Uncategorized

WHY MARY TRULY IS THE MOTHER OF GOD

 

“The Virgin Mary . . . is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer….” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 963).

It is a matter of dogma, concerning the Most Blessed Trinity, that God the Son is eternally begotten by the Father (“God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God“). It is a matter of dogma that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Eternal Love between the Father and the Son (“I believe in the Holy Spiritthe Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son“). The Holy Spirit is the fulfillment or “terminus” of the Holy Trinity, and therefore (unlike the Father and the Son) He does not bring forth (to use human terms) another Divine Person, except through Mary in the Incarnation!

The Holy Trinity chose to take its “repose” in Mary in order that the Holy Spirit could bring forth a God-man, Jesus Christ, through the unspeakable grace of the true and never-ending maternity of Mary Immaculate who is, and will always be, the Mother of God. Through Mary’s consent, the Holy Spirit’s shadow covered Mary, and she conceived our Savior in her womb (Luke 1:35). Even now in Heaven she is truly the Mother of Jesus Christ.

Although we are all adopted sons and daughters of God through baptism, Mary is, as Saint Maximilian Kolbe points out, the actual Mother of God! There is, then, a unique and special relationship between Mary and the Holy Trinity that far exceeds in profundity our understanding. We can only approach this mystery in love.

Mary’s supreme office then – her predestination we might say – is that of Mother! And since she is the mother of the first born of all the elect, Jesus Christ, she is our mother too. She intercedes for us as a good mother – no, much more, as “the best of mothers!” Jesus bequeathed her to us! “Behold your Mother.”

The Fathers at Vatican II put it this way in Lumen Gentium:

“The predestination of the Blessed Virgin as Mother of God was associated with the incarnation of the divine word: in the designs of divine Providence she was the gracious mother of the divine Redeemer here on earth, and above all others and in a singular way the generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord. She conceived, brought forth, and nourished Christ, she presented him to the Father in the temple, shared her Son’s sufferings as he died on the cross. Thus, in a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace.

This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation.[15] By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home.”

January 1, 2019 is the feast of the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. Let us begin the new year by drawing closer to the maternal heart of Mary. 

“In Mary’s case we have a special and exceptional mediation…Jesus Christ prepared her ever more completely to become for all people their ‘mother in the order of grace’ ” (Saint Pope John Paul II, Mother of the Redeemer, 39).

Let us then acknowledge, like Elizabeth, our littleness, and then cry out in faith:

“And why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Sources: I am relying on Chapter One of True Devotion to Mary by Saint Louis DeMontfort, and also on Aim Higher, Spiritual and Marian Reflections of Saint Maximilian Kolbe. I am indebted to these two saints for the content of this note. Thank you, Mother Mary, for these two great saints!

Image: Our Lady of Good Counsel by Pasqualle Sarullo (Public Domain, U.S.A.).

To SHARE on SOCIAL MEDIA: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below (and this will bring up social media icons if they are not already present).

To LEAVE A COMMENT: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below, and then scroll down to the box which says, “Leave Your Own Comment Here,” which is at the end of any comments already made. If the comment section is already present, merely scroll to the end of any comments already made.

All rights reserved.

Any ads in this note are by WordPress and not CatholicStrength.

Advertisements

A SPECIAL DEVOTION TO THE HOLY INNOCENTS OF BETHLEHEM

(The Massacre of the Innocents by Giotto, circa 1304)

“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been outwitted by the wise men, flew into a rage. He gave orders to massacre all the male children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, in keeping with the time he had learned from the wise men” (Matthew 2:16)

I have to admit that I have a special fascination with obscure devotions in the Church that have largely fallen out of practice. It is like discovering a hidden mine, full of gold! After all, these children of Bethlehem – these murdered children – were the first Christian martyrs. That has to mean something. That has to mean a lot. The Church thinks so – the feast of the Holy Innocents is celebrated on December 28.

Some biblical scholars have questioned whether the massacre of the Holy Innocents (as related in Matthew’s Gospel above) is more of a midrash than literal history, and yet we know from genuine historical sources that Herod was a ruthless madman who even killed his own sons. “Extrabiblical history paints a similar [Biblical] portrait of Herod; he murdered his favorite wife, three of his sons, and others who threatened his throne” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, p.10). “The number of these children was so small that this crime appeared insignificant amongst the other misdeeds of Herod” (Catholic Encyclopedia). Scripture scholar Scott Hahn adds that Herod “slaughtered Jerusalem priests whose scriptural interpretations made him anxious, and his other sporadic purges claimed victims by the hundreds” (Joy to the World, p.138).

“The two chapters of Matthew’s Gospel devoted to the infancy narratives are not a meditation presented under the guise of stories, but the converse: Matthew is recounting real history, theologically thought through and interpreted….” (Pope Benedict XVI).

Add to this the testimony of a great saint regarding the efficacy of this particular devotion and you have ample reasons to practice it! A gifted spiritual writer, F.W. Faber, relates the following: “The revelations of the Saints also tell us of the singular power now accorded in Heaven to these infant Martyrs, especially in connections with death-beds, and St. Francis of Sales died reiterating with marked emphasis and significance the invocation of the Holy Innocents” (Bethlehem, p.198).

Of these infant martyrs Faber states: “They were [Jesus’] companions in nativity, His mates in age and size; and though it was no slight thing to have these natural alliances with Him, by grace they were much more, for they were likenesses of Him, and they were His Martyrs” (Id). “The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1258).

Faber relates that this devotion has a special relationship to Mary and to growth in the virtue of purity.

“A twofold light shines in the faces of this infant crowd, the light of Mary and the light of Jesus. They resembled Mary in their sinless purity; for even if our Lord had not constituted them in a state of grace before, their Original Sin would be more than expiated by their guileless blood, when it was shed for Him. It was a fearful font, a most bloody sacrament…. They were like Mary in their Martryrdom for Jesus, as all the Martyrs were; but they were like her also, in that their Martyrdom was as it were the act of Jesus Himself….It is only more remotely so with the other Martyrs. This is one of their distinctions. They resembled her also in their nearness to Jesus. They were among the few who were admitted into the hierarchy of the Incarnation” (Bethlehem, p. 198).

Finally, these infant martyrs remind us that meritorious suffering has a special place in a Christian’s life. Father Faber reminds us that the “law of the Incarnation is a law of suffering. Our Blessed Lord was the man of sorrows, and by suffering He redeemed the world….Calvary was not unlike Bethlehem….This same law of suffering, which belongs to Jesus, touches all who come nigh Him, and in proportion to their holiness, envelops them, and claims them wholly for itself” (The Foot of the Cross, p. 13, as edited). Pertaining specifically to these Holy Innocents, Faber states:

“These infant Martyrs represent also what must in its measure befall everyone who draws near to Jesus. Suffering goes out of him, like an atmosphere. The air is charged with the seed of crosses, and the soul is sown all over with them before it is aware. Moreover, the cross is a quick growth and can spring up, and blossom, and bear fruit almost in a night, while from its vivacious root a score of fresh crosses will spring up and cover the soul with the peculiar verdure of Calvary. They that come nearest to our Lord are those who suffer most, and who suffer the most unselfishly” (Bethlehem, p.198).

CONCLUSION: An intense, mysterious, supernatural aroma hovers over our devotion to the Holy Innocents, teaching us to “manage our sorrows” and sufferings according to “supernatural principles”. Certainly this devotion teaches us that there is “no solid peace to be found among the perishable things of this life.” This devotion seems to focus light and grace in three areas: it has a special efficacy for the dying; it helps us to grow in purity and in devotion to Mary; and finally it teaches us to value and see all our sufferings in a supernatural light. All of the Holy Innocents lived less than three years, but now they live in the glorious splendor of an untiringly joyous eternity! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and forever. Amen.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

References: All the quotes in the conclusion are from Faber, so you can see I am relying on him for the conclusion; and it is Faber who writes in one of his books about an “untired eternity.” Pope Benedict XVI defends the historicity of the Infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke in his series of books, Jesus of Nazareth. See page 119: “The two chapters of Matthew’s Gospel devoted to the infancy narratives are not a meditation presented under the guise of stories, but the converse: Matthew is recounting real history, theologically thought through and interpreted, and thus he helps us to understand the mystery of Jesus more deeply” (The Infancy Narratives, Image).

To SHARE on SOCIAL MEDIA: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below (and this will bring up social media icons if they are not already present).

To LEAVE A COMMENT: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below, and then scroll down to the box which says, “Leave Your Own Comment Here,” which is at the end of any comments already made. If the comment section is already present, merely scroll to the end of any comments already made.

All rights reserved.

Any ads in this note are by WordPress and not CatholicStrength.

 


BETHLEHEM IS AN OCEAN OF WORSHIP

(Adoration of the Magi by Bartolome Esteban Murillo, 1655, Public Domain, U.S.A.)

“He will be called Immanuel,” which means “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23)

There are two extremes we must guard against in our theology of Jesus. The one extreme overemphasizes the Divinity of Jesus to the detriment of his humanity, and the other extreme overemphasizes the humanity of Jesus so as to almost downplay his Divine life. In modern Scripture scholarship the later course has enjoyed considerable popularity even to the extent of questioning the Divinity of Jesus. But on Christmas day we see a perfect blending of Jesus’ two natures (fully God and fully man), for he is clearly a helpless infant boy whom shepherds and angels and even magi come to worship! In this context, Bethlehem does not shy away from clearly proclaiming both the humanity and Divinity of Jesus.

As F.W. Faber says, “Bethlehem is an ocean of worship.”  Faber himself identifies nine types of “first worshipers” of the babe of Bethlehem (Bethlehem, p. 203), but in this short note I will quickly focus on just three of them. To worship Jesus, of course, is the supreme acknowledgment that he is both God and man. And what do we need now, more than ever, then a “more fervent worship of the Eternal Word” (Id at 247). Bethlehem draws us into this ocean of worship. And as Faber reminds us, “Worship is our highest thought…worship alone is power” (Id, 70-73). Are you looking for more power in your spiritual life?

THE MAGI

When the Magi (or Three Kings) finally made their way to the crib of Jesus they did something amazing! They kneeled down! The Gospel says: “They fell down and worshiped him” (Matthew 2: 11). “The gifts of the Magi signify the mystery of Christ Incarnate. Gold, a symbol of royalty, represents the kingship of Jesus. Frankincense, used in the worship of God, points to his divinity. Myrrh, a burial ointment, signifies the humanity of Christ, especially in his Passion and death” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible).

A noted scripture scholar states: “The visit of the Magi is a brief episode in the Christmas story, but we cannot exaggerate its importance. It signals the salvation of the whole world….God had extended joy to the world, and the world [represented by the Magi] responded with worship” (S. Hahn, Joy to the World, as edited, pp. 114-115).

THE SHEPHERDS AND THE ANGELS

We read in Luke’s Gospel about shepherds in the vicinity of Jesus’ birth. “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’ ” (Luke 2: 8-12).

Right then and there a whole host of angels broke out in worship! The Scripture says: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’ When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them” (Luke 2: 13-18).

“Worship is what angels do….A gathering of angels is a clear and unmistakable sign of God’s presence and his favor. For both Matthew and Luke, the angels of Christmas are a sign that God is present among his people in Jesus….The holy angels were those who were willing to follow God in his descent to earth and worship him there” (Joy to the World, as edited, pp. 87-92).

Father Faber states: “Next to that of Mary and Joseph, theirs [the Shepherds’] was the first external worship earth offered to the new born Babe of Bethlehem. Simplicity comes very near to God. Such are the men the Babe calls first….They come to worship him, and their simplicity is joy, and the voice of joy is praise. God loves the praise of the lowly….The very simplicity of the Shepherds would not let them keep their praise a secret to themselves” (Bethlehem, as edited, pp. 179-181).

CONCLUSION: All our good is in Jesus Christ, so that our own self-realization in the truest sense is intrinsically related to our worship of Jesus. “We must continue ceaselessly to live a life of praise to the Glory of God,” says Father Tichenor. And as “one praises and worships, he is transformed step-by-step from glory-to-glory, into the image of the infinitely joyous God.”

Bethlehem is an ocean of worship. If we transport ourselves there meditatively, we encounter Mary and Joseph, the angels and the shepherds, and the Magi, all worshiping Jesus, who came for us out of an Infinite love. Christmas is here! “O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.”

Merry Christmas!

Tom Mulcahy

 

To SHARE on SOCIAL MEDIA: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below (and this will bring up social media icons if they are not already present).

To LEAVE A COMMENT: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below, and then scroll down to the box which says, “Leave Your Own Comment Here,” which is at the end of any comments already made. If the comment section is already present, merely scroll to the end of any comments already made.

All rights reserved.

Any ads in this note are by WordPress and not CatholicStrength.

THE PROPHET ISAIAH SPEAKS TO THE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES OF THE FUTURE MESSIAH

(Stained glass window at the Annunciation Melkite Catholic Cathedral in Roslindale, Massachusetts, depicting Christ the King)

“Look! The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call him Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 7:14)

The prophecy of a new born King in Isaiah 9, whose attributes “reveal a mysterious union of divinity and humanity” (Christ in Prophecy, p. 91), is really quite remarkable by way of its ultimate and perfect fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. The prophet Isaiah, who lived some 700 years before Christ, wrote the following words:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.  (Isaiah 9:2-3) ***
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called 
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting FatherPrince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7, ESV)

On pages 93-94 of Christ in Prophecy, renowned Catholic Bible scholar Dr. Paul Heinisch explains how this prophecy of a child with Divine attributes finds its “perfect understanding” in the “second Person of the Blessed Trinity…become Incarnate.” He states:

“Did the prophet’s oracle come true? St. John [in his Gospel] heralded the incarnate Son of God as ‘the Light that shines in the darkness but which the darkness did not comprehend and as the ‘true Light that enlightens every man’[John 1:5; 1:9]. *** Jesus refers to Himself as ‘the Light of the world’ [John 8:12]. ***
On the plains of Bethlehem angels announced the birth of the Prince of Peace [Luke 2:14]. ***  Considered together, the attributes listed in Isaias find their fulfillment in Jesus, and in no other descendant of David. Only Jesus was God and man. Before Pilate he acknowledged being king of the Jews and then added: ‘My Kingdom is not of this world.’ The spiritual character of His kingdom has already been expressed in our oracle, a kingdom not founded or dependent upon the power of arms, but upon justice and righteousness, a kingdom of peace enduring forever. There likewise is a connection between the Light before which ‘darkness and the shadow of death’ must flee and the name ‘Wondrous-Counsellor,’ for in the Messianic kingdom new doctrine and revelations are to be expected. Over this kingdom God is supreme. He rules through the Messiah who accomplishes His commands.”

CONCLUSION: Jesus, true God and true man, is the only possible fulfillment of Isaiah’s magnificent prophecy of a child and king who shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. The child born of the holy Virgin is to be called Emmanuel, “God is with us” (see Is. 7:14; Matthew 1:23). He is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6), and a light of revelation to all the nations (see Luke 2:32).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

IMAGE ATTRIBUTION: The image mentioned at the top of this post is a January 2009 photo by John Stephen Dwyer. John Stephen Dwyer, the copyright holder of this work, hereby publishes it under the following license: This file is licensed under the Creative CommonsAttribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. The image and information pertaining to it found at Wikipedia.

Source: For a fuller explanation of the fulfillment of this prophecy, see Christ in Prophecy by Dr. Paul Heinisch (The Liturgical Press), wherein he also explains the prophecy’s relevance “to the age and circumstances in which it was composed,” although its perfect fulfillment can only be in the Messiah (see, for example, Matthew 4: 12-17).

To SHARE on SOCIAL MEDIA: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below (and this will bring up social media icons if they are not already present).

To LEAVE A COMMENT: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below, and then scroll down to the box which says, “Leave Your Own Comment Here,” which is at the end of any comments already made. If the comment section is already present, merely scroll to the end of any comments already made.

All rights reserved.

Any ads in this note are by WordPress and not CatholicStrength.

IS THE DOCTRINE OF MARY’S PERPETUAL VIRGINITY BIBLICAL?

1.  CHURCH DOCTRINE
That Mary remained a virgin her entire life is a De Fide (required of the faithful) doctrine of the Catholic Church.  See Documents of Vatican II (LG57), Catechism of the Catholic Church, 499, The Mother of the Redeemer, 39 (Encyclical Letter of Pope John Paul Il, 1987), and Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pages 203-206.
 
2. VIRGINITY FOR THE SAKE OF THE KINGDOM
Celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom is a radical feature of Christianity, and finds its biblical mandate at Matthew 19:12. Jesus, in fact, “is described” and “sees his own self identity” as that of the “celibate bridegroom” (article by Janet Smith; see also John 3:29 and Matthew 9:15). Paul presents celibacy as a highly favored state of life for believers saying, “I wish that all were as myself am [celibate].  But each has his own special gift from God….” (1 Cor. 7:7). Paul confirms the goodness of marriage at 1 Cor. 7:38 saying, “He who marries does well,” but then adds that “he who refrains from marriage will do better.” Mary embraced both marriage and celibacy, thus exemplifying in a unique way the sublime dignity of both vocations.
 
3.  MARY, SPOUSE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Mary is properly to be considered the spouse of the Holy Spirit since the Holy Spirit “overshadowed” her and was the formal cause of her virginal conception of Jesus (Luke 1:35). This is why her offspring, Jesus, “will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35), and this is also why Mary is properly called the Mother of God according to the decree of The Council of Ephesus in 431. Mary’s unique and “supernatural maternity” through the power of the Holy Spirit necessarily precludes her from intimate union with a man. Mary is a virgin because of her “undivided gift of herself” to God (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 506).
 
4.  MARY’S VOW OF VIRGINITY
The relevant verse is Luke 1:34: “How shall this be, seeing I do not know man.” These words of Mary to the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation show that Mary did not intend to have conjugal relations with a man; otherwise, Mary surely would have known that conjugal relations with Joseph, her husband, could cause a pregnancy. Catholic theologian Stefano Manelli explains Mary’s strange response to the angel this way:
 
“Confronted by this [the angel Gabriel’s] wondrous announcement, however, the virgin finds herself embarrassed; not because of the sublime greatness of the majesty announced to her, but rather for the way in which such a maternity might be realized. The embarrassment would seem inexplicable because, on any reasonable grounds, she is precisely a woman in ideal conditions to conceive a son. She is the young spouse of Joseph – What young spouse would not be inclined to desire a beautiful son? It is obvious, therefore, and must be acknowledged that Mary’s difficulty stems from a precise commitment — vow or promise — “not to know man,” that is, to be and remain a virgin.  St. Augustine rightly says, that ‘Mary certainly would not have spoken those words If she had not vowed her virginity to Got” In fact, only by admitting Mary’s virginal consecration to God, can it be understood why she found herself facing an unsolvable dilemma: How to reconcile her virginal offering to God with the request of maternity on the part of God? How could she become a mother without betraying a promise of virginal consecration to God.”
(Stefano Manelli, All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed, pages 137-140)

Warren H. Carroll adds:

“[The] Greek present tense used for Mary’s words in Luke 1:34 corresponds…to the Hebrew and Aramaic active participle indicating a permanent condition. Mary’s words in Aramaic were ki enneni yodaat ish, the yodaat indicating a permanent condition of virginity” (Warren Carroll summarizing and quoting from Manuel Miguen’s “indispensable” work, The Virgin Birth: an Evaluation of Scriptural Evidence (p.81) in The Founding of Christendom, Vol. I, p.310).

 
5. DID JESUS HAVE BROTHERS?

Robert Payesko comments:

“It is often alleged too that such verses as Mark 6:3, “His brethren James and Joseph, and Judas and Simon,” and Matthew 13:55- 56, “his brethren James and Joseph, and Simon and Judas,” are evidence that Jesus had brothers and sisters. What is forgotten is that the Jewish expression for brothers and sisters applies to cousins and even to people in the same tribe. Although Lot was the son of Jjraharn’s brother Aran, he is described as Abraham’s “brother” (Genesis 14:14). Similarly, Jacob is referred to as the “brother” of his uncle Laban (Genesis 29:15). Similar examples are found throughout Scripture.  In any case, in Matthew 27:56, Mark 14:40 and John 19:25, James and Joseph are described as the sons of Mary, the wife of Cleophas— thus Scripture tells us that the “brethren” James and Joseph in Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3 are not blood brothers of Jesus. If James, the bishop of Jerusalem, was truly a son of Mary it would be impossible for the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary to be affirmed in the early Church Nevertheless, such ancient writers as IrenaeusPolycarp and Ignatius all taught the doctrine as an article of faith.”
(Robert Payesko. The Truth about Mary, page 2-198).

 Section 500 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

“Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus. The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, “brothers of Jesus,” are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls “the other Mary.” They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression.”
 
 
6. MATTHEW 1:25: “UNTIL SHE BORE A SON”
The relevant verse is sometimes translated, “he [Joseph] had no relations with her [Mary] until she bore a son, whom he named Jesus.” The New American Bible translates the verse as follows: “He had no relations with her at anytime before she bore a son, whom he named Jesus,” This verse demonstrates that Joseph did not have sexual relations with Mary before Jesus’ birth, thus establishing the doctrine of Jesus’ virginal birth, The verse does not mean that Joseph had sexual relations with Mary after Jesus was born.

Dr. Scott Hahn comments:

“The Greek hoes [until] does not imply that Joseph and Mary had marital relations following Jesus’ birth. This conjunction is often used (translated ‘”to” or “till”) to indicate a select period of time, without implying change in the future (2 Sam 6:23 [LXX]; Jn 9:18; 1 Tim 413). Here Matthew emphasizes only that Joseph had no involvement in Mary’s pregnancy before Jesus’ birth.”
(Scott HahnIgnatius Catholic Study Bible, Gospel of Matthew, page 18).
 

J. Laurericeau explains:

The semitic locution “until” makes no judgment about the future. Thus, “Michal was childless until the clay of her death” (2 Sm 6:23) [does not’t imply Michal became a mother after her death.]”
(Dictionary of Mary, page 485)
 
7. MARY EXCLUSIVELY REFERRED TO IN BIBLE AS JESUS’ MOTHER
Mary is never called the mother of anyone else except Jesus in the New Testament. The Gospels refer only to Jesus as Mary’s son (the verses where Jesus is referred to as Mary’s son include John 2:1, John 19:25, and Acts 1:14). Further, as Dr. Scott Hahn points out, it is unlikely that Jesus would have entrusted Mary to the Apostle John’s care at his crucifixion if Mary had other natural sons to care for her (John 19:26-27).
 
8. LUKE 2:7 “FIRSTBORN SON”

J. Laurencaau explains:

Luke says: “Mary gave birth to her firstborn son” (2:7). This makes allusion to the legal prescriptions concerning the first male child of a family, even if there were no other children.
(Dictionary of Mary, page 485)

 Dr. Scott Hahn comments:

[Luke 2:7 is] a legal term linked with a son’s social standing and rights of inheritance.  It does not imply that Mary had other children after Jesus, only that she had none before him.
(Scott HahnIgnatius Catholic Study Bible, Gospel of Luke, page 22)
 
9. THE CHURCH FATHERS
The Protoevangelium of James, written around A.D. 120, had as one of its “principal aims” to prove the perpetual virginity of Mary.  Origin (died 254) strongly defended Mary’s perpetual virginity but Tertullian (died 230), who was excommunicated, denied it.  Other early Church fathers affirming Mary’s perpetual virginity include Athanasius, Epiphanius, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine and Cyril of Alexandria.  Reference: Mary: Ever Virgin (This Rock: February, 2002) and Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pages 203-206.
 
10. EARLY DOCTRINAL DEVELOPMENT
Mary referred to as “perpetual virgin” by the Fifth General Council at Constantinople in 553.  The first doctrinal formulation of this belief takes place at the Lateran Synod of 649 under Pope Martin I where Mary is called “blessed ever-virginal and Immaculate Mary.”  Reference: Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pages 203-206.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: Black Madonna of Częstochowa (Public Domain, U.S.A.). Pope Francis prayed in front of this famous icon during his  World Youth Day visit to Poland in July of 2016. According to Joan Carroll Cruz, “the miracles attribited to Our Lady of Czestochowa are numerable and spectacular.” When my daughter Bridget Mulcahy visited the image in question at the Jasna Gora Monastery in Poland (during her WYD pilgrimage) she took the following photograph of the “wall of crutches” there which speaks to the miraculous, healing intercession of Our Lady of Czesochowa. Thanks Bridget!

 

To SHARE on SOCIAL MEDIA: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below (and this will bring up social media icons if they are not already present).

To LEAVE A COMMENT: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below, and then scroll down to the box which says, “Leave Your Own Comment Here,” which is at the end of any comments already made. If the comment section is already present, merely scroll to the end of any comments already made.

All rights reserved.

Any ads following in this note are by WordPress and not CatholicStrength.

 

DEVOTION TO MARY’S IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CAN RENEW THE CHURCH

           

       “I am the Immaculate Conception” (The Blessed Virgin at Lourdes)

The Kingdom of the Incarnation – that is, the Kingdom founded by Jesus – is built on purity. “Since all God’s works are a disclosure of Himself,” we can look  backwards to the commencement of the Kingdom of the Incarnation to see that Christ’s Kingdom is built on purity (we cannot deny that God’s love is an even deeper foundation for this Kingdom, but love and purity go hand in hand).

The basis for our conclusion is simply the overwhelming purity of the four main members of Christ’s Kingdom at its very inception:

FIRST, we have the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose Immaculate Conception is, in essence, the hidden beginning of Christ’s Kingdom. Jesus chose to enter humanity through the Immaculate one, who is both Virgin and mother.

SECOND, we have our Lord himself, the “Celibate Bridegroom,” who is nothing short of INFINITE PURITY.

THIRD, we have Saint John the Baptist,  Jesus’ forerunner, who is a man of “mighty mortifications” and consecrated to celibacy.

FOURTH, we have Saint Joseph, a preeminent model of purity in the church (often depicted in art holding a lily of purity).

From these telling facts, we can see very clearly that not only was the Kingdom of the Incarnation built on purity, but that, in fact, this new Kingdom ushered in a monumental purity revolution. From these providential works of God (namely, the persons Mary, Jesus, John the Baptist and Joseph), which came at the very beginning of the Kingdom of the Incarnation, we reach the very important conclusion that the Eternal Father has the highest regard for purity (and thus that purity and holiness are inseparable). Stated differently, God’s Eternal and Infinite Purity shines forth at the commencement of Jesus’ Kingdom.  “…God’s works are so many mirrors in which He allows His creatures to behold the reflection of His invisible perfections and hidden beauty….” (F.W. Faber).

And yet when we look at the current condition of the Church there is great confusion being sown (by some Catholics) about sexual morality, even at very high levels (even within the Vatican). And there are certain priests and even Bishops who give impetus to the idea of approving homosexual relationships in some way, even while the Church is embroiled in a clergy sex abuse crisis which has rocked the very foundations of her existence. The only remedy out of this crisis is for the Church to lead the life of purity that has always been taught and preached by the Church. Trying to revise Catholic morality to fit the times is a complete disaster.

We are in need of power in the spiritual life in order to live lives of purity consistent with our baptismal consecration into the Kingdom of Christ. Here is a devotion full of power because Mary’s Immaculate Conception was a spiritual revolution in human history. It was a revolution because it brought forth a human being no longer contaminated by sin (Mary), who was fit to be the mother of the Savior of the world (Jesus). It is the Saints themselves who understood the marvelous union of Mary and Jesus.

Mary entered human existence by a remarkable grace that preserved her from original sin, and which set her apart to become the Mother of God and the harbinger of God’s own human existence in the person of Jesus.  Mary’s Immaculate Conception thus warrants a special devotion, and wearing the Miraculous Medal (first called the medal of the Immaculate Conception), and saying the prayer each morning, “Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you,”  is one way to effectively practice this devotion. Saints who have been devoted to Mary’s Immaculate Conception include Saint Catherine Laboure (the nun who received the Miraculous Medal devotion from the Virgin Mary), Saint Bernadette, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, and Saint Mother Teresa (whose nuns have given out millions of Miraculous Medals).

Father Faber, who I am essentially relying on for this note, talks about the power of this devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Conception; he indicates that her Immaculate Conception “is the first dawn of the world’s redemption.” He further indicates that devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Conception is calculated to help us greatly in our “present needs…against the torrent of modern impurity” (and Faber was writing around 150 years ago, so how much more do we need this devotion now!). Perhaps you know someone battling impurity: here is a devotion “eminently calculated” to sanctify our unruly passions. Faber recommends immense devotion to Mary and her Immaculate Conception, calling such devotion “a special power with God.” Of the power of Mary’s mediation Saint Pope John Paul II once said:

“In Mary’s case we have a special and exceptional mediation…Jesus Christ prepared her ever more completely to become for all people their ‘mother in the order of grace’ ” (Saint Pope John Paul II, Mother of the Redeemer, 39)

This “preparation” began with the Immaculate Conception. If you are interested in the Miraculous Medal devotion, I recommend you read about the amazing conversion story of a Jewish man, Alphonse Ratisbonne. To do so, click on the post below:
The Miraculous Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

“…even the worlds of grace with which the angels were so munificently endowed, were as drops to the ocean compared with the grace of the Immaculate Conception” (F.W. Faber, The Precious Blood, p.145).

Renewal of the Church will come through devotion to Mary Immaculate. Otherwise, without devotion to the purity of Mary and Jesus, the Church is not true to her mission and suffers the horrible consequences of its own impurity.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Note: A short but powerful prayer invoking the Immaculate Conception is: “Oh Mary, by thy Immaculate Conception make my body pure and my soul holy.”  The tone and content of this note owing to the writings of Father Faber, and in the first two sentences I am copying him.

Image: The Virgin of the Lillies by William-Adolphe Bouguereau,1899 (Public Domain, U.S.A.)

To SHARE on SOCIAL MEDIA: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below (and this will bring up social media icons if they are not already present).

To LEAVE A COMMENT: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below, and then scroll down to the box which says, “Leave Your Own Comment Here,” which is at the end of any comments already made. If the comment section is already present, merely scroll to the end of any comments already made.

All rights reserved.

Any ads in this note are by WordPress and not CatholicStrength.

WHAT IS THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION AND IS IT BIBLICAL?

(The Immaculate Conception by Francisco de Zurbaran, 1630, Public Domain, U,S.A.)

“And the angel … said… : ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women’.” (Luke 1:28)

1. Mary’s Immaculate Conception – the teaching that she was preserved from original sin from the first moment of her conception in her mother’s womb –  is an infallible doctrine of the Catholic Church promulgated by Pope Pius IX , ex cathedra  (from the chair of St. Peter) on December 8, 1854. The Papal Bull reads:

“We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which asserts that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin is a doctrine revealed by God and, for this reason, must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful.” 

“With these words in 1854, Pope Pius IX in the Papal Bull Ineffabilis Deus, declared Mary’s Immaculate Conception to be dogma. Pius was simply affirming a long-held belief of many Christians East and West before him, that Mary was conceived free of the stain of original sin, on account of Christ’s work, in order to bear God-made-flesh.”  (From Saint John Cantius Parish web-site)

2The dogma is confirmed four years later (in 1858) by the Blessed Virgin Mary herself in the most famous of her apparitions at Lourdes. At Lourdes, when asked her name by St. Bernadette, Mary responded in an extraordinary fashion, saying, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Since then, Lourdes has been the situs of countless miracles.

3. Some of the early Reformers, such as Martin Luther, at least initially stood firmly behind this doctrine in that they saw that Mary would have to be a pure and sinless vessel in order to communicate to Jesus his sacred and holy body. The following quote from Martin Luther is illustrative:
 
“It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary’s soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God’s gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin.”
Martin Luther, (Sermon: “On the Day of the Conception of the 
Mother of God,” 1527).

4. Contrary to popular belief, the doctrine has strong scriptural support in that:

A. Gabriel announces that Mary is “full of grace” (Luke 1:28). If Mary is full of grace it follows that she is without sin (note how the angel does not call Mary by her name, but rather by a title, saying:“Hail, full of grace”  – and the angel is God’s messenger). The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible defends the traditional translation, “Hail, full of grace,” as against some modern translations, stating: “[The Greek word used by Luke], kecharitomene, indicates that God has already graced Mary previous to this point, making her a vessel who ‘has been’ and ‘is now’ filled with divine life. Alternative translations like ‘favored one’… are possible but inadequate.”   

B. Saint Luke (in his Gospel) and Saint John (in the Book of Revelation) identify Mary as the  Ark of the New Covenant, thus comparing her to the all-holy Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament. See “Topical Essay: Mary Ark of the Covenant” in The Ignatius Catholic Bible Study or click the following on-line article from Catholic Answers: Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant | Catholic Answers

C.  Mary’s Immaculate Conception is internally consistent with the doctrine of Original Sin (which flows from a number of Old and New Testament passages, especially at Romans 5:12-21). Since original sin is transmitted by physical generation, it follows logically that Jesus, who was born without sin, would have to be born from a spotless womb. Mary is that pure and spotless vessel: the woman who overflows with God’s grace; and

D. John the Baptist was sanctified in his mother’s womb. At Luke 1:15 it states that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. The passage, in context, reads as follows:

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”(Luke 1:11-17)

The angel then identifies himself as Gabriel, the same angel of Mary’s annunciation a few lines later at Luke 1:26, who addresses Mary, not by a name, but by a title, “Hail, Full of grace.”  The point is obvious (I think its obvious): if John was filled with the Holy Spirit from birth, what was done in God’s providence to prepare Mary to be the mother of God? Luke then, as you know, makes a direct comparison between Mary and the Ark of the Covenant, implying the incredible magnitude of her sanctity and holiness. All of this fits in very nicely with the Church’s proclamation of her Immaculate Conception.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

 

To SHARE on SOCIAL MEDIA: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below (and this will bring up social media icons if they are not already present).

To LEAVE A COMMENT: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below, and then scroll down to the box which says, “Leave Your Own Comment Here,” which is at the end of any comments already made. If the comment section is already present, merely scroll to the end of any comments already made.

All rights reserved.

Any ads in this note are by WordPress and not CatholicStrength.

WHAT IS MEDITATION?

(Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, a strong advocate of Christian meditation)

“Through the study of books one seeks God; by meditation one finds him.” (Saint Padre Pio)

This short note addresses what meditation is for a Catholic, and why spiritual writers maintain its ongoing practice is so important for growth in holiness. It is important to note at the outset that in spiritual theology meditation and contemplation are two very different types of prayer, and the words are not used interchangeably. Very briefly, contemplation is a much higher form of prayer, but ordinarily meditation is the preparation needed to pass on to contemplation.

Mediation is normally referred to as discursive prayer. What this really means is that mediation begins with spiritual reading which elevates itself to acts of prayer. If a college student is reading The Confessions of Saint Augustine he is involved in academic reading. If, however, while reading a point being made by St. Augustine he sees in a deeper way the reality of God, then he has in some way entered into meditation. If this insight about God leads this student to praise God, or to converse with God, then he has entered into prayer which is the ultimate goal of meditation. Thus, we might say that meditation is a deep and penetrating reflection upon written materials that lifts the heart to God and results in acts of prayer and petition. It is thus that spiritual reading is one of the primary foundations for meditation (“We must regard spiritual reading as being to meditation what oil is to the lamp” – F.W. Faber).

We say that meditation is discursive because the mind – the intellect –  is utilized in an effort to understand more deeply some truth related to our Catholic faith. In other words, we make considerable progress in the spiritual life by a deeper, more penetrating understanding of what we believe. Thus, if you are reading a reflection on the Holy Eucharist, and the author helps you to see more clearly some wonderful truth pertaining to that sacrament, and this deep realization causes your heart to make acts of prayer and praise to God – well, this is the prayer of meditation.

Meditation can help us to overcome a vice and grow in a virtue. If the subject matter of your meditation is the infinite purity of Jesus Christ, or the Immaculate purity of Mary, you may come to discover the power of chastity in a whole new light! As Dr. Susan Muto, an acclaimed spiritual writer, says: “Meditation… is a combined exercise of the imaginative, cognitive, and affective faculties of the mind to seek the meaning of what God may be saying through a particular event or passage in a text…Such a style of reading and reflecting on what we read helps us to assess our failings as well as to affirm our gifts…Uplifted by the wisdom of the masters, meditators can walk the way of the Lord and become an epiphany of his presence in the world” (Catholic Spirituality from A to Z, p. 122).

Meditation helps us dwell on the deep things of our faith, sparking amazement in our hearts, leading to prayer in the interior of our souls. Meditation is an act of the human understanding – supported by grace – that helps us through faith to see deeper into the basis for our Catholic beliefs. Seeing these things more deeply we lift our hearts to God in affective praise, and rest in His presence in silent prayer. “The whole end of meditation, considered as such, is to increase, deepen and purify our Faith” (Father Edward Leen, Progress Through Mental Prayer, p.150). “When our minds are by constant [spiritual] reading steeped in the thoughts of God and divine things, it will be easy for us to think of Him, and it will come natural and easy for us to speak to Him and to speak of Him out of our full hearts and well-stored minds” (Id at 227).

“In meditation the soul is forced, as it were, to speak directly with Christ; there can be no hiding behind standardized formulae of prayer. And this is the way the truly spiritual man would want it: an opportunity to speak privately with Christ about the many affairs of his daily life. The experience of the saints has demonstrated that an amazing change occurs in one’s daily life when he forms the daily habit of intimate, heart-to-heart conversation with Christ” (Peter Thomas Rohrbach, Conversation With Christ, p.10). This is why the Church “wisely obliges its priests to spend some time each day in meditation” and “the priest as well as the layman experiences that a well made meditation…gives a new impetus to his entire spiritual life” (Id at 10).

The correlation between spiritual reading and meditation is brought home by Father Boylan, who said: “To our mind [spiritual reading] ranks equally with mental prayer and the other exercises of devotion in importance, and, in fact, it is so closely connected with these other exercises, especially the essential one of mental prayer, that without it – unless one finds a substitute,  – there is no possibility of advancing in the spiritual life; even perseverance therein is rendered very doubtful” (This Tremendous Lover, p. 101, as quoted by Peter Thomas Rohrbach). Saint Teresa of Avila adds: “I wish I could obtain leave to declare the many times I failed during this [lukewarm] period in my obligation to God, because I was not supported by the strong pillar of mental prayer” (Conversation With Christ, p.11, quoting her autobiography). “Really interior and personal prayer, at least during considerable periods of a person’s religious development, is impossible without meditation….” (Theological Dictionary, p.283).

“Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2708). “Meditation is a form of mental prayer consisting in the application of the various faculties of the soul, memory, imagination, intellect, and will, to the consideration of some mystery, principle, truth, or fact, with a view to exciting proper spiritual emotions and resolving on some act or course of action regarded as God’s will and as a means of union with Him. In some degree or other it has always been practiced by God-fearing souls” (Catholic Encyclopedia).

Great spiritual writers often categorize our mental faculties in terms of: the understanding (intellect), the will, the memory and the imagination. Ultimately in meditation we are using some or all of these human faculties in the generation of spontaneous, intimate, personal prayer with God. Thus we utilize our intellect to reflect more deeply on some truth of the faith through reasoned considerations pertaining to that truth (these considerations are normally contained in the written materials selected); the mind, impressed by this deeper understanding of some part of the faith, excites the will to draw closer to the ultimate goal of faith: God. The will, desiring God, turns the human subject to God in acts of profound personal prayer. The imagination is sometimes utilized in meditation to place oneself in a Gospel scene with Jesus in order to talk with Jesus about the meaning and relevance of the scripture text, and Saint Ignatius of Loyola even uses this imaginative technique in a profound meditation on hell in his classic work, The Spiritual Exercises (reference for further study “application of place” and “application of the senses”).

If we were to say a quick word here about contemplation it would be merely to say that it is essentially the opposite of meditation, for in contemplation there is a resting and profound simplification of human intellectual activity in order to make way for a “super-discursive” knowledge of God (above human reasoning) which is truly a mystical (supernatural) or infused prayer, should God deem to grant it.

Meditation should always begin with a preparatory prayer asking God’s grace and guidance throughout the reflection, and end with a prayer of thanksgiving for the graces received. Spiritual writers often encourage us to make resolutions after our meditation. Thus, if your meditation was on the Holy Eucharist, you might make a resolution to spend more time in preparing to receive that sacrament, or, if your meditation was on the power of forgiveness, you might make a resolution to truly forgive someone who has hurt or offended you.

A very basic and rudimentary outline of a meditation might consist of the following:

  1. Selection of the written material for spiritual reading.
  2. Preparatory prayer.
  3. A deep, slow reflection on the considerations present in the written material.
  4. Personal (interior) prayer and adoration when so moved by the meditation, including petitions for growth in holiness.
  5. A concluding prayer of thanksgiving including any personal resolutions flowing from the meditation.

CONCLUSION: Meditation is an incredibly important part of the spiritual life. By this close, meditative application of our minds to the great truths of our faith, as expressed especially by great spiritual writers, our hearts are lifted to the love of God, to the desire to do His will, and most importantly to communion with God in personal prayer and petition. As the great Father Faber states: “The most serious business of the interior life is mental prayer…and even saints have sometimes spoken as if meditation were almost necessary to salvation…It is, however, quite certain that…there can be nothing like a spiritual life without it. For mental prayer means the occupation of our mental faculties upon God…stirring the will to conform itself to Him…The length of time to be spent in it will vary with individual cases…but it is most important that he should keep to his method when he has chosen it” (Growth In Holiness, 179).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

IMAGE ATTRIBUTIONFather Pio de Pietrelcina by Roberto Dughetti, 1966, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe caption to this Wikipedia image states: “A strong believer in Christian meditation, Saint Pio of Piettrelcina stated: ‘Through the study of books one seeks God; by meditation one finds him.’ ”

References:

1. Conversation with Christ by Thomas Rohrbach
2. Time for God by Jacques Phillippe
3. Progress through Mental Prayer by Edward Leen
4. Difficulties in Mental Prayer by Eugene Boylan

I have also relied heavily on Father Lallemant’s great book, The Spiritual Life. He talks quite often about how the considerations in meditation excite the heart to the love of God. Father Lallemant also speaks of the “close application” of our lives to God.

To SHARE on SOCIAL MEDIA: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below (and this will bring up social media icons if they are not already present).

To LEAVE A COMMENT: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below, and then scroll down to the box which says, “Leave Your Own Comment Here,” which is at the end of any comments already made. If the comment section is already present, merely scroll to the end of any comments already made.

All rights reserved.

Any ads following this note are by WordPress and not CatholicStrength.

 

 

 

 

WAS JESUS REALLY BORN IN BETHLEHEM?

(Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem)

The claim is made by some scholars that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem. These scholars put forth the argument that Jesus was actually born in his hometown of Nazareth, and that the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is more or less a Jewish midrash or theological reflection not strictly rooted in historical facts but in theological story-telling and interpretation. Against this argument I would like to make the following points:

1. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke clearly state that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (see Matthew 2:1; Luke 2: 1-7).

2. None of the remaining 25 books of the New Testament contradict the claim in Matthew and Luke that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

3. There is no historical evidence that places Jesus’ birth in Nazareth. Historian Dr. Paul L. Maier states:

“No source has been discovered to date that disproves Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem” (In the Fullness of Time, p. 32).

4. Dr. Scott Hahn establishes that Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth is not midrash. Hahn states:

“Unlike midrash, the evangelist’s story of Jesus is not founded on an Old Testament text. Whereas midrash seeks to mine deeper meanings of the Old Testament, Matthew does not seek to interpret the Old Testament for its own sake. More to the point, Matthew is not retelling Old Testament episodes but is telling an entirely new story! It is a story with new characters and events; it is a story that could stand on its own apart from his Old Testament citations. Matthew employs the Old Testament to illuminate the significance of Jesus’ birth, not to determine in advance its plot and outcome” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, p.10).

5. Pope Benedict XVI adds:

“The infancy narratives [of Matthew and Luke] are not a meditation presented under the guise of stories, but the converse: Matthew is recounting real history, theologically thought through and interpreted, and thus he helps us to understand the mystery of Jesus more deeply. What Matthew and Luke set out to do, each in his own way, was not to tell ‘stories’ but to write history, real history that actually happened, admittedly interpreted and understood in the context of the word of God” (from Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, 119, 17 as quoted in Joy To The World).

6.  Moreover, Luke the historian assures us in his Gospel that he is delivering to his readers “a narrative of things that have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” and that Luke has “followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account…that you may know the truth concerning” the life of Jesus (Luke 1: 1-4). Luke assures his readers, therefore, that he has made considerable efforts to present a true and accurate history of the life of Jesus.

7. The post New Testament historical evidence clearly establishes that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Historian, Professor Paul L. Maier explains:

“Nothing is more important in establishing the authenticity of an ancient site than antiquity: the place must have been regarded as such from the earliest times. If the Church of the Nativity [in Bethlehem] had been built here in 600 A.D., for example, its claim to mark the authentic site of the birth of Jesus would be almost worthless. But Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor of Rome, erected the original Church of the Nativity at this place in 326 A.D., over the very grotto that had been identified as the true site by the early church father Origen and, before him, Justin Martyr. Writing in 150 A.D. Justin stated that Jesus was born in a cave that was used as a stable – not the typical stone or wooden stable so familiar in Christian art. Earlier still, in the 130s, the Pagan Roman Emperor Hadrian tried to desecrate the Jewish and Christian holy places in Palestine, but ironically, thereby preserved their identity” (In the Fullness of Time, 38-39)!

8. Dr. Scott Hahn elaborates:

“Justin Martyr…was born around AD 100…some forty miles north of Bethlehem. He knew the people and the area quite well, and he knew the site of a ‘certain cave’ that the locals venerated as the place of Jesus’ birth – even at that early date. He simply mentions that local Christians took care to preserve the historical memory of the nativity. In the century after Justin’s account…Origen made his own pilgrimage to Bethlehem and wrote: ‘At Bethlehem the cave is shown where he [Jesus] was born…and this sight is greatly talked about in surrounding places, even among the enemies of the faith. They say that in this cave Jesus was born….” (Joy to the World, p. 17).

9. The great Biblical archaeologist, Father Jerome Murphy-O’Conner, thus concludes that Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is indisputable.

“If the early Church thought of Jesus in terms of Davidic messianism – and it certainly did – it was not because of anything Jesus said or did but because of who he was and where he came from. And he came from Bethlehem” (“WhereWas Jesus Born?”, Bible Review, Feb. 2000, p. 54 as cited in Joy To The World, p. 106).

10. Based on the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and confirmed by the post New Testament historical evidence regarding the location of Jesus’ birth, the overwhelming weight of the evidence supports the sound conclusion that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

Image Attribution: This picture of the Church of the Nativity on Wikipedia is by Ian and Wendy Sewell, July 2007, and is used pursuant to the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

To SHARE on SOCIAL MEDIA: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below (and this will bring up social media icons if they are not already present).

To LEAVE A COMMENT: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below, and then scroll down to the box which says, “Leave Your Own Comment Here,” which is at the end of any comments already made. If the comment section is already present, merely scroll to the end of any comments already made.

All rights reserved.

Any ads in this note are by WordPress and not CatholicStrength.

WAS THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY REALLY AN UNWED MOTHER?

 montagna_madonna-and-child-2

“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”  (Luke 1:35)

From time to time – including the approach of the Christmas season –  a Catholic speaker may make the innocent mistake of referring to Mary as an unwed mother. However, it is abundantly clear that the Virgin Mary was legally married to Joseph at the time she conceived Jesus (when the Annunciation took place). Thus, the Gospel of Matthew refers to Joseph as Mary’s “husband” at 1:19, and additionally the angel sent to Joseph calls Mary Joseph’s “wife” at 1:20 (as Joseph considered whether to divorce Mary). Again, at verse 1:24, Mary is called Joseph’s “wife.”

It is true that Saint Luke refers to Mary’s betrothal to Joseph at Luke 1:26, but as Dr. Scott Hahn points out in The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, Mary’s “betrothal to Joseph was already a legally binding marriage.” This is why Joseph could not simply walk away from Mary without first getting a divorce, and because Joseph and Mary were legally married “such a betrothal could only be terminated by death or divorce [according to] Deut. 24: 1-4” (The Ignatius Catholic Bible Study, The Gospel of Matthew, page 18).

In his Apostolic Exhortation, Guardian of the Redeemer, Pope Saint John Paul II makes clear that at the time of Mary’s Annunciation Joseph and Mary were married. The Pope stated:

“Addressing Joseph through the words of the angel, God speaks to him as the husband of the Virgin of Nazareth. What took place in her through the power of the Holy Spirit also confirmed in a special way the marriage bond which already existed between Joseph and Mary. God’s messenger was clear in what he said to Joseph: “Do not fear to take Mary your wife into your home.” Hence, what had taken place earlier, namely, Joseph’s marriage to Mary, happened in accord with God’s will and was meant to endure. In her divine motherhood Mary had to continue to live as “a virgin, the wife of her husband” (cf. Lk 1:27).” (no. 18)

The Virgin Mary was never an unwed mother. It is entirely incorrect to suggest that God planned it otherwise.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Image:  Madonna and Child 2, by Bartolomeo Montagna.  According to Wikipedia,  “This image (or other media file) is in the Public Domain [U.S.A.] because its copyright has expired. However – you may not use this image for commercial purposes and you may not alter the image or remove the WikiGallery watermark.”

To SHARE on SOCIAL MEDIA: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below (and this will bring up social media icons if they are not already present).

To LEAVE A COMMENT: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below, and then scroll down to the box which says, “Leave Your Own Comment Here,” which is at the end of any comments already made. If the comment section is already present, merely scroll to the end of any comments already made.

All rights reserved.

Any ads in this note are by WordPress and not CatholicStrength.