Militant Monday | Mary, Mother of Jesus

  • Posted December 5, 2016

marymotherofgodIn this week’s Militant Monday, we return to the recordings of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. This is a 25 minute audio clip, which should play automatically from this page. It is centered on Mary, the Mother of Jesus. This topic is especially appropriate this week, as on Thursday, December 8th, we have the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception.

Below is the transcript of the recording:

Born of the Virgin Mary

To this point, in the unfolding of the divine mysteries of Christian doctrine, we come to some very important words in the Creed. Namely, that our Blessed Lord was born of the Virgin Mary.

We will try to give, first of all, some evidence for this. Secondly, How it was necessary in the present plan of the world’s redemption.

First of all, the evidence for it. That our Lord was born of the Virgin Mary, in order to understand truths, we must realize that the gospels were not first. It was Tradition. Every member in the early church, that is to say after Pentecost, and until the Gospels were written, every member of the church already knew about the miracle of the loaves and fishes, about the resurrection, and about the virgin birth.

Its something like, for example, the knowledge that we have that World War One began in 1914. We read that in a book, but the fact that we read it in a book does not create the belief in us. It merely confirms what we already know. So to the Gospels set down, in a more systematic way, that what was already believed.

Suppose you lived in the first 25 years of the church after Pentecost. How would you have answered the question, “How can I know what I am to believe?” You could not say, “I will look in the Bible.”

There was no New Testament Bible then. You would have to believe what the church was teaching in those days. Never once, for example, did our Lord tell the witnesses of his life to write. He wrote only once in his life, and it was in the sand. But he did tell his Apostles to preach in his name, be witnesses to him unto the end of the earth. Hence, those that take this or that out of the Gospel to prove something, are very often isolating it from the historic atmosphere in which it arose, and from the word of mouth which passed on Christ’s truth.

When finally, the gospels were written, they recorded a Tradition. They did not create it, it was already there. After a while, man decided to put in writing this Tradition and that explains the beginning of the Gospel of St. Luke.

You remember how he begins? “That thou mayest know the verity of these words in which thou has been instructed.” He assumes that people had already been instructed.

The Gospels did not start the Church. The Church started the Gospels.

The Church did not come out of the Gospels. It was the Gospel that came out of the Church.

The Church preceded the New Testament, not the New Testament the Church.

Men did not believe in the resurrection because the Gospel said there was a resurrection. The Gospel writers wrote down the story of the crucifixion, for example, in the resurrection, because they believed it.

Now in like manner, the Church did not come to believe in a virgin birth because the Gospels tell us there is a virgin birth. It was because the Living Word of God, in his mystical body the Church, already believed it. And they set it down in the Gospels.

It was the Apostles who lived with our Lord, who heard him speak in the hills and in the temple. If the Apostles did not teach the virgin birth, no one else would have taught it. No one else would have written it. It was too unusual an idea for men to make up. It would have been ordinarily to difficult for acceptance, if it had not come from Christ himself.

Now the one man inclined to doubt the virgin birth on natural grounds, was the man who writes it in his Gospel, mainly St. Luke. I say on natural grounds because Luke was a physician. And yet, it is the medical doctor who sets down the virgin birth, and tells us most about it.

Many of the teachings of our Lord were denied by heretics, because there was a protest against Christ and his church from the very beginning. Now these heretics denied some of his doctrines. But there was one teaching that no early heretic denied, and that is that our Lord was born of a virgin.

One would think that would be the very first doctrine to be attacked, but the virgin birth was accepted both by heretics and by believers alike. It would have been rather silly to try to convince anyone of the virgin birth, if he did not already believe in the divinity of Christ. That is why probably Mary did not speak of it herself until after the resurrection, and she told the Apostles and others. Although certainly Joseph, Elizabeth, and probably John the baptist knew of it. And of course, Our Lord himself all the time, we need to say that.

 

What about Jesus’ Brothers?

Now we come to an objection that is often heard. Does not the Gospel say that our Blessed Lord had brothers. If he had brothers, then Mary had other children. If Mary had other children, then she was not always the virgin mother.

Now we will try to give some answer to that. I stand in the pulpit very often, and I begin my sermon by saying, “My dear brethren.”

Does that mean that everyone in the congregation and I had exactly the same mother? Or is it just a form of speech?

Now that wide use of the word ‘brethren,’ and we have it even in our modern language, was used also in a very wide sense by Scriptures. In the Scriptures, the word ‘brother’ means a relative, sometimes a friend. Let us take, for example, Abraham and Lot. Abraham calls Lot his brother. As we read in the book of Genesis, “Pray, let us have no strife between us two, between my shepherds and thine, for we are brethren.” Now lot was not a brother of Abraham, he was a nephew. But that is the way scripture speaks of friends and relatives.

Thirdly, there are several indeed who are mentioned as brothers of Christ, such as James. But they are indicated elsewhere as the sons of another Mary, I mean elsewhere in Scripture. They mean Mary, the sister of the mother of our Lord, and the wife of Cleophas. And again, James who is particularly mentioned, as the brother of our Lord, as for example, by St. Paul, who said that I did not see any of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. But this James is regularly named in the enumeration of the Apostles, as the son of another father, mainly Alphaeus. And you’ll find that recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Furthermore, the so-called brethren of our Lord are nowhere mentioned in the Scripture as the sons and the daughters of Joseph and Mary. Nowhere in Scripture is it said that Joseph had begotten brothers and sisters of Jesus. As nowhere does it say that Mary had other children besides her Divine Son.

 

The Second Birth – Baptism

Now we come to some rather unusual proofs of the virgin birth in Sacred Scripture. I say unusual, because I mean apart from the very obvious references that there is in St. Luke.

Two of these proofs we’re going to draw from the Gospel of St John, and also from the writings of St Paul. First of all, St. John.
St. John assumes the virgin birth. We say this because throughout the Gospel of St John, there is the assumption of a double birth. We are first of all born of our parents, and then we are born of God, in the waters of the Holy Spirit in baptism. Remember that is what the Lord meant when he told Nicodemus he must be born again. The first birth he took from his mother in the flesh, and the second is the birth of the Spirit.

Now what makes us Christians is not being born of our parents, but being born of God through Baptism. Now notice when St John speaks of this second birth, he practically assumes the virgin birth, because he said in the beginning of his Gospel, that our Lord gave to us “The power to become the sons of God.” Then he tells us that this happens by a birth, but he immediately says that this is not a human birth. And then he goes on to enumerate the reasons why it’s not a human birth.

He said it is neither of blood, nor of sex, nor of the human will. Now, this statement of St. John certainly assumed a Christian and common understanding of the virgin birth. What is blood? What is sex? What is the human will? ….but a human birth.

All of these elements are eliminated in the story of the birth of our Lord. The Blessed Mother says that she is a virgin, that she knows not man. And God says the power of God will overshadow her. You get the same element that you see in the Gospel of St John, that you get in the Gospel St. Luke.
How could any Christian in those days have understood this spiritual kind of a birth, unless they understood the virgin birth? Therefore, it already happened.

No one, who at the end of the first century read the beginning of the Gospel of St. John, was amazed that John should have spoken of a new generation without sex. They were not amazed, because at this time, the whole Christian world knew that this is how Christianity came into being.
The virgin birth, in other words, is God’s idea. Not man’s. No one would ever have thought of it, had it not happened.

 

Proof Through Original Greek

Now we come to another proof from the epistle of St. Paul. St. Paul also assumes the virgin birth.

Now as you know, the epistles were originally written in Greek. When St. Paul speaks of the birth of our Lord, he uses in Greek a very peculiar expression. Let us take, for example, St. Paul’s message to the Galatians, “Then God sent out his Son on a mission to us. He took birth.” Notice that? “He took birth from a woman. Took birth as a subject of the law……to make us sons by adoption.” (Knox translation)

Whenever St. Paul describes the birth of our Lord, he never uses the ordinary word to describe birth. In other words, he never uses the word to describe a human birth, which is the result of the conjunction of man and woman. The word is always used in every other New Testament passage.
Now the common word in Greek, is some form of the Greek word “gennao.” That means a birth such as you had, and I had. But St. Paul, in four instances speaks of the temporal beginnings of our Lord. (Remember the person of our Lord was eternal, was only a human nature that had a beginning.)

Now in the four instances where St. Paul touches on the temporal beginnings of our Lord, St. Paul uses an entirely different Greek word, because it was not the ordinary kind of birth. He used some form of the word “ginomai.” Never once does he employ that other word which means common ordinary birth, such as all mortals have.

He never uses that to describe the birth of our Lord. He always uses a word which means like, to come into existence, or to become. One very interesting proof of this, is in a passage in the Galatians, in the chapter 4, verse 23, 24, and 29.
In that epistle, St. Paul uses the word, to be born. That is to say, in the ordinary way, three times. He uses it to describe the birth of Ishmael, and the birth of Jacob. But when he comes to the birth of our Lord, he refuses to use that word. He uses another word, a form of the verb “ginomai,” because the birth of our Lord was a virgin birth.

You will find in the New Testament, 33 times some description of the birth of a child, and in every single instance, the New Testament uses the word “gennao,” an ordinary birth like yours and mine. But that word is never used once concerning the birth of our Lord.

Our Lord as a person had an eternal birth, in as much as he assumed a human nature. He had a temporal birth, a beginning, yes, but the beginning came from a virgin. You see, the reason of the difference is this, Our Lord was born into the human family into the human race. He was not born of it.

God formed Adam, the first man, without the seed of a man. So why should we shrink from the thought that the New Adam, would also be formed without the seed of a man. As Adam was made of the Earth, in which God breathed a living soul, so the Body of Christ was formed, in the flesh of Mary, by the Holy Spirit. And so firmly rooted was the virgin birth in Christian Tradition, that none of the early apologists ever had to defend a virgin birth. It was believed even by heretics as we said, just as much as the crucifixion was, because it stood on exactly the same footing as an historical fact.

 

The Mother of Jesus

Here’s another interesting point. There are two birth stories in the Gospel. The birth of our Lord, and the birth of John the Baptist. But notice the different stress.

The Gospel story of John the Baptist centers on the father, Zachary. The Gospel story of the birth of Jesus centers on the mother. Why does it center on the mother? Again, because of the virgin birth.

Now you may ask, “Well, why is there a virgin birth? Could our blessed Lord have come to the Earth in any other way?” For certainly, our Lord really need not be born at all. But given the present order of things, why is there a virgin birth. Now here we come to something that is a little difficult to understand and we hope that we can make it clear.

The reason we believe in a virgin birth, and the reason in the present order, our Lord chose that way, that first of all, He wanted someone very good to bring him into this world.

No great triumphant leader makes his entrance into the city over dust covered roads, when he could come on a flower strewn avenue. Had infinite purity have chosen any other port of entrance into humanity, than that of human purity, It would have created a tremendous epicatyl for us. Namely, how could he be sinless, if he was born of a sin-laden humanity?

If a brush dipped in black becomes black, and if a cloth takes on the color of the dye, would not He, in the eyes of the world, have partaken of the guilt in which all humanity shared?

If he came to this earth through the weak field of moral weakness, he certainly would at some chance, hang on to the garment of a human nature. In other words, our problem is this…. How could God become man, and yet be a sinless man?

First of all, he had to be man. He had to be like us, in order that he might be involved, in some way, in our humanity, in order that he might take upon himself our sins, and at the same time, note our Blessed Lord had to be a perfect man.

Nevertheless, he could not be a sinful man, he had to be a sinless man.

He had in some way, to be outside of that terrible current of sin, that is passed on and infected all of humanity. You see the problem? He had to be a man. He had to be different from all other men, in the sense that he had to be our Redeemer, sinless in the New Adam.

The problem is very much like that of a ship. Imagine a ship sailing on a sea that is very dirty and foul. It wishes to pass to another sea or lake immediately nearby, where the waters are crystal clear and pure. Now evidently, there has to be some break between the foul waters and the clear waters, otherwise they would merge. So what happens, there is often a lock built.

So a ship sails along those foul waters, then comes into the lock, where the foul waters are completely separated from it. And then, the ship is finally lifted into the clear waters. So our Blessed Lord in some way, had to be related to the sinful humanity that went on before, related in as much as he would be a man. Not because he would be sinful, and at the same time he had to be sinless, so that he himself would not need redemption. Then who would be our redeemer?

Now that lock which lifted our Lord out of that sinful current of humanity, and made him the sinless man, the new head of the human race, was the virgin birth. And then think of the beautiful, beautiful application it has for all of us.

The Blessed Mother is the inspiration of everyone.

A mother is the protectress of the virgin, and the virgin is the inspiration of motherhood.

Without mothers, there would be no virgins in the next generation, and without the virgins, mothers would forget that sublime ideal that lives beyond the earth.

How often for example when you visit someone, you hear it said, “Oh that child looks exactly like the father.” Well, if we had looked at our Blessed Lord, we would have said, “He looks exactly like his mother.”

He got something from his Father’s side, namely divinity. But he also got something from his mothers side, mainly a sinless humanity.

That’s why we love Mary. Hail Mary, Full of grace!

Last week’s Militant Monday – Guiding Principles on How to Vote

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