would not be possible, has departed from the grounds of sound Christology (by denying the communication of the divine majesty, the genus maiestaticum). But note the careful lingo of SD VII:100 “and as people believe, when He was born of His mother.” As people believe is quite parallel to St. Basil’s the lovers of Christ and their testimony. But it is not “as the Scriptures declare”. Tradition, not Word of God for sure. The way I teach it is to say: “According to the tradition of the Church, Mary remained a Virgin; and the Scriptures do not rule this out, and the Lutheran Confessions clearly supposed the tradition was true, but was a tradition nonetheless.”
« Last Edit: March 26, 2021, 05:01:31 PM by Weedon »

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2021, 05:16:35 PM »
Will:

Do you have any source for the explanations of the “closed womb” delivery of our Savior?  As a Roman Catholic, I was raised with the perpetual virginity of Mary (though it wasn’t until adolescence that I ever questioned it).  Since becoming a Lutheran and my pastoral formation those years later (and still continuing, until I die) I just took the texts that are referred to in the other thread on this topic that James was the biological brother of Jesus who became the Presiding Bishop of Jerusalem as he presided over the 1st Ecumenical Council in Acts 15.  I assumed that when it was told Jesus “your mother and brothers are outside” and they thought He was crazy too (or at least over-tired?), I never doubted the very Jewish life of “be fruitful and multiply” would be joyfully experienced by Joseph and Mary after the birth of Jesus.

Anyway, I wrote too much but am interested if a Church Father wrote in any more definitive way that the non-vaginal delivery took place.  I just thought of a funny….there was no such thing as a Cesarean section since he wasn’t around yet…..
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Mike in Pennsylvania

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2021, 07:15:53 PM »
Actually, Dave, the Caesarean section was named after Julius Caesar, who supposedly was born that way approximately 100 BC.
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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2021, 07:25:00 PM »
Me,too. And MacDuff.

PS Easy-Peesy for God to have a virgin give birth and remain a virgin perpetually.

Peter (Nicely formed cranium compared to you Smurfs) Garrison
« Last Edit: March 30, 2021, 07:29:02 PM by pastorg1@aol.com »
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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2021, 07:26:43 PM »
Actually, Dave, the Caesarean section was named after Julius Caesar, who supposedly was born that way approximately 100 BC.
A hotly debated legend, especially since his mother was alive at the time he invaded Britain.Most likely, it comes from  the Latin word caesus meaning "to cut."
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Weedon

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2021, 07:53:59 PM »
Dave,

Probably the best book I know of on Mary in Patristic thought is: Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought. It’s by Luigi Gambero, and translated by Thomas Buffer (Ignatius Press, 1999). It covers the whole gamut of the way the Fathers thought and taught on Mary, tracing its development across the centuries, and allowing them to speak in their own words.

An example of an early Father rejoicing in the virgin birth (as opposed to virginal conception) is St. Ephrem the Syrian. If you have the Treasury of Daily Prayer, check out the Writing for Holy Saturday on p. 180:

“But in Your resurrection You persuade men concerning Your birth. For were pure in the womb that was sealed and alive in the tomb that was sealed. The womb and the tomb, being sealed, were witnesses to You [i.e., to Your divinity]....Virgin womb and sealed tomb, like trumpets, proclaimed Him in the ears of a deaf people.”

The usual Scripture that is pointed to is both the typological prophesy of Ezekiel’s “East Gate” that remains shut (44:2); and I remember Robert Rosin (prof at St. Louis) saying that the dogmaticians based it upon the statement of Isaiah: “a virgin shall conceive *and bear a Son.*” It is not just that she conceived as a virgin, but somehow her virginity was preserved in the childbirth, in which, if He used the power of His divine majesty, He could pass through His mother’s womb as He came into the midst of the disciples through the closed doors; and clearly, given Matthew 28, as when He left the tomb.

Here’s Luther on this, in a sermon from 1541 on the Eve of the Day of the Circumcision, and hence as mature Luther as you can hope for (HP III:256):

Now, although Mary was not required to do this—the Law of Moses having no claim over her, for she had given birth without pain and her virginity remained unsullied—nevertheless, she kept quiet, and submitted herself to the common law of all women and let herself be accounted unclean.

She was, without a doubt, a pure, chaste virgin before the birth, in the birth, and after the birth, and was neither sick nor weakened from the birth, and certainly could have gone out of the house after giving birth, not only because of her exemption under the Law, but also because of the uninterrupted soundness of her body. For her son did not detract from her virginity, but actually strengthened it....


Hope that is of some help.

P.S. In my opinion, the most helpful thing in the Gambero work is how easy it is to trace the move from statements in the earliest Fathers about Mary that were grounded in Scripture or at least could be harmonized with the Scriptures to the later speculations that were subsequently raised to dogma. One example: St. Epiphanios in the fourth century confesses that no one knows the end of Mary’s life and what happens. But by the time we get to St. Germanos of Constantinople, he’s proclaiming the assumption as dogma (as does John of Damascus), as historical fact and the authentic tradition of the Church. This to me is one of the huge problems in Orthodoxy and to a lesser degree in Rome: once something ENTERS the tradition and endures for a time, it is taken as the work of the Spirit and must be received as authentic. Another example that astounds me is the assertion among the Eastern Christians that at Bethlehem, little Bethlehem, Herod the Great put to death no less than 14,000 children!!! (See https://www.goarch.org/chapel/saints?contentid=358&PCode=15LT&date=12/29/2020)

« Last Edit: March 30, 2021, 08:10:34 PM by Weedon »

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2021, 08:07:41 PM »

The usual Scripture that is pointed to is both the typological prophesy of Ezekiel’s “East Gate” that remains shut (44:2); and I remember Robert Rosin (prof at St. Louis) saying that the dogmaticians based it upon the statement of Isaiah: “a virgin shall conceive *and bear a Son.*” It is not just that she conceived as a virgin, but somehow her virginity was preserved in the childbirth, in which, if He used the power of His divine majesty, He could pass through His mother’s womb as He came into the midst of the disciples through the closed doors; and clearly, given Matthew 28, as when He left the tomb.


The Prophecy by Ezekiel is always one of the three Old Testament Lessons read at Orthodox Great Vespers on the eve of Feasts of the Theotokos.

This Hymn (Third Kathisma) from the Orthros of the Feast of the Annunciation extrapolates upon Gabriel's message:

Quote

To the pure and virgin Maid * the Angel Gabriel was sent. 
He announced to her the grace * and inexpressible joy:
"You will conceive without seed and remain inviolate.
For pre-eternal God is the Son you will bear; * and He will save His people from their iniquities.
He who sent me here to call you blessed, * and to say to you, 'Rejoice,' so testifies.
O Virgin, you will give birth, and after childbirth * you will remain a Virgin."

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Weedon

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2021, 08:15:01 PM »
Thomas,

Thanks for reminding me to mention the music as well. The Lutherans a century and more after the Reformation continued to sing Fit Porta on the Annunciation. Here’s Carver’s translation:

CHRIST’S beauteous portal, full of grace,
Is hallowed for the King to pass;
The King doth pass: the folded door
Abideth folded as before.

2. Son of the Father’s might divine,
Proceeding form His Virgin shrine,
Maker, Redeemer, Bridegroom, He
The Giant of His Church shall be.

3. Of Mother-maid the light and joy,
Of all believers hope most high,
He the dark cup of death shall drain
Ere He unloose our guilty chain.

4. All Laud to God the Father be
All praise, eternal Son, to Thee,
All glory, as is ever meet,
To God the Holy Paraclete. Amen.

(See Cantica Sacra p. 1045 - the Great Magdeburg Cathedral Book with all the music for all the services of every day of the year, published in Lutheran Magdeburg in 1612).
« Last Edit: March 30, 2021, 08:17:19 PM by Weedon »

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2021, 08:20:58 PM »
Wow!

I'm split down the middle...loving its fit both with Vom Himmel Hoch as well as with Agni Partheni by St. Nektariios.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2021, 09:05:59 PM by J. Thomas Shelley »
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Weedon

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2021, 08:39:33 PM »
P.S. When Lossius in his Cantional includes this hymn, he includes (as he does throughout) comments in the margin. This one notes that this is based off of Ezekiel 44 and the porta or gate that is shut.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2021, 08:49:50 PM by Weedon »

J. Thomas Shelley

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2021, 11:32:18 PM »
The hymn text carries some echoes of the 5th Century Hymn of Justinian, a refutation of Nestorianism which is sung after the Second Antiphon at every Divine Liturgy:

Quote

Only begotten Son and Logos of God, being immortal,
You condescended for our salvation to take flesh from the holy Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary
and, without change, became man. Christ, our God,
You were crucified and conquered death by death.
Being one of the Holy Trinity,
glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit: Save us.

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mariemeyer

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #11 on: March 31, 2021, 12:38:34 PM »
"Here’s Luther on this, in a sermon from 1541 on the Eve of the Day of the Circumcision, and hence as mature Luther as you can hope for (HP III:256):

Now, although Mary was not required to do this—the Law of Moses having no claim over her, for she had given birth without pain and her virginity remained unsullied—nevertheless, she kept quiet, and submitted herself to the common law of all women and let herself be accounted unclean.

She was, without a doubt, a pure, chaste virgin before the birth, in the birth, and after the birth, and was neither sick nor weakened from the birth, and certainly could have gone out of the house after giving birth, not only because of her exemption under the Law, but also because of the uninterrupted soundness of her body. For her son did not detract from her virginity, but actually strengthened it...."

I rarely disagree or question Martin Luther, but I question the good Doctor on the above.  Mary gave birth without pain???? 

In a 1949 visit to Germany I was given the Stuttgartner Bilderbible fur das Christliche Haus .  The 2nd painting shows a tired worn out Mary resting on a bed of hay that is covered with a rough old piece of cloth. Joseph is kneeling at her side with his hand gently positioned on Mary's hand.  Mary's other hand rests on the new born Jesus. 

Not weakened from birth???  The painting shows Mary as weak and exhausted.

The uninterrupted soundness of her body???  As a young healthy woman I had four easy deliveries,  but  they were all painful.  I was exhausted and welcomed having Bill there to hold my hand.

Seriously, much that has been written by men about the birth of Jesus, the Christ, strikes me as speculation.  In other words, words written do not reflect the reality of what Mary experienced during her pregnancy and in giving birth to Jesus.  I suspect  she may have had morning sickness.  She probably felt  uncomfortable at times.  I felt as if our son had kicked my ribs till they were bruised black and blue.

I question whether Mary remained a virgin.  When I think of Joseph living with Mary for an unknown number of years, I doubt whether he slept in his carpenter's shop. 

Today, when I reflect on Mary I think of what two grand-daughters are experiencing during their pregnancy. I enjoy watching how excited their husbands are at the prospect of being fathers.    The mystery and wonder of the Son of God becoming human,the Son of Man, born of a young virgin woman is awesome. To ponder what it means that Jesus was a human of the same flesh and blood as Mary... the same flesh and blood as all humans ... can only fill our hearts with gratitude for our good and gracious God.   

As Good Friday approaches, I also reflect on the icons where Mary stands with John at the foot of the cross.  Her heart must have been broken beyond anything I can comprehend. 

Marie Meyer 

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2021, 12:59:24 PM »

As Good Friday approaches, I also reflect on the icons where Mary stands with John at the foot of the cross. Her heart must have been broken beyond anything I can comprehend. 


Aye. 

The Orthodox Stavrotheotokion for the 9th Hour on Fridays does not shy away from Mary's pain as her soul was pierced:

Quote

When the Mother of the Lamb and Shepherd and Savior of the world saw Him on the Cross,
she uttered tearfully,
"The world rejoices at receiving redemption,
but my insides are burning as I see Your crucifixion,
which You endure for all,
O my Son and my God."

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Weedon

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #13 on: March 31, 2021, 01:18:32 PM »
Marie,

I think Luther’s thoughts here were based on his conviction that the pains of childbirth are the consequence of original sin; and that this pregnancy was exempted from that curse due to the sinlessness of both the way Mary conceived and of the Child she was carrying. I, by the way, hold that it is tradition and not Word of God, and hence nothing to be dogmatic upon.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2021, 01:22:03 PM by Weedon »

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Re: Questions about Mary
« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2021, 01:31:35 PM »
I think Luther's understanding of the womb/tomb being things Jesus didn't need to traverse the normal way (it wasn't for His sake the stone was rolled away) comes out in what I have always considered a semi-humorous line in Savior of the Nations Come. After verse 3 describes Jesus in the womb as God upon His throne, verse 4 goes on, "Then stepped forth the Lord of all/from His pure and kingly hall" (again, seemingly referring to the pure womb of Mary). Setting aside the issue (no pun intended) of how Jesus was born, the normal way or the way Luther describes, it seems like a really funny thing to picture, the baby "stepping forth" into the world.

I don't think whatever has been written about the virgin birth (and it is the virgin birth many people mean, not just the virgin conception-- that is, Mary's body remained inviolate throughout) has anything to do with whether it was written by men or women. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if some of the women saints or revered mothers among the nuns thought or wrote the same thing about Mary. The Scriptures say nothing about the labor. It is theological conjecture when Luther and others say Jesus came out of the womb the same way He came out of the tomb and passed through the locked doors after His resurrection. But that conjecture is not without some theological reasoning, and it has nothing to do with whether the reasoner is a man or a woman.