Ecclesiasticus 4:28

"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side."

Ora pro nobis,

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic. Amen.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The First Joyful Mystery

The Annunciation

Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee,
Blessed art thou amongst women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
A Reading from the Holy Gospel According to St. Luke (1:26-38)
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ.


The Dominicans have a motto, which runs, "Contemplare et contemplata allis tradere," that is: "To contemplate and then pass on the fruits of this contemplation." The other Dominican motto, simply "Veritas," lets us know what we are to contemplate, and what we are to pass on. It is this motto that prompts me to write this series on the Rosary--not primarily for an apologetic purpose, but for the sake of passing on the fruits of my own contemplation of the Mysteries of the lives of Jesus and Mary.

When the Angel Gabriel comes to Mary, his announcement brings the message that Something in the world is changing. God's way of dealing, of interacting, with humanity, is radically changing. What the prophets had foretold is now coming to pass--in this very moment, this small space!

The angel comes to Mary, bowing before her with the greeting, "Hail, Full of Grace! The Lord is with you!" Mary is troubled at this greeting, wondering what it could mean--and indeed, we too must pause and consider the angel's greeting, and what it means: for it is a mystery within a mystery.

Throughout history, artists have often painted this scene, and in so doing, many, such as Fra Angelico, present a startling arrangement: Gabriel is bowing to Mary! While St. Luke does not record Gabriel's posture before Mary, and while no angel has ever bowed in the presence of a mere human before or since, this artistic depiction nevertheless expresses several profound and related truths: The first is the uniqueness of the greeting and what it signifies--that Mary is unique among all of God's creatures. She is "Full of Grace". Second, the depiction of the kneeling angel is completely parallel to truth gleaned directly from Luke's Gospel: that is that Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant. The third is that, while all apparitions of angels to people are extraordinary and unique circumstances, this one far surpasses them all, as it announces the New and Definitive Covenant in which God will save His people, in Jesus Christ.

First, then, Gabriel's depiction as kneeling before Mary at the Annunciation visually and poetically echoes the truth that no angel has ever, before or since, addressed a human being in such a way. St. Thomas Aquinas writes,
With respect to the first, it should be known that in ancient times it was an especially great event when an angel appeared to men, so that men might show them reverence, for they deserve the greatest praise. It was written in praise of Abraham that he received angels hospitably and that he showed them reverence. But it was never heard that an angel showed reverence to a man until he saluted the Blessed Virgin, saying reverently, Hail. (Follow the link for the rest of his discourse.)
The uniqueness of Gabriel's greeting, his Ave, is followed by the "name" by which he addresses Mary: for while the Church has added the word "Mary" to the Hail Mary, Gabriel simply says, "Hail, Full of Grace." Before he ever calls her by her given name, the angel has, in effect, renamed her.

Biblically speaking, names are very important. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, we see how a person's name reflects their character--and more, when God chooses to rename a person, that new name represents something specific to that person's vocation and destiny. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of Jacob. His name literally means "Deceiver" or "Supplanter", and he lived up to it throughout his life--from swindling his brother out of his birthright to actually dressing up as his brother to deceive his father. But then, after having to pay severely for his deceptions in order to make peace with his brother and come home, he meets "the Angel of the Lord" on the way, with whom he wrestles. At the end of the struggle, the Angel blesses him with a new name, "Israel": "Prince of God". This new name becomes his new call, and henceforward the call of all his descendants in the nation of Israel--to reign with God, in covenant with Him.

Right off the bat, it is not as Mary that Gabriel addresses Our Lady, but as "Full of Grace". God is giving her, as it were, a new name, and revealing to her exactly why it is that she is unique, and what her calling and destiny are. In the original Greek in which St. Luke wrote, the word used by Gabriel is "kecharitomene", which is a rather tricky term to translate. Jerome put it as gratia plena in his Vulgate, which the Douay-Rheims translates "Full of Grace", and which is the most popular version of it in the minds of Catholics, due to the Hail Mary's use of it. Other translations, such as the NRSV quoted above, put it as "favoured" or "highly favoured". There really is no one word or two words that can adequately sum up this single Greek word, so let's pause briefly to dive into it:

The root word is Charitoo, a verb meaning "to bestow grace". What is grace? It has been defined as "God's unmerited favour", and this is certainly true. There is nothing we can do to deserve grace, or as St. Paul says, "otherwise grace is no more grace" (Romans 11:6). However, simply defining grace as "God's favour" seems to be an inadequate definition, when examined according to its use in Scripture. One brief example will show my meaning. Christ tells St. Paul (in 2 Corinthians 12:9), "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." Grace, in this Hebraistic parallelism, is equated with the power of God. It goes beyond simply "favour", though it certainly includes that. Rather, it is the very power, the very life of God, which energises us and makes us holy. The grace of God, then, is the antithesis of sin.

The particular construction of this word gives more depth to its meaning. The second thing to note is that it is in the passive voice. That is, Mary isn't the one bestowing grace. She is the one receiving the grace bestowed. God is giving His power, His life, His grace, to Mary. Finally, the verb "charitoo" is in the perfect past tense. That is, the action of bestowing Grace was completed once and for all at a definite time in the past, and its effects continue into the present and onward, never needing to be repeated. Thus, when Gabriel says to Mary, "Hail, Full-of-Grace", he is saying to her, "Rejoice, you who have once and for all received the fullness of the life and power of God in a remarkable way!" If as we said, Grace is the antithesis for sin, in the Angel's greeting, and renaming, of Mary, we have a basis for the ancient Church teaching of Mary's sinlessness--which, as we'll reflect on further in the next mystery, does not therefore negate Mary's need for a Saviour, but rather shows how extraordinary and unique her salvation really was.

This belief in Mary being preserved from the stain of original sin (which the Church has dogmatically declared to have taken place at her conception, which is the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception), as I said above in the discussion of Names, shows us Mary's calling and her destiny: She is the Ark of the New Covenant.

This notion of Mary as the New Ark will frequently come up in our meditations, and I will delve into more detail in the next Mystery, that of the Visitation. For now, I would just point out a few of the typological similarities:
  • The Ark of the Covenant was the most holy item of the Jewish liturgical structure.
  • The Ark of the Covenant held within it the Ten Commandments, the Manna, and Aaron's priestly rod which budded.
  • The Ark of the Covenant was so holy that absolutely no one was able to touch it.
  • The Ark of the Covenant was where God would meet with Moses, in the form of a Cloud (the Shekinah) hovering over the Ark between the two statues of kneeling angels.


There is more that could be said about the Ark of the Covenant, but we will wait on that for later meditations. Let us reflect on these, especially in the context of the Annunciation, and Mary's fulfilment of the Ark typology.

  • Just as the Ark was the most holy of all of the Jewish temple furnishings, so is Mary, who as we discussed is "Full of Grace" and thus preserved from sin, the most holy of all God's creatures.
  • Just as the Ark held the Law, the Manna, and the sign of Aaron's priesthood within it, Mary held in her womb Jesus, the Son of God, and the fulfilment of each of these types. He is the Divine Lawgiver, as well as God's Logos, the Word of God in the Flesh. He is the Bread of Life, who gives Himself to us in the Eucharist so that all who eat of Him shall not die, but have everlasting life. And He is our Great High Priest, who has made atonement for our sins, and reunited us to the Father.
  • Just as the Ark could be touched by no man, so Mary, Ever-Virgin, was never intimately known. We see a hint of this even here in the Annunciation, that she knew that she was consecrated to Virginity even before the Annunciation of Gabriel, in her question to him, "How can this be, for I am a virgin?" It is not enough to say that this sets up simply the Virgin Birth of Christ, since it seems clear from her need to ask the question, even though she was already engaged to be married (v. 26). Had she intended to enter normal married relations with Joseph, her question would be absurd. That she asked how she could bear a child at all indicates that she expected to remain always a virgin.
  • The final way in which Mary fulfils the type of the Ark of the Covenant at the same time explains the mysterious reason why artists throughout history have depicted Gabriel kneeling or bowing in her presence. This image echoes the two cherubim kneeling on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant, between which God's manifest Glory would hover. This is further borne out in Gabriel's answer to Mary's question of how this could be, when he describes to her that the Holy Spirit will "overshadow" her in the power of God Most High. This term reminds us of the Cloud of Glory overshadowing the Ark, as well as the Holy Spirit's hovering over the waters of creation.


Mary then is the Ark of the New Covenant, which points us directly to the final truth of the Annunciation: that the appearance of the Angel Gabriel to Mary is utterly and absolutely unique, as it heralds the beginning of the New Covenant which God had promised! We spoke briefly above about Jacob's name changing to Israel reflected his calling, as well as those of his descendants--to be princes with God. This Covenant with the people of Israel, however, was continually broken through their sinfulness. Because of this, God spoke these words to the prophet Jeremiah:
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals. And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord. In those days they shall no longer say: "The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge." But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge. The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt--a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the Lord," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:27-34)
This New Covenant is fulfilled and inaugurated through Jesus Christ, but before the New Covenant can take effect, the Ark of the Covenant must be restored.

What happened to the original Ark of the Covenant? Because of the sinfulness of the Israelites, the Northern Tribes were taken into exile by Assyria in 722 BC. Just a little more well behaved than their northern neighbours, the Southern nation of Judah was deported to Babylon in 586 BC, just as Jeremiah had predicted. Before this happened, though, Jeremiah took the Ark and hid it. This is recounted in 2 Maccabees:
One finds in the records that the prophet Jeremiah ordered those who were being deported to take some of the fire, as has been mentioned, and that the prophet, after giving them the law, instructed those who were being deported not to forget the commandments of the Lord, or to be led astray in their thoughts on seeing the gold and silver statues and their adornment. And with other similar words he exhorted them that the law should not depart from their hearts. It was also in the same document that the prophet, having received an oracle, ordered that the tent and the ark should follow with him, and that he went out to the mountain where Moses had gone up and had seen the inheritance of God. Jeremiah came and found a cave-dwelling, and he brought there the tent and the ark and the altar of incense; then he sealed up the entrance. Some of those who followed him came up intending to mark the way, but could not find it. When Jeremiah learned of it, he rebuked them and declared: "The place shall remain unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows his mercy. Then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord and the cloud will appear, as they were shown in the case of Moses, and as Solomon asked that the place should be specially consecrated." (2 Maccabees 2:1-8)
As Jeremiah prophesied above, it would be in the New Covenant that God would show His Mercy, and here, he says that when this is done, so too will the Ark return, and God's glory and "the cloud" will appear. Thus we see the fulfilment of these things in Mary as the New Ark, over whom the glory of the Lord hovered, and she conceived of the New Covenant when she conceived Christ and bore Him in her womb: Christ--the Saviour who has brought the Mercy of God to all who will believe!

But note here the risk of God--the divine, omniscient risk-taker! He has chosen the lowly of this world, as Mary herself will express in the next meditation, in order to bring about His great Purpose! That is, God made Himself dependent on Mary's "Yes." Mary's Fiat in response to the Angel's message reveals yet another type which she fulfils, which will again be discussed at greater length as we progress: Mary is the New Eve. While Eve was tempted by a spirit and disobeyed God, Mary was asked by a spirit, and through her obedience, brought forth Christ to save the world. As the early Church Father, St. Irenaeus puts it,
[When Christ] became incarnate, and was made man, He recapitulated in Himself the long history of man, summing up and giving us salvation in order that we might receive again in Jesus Christ what we had lost in Adam--that is, the image and likeness of God....
The knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. The knot which the virgin Eve tied by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary opened by her belief....
If the former disobeyed God, the latter was persuaded to obey God, so that the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve. And thus as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so it is rescued by a virgin. (from Quasten's Patrology, vol. 1, p. 296; Irenaeus' Against Heresies, 3.22.3 and 5.19.1, as quoted in Scott Hahn's Hail, Holy Queen, p. 42)
Thus, let us emulate the humility and the obedience of the New Eve, who has undone the curse of the First Eve, as Christ has undone the disobedience of the First Adam! Let us with reverence venerate the New Ark just as the ancient Israelites venerated the Old Ark, and recognise Mary as the sure path to meeting with Jesus, whom we honour and worship and adore above all else, forever and ever! Amen.

(Category: Catholic Devotions: The Rosary.)

30 comments:

suneal said...

Hi Gregory
I have a question for you, but am unsure to mention it here. Where can I address you?

Take care,
Suneal

Gregory said...

Hey Suneal!

Please feel free to email me. My address is

watchman317caDELETETHESECAPS@DELETETHESECAPSTOOyahoo.ca

I'll also probably post a Q&A Forum here like I used to do on occassion back at Grace for the Wayward Heart (see link in the Sidebar), when I'm done the series on the Rosary mysteries.

God bless

Joni said...

Thank you for this continuing series on the rosary. It is educational and helpful!

Gregory said...

Thanks, Joni. I appreciate that. I'm glad it's helpful.

Part 2 should be up today, and it should be a weekly thing. As such, I'd better get to work on it now, eh?

Hidden One said...

Yes, you should. :P

Gregory said...

Sorry. It was mostly done, and I ran out of time. I should be finished it tomorrow.

C.J. said...

Dude, seriously... we've got to talk.

I'm so theologically, and logically opposed to some of the stuff you've written in this latest post it's surprising even me.

Not trying to be disrespectful saying that, but my head's in a whirl just trying to figure out how the RCC ever arrived at some of its conclusions about Mary. I'm dizzy now; I'm gonna go to sleep.

God bless you.

Gregory said...

Hey Chris,
I guess your reaction is understandable. I wasn't, after all, offering an in depth apologetic of the Church's beliefs about Mary. More simply stating them. Hopefully some of your concerns may be answered as we progress through the Rosary series. After the Rosary series, I also intend to write a series of much more apologetic-dense articles about Mary that might also help.

And more, you've got my number and I'm always happy to hear from you!

And while I'm not going to hash out certain things in post because I want the posts to be of a certain nature, I am willing to go into more detail in the comments sections, if people are confused about what I stated in the post itself.

God bless
Gregory

suneal said...

I get the distinct feeling that things are indeed "understandable" providing all roads lead to Rome. I think I am beginning to more understand myself what that expression means.

Good luck Chris!

I would like at some point to discuss the true meaning of the word "catholic," which originally in church history meant not exclusivism, but inclusivity, and the affirming of diversity as a sign of truth. That is why there were 4 Gospels, not one favorite, even though they had slight variations to one another. Back in the beginning that was valued as a sign of authenticity.

Is there not room here for variation on "Mary," or is there only "one" witness? Just a question, please. I am not trying to inflame.

Suneal

C.J. said...

Good question, Suneal! I was trying to get the idea of inclusivity/catholicism earlier when I posted my article "What Is It?" here at Barque. I'm not sure it got anywhere despite there being 9 comments.

Then Gregory's wife had a crack at the idea when she had posted, "What It Truly Means To Be A Catholic!" But most of what was said in that article can be directly imported into Protestantism. This leads me to two conclusions: Melissa wrote from an inclusive perspective under an exclusive moniker, Catholic; much of what the early inclusivist/catholic perspective really is is a joint inheritance despite the historical divide between us.

Both conclusions about Melissa's article are valid, and probably what she was aiming for. But like you, I think I see the exclusivism of Catholicism coming out moreso in practice than in doctrine. Though it is doctrine that inititiated the original AD 1517 divide, and certian doctrines -- such as those to do with Mary -- that continue to nag at the division between Christians.

To be more clear and concise: I think certain doctrinal differences promote the Catholic practice of regarding those who are not Catholic as not being in the 'fullness of the faith', an unfortunate expression I'd like to debate here at some point.

Given that, there is very little room for variation regarding Mary. Sure, a person may be Catholic and not pray to Mary, or any of the saints for that matter, but it is viewed (as another Catholic friend told me) as an immature understanding, and a weakness in the faith. That person is not living the 'fulness of the faith' (interesting how identified Catholics can still have that sword turned against them, hey?). Hence there is an implicit expectation on all Catholics to accept certain doctrines against their conscience (sighting that the Church knows better), and a very real blurring of lines between belief and practice: how can a person focus on Christ wholeheartedly if historical doctrines are needling their conscience into the guilt-filled accusation that they're not in the 'fulness of the faith'? One must swallow hook-line-and-sinker all that the Catholic Church teaches to be truly Catholic, and fully Christian.

So while a person may revere Mary, (as many Protestants do, myself included), if they do not pick up their Rosary and pray to her(dulia vs. latria, as the argument goes), that person is left with one of two variations:

1) Conform despite their conscience (a God-given gift), and possibly sin in doing so;
2) Neglect the practice and live with the guilt of not being fully in the faith.

The options aren't that attractive to me. Nevertheless, I will give the Catholic Church the concession that they've been consistent: they've always promoted the notion that comprehension is not requisite for co-operation, or conformity; the Church is greater than its individual members, and the clergy is more knowledgable than its laity. Hence you can vary on Mary (!) at the cost of being part of the out-crowd, and not fully Catholic.

suneal said...

So Chris, your saying two important things. One, the word "catholic" in Catholicism is not at all about its original definition, for now its emphasis is solely on exclusivism. Two, this exclusivism is particularly manifested in the term "fulness of the faith."

Bottom line, if one "varies" on one's understanding of Mary then one is pushed to the "outside crowd." And if one is in the outside crowd, variation by that person is easily dismissed because they are an outsider, whether as a Protestant or ironically as a Catholic.

Sorry that my rant about elitism on this blog seemed out of place, but this non-catholic "Catholicism" was the reason for my earlier outburst.

Peace still be on ALL the brethren.
Suneal

Hidden One said...

"1) Conform despite their conscience (a God-given gift), and possibly sin in doing so;
2) Neglect the practice and live with the guilt of not being fully in the faith."

Remarkable how I have managed to avoid both of those options.

suneal said...

Hi Hidden One,

I assume you do not pray to Mary, (correct?), nor use the Rosary? Thank you for letting us all know. Because Chris' conclusion of the only two available options other than praying to Mary and using the Rosary as a Catholic, was the above 2 points you claim to avert.

As someone who does not pray to Mary, do you feel you are missing something, perhaps not quite "full"? If you claim you are not missing anything of the faith along these lines, welcome to how Chris and I feel!

Furthermore, if as a Catholic you claim to not miss anything, you obviously differ from other Catholics such as Chris has mentioned above, who say such faith is either weakness or lack of fulness.

If I have assumed incorrectly about you neither praying to Mary nor using the Rosary, then please disregard the above and know that you completely missed Chris' absolutely valid point, the one about only 2 possible options.

Blessings on you,
Suneal

C.J. said...

"Remarkable how I have managed to avoid both of those options."

Remarkable how you're not even a Catholic yet, too, hey Paul?

Contribute something useful or shut up. Take a vacation, dude, you don't have to be a prick all the time.

just passing through said...

Is it possible to discuss with love and not be at each other's throats at all?

Hidden One said...

CJ, I'm gonna completely ignore your latest post for the sake of my own civility, if nothing else, and respond to Suneal and Just Passing Through.

"I assume you do not pray to Mary, (correct?), nor use the Rosary? ... If I have assumed incorrectly about you neither praying to Mary nor using the Rosary, then please disregard the above and know that you completely missed Chris' absolutely valid point, the one about only 2 possible options."

I would argue not necessarily. I do pray to her, but not often, and primarily because I want to develop a connection to her. (The other saints I pray to routinely, certain ones in particular. But we were talking about Mary, so it's back to the topic for me.) I don't feel guilty for 'not having the fullness of the faith'. If I did, I'd have to feel guilty for not wearing scapulars, going to Mass everyday, not doing the Liturgy of the Hours, rarely doing novenas, not really doing any extra penance and/or fasting, hardly ever doing Lectio Divina, not praying to my guardian angel all that much, not praying a divine mercy chaplet daily, and neglecting dozens of other entirely optional more-or-less-popular beneficial devotions.

My understanding of Catholic doctrine on Mary is "orthodox Catholic", as is all of my theology to the best of my knowledge. But then, when one believes the Church has the capacity to be infallible, these things happen. I know and have dialogued with Protestants who hold or held the same sort of orthodoxy for their views, be it their brands of Pentecostalism or their church's definition of Calvinism, etc. Believing what the Church claims to infallibly state is a requirement to be an orthodox Catholic. If I didn't want to be an orthodox Catholic, I'd still be a Protestant.

What the issue is, I think, is the notion that Catholics who do nto practise certain Marian devotions (and possibly other devotions), are thought to be looked down upon and excluded. On a church-wide basis, this is not at all true. (Locally, actually, it can even be the other way around.) In regards to individuals... blame the individual. Lay Catholics and our leaders (be they Popes or other bishops, etc) will likely always champion various devotions, and outside of the 24 Eastern Rites, the big one right now is the Rosary. But I don't violate any doctrine or something that makes me Catholic for not doing any particular devotion(s). I believe i lose out, but there's a difference between thinking "I probably ought" and "Aaaaw mannnnn... conscience, get off my case, I'll go pray the Rosary."

For the record, I haven't prayed any part of the Rosary with the meditations in around 6 months (having started to do so only a few months before). (Gregory, my experience at RCIA doesn't count. The crappy music and my worry about being stuck there forever kept me from praying much at all, certainly nothing that qualifies as even a full decade of the Rosary.)

Will I take it up tonight or tomorrow? God only knows.

Anyway, Suneal, I hope I haven't missed your point by too much. I'm open to mroe positive dialogue.

On that note...

JPT: "Is it possible to discuss with love and not be at each other's throats at all?"

Yes, but it requires genuine simultaneous continued effort and prayer by both sides. Nobody's been perfect on this count. I hope this post has shown that I'm working on my small part of it.

Sincerely in Christ,
Hidden One.

Hidden One said...

Post-script to paragraph 1: I really don't pray to Mary much at all. Comparatively, I pretty much pray to St. Anthony of Padua almost as much these days, and he's not even in the running as a Confirmation Saint for me. And yes, I do pray to the Lord a great deal.

suneal said...

JPT: "Is it possible to discuss with love and not be at each other's throats at all?"

Hidden One: "Yes, but it requires genuine simultaneous continued effort and prayer by both sides. Nobody's been perfect on this count. I hope this post has shown that I'm working on my small part of it."

Yes indeed, well done. Thank you for true dialogue. I must say it has taken quite a while to get a response to some of my comments that firstly makes some sense and secondly is in a spirit of love.

I welcome such a response as this one. I'll admit I can't quite follow all of your thoughts because I am not sure at certain points what you are referring to. But I get a general sense of the sincerity and thoughtfulnes therein.

I wonder about this, how long have you been a Catholic? Do you think maybe guilt will occur as time progresses, or does the average Catholic not even get pricked in their conscience? I believe Chris' argument still holds if enough time and continual devotion remains, but one is not able to bring oneself to believe in the Rosary or praying to Mary or to saints since you have opened up that door.

But I am confused at this point about praxis and belief. Catholics confess such "orthodoxy" and use that as a dividing rod or form of distinction from Protestants, yet you're telling me here that in praxis it is a sort of "free for all."

Let me say this, I have no great desire to plummet the depths of this apparent inconsistency. I don't know about praying to saints, "mercy chaplets," etc. It is not my cup of tea. It seems Catholics determine how much or what flavor tea they prefer. Am I not on track here?

So what then is the difference between a Catholic and a Protestant at this point, Hidden One, if what your Pope and magisterium declares you only partially follow? I take it you are on a new journey, so you forgive yourself and are not "guilt-ridden" as you test the waters. But what of life-long Catholics, a large majority of whom seem to completely ignore such teachings?

As for Protestants in the same boat, we do not in doctrine determine our value based on our performance. Of course in praxis we slaughter ourselves with a "works-based" identity. I am truly alienated by this in my tradition. However, I do not see Catholicism as better in this, but as I have already strongly stated, suffering even more.

When you went through the list of devotions I couldn't help but think of it as a "to-do" spiritual list. You relate "fulness of the faith," at least here as what you do or do not participate in as a Catholic. I know Catholics differ from me here because they tend to put their sanctification and their justification right together (whether they realize it or not). I don't think "forms" of devotion accomplish anything in themselves. It is only as it is "in Christ," and Jesus did not guarantee results based on prescription but rather on relationship. Maybe Hidden One you will see that too one day, or perhaps you already know this and therefore do not see the Rosary as all its purported to be and therefore struggle with its use.

One other question for you, what is the difference for you between "not having the fulness of the faith" and "missing out" for say not practicing the Rosary?

Blessings on you and thanks again for your answers.
Suneal

suneal said...

Hidden One-"And yes, I do pray to the Lord a great deal."

My heart is glad to hear it. I commend you for it and confess I need more of it myself.

Lord Jesus, make my life a prayer to You, Amen.

Gregory said...

Alright, I've got a few minutes. Let's see if I can't reply to everything that's been going on so far...

(This week's mystery, the Nativity, will hopefully be finished in the next couple days.)

Suneal, you asked,
"Is there not room here for variation on "Mary," or is there only "one" witness? Just a question, please. I am not trying to inflame."

I admit that I don't understand your question. I'm writing from a Catholic point of view, so my Marian ideas will obviously be Catholic, since again, as far as my writing is concerned, this is a Catholic Apologetics blog.

That said, two things should be noted:
This and the next 19 posts are my personal meditations, based upon the teachings of the Church, and won't even be dealing primarily with Mary as we progress.

After this series, I will be doing specifically apologetic articles on the Dogmatic beliefs the Church holds regarding Mary, in a manner that will invite discussion of what and why Catholicism has "infallibly defined" these beliefs.

Since the initial 20 posts all flow together as "one Rosary", Chris has politely decided to let me finish before he interjects his own posts. I had decided and started this whole Rosary set of posts before I even knew whether Chris was still interested in posting here. If, after we're done, he wants to provide a Protestant "witness" to Mary, then he is free to do so.

As far as more than one "variation" on Mary, my own perspective is that there was only one Mary, and that she was a particular person with a particular history, and particular facts that are true about her. I believe that the Catholic Dogmas about her accurately relate those facts. Other Christian communions deny these facts.

Does this mean, that since some groups believe certain things about Mary that other groups deny, that there are more than one "variation" to Mary? No. I don't think so. I think it simply means that there are people who believe erroneous things about Mary. Whether that's the Catholics or the Protestants is open for discussion. But, for example, she was either a virgin when she conceived Christ, or she wasn't. We can't have variations of Mary that says both, without one being wrong. (Yes, I chose a non-controversial belief about Mary that we both hold to, on purpose. Hopefully it makes my point clearer).

Moving on, it seems that somewhere along the line, Suneal and Chris, you have both picked up the notion, which I am sure that I never stated, and if I did, point it out to me and I will delete and retract it, that praying the Rosary is a practice that is binding on all Catholics. That is, that if you don't pray the Rosary, you are a lesser Catholic or not a Catholic or something.

This misunderstanding comes from a more fundamental misunderstanding between a belief and a devotion.

The Catholic Church claims to have the "fulness of the Christian faith". What they mean by that is simply that the Catholic Church's self-understanding is that they have accurately upheld and transmitted the faith that was once for all given to the saints through the Apostles, and the only changes to that deposit of faith have been organic developments of the truths we believe, that have come about through the continual reexamining of our faith in light of our changing world. That is, the faith does not change, but neither is it dead. It grows in an organic fashion. It develops. And in the Catholic Church, I believe, that development has never been a mutation, a regression, or a change in its substance.

By way of contrast, the Catholic Church would look at a protestant sect--for example, Pentecostalism, with which I am most familiar--, and comparing its beliefs to her own, would find much to agree upon and celebrate together. However, there are some glaring differences as well--such as the Eucharist, which Pentecostals (in the PAOC, if not everywhere) regard as merely a symbol, while Catholics regard it as literally Christ, and a perpetuation of His death on Calvary.

Now, this is a weighty difference, and if Catholicism is right, then the Pentecostal church has rejected an item of the faith that has some pretty integral ramifications. As such, the Catholic Church views the Pentecostal denomination as not having the fulness of faith, if for no other reason than its denial of the Eucharist.

When it comes to something like the Rosary, however, the Rosary is simply a form of prayer. It's a devotion. And while it is a well-loved and well-attested-to devotion by many saints and popes and scholars and laymen, it is not itself, therefore, a matter of "The Faith". That Christians must pray is a matter of the Faith. That prayer is powerful and effective, and a means of relationship with God, and a means of bringing ourselves in line with the will of God, is a matter of the Faith. In what precise manner one is to go about praying is not a matter of faith, so long as one actually prays.

I will try to make a parallel: All Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God. Many Christians have a devotion of reading the Bible every day and meditating on it prayerfully. It was drilled into my head as a good thing to do, an important thing to do, growing up as a Pentecostal. But the fact that someone does not read their Bible every day is not necessarily an indication that they do not believe that it is the Word of God.

In the Catholic Church, there is one Faith, but many particular expressions of that faith, known as devotions. Hidden One above ran through a really small list of a few of them, some of which he practices, and some of which he doesn't. Let's be plain: There are simply too many devotions within the Catholic Church for one person to practice them all. One would go mad trying, and be able to do nothing else but practice each and every devotion--no work, no eating, no sleeping. It is not a "to do list", but a "recommended" list of things that can be effective ways of bringing us into a closer relationship with Jesus.

If I wrote out a Recommended Booklist, saying, these are books I've very much enjoyed, that doesn't mean you should somehow feel guilty if you hated most or all of the books I listed. You shouldn't even feel guilty if you never even read my list! It's quite possible that we have completely divers tastes and you wouldn't like my suggestions, and I wouldn't like yours.

When it comes to the veneration of the saints, the Church has declared it a matter of faith, that there are saints to be venerated. They have made it a matter of faith that we believe that the saints pray for us in heaven, and that we can specifically ask them to do so. What they have not made a matter of faith--what is not binding on every Catholic to believe or practice--is which saints we do ask to pray for us (if any), how often we ask (if at all), or what method we use for asking (quick spontaneous prayers or formal prayers like the rosary, or a mix).

The Church has made it a matter of faith to attend Mass on Sundays and on particular days throughout the Church year deemed "Holy Days of Obligation". Even these "HDOs" vary from country to country, so that in the States there are 8, and in Canada only 2. Now, if one faithfully follows that instruction and attends Mass, he will inadvertently pray to the saints roughly twice a week, within the corporate structure of the Mass, since the saints are invoked at at least two separate instances during the liturgy. Thus, if a Canadian Catholic goes to Mass every Sunday, as well as New Years and Christmas Day, he will have prayed to the saints more than 210 times that year.

As for "conforming despite our consciences," two things must be noted:

First of all, the Catholic Church expects a person to "inform" his conscience. That is, our consciences do not come pre-programmed with a list of all that is right and all that is wrong. Through our upbringing, religious instruction, secular instruction, the media, and a host of other sources, our consciences are formed to view things as right or wrong. And, depending on the dominant sources, they aren't always formed correctly.

The Catholic Church expects, therefore, that a Catholic desiring to be faithful to her teachings, to learn what and why the Church believes what she does, and why she considers things good and why she considers them bad.

To wax anecdotal, when I was converting to Catholicism, I wrestled tremendously with the veneration and invokation of the saints and Mary. Even after having read and understood all the arguments for it presented by the Church, and not being able intellectually to combat those arguments, and thus giving a formal assent to them, I nevertheless found my Protestant-formed conscience twinging at the prospect.

So I sat down with my priest while in RCIA to discuss this with him. I told him of my intense desire to become a Catholic, but there was still this issue of praying to the saints. I said, "I understand it. I can believe that it's a good thing to do. But I can't do it myself in clear conscience, and if I do, violating my conscience, I will be sinning. Do I have to wait to become a Catholic, then?" My priest assured me that I could still be confirmed and accepted into the Church, even though at that time it was still a moral issue for me. He did caveat that with the premise that I continue to pray to Jesus Himself about it, and continue to try to overcome that barrier, but that if I didn't think that the Church was wrong in permitting the practice, then I was still in agreement with her.

That was probably about four years ago now. And this series on the Rosary and on Mary serves to show that Jesus did answer my prayers on that issue.

Now, I am not saying that to say, "Look at me, I've arrived; now shut up and do it!" Not at all. I offer that testimony to say that a) I do genuinely understand the struggle of a person to understand Mary's role and the role of the saints.

Suneal, you suggested that my "understanding" stems from some inner belief that I only understand Chris' hesitation because I assume that he'll be come a Catholic, or some such thing. Otherwise, I'm not really sure what you meant with your "All roads lead to Rome" comments.

What I intend to say is this: "If I, as a person who in all other respects, actively desired to become a Catholic, still had to struggle this much with such a comparitively small issue--and yet such a common issue among Protestants--then how much more can I understand the struggle for someone on the outside, who has no obvious intentions to become a Catholic, but simply wants a better understanding of the Catholic faith, and worries about his dear friend on the inside, who believes very foreign, and possibly sinfully wrong, ideas to his own?

I am not writing this series on the Rosary as a way of saying the Rosary is fundamentally necessary to being a Catholic or a Christian, or anything like that. I am writing it because I, personally, have come to have a tremendous devotion to it, and through it, to Mary, my Mother. Because of this, I do desire to show its beauty and power to others--not because I think they have to practice the same devotion, but by way of encouraging those who already practice it, to have greater fervour, and perhaps so that those who don't practice it, to consider taking it up. Finally, to those who actively contest or denigrate its validity, I hope the series will help them change their minds--though that intent is surely the last one, otherwise, the series would be written significantly differently.

What inspired me to this was reading St. Louis de Montfort's little book, "The Secret of the Rosary", in which he relates how St. Dominic Guzman, the founder of the Dominican Order, preached nothing else but the Rosary for a great many years, and was very effective in rekindling the faith of lax Catholics and in converting Albigensian heretics. I wanted to emulate the example of St. Dominic (who is, after all, listed as one of the blog's patrons in the sidebar on the right), not because I thought that I'd convert more Protestants like you, Suneal and Chris, but because Dominic's preaching was effective in ways that I want my writing to be. Perhaps a notion of "He did this, so I will too" is a bit naively simplistic, but I don't intend to write every single future post here about the Rosary, either. It has been effective in my life, and I wanted to share that.

So I hope we can get past seeing these posts as "Catholic elitism", case-in-points of "Catholic exclusivity", or brow-beating "bad Catholics" into conforming. I simply want to expound as best as I can on the mysteries of my Lord, Jesus Christ, and His Mother and mine, Mary.

If I happen to say something that irks you, or that you don't understand, then that's what the comment sections are for. I would prefer that the conversations deal with the subject matter of the post. That is, Chris said that he had issues with what I'd written above, but in 20 comments (this one included), we seem to have talked about everything except what was actually written in "The First Joyful Mystery".

It is that, and only that, that I find annoying about the comments that have been made here of late. Feel free to attack my faith. Heck, call me or my Church the Anti-Christ if you so desire. Just do so in a way that actually relates to the topic being discussed.

And, just to make that easier, after every five posts (a complete set of Rosary mysteries), I will open up an Open Forum, where we can discuss anything you like, or follow up on something that has been written in any of the five mysteries preceeding it.

I welcome comments, but when I write a post about how Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, and the New Eve, and that despite this, she responds with humility and obedience that we should all learn to emulate, and the comments revolve around how priggish the Catholic Church is, and how the Rosary seems to be an enslaving us to a works-based system of salvation, or whatever else, I just don't see how that's on topic. The comments above would probably have been better suited to the post in September titled, "I Shall Not Walk Alone", which, incidentally, no one commented on.

Now, I know that the last time I complained about topic-related posts, Suneal, you viewed it as censorship. I want you to know that this isn't me trying to censor, or get angry, or any such thing. It's a vain attempt of a typically "unorganised" individual to at least assert some sort of organised structure on his blog.

Just one last word to "Just Passing Through". It's just as possible to have a loving discussion here at this blog, as it apparently is to have someone actually leave a name when he chooses to criticise the blog. I'm not asking for an address, or a social insurance number, or even a driver's licence. Heck, I don't even care what your last name is. It just gets really annoying when "Anonymous" or "Just Passing Through" or, yes, "Hidden One" refuse to even give a first name. What are you trying to hide?

And for the record, to a greater or lesser extent, Chris, Suneal, Hidden One, and I all know each other. That is, Hidden One and Chris are personal friends of mine (which is the only reason H1's frustrating use of a moniker hasn't caused me to tear out all my hair--though, if you see a picture of Chris, he apparently has less patience ;) ). Suneal is a personal friend of Chris, who knows H1 and I only through this and similar venues, and yet, I hope we know each other enough to be charitable even when we are annoyed or cranky.

You, on the other hand, I don't know. As far as I know, you've never been here before, and if your name is any indication, you don't plan to come back even to read this. You wade into a conversation that, I believe, is sincere, even if woefully not on topic, and then implicitly accuse us of being unloving.

Hmm.

God bless
Gregory

Hidden One said...

I don't have time to respond, but I wanted to let you know I've read this. Suneal, I hope with Gregory's explanation a lot of your questions are answered. If you have more or revised ones for me, that's alright, or some or most of the same ones, but I may just end up citing Gregory.

suneal said...

Hi Hidden One,

Thankyou for getting back to me after the interruption.

I don't believe Gregory was trying to answer the questions I asked you. I'll get back to him when I have more time. Just wanted to say my dialogue with you is still open if you please. Take care,
Suneal

suneal said...

"The knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. The knot which the virgin Eve tied by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary opened by her belief....
If the former disobeyed God, the latter was persuaded to obey God, so that the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve. And thus as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so it is rescued by a virgin." (from Quasten's Patrology, vol. 1, p. 296; Irenaeus' Against Heresies, 3.22.3 and 5.19.1, as quoted in Scott Hahn's Hail, Holy Queen, p. 42)

I take it Gregory it is safe to say this expresses your view as well as Irenaeus'. Now let me ask this, is Irenaeus' word here equal to and as authoritative as the 27 New Testament canon books (Mat-Revelation)? I ask this because, the New Testament is absolutely silent about such a conclusion as to what Irenaeus here comes up with. Furthermore, as I will discuss here, he is veering away from the NT witness. I don't have a problem with the silence, but I also respect the silence for being just that, rather than a doctrine center. And I don't respect the silence when it contradicts the Bible itself.

Paul says this in Romans,"For the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the ONE the many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the ONE Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many" (Rom 5:15). Then Paul says, "So then as through ONE transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through the ONE act of righteousness there resulted justification of life" (Rom 5:18) Now I think all Christians know the "one act of righteousness" was when Jesus died on the cross, bleeding, crucified for our sins, so that He who knew no sin (there is no other) "became sin for us that in Him we might become the righteusness of God" (II Cor 5:21) Wow! We are God's righteousness, I wonder how much improving God's righteousness needs, anyway, another topic for another day.

Here is my point, one act "untied the knot," and it was not the virgin birth. Jesus was born to die. His birth only meant anything once He died, at least as far as all of us are concerned. I agree with Irenaeus to a point, but certainly not to the point of saying she "opened" the knot. Sure, she began to prepare for the "ONE MAN" who would untie it, but so did John the Baptist, and all the prophets who "believed God." They all became part of God's salvation plan. Mary was at the end of a long list of saints who believed God to bring salvation to the world. But ultimately, no one untied the knot of not only Eve's unbelief but Adam's as well, as Paul in Roman's pointed out ("sin entered through one MANS's disobedience"), other than our Lord and SAVIOR Jesus Christ. That is why JESUS was called JESUS, meaning "the Lord saves." We were NOT rescued by a virgin, we were rescued (rescued is a synonym for saved) by the savior of men, the "one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time" (I Tim 2:5-6)

Is everyone getting the picture the Bible really portrays of the word "one" in regards to our salvation. Mary is not in any way our "mediator," no matter how much we wish to say say this from some silent voice of Scripture. Scripture is clear on this. I am not saying that has been said exactly, but Irenaeus here, whom you quote so affectionately Gregory, is heading down that road of co-mediation.

Furthermore, as in the verse directly above, Jesus is only the mediator because of His giving Himself up, obviously to the death of the cross. Praise God for Mary's similar giving herself up to God's will as the handmaid of the Lord, but for that matter praise God for Abraham who also said "yes Lord" and went so far as to almost literally sacrificing His son. Oh yes, shall we mention Daniel, Gideon, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc, etc. Yes, no LESS obedience to God there folks, no LESS of exampleS for us.

This brings me to the final point, although I could go on for days, I
hope this suffices for now to be a more "on topic" discussion. When did the New Covenant start? If it started at Calvary or after the resurrection, which it did by the way, is it sound to say Mary is the "Ark of the New Covenant?" In the Old Testament, covenants were ratified in blood. The Sinai covenant was immediately ratified in blood, BEFORE Moses was called to go up the mountain for 40 days. "And Moses wrote down ALL the words of the Lord. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood and put it into basins and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took "THE BOOK OF THE COVENANT" and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said "All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient. So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said,"Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words" (Ex 24:4-8).

1. A covenant of this type and the type of the New Testament needs TWO parties. That is why the Israelites declared obedience to God, the blood signified death to them if they did not keep the Covenant. This was in keeping with the Canaanite covenant traditions of the time where lesser, weaker vassal kingdoms made blood covenants with reigning powerful kings. 2. It was ONLY upon the blood being sprinkled on the people and Covenant itself that the covenant was ratified.

Now let us see what the New Testament says; "For where a covenant is, there MUST of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid ONLY when men are dead, for it is NEVER IN FORCE WHILE THE ONE WHO MADE IT LIVES. Therefore, even the first covenant was not INAUGURATED WITHOUT BLOOD"(Heb 9:16-18). Then the Hebrew writer goes on to say exactly what I said above. He concludes the covenant speech with almost a "blood bath" of all things concerning the covenant saying; "And according to the Law one may almost say, ALL things are cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Heb 9:22). Scripture is prestine here, only when Jesus died did the New Covenant take place. It never was "in Mary" BEFORE CALVARY.

This is the biggest point I wish to make. Jesus in Mary's womb was not "the New Covenant." Only at the cross and "in His own blood," was He the New Covenant. It is not "the New Covenant in Mary's womb" we are to preach, Gregory. It is the "New Covenant in His blood." If it's not "in blood" it's not a covenant, as far as we are concerned. Jesus was the Lamb of God slain BEFORE the foundation of the world. But we never knew that and nor do we now before Calvary. That is the safe place the New Testament expresses the word New Covenant. When was the veil in the temple rent? When Jesus said "It is finished" (LUKE 23:45-46). Exactly Lord, that is when the Old Covenant became old and the New Covenant began, in Your blood, and in Your death, my precious Lord. I thank You for it.

Therefore, the true arks of God are us! It is plural folks, is not many better than one? Is that not one of the ways in which the New Covenant excels the old? We have the New Covenant within us in a way Mary never did until after the Resurrection. This agrees with what Paul said to the Corinthians, "You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, NOT ON TABLETS OF STONE BUT ON TABLETS OF HUMAN HEARTS" (II Cor 3:2-3). Paul is no doubt hearkening back to Old Testament figures, of the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God in Mount Sinai and also to the idea that we ourselves carry that New better Covenant in our own hearts! What manner of holiness that ought to stir us to! This agrees with such Scriptures as "that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all saints .." (Ep 3:17-19). This also agrees with when Paul says "we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves" (I Cor 4:7). It also agrees with the great Jeremiah New Covenant prophecy "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND UPON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM"(Heb 10:16-from Jer 31:33).

I think Scripture speaks volumes louder than Irenaues here or than
the notion of Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant. That is my humble opinion. There is so much more Scripture, etc. I could discuss, but time fails me.

Oh Gregory, at least I haven't called you the anti-christ..not yet;):)

Suneal

suneal said...

Gregory said: "Just as the Ark could be touched by no man, so Mary, Ever-Virgin, was never intimately known. We see a hint of this even here in the Annunciation, that she knew that she was consecrated to Virginity even before the Annunciation of Gabriel, in her question to him, "How can this be, for I am a virgin?" It is not enough to say that this sets up simply the Virgin Birth of Christ, since it seems clear from her need to ask the question, even though she was already engaged to be married (v. 26). Had she intended to enter normal married relations with him, her question would be absurd. That she asked how she could bear a child at all indicates that she expected to remain always a virgin."

First of all Gregory, let me point out to everyone the manner of your biblical exegesis. So in the Old Testament they could not touch the Ark, therefore since Mary is the Ark no one could have sexual relations with her. Excuse me, do you not see how you between the Two Testaments have completely inferred a meaning across 1000 years OTHER than what was stated in the Old Testament. This is allegorical interpretation (not at its best). So Gregory, was Joseph allowed to give Mary a shoulder massage? I ask because that would be a better application, no one could even touch her at all. I mean forgive my crudeness but who tried to have sexual relations with the Ark in the O.T.??? And when did that attempt become the "touch not" of the Old Testament Ark? Why do you infer that to be the "touching" of Mary? Do you have something against sex? All I can say is, poor Joseph who also had to be a virgin his WHOLE LIFE. Maybe I'll make him my patron saint, because wow, that would be something to look up to!:)

Gregory, why do you only mention Luke's account of the Virgin birth. Why don't I add some balance for you, like another Gospel, so that the Bible gives an actual overall picture of what really happened, whether we like it or not.
"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and HER HUSBAND JOSEPH, BEING A JUST MAN AND UNWILLING TO PUT HER TO SHAME, resolved to divorce her quitely. But as he considerd this, behold and angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (which means God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not UNTIL SHE HAD BORNE A SON; and he called his name Jesus."

Gregory, above you said this,"Had she intended to enter normal married relations with him, her question would be absurd." That being the question to Gabriel regarding having a son, "How can this be, for I am a virgin?" Well, yes, agreed if you don't read the rest of your Bible AND listen to what it says instead of fitting or ignoring other portions of Scripture according to what you already believe.

Now first of all, you are trying to make an argument here from silence, in which case my opinion probably based on similar silence, would not be any more valid than yours. But Matthew makes it clear Mary was already enough into term that Joseph one way or the other knew. Furthermore, if Mary had told him she was pregnant (it was early in term and not noticable), then he would not of put her away to be divorced as he had planned. I doubt Mary told Joseph what was up, because it appears to be new news to him when the angel comes to him in a dream.

So to answer your inference it would have been "absurd" for Mary to have asked, "How can this be, for I am a virgin," the reason was because the marriage was not immanent. Did Mary want to be a virgin her whole life. Maybe. But this blessed announcement changed all that. Here you and I agree. But now Gregory you can put to rest your "maybe's" based on silence (what Scripture does NOT specify) and turn your eyes to the Matthew account, where I highlighted this, "but he knew her not UNTIL SHE HAD BORNE A SON; and he called his name Jesus."

Now the Greek word here used for "until" is "ews" which is a conjunction. That means the second part of the sentence here in Matthew is joined grammatically to the first part of it(I say this for any wishing a grammar brush-up). For the sake of fairness I went to a Greek Lexicon which gives all the possible nuances of the Greek word at the time of the New Testament. I will list them:

-"to denote the end of a period of time, till, until"
-"to denote contemporaneousness, as long as, while"
-"marker of limit reached, as far as, to"
-"marker of order in a series, up to"
-"marker of degree and measure, denoting the upper limit, to the point of"

Gregory, you will be hard pressed to make any of these meanings give any other meaning here in Matthew chapter 1, than that Joseph refrained from sexual relations with his betrothed Mary "up to, until, to the point of, as long as, as far as, while and to the point" of Jesus' term in the blessed virgin Mary's womb and until his birth.

Now most people know the expression "knew her not" refers to not having sexual relations in the Bible. So Joseph did not have sex with Mary until after Jesus was born, is literally what Matthew is saying here. So just pack up your ark "touching" stuff spoken from silence (conjecture) and hear the word of God. There is no other possible meaning here in Matthew. It is therefore wrong to oppose the meaning of Matthew based on a personal or Catholic (same difference in this case) conjecture of the Lukan account of the annunciation.

So, in conclusion, yes, actually, grammatically speaking it means EXACTLY that, they did have sexual relations like any other married Jewish couple after Jesus' birth occurred, or else I just can't wrap my head around the simple concept of the word "until." Please everyone, don't take this the wrong way, I am not trying to be sacreligous but rather honest about what the Bible says.

In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, "I'll be back."

Until then..

Suneal

Gregory said...

Suneal, your above two comments go beyond the time that I have available at this moment to reply to them, so I'm just going to reply to one thing that you said.

You wrote: "Gregory, why do you only mention Luke's account of the Virgin birth....Well, yes, agreed if you don't read the rest of your Bible AND listen to what it says instead of fitting or ignoring other portions of Scripture according to what you already believe."

First of all, I will admit to taking a good deal of offence to your suggestion that I a) have not read the rest of Scripture, b) take only portions of Scripture and fit them in to what I believe, and ignore other portions, and c) have engaged in dishonest hermeneutics in my above post.

To set the record straight, I have read the rest of Scripture. As I've stated, the Mary question was the one that kept me out of the Church for three long years despite an ardent desire to become Catholic and receive the Eucharist. I wasn't going to sacrifice my search for truth for my desire to be Catholic. As such, I read and re-read everything I could in Scripture and in its interpreters to discern as best as I could, what was the truth. To imply that I have been negligent in so doing is really uncharitable of you, to say the least.

As for only taking portions of Scripture and fitting them to what I believe, let me remind you again: This series of reflections on the Rosary is not meant to be an exhaustive apologetic of Marian doctrine. First of all, we're dealing with the Mystery of the Annunciation, not the Mystery of the Nativity. Since Matthew doesn't deal with the Annunciation, I can't actually incorporate his text into this meditation. But even when I get to the Nativity (soon, honest), I will still select one passage to feature. Why? Because again, this is not meant to be an exhaustive apologetic, nor an intensive Bible Study. These posts are personal reflections, which I will be happy to defend as time allows, in the comment section. Thus, to imply that I'm taking Scripture out of context and ignoring the rest is to ignore the whole point and purpose of these posts, and accuse me of not fulfilling a purpose which I never intended to fulfil.

Finally, to suggest that the above amounts to dishonest hermeneutic disregards the fact that the passages you bring up that apparently oppose what I've said have been looked at by the best and earliest Catholic minds, dealt with, and viewed as having no actual discrepancy. Thus, it is your fallible opinion of what these passages say that lead you to conclude that they contradict what I have written. You may say that my interpretation is just as fallible, and that's okay. But then the question comes up--how do we know who is right? Who decides between to fallible interpretations?

I will be more than happy to deal with the passages you bring up, when I have time. And again, I am telling you, this series is meant to be inspirational to Catholic readers, and perhaps food for thought to non-Catholics. It is not an apologetic per se. I will be writing a series of articles to offer apologies for Catholic teaching on Mary after this series, in which I will exhaustively deal with every pertinent Scripture.

So if you could hold off calling me dishonest, blind, or stupid until then, I'd really appreciate it.

God bless,
Gregory

Gregory said...

Well, sorry for the long delay in replying, Suneal. Your two comments have kept my mind very occupied in the long, lonely nights at work, as I prayed and researched and thought through the logic of it all. Now, finally, I'm giving my reply. I apologise for the length, but as I always say, "It takes more words to refute error than it does to state it." I'm sure you can agree, since your own comments, refuting my "errors", reply to only a couple sentences of my original post, yet they amount to about 6 pages of text in MS Word. Conversely, I've written perhaps 4 pages for every one of yours.

Without any further ado--your words will be in italics.

"The knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. The knot which the virgin Eve tied by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary opened by her belief....
If the former disobeyed God, the latter was persuaded to obey God, so that the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve. And thus as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so it is rescued by a virgin." (from Quasten's Patrology, vol. 1, p. 296; Irenaeus' Against Heresies, 3.22.3 and 5.19.1, as quoted in Scott Hahn's Hail, Holy Queen, p. 42)

I take it Gregory it is safe to say this expresses your view as well as Irenaeus'.


You take it rightly.

Now let me ask this, is Irenaeus' word here equal to and as authoritative as the 27 New Testament canon books (Mat-Revelation)? I ask this because, the New Testament is absolutely silent about such a conclusion as to what Irenaeus here comes up with.

Irenaeus' word, by itself, is not. Irenaeus' word, in agreement with and attesting to the Tradition of the Church? Insofar as we understand that Apostolic Tradition is nothing other than the correct interpretation of Scripture, as infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit, yes.

Furthermore, as I will discuss here, he is veering away from the NT witness. I don't have a problem with the silence, but I also respect the silence for being just that, rather than a doctrine center. And I don't respect the silence when it contradicts the Bible itself.

Suneal, you once claimed that your view of Sola Scriptura differed from the description which I had presented--saying that I mis-characterised it as "solo scriptura". Your stated position said that, rather than believing that "only the Bible" was authoritative, you recognised the witness of the Church contained in her Traditions, though the Bible was the only infallible source. Please correct me if I missed something. You make the claim that this proper understanding of Sola Scriptura is fundamentally different than the one which I apparently presented at the time. Not to dredge up that old conversation, it nevertheless is pertinent here, because I fail to see, in this case, how the Sola Scriptura which I presented, and the "version" you subscribe to, differ in any practical sense. I present here a Tradition of the Church, attested to in this case by one of the earliest post-biblical writers, and you make the claim that he is "veering" from Scripture. That is, you dismiss the Tradition because it doesn't line up with your interpretation of Scripture. It seems, then, that you pay lip-service to some ideal of Sola Scriptura which embraces Church Traditions, but yet you decide which Traditions are supported by Scripture, and which aren't. On what basis do you make this evaluation? Your own personal and authoritative reading of Scripture? If so, then how is your version of Sola Scriptura any different than what I claimed it was? If, instead, your claims are based on an alternate tradition, whose tradition is it? What historical precedent does it have? in sum, why should I believe that your interpretation of Scripture, 2000 years distant from the events, is superior to Irenaeus', who was at most 200 years distant, and who had a very direct line of descent, through St. Polycarp, from the Apostle John himself?

Paul says this in Romans,"For the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the ONE the many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the ONE Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many" (Rom 5:15). Then Paul says, "So then as through ONE transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through the ONE act of righteousness there resulted justification of life" (Rom 5:18) Now I think all Christians know the "one act of righteousness" was when Jesus died on the cross, bleeding, crucified for our sins, so that He who knew no sin (there is no other) "became sin for us that in Him we might become the righteusness of God" (II Cor 5:21)

I would contend that Jesus' "one act of righteousness" was not limited to the Crucifixion; rather, it entails everything outlined in Philippians 2:6-11:

"[T]hough he was in the form of God, [he] did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death--even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

That is, the transgression of Adam was that of pride and self-mastery, in short, the desire to be his own god. The "one act of righteousness" that recapitulated that original sin was Jesus' complete kenosis--His emptying Himself to become a slave. This culminated in His death on the Cross for our sins, and ended in the Resurrection--all lived in perfect obedience and humility toward the Father. But that humble obedience began even before His birth, let alone before His Crucifixion. As Revelation 13:8 indicates, He is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Yes, the Cross is absolutely essential to our redemption, but our salvation neither began nor ended there.

(there is no other)

That is, who knew no sin. In that case, explain kecharitomene.

Wow! We are God's righteousness, I wonder how much improving God's righteousness needs, anyway, another topic for another day.

I suppose it is, since I have no idea what you're implying, or what you think I'm implying.

Here is my point, one act "untied the knot," and it was not the virgin birth. Jesus was born to die. His birth only meant anything once He died, at least as far as all of us are concerned.

You seem to be taking St. Paul's exercise in typology a little too literally. Paul is obviously referring to Genesis 3 here. How many players were involved in the Original Sin? Just Adam? Was Eve entirely innocent (to make no mention of the Snake)? Obviously not, for in another place, Paul argues against women having teaching roles in the Church on hte grounds that "it was not Adam who was led astray but the woman who was led astray and fell into sin" (1 Tim 2:14). Here, Paul seems to be dumping the whole of Original Sin in Eve's lap. So whose "one act of disobedience" was it? Both of them had a share in the Fall. Paul's emphasis in Romans 5 isn't on the "one", but, since he is discussing Christ, it is more on the "Man". And even then, the thrust of the argument is on the What as well as the Who: that is, on Christ's perfect obedience, contrasted with Adam's disobedience. The "one man...one Man; one transgression...one act of righteousness" is a typological formula similar to the ones I use in this and the next post, illustrating Mary's role as the New Ark of the Covenant. Just as you would suggest that my account doesn't deal with all the facts relating or nullifying a relationship between Mary and the Ark, neither does Paul's dissertation in Romans 5 account for all the details of the Fall or of Jesus' redemptive act. As such, your utilisation of this passage as a polemic against Mary's role in redemption is just as weak as you claim my argument for it is.

I agree with Irenaeus to a point, but certainly not to the point of saying she "opened" the knot. Sure, she began to prepare for the "ONE MAN" who would untie it, but so did John the Baptist, and all the prophets who "believed God." They all became part of God's salvation plan. Mary was at the end of a long list of saints who believed God to bring salvation to the world. But ultimately, no one untied the knot of not only Eve's unbelief but Adam's as well, as Paul in Roman's pointed out ("sin entered through one MANS's disobedience"), other than our Lord and SAVIOR Jesus Christ. That is why JESUS was called JESUS, meaning "the Lord saves." We were NOT rescued by a virgin, we were rescued (rescued is a synonym for saved) by the savior of men, the "one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time" (I Tim 2:5-6)

First of all, each faithful saint in the OT played their own role in mediating Christ to the world--even before Christ came into the world. But in Mary, we recognise that she did so in a more striking, immediate, and greater sense. No one but Mary had the privelege of literally and actually bearing Christ into the world. No one but Mary gave Him His genetic structure. And, most importantly, of no one but Mary did God ask their free consent to do any of this. Each Patriarch's "yes" of faith brought God closer to man. But only Mary's "yes" actually gave God "flesh [to] dwel[l] among us" (John 1:14).

As to your vehement objections to Irenaeus' statement that Mary "untied the not of Eve's disobedience," saying again that only the One Mediator who is Christ achieved that, I have a few remarks. The first is that I, and all Catholicism, agree wholeheartedly that there is only One Mediator between God and men, the Man Jesus Christ. Any mediation by anyone else is only of a secondary sort and inferior in nature to Christ's mediation, and that secondary mediation (which the passage you cite regarding Christ's sole mediation itself indicates in 1 Tim 2:1) is itself only possible because of Christ's mediation.

Second, you belabour a large point above regarding the "one transgression" by the "one man" being answered by the "one act of righteousness" of the "One Man". Now, it is evident from Scripture that there were two who played a role in that "one act" of Original Sin. If we say, on the one hand, that Eve's sinful act was not actually what condemned the world, but was rather secondary and led to Adam's "one act" (and that, had Adam not followed her into sin, we would not have suffered the consequences of Original Sin), then we can say that Adam's "one act" cursed us all, and that Christ's "one act" brought salvation, and at the same time we can say that Eve's secondary, subordinate act which led to, or "tied the knot of" Adam's "one act" of disobedience, then it is fair to say that Mary's secondary, subordinate act which led to Christ's Incarnation and Saving Act "untied" the Knot of Eve's disobedience without taking away anything from Christ's saving act.

If, on the other hand, we say that Eve's disobedience together with Adam's constituted the "one act" then it was not the one act of "one man" but of two, which would make Paul's one-to-one typological discourse not a strictly literal thing, and consequently your argument is nullified and there is room for recognising Mary's subordinate act of obedience in partnership with Christ's saving act as untying the knot of Eve's disobedience. In either case, when it is properly understood that Catholics regard only Christ as our Saviour, not Mary, but that Mary played a subordinate but nonetheless critical role in that salvation, it cannot be said that the Bible contradicts the Catholic understanding.

Is everyone getting the picture the Bible really portrays of the word "one" in regards to our salvation. Mary is not in any way our "mediator," no matter how much we wish to say say this from some silent voice of Scripture. Scripture is clear on this. I am not saying that has been said exactly, but Irenaeus here, whom you quote so affectionately Gregory, is heading down that road of co-mediation.

The Bible plainly states that there is only One Mediator between God and men, the Man Jesus Christ. That is, it is in and through Christ alone that we are reconciled to God. There is no one else who can do that for us. Where you go wrong on this point, Suneal, is when you say that Mary (or ostensibly anyone else) "is not in any way our 'mediator.'" Not Mary nor anyone else can mediate us to God, that is, to the Father. Only Christ can do that. But the Bible does clearly say that we (Mary most of all) mediate people to Christ. As I've said already, the very passage you cite to demonstrate Christ's sole mediatorship also instructs us to intercede for the world and each other ("intercede" being a synonym for "mediate"):

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all--this was attested at the right time. For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument" (1 Tim 2:1-8, emphasis mine).

That is, through our intercessions, we bring others to (mediate) Christ; who is the One Mediator between us and God. Further, when we bring the Gospel to others, whether by word or by deed, we bring Christ to them.

The Protestant theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book, Life Together, explains eloquently how we, in mediating Christ to each other, participate by the mystery of grace in His sole Mediation:

"The Christian lives wholly by the truth of God's Word in Jesus Christ. If somebody asks him, Where is your salvation, your righteousness? he can never point to himself. He points to the Word of God in Jesus Christ, which assures him salvation and righteousness. He is as alert as possible to this Word. Because he daily hungers and thirsts for righteousness, he daily desires the redeeming Word. And it can come only from the outside. In himself he is destitute and dead. Help must come from the outside, and it has come and comes daily and anew in the Word of Jesus Christ, bringing redemption, righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.
"But God has put the Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God's Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother's is sure.
"And that also clarifies the goal of all Christian community: they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation" (Life Together, pp.22-23).

In mediating others to Christ, we share in His work of salvation, albeit in a subordinate way ("co" doesn't necessarily mean "equal". It simply means "with"). St. Paul, discussing this, even has the gumption to call us God's "co-workers":

"What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters are equal, and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor. For we are God's co-workers; you are God's field, God's building" (1 Cor 3:5-9, NAB. Other translations have "fellow workers" [RSV, NIV, NASB, ESV, WEB], "labourers together" [KJV], "coadjutors" (Douay), and "God's servants, working together" [NRSV]).

As such, since Scripture makes it quite clear that we all are to share in mediating Christ to the world, it is quite incorrect to state that "Mary is not in any way our 'mediator.'" She is simply not our mediator in the same way as Christ.

Now, since we have seen that we are all to be mediators of Christ, why do Catholics place such emphasis on Mary's mediation? For the simple reason that she is the greatest and most able mediator. The greatest because she literally and directly mediated Christ to the world through the Virgin Birth, and even afterward spurred Christ into His public ministry and brought others to Him (John 2). Moreover, as our spiritual Mother (Rev. 12:17), her role of bringing us to Christ is ongoing and perpetual. She is the most able mediator for three reasons: First, as Christ was and is fully obedient to His Law, and as Mary is His mother, He is compelled to honour her intercessions for us. Second, as our mother, she is always ready to make such intercessions for us. Third, being perfectly holy, even in her life, through the Grace which Christ bestowed upon her in the Immaculate Conception, her prayer is "powerful and effective" (cf. Jas 5:16). Even the demons were compelled to confess to St. Dominic before a crowd of thousands that "not a single soul who has really persevered in her service has ever been damned with us; one single sigh that she offers to the Blessed Trinity is worth far more than all the prayers, desires and aspirations of all the saints."

Furthermore, as in the verse directly above, Jesus is only the mediator because of His giving Himself up, obviously to the death of the cross. Praise God for Mary's similar giving herself up to God's will as the handmaid of the Lord, but for that matter praise God for Abraham who also said "yes Lord" and went so far as to almost literally sacrificing His son. Oh yes, shall we mention Daniel, Gideon, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc, etc. Yes, no LESS obedience to God there folks, no LESS of exampleS for us.

First of all, again, Christ is the one mediator between us and God. We (including the saints, prophets, and patriarchs) are mediators for others to Christ. Second, our mediatorship goes far beyond simple "example". Third, since of all God's creatures, only Mary was preserved from sin, and therefore perfectly obedient, then all the above are indeed "less obedient". Finally, since only Mary was chosen to bear Christ into the world, and since only she is our spiritual mother, she deserves the place of greater honour and devotion among the saints.

(Cont'd...)

Gregory said...

Part 2:

Suneal wrote as his conclusion to his first hence-unanswered comment above:
This brings me to the final point, although I could go on for days, I
hope this suffices for now to be a more "on topic" discussion. When did the New Covenant start? If it started at Calvary or after the resurrection, which it did by the way, is it sound to say Mary is the "Ark of the New Covenant?" In the Old Testament, covenants were ratified in blood. The Sinai covenant was immediately ratified in blood, BEFORE Moses was called to go up the mountain for 40 days. "And Moses wrote down ALL the words of the Lord. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood and put it into basins and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took "THE BOOK OF THE COVENANT" and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said "All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient. So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said,"Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words" (Ex 24:4-8).

1. A covenant of this type and the type of the New Testament needs TWO parties. That is why the Israelites declared obedience to God, the blood signified death to them if they did not keep the Covenant. This was in keeping with the Canaanite covenant traditions of the time where lesser, weaker vassal kingdoms made blood covenants with reigning powerful kings. 2. It was ONLY upon the blood being sprinkled on the people and Covenant itself that the covenant was ratified.

Now let us see what the New Testament says; "For where a covenant is, there MUST of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid ONLY when men are dead, for it is NEVER IN FORCE WHILE THE ONE WHO MADE IT LIVES. Therefore, even the first covenant was not INAUGURATED WITHOUT BLOOD"(Heb 9:16-18). Then the Hebrew writer goes on to say exactly what I said above. He concludes the covenant speech with almost a "blood bath" of all things concerning the covenant saying; "And according to the Law one may almost say, ALL things are cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Heb 9:22). Scripture is prestine here, only when Jesus died did the New Covenant take place. It never was "in Mary" BEFORE CALVARY.

This is the biggest point I wish to make. Jesus in Mary's womb was not "the New Covenant." Only at the cross and "in His own blood," was He the New Covenant. It is not "the New Covenant in Mary's womb" we are to preach, Gregory. It is the "New Covenant in His blood." If it's not "in blood" it's not a covenant, as far as we are concerned. Jesus was the Lamb of God slain BEFORE the foundation of the world. But we never knew that and nor do we now before Calvary. That is the safe place the New Testament expresses the word New Covenant. When was the veil in the temple rent? When Jesus said "It is finished" (LUKE 23:45-46). Exactly Lord, that is when the Old Covenant became old and the New Covenant began, in Your blood, and in Your death, my precious Lord. I thank You for it.


First of all, I wish to state my agreement that the New Covenant is in Christ's Blood, that it was sealed in His death at Calvary and made efficacious in His resurrection. This is, after all the Gospel.

Does this, therefore, nullify Mary's fulfilment of the type of the Ark of the Covenant? I do not see this as being the case at all, since not only is this affirmed by the earliest of Church Traditions, next to the Virgin Birth it is perhaps the most explicitly depicted Marian dogma in Scripture. I have already shown how Scripture clearly alludes to the Mary-Ark typology in Luke's Gospel. In my meditation on the Fifth Glorious Mystery, I intend to discuss how St. John also, and even more explicitly, tells us that Mary is the New Ark, in Revelation 11:19-12:3. For John, in his Revelation, sets up his readers for the staggering unveiling of the Ark in heaven--and then anticlimactically switches the scene to "A woman clothed with the sun..." Or does he switch scenes? In fact, according to the testimony of the Church, John isn't abandoning the revelation of the Ark and changing the topic. Rather, he is saying that the Woman is the Ark! But that's enough of a spoiler for now. I want to save something for the final mystery!

So since Mary is very explicitly described as the New Ark and since the New Covenant was ratified at Calvary, how do we overcome the apparent contradiction presented by your analysis, Suneal?

I would begin by suggesting that you are again applying the interpretation of the typological parallels too literally. Even explicit biblical types that we both agree on do not so rigidly apply their parallels the way you attempt to do with Mary and the Ark. And example that springs to mind immediately is Jesus' fulfilment of the type of the bronze serpent of Numbers 21:4-9 (cf. John 3:14-15). If we were to apply the same rigid standards of typological correlation, then at least the cross, if not Jesus Himself, would need to be made of bronze.

If it's specifically the chronology that troubles you, what of the typological fulfilment of Jesus as Israel, who recapitulated their crossing the Jordan and entering into the Promised Land by His baptism, and then recapitulated their forty-year sojourn in the wilderness with His forty day fast in the wilderness. Or what of the fulfilment of the Passover in the Eucharist, where the Israelites had to kill a lamb, sprinkle its blood on the doorposts, and then eat it. Jesus, on the other hand, gave the Disciples His flesh to eat at the Last Supper before He was killed and His blood sprinkled the "doorposts" of the Cross (if you even consider the Cross and the doorposts to be linked at all!). If these two events were fulfilled in reverse order to their types, and yet still validly considered the fulfilment of those types, then on what hermeneutical grounds can we deny Mary's fulfilling the Ark-type because her identification as such in Luke's Gospel happens to antedate the Crucifixion?

However, it seems your major concern is with the Covenant idea and its relation to the Ark of the Covenant, and the chronology of that dynamic in particular. That is, how can the Ark of the Covenant predate the very Covenant it carries? I believe my comments above largely suffice to explain it, but again, let's reflect on Revelation. At the beginning of Revelation, John sees Jesus as "the Lamb who was slain" (ch. 5). Later, he sees the Woman giving birth to the Christ-Child (ch. 12), and then a chapter later, remarks that the Lamb was slain "from the foundation of the world" (13:8). Revelation presents Christ crucified before it presents His birth--and it presents His birth specifically in the context of Mary fulfilling the Ark typology. It thus seems somewhat disingenuous to slough off this spiritual reality by saying, "Jesus was the Lamb of God slain BEFORE the foundation of the world. But we never knew that and nor do we now before Calvary." As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say that the "New" Covenant is really the only Covenant. What do I mean? Simply this: first, Jesus stated that He did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfil it (Matt 5:17). Second, all those who in the Bible were saved before the Cross were still saved by the Cross--that is, the temporal one-time act of the Crucifixion has always existed outside of time, as a perpetual sacrifice, whose salvific effect extends backward and forward in time. Since the "old" covenant was powerless to save, all who were saved were saved by Christ in the New Covenant (whether they knew it or not). The Old Covenant was thus the sign and type of the New, and the New is the fulfilment of the Old. Understood from this eternal perspective, Mary can be the Ark of the New Covenant before Calvary in the same way that Abraham, Moses, the prophets, et al. could be saved by Christ before Calvary.

When was the veil in the temple rent? When Jesus said "It is finished" (LUKE 23:45-46).

Not to be too nit-picky here, but Jesus says, "It is finished," in John 19, in connection to drinking the sour wine offered on a hyssop branch, and doesn't seem in any way connected to the rending of the veil in Luke 23. It has been convincingly argued that a) "It is finished" does not actually refer to the accomplishment of our justification, since Paul states that "Christ was raised for our justification" (Romans 4:25). Rather, b) Jesus drinking the wine "finished" the Passover meal that He left incomplete at the Last Supper. See, for example, Scott Hahn's The Fourth Cup. But thanks all the same for that exercise in eisegesis.

Therefore, the true arks of God are us! It is plural folks, is not many better than one? Is that not one of the ways in which the New Covenant excels the old?

This is a bit of a shocking question from you, who earlier adamantly argued for the necessity of ONE mediator based on Romans 5. I could turn your question right around: "Is not many [mediators] better than one?" You obviously don't think so (and I quite agree that there is only One Mediator between God and men). So why is many suddenly so much greater than one in this case? There was only ONE Ark of the Old Covenant. By what logic should there be many now? It seems an interesting touch of irony.

To an extent, though, I quite agree with you. Insofar as we recognise in the Ark-Woman of Revelation 12 an image of the Church, then it is quite right to say that we are the fulfilment of the Ark. I would hesitate to pluralise it still, though. It is the Church, that is, the whole community together, that fulfils the Ark typology.

Thus, if we recognise the Church in the Woman--that is, we recognise that the Woman, Mary, is the embodiment of all that the Church is destined to be--then yes, we all participate in the Ark typology. Nevertheless, we recognise that the most immediate and the ultimate fulfilment of the Ark is the Blessed Virgin Mary.

We have the New Covenant within us in a way Mary never did until after the Resurrection. This agrees with what Paul said to the Corinthians, "You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, NOT ON TABLETS OF STONE BUT ON TABLETS OF HUMAN HEARTS" (II Cor 3:2-3). Paul is no doubt hearkening back to Old Testament figures, of the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God in Mount Sinai and also to the idea that we ourselves carry that New better Covenant in our own hearts! What manner of holiness that ought to stir us to! This agrees with such Scriptures as "that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all saints .." (Ep 3:17-19). This also agrees with when Paul says "we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves" (I Cor 4:7). It also agrees with the great Jeremiah New Covenant prophecy "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND UPON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM"(Heb 10:16-from Jer 31:33).

Nevertheless, Mary not only bore (and bears in Heaven) the spiritual sense of the New Covenant within her that we all do as post-resurrection saints, but she very literally had Him in her womb. It was, physically speaking, Mary herself who supplied Jesus with the blood to shed on Calvary! In a way that no one else has or ever will participate in, Mary bore Christ into the world in order that He could die for us and bring about the realisation of the New Covenant. As the most full-of-grace (grace bestowed only through Christ's death, even though it was bestowed before Christ's death), Mary enjoyed a dispensation of the Covenant-life that we will never know this side of Heaven.

I think Scripture speaks volumes louder than Irenaues here or than the notion of Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant. That is my humble opinion. There is so much more Scripture, etc. I could discuss, but time fails me.

I believe you're right. But as I don't see Scripture contradicting Irenaeus, and since more, I see Scripture clearly equating Mary and the Ark of the Covenant, it seems it is your "humble opinion" about what Scripture says that is the difficulty, and not Scripture itself. Which, of course, leads us back, as it perennially does, to that question of Sola Scriptura, and how to judge between your humble opinion of what Scripture says, and my own equally humble interpretation. it is a question, I fear, which has no satisfactory answer outside of the Magisterium.

(End of the first of Suneal's two last comments. Cont'd...)

Gregory said...

Part 3:

In Suneal's last comment above, he said:
Gregory said: "Just as the Ark could be touched by no man, so Mary, Ever-Virgin, was never intimately known. We see a hint of this even here in the Annunciation, that she knew that she was consecrated to Virginity even before the Annunciation of Gabriel, in her question to him, "How can this be, for I am a virgin?" It is not enough to say that this sets up simply the Virgin Birth of Christ, since it seems clear from her need to ask the question, even though she was already engaged to be married (v. 26). Had she intended to enter normal married relations with him, her question would be absurd. That she asked how she could bear a child at all indicates that she expected to remain always a virgin."

First of all Gregory, let me point out to everyone the manner of your biblical exegesis. So in the Old Testament they could not touch the Ark, therefore since Mary is the Ark no one could have sexual relations with her. Excuse me, do you not see how you between the Two Testaments have completely inferred a meaning across 1000 years OTHER than what was stated in the Old Testament. This is allegorical interpretation (not at its best).


To begin with, as I stated quite clearly from the beginning of this series, I'm not conducting a Bible Study. I'm not "exegeting". I'm offering personal meditations on Rosary mysteries, and providing relevant Scripture passages as a reference point. My meditations are not drawn exclusively from the text provided, but from a variety of sources, including related biblical texts, saints and doctors of the Church, contemporary Catholic literature, official dogmas of the Church, and, if I may be so presumptuous, thoughts given to me by Mary and Jesus as I pray the Rosary nightly at work.

Second, I wonder is it allegorical interpretations of Scripture in general with which you have a problem? If so, that's a difficulty and a discussion well outside the purview of this topic--perhaps it could be discussed in the Open Forum.

Finally, I want it to be quite clear that my (or the Church's) belief in Mary's perpetual virginity is not derived from or dependent on Mary's being the New Ark of the Covenant. The reverse is also true: Mary's role as the New Ark is not dependent upon or derived from her perpetual virginity. The Church's belief in her perpetual virginity stems from historical testimony to the fact that Mary was ever a virgin. The Church's belief in Mary as the New Ark of the Covenant stems from the Holy Spirit's revealing that at the hands of the Sacred Authors, particularly Sts. Luke and John. Believing in both of these things, however, I happened to make a connection, which I related above--and which I am not the first person in the history of the Church to make. My statement, "Just as the Ark could be touched by no man, so Mary, Ever-Virgin, was never intimately known," was not intended to make Mary's perpetual virginity a basis for her Ark-hood, or to give an exegesis of her perpetual virginity. It was simply an observation of one of the many parallels extant between Mary and the Ark.

The closest thing to "exegesis" that I undertook to do in my reflection of Mary's perpetual virginity was to discuss her questioning response to the angel, and its logical implications. You yourself even admit that my exegesis on that point is sound, as far as it goes. And since I never intended it to go very far, then I won't let you go any farther than that in "point[ing] out...the manner of [my] biblical exegesis."

So Gregory, was Joseph allowed to give Mary a shoulder massage? I ask because that would be a better application, no one could even touch her at all. I mean forgive my crudeness but who tried to have sexual relations with the Ark in the O.T.??? And when did that attempt become the "touch not" of the Old Testament Ark? Why do you infer that to be the "touching" of Mary? Do you have something against sex? All I can say is, poor Joseph who also had to be a virgin his WHOLE LIFE. Maybe I'll make him my patron saint, because wow, that would be something to look up to!:)

As with my last reply, I'll simply point out that once again, your reductio ad absurdam is not effective since on the one hand, you too rigidly apply typological parallels, and on the other hand, you do so very selectively, and when it makes your point. The Ark was an inanimate wooden box covered with gold. Mary was a living human being. Obviously, parallels that exist will relate from one to the other in different ways, while maintaining their relationship. Jesus, for example, who claimed to fulfil the type of Jacob's Ladder (John 1:51) did not literally have angels crawling all over Him. In His fulfilment of the type of the Temple, people could not walk inside of Him and sacrifice a bull. Saying, therefore, that Mary does not fulfil the type of the Ark because the parallels aren't literally equivalent is to, of necessity, reevaluate the truth of many biblical images.

Do you have something against sex?

Why is it that a declaration of Mary's perpetual virginity automatically lead to the accusation that Catholics have something against sex? How does that follow, logically? To the contrary, the Church views sex as sacred, even sacramental, in the proper (marital) context! As a married man myself, let me assure you that it is something I rather enjoy! In fact, if sex was not good, then giving it up as a sacrifice, as the Church believes that Mary did in consecrating herself to virginity, would be a worthless act. A sacrifice is only a sacrifice when it gives up something good. As such, the Church's belief in the goodness of virginity itself is a testimony to the goodness of sex.

As to Joseph, there is some question as to whether he was a virgin his whole life, or whether he had been married previously, and was a widower, when he was betrothed to Mary. However, we do venerate him in the liturgy as Mary's "most chaste spouse," acknowledging that, yes, for the duration of their life together, he remained celibate.

Gregory, why do you only mention Luke's account of the Virgin birth[?]

First of all, this meditation is on the Annunciation of Gabriel to Mary. It is an episode that only takes place in Luke's Gospel. That, therefore, is the primary reason why I "only" mention Luke's account of the Annunciation. Criticising me for being selective in my texts is a bit disingenuous when I only have one text from which to choose.

Secondly, from the outset, again, I never intended this series to be an exhaustive apologetic or an inclusive Bible Study, but only a (hopefully) inspiring devotional meditation. I include a reading at the beginning of each meditation to emphasise the biblical nature of the Rosary meditations, as Pope John Paul II advised in his encyclical, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, and, when I have an option of texts, I strive to choose the fullest one, or else the one best suited to the thoughts that came to me in my own prayers. I will probably allude to or quote related texts as we go along, as well (such as my quotation of Jeremiah and 2 Maccabees in this post). But in order to simplify the character of the meditations, I have chosen to limit myself to one primary reading. (After all, were I to quote every single relevant passage pertaining to the Third Luminous Mystery, Jesus' Proclamation of the Kingdom of God, I would be reproducing the bulk of the Gospels before ever offering my own thoughts!) As such, I resent the implication that I'm dishonestly selecting and proof-texting passages to give an apologetic of Marian doctrine. To suggest that is to completely ignore my stated intentions.

Why don't I add some balance for you, like another Gospel, so that the Bible gives an actual overall picture of what really happened, whether we like it or not. (quotes Matt 1:18-25)

Again, I resent your suggestion that I ignore Scripture in order to frame my belief. That is a completely unfair implication. In fact, reading the rest of your comment, I find it exceedingly difficult not to sarcastically reply, "Oh my God! Why didn't I think of that in my three long years of arguing against Catholic beliefs about Mary?! Oh wait, I did!" And the Catholic response was more than able to meet the objection.

Gregory, above you said this,"Had she intended to enter normal married relations with him, her question would be absurd." That being the question to Gabriel regarding having a son, "How can this be, for I am a virgin?" Well, yes, agreed if you don't read the rest of your Bible AND listen to what it says instead of fitting or ignoring other portions of Scripture according to what you already believe.

Let's break down your statements above. First, you admit that my point about Mary's question to Gabriel is sound. That is, you agree that since Gabriel is telling an engaged woman that she'll have a child, with no mention at all of when she would conceive, that her question is a tad odd. Nothing in what Gabriel had said implied that the conception would come about by unusual means. Had Mary intended to have normal marital relations with Joseph, based on the information so far relayed by the Angel, the natural assumption would be a natural birth by natural means. Mary's question is only logical if we assume one of three things: either Mary was incredibly dim; her parents hadn't gotten around to explaining to their engaged daughter what to expect on the wedding night; or Mary had no intentions of having sexual relations with anyone--that is, she had consecrated herself to virginity.

So you agree with this bit of exegesis, but only if you don't take Matthew's account into account. You then claim by implication that I haven't taken Matthew's narrative under advisement, or, if I have, then I've twisted it to agree with Luke, and both to agree with my preconceived belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary.

There are several problems with your thinking here, besides the obvious uncharitable implication that I am a deceitful scoundrel of an apologist. The first problem is with your admonition to harmonise Mary's question in Luke with Matthew's account, in order to "not fit or ignore other portions of Scripture" and thereby listen to what the Bible says. The problem here is one of direction. That is, assuming that there is a discrepancy between Matthew's and Luke's narratives, do we interpret Luke's account according to Matthew's, or Matthew's according to Luke's? Or, to put it another way, how can we be sure that you, Suneal, are not misreading Matthew's account according to your preconceived (non)belief regarding Mary's perpetual virginity and are thus "ignoring or fitting" Luke's account into your previously held beliefs? After all, if you agree with my understanding of Luke on its own, then wouldn't the text we agree on be better suited to interpret the text we disagree on? That's how the hermeneutical principle of "Scripture interprets Scripture" works, isn't it? Interpret the disputed text in light of the clear one?

The second problem goes right to the root problem that is Sola Scriptura. That is, if Scripture is the final authority, and each person has the right to read and interpret Scripture for himself, how do we decide between us whose interpretation is correct?

The third and final problem glaring at me from your above statement is your assumption that I have fitted or ignored Scripture to fit my own preconceived ideas. This accusation couldn't be further from the truth! In fact, my wife can attest that, as I was looking into Catholicism (and at the same time, trying to convert her to Pentecostalism), we argued considerably about Mary--to the point where I had actually convinced her that Catholicism was wrong in its beliefs about her, and the Pentecostals and other like-minded Protestants were right. Mary's perpetual virginity was one of the more hotly contested items, since it seemed so easy to refute! It was actually quite a shock to her when I admitted that I was wrong and the Catholics are right, and had to subsequently help reconvert her own Marian beliefs. To suggest that I twisted Scripture to fit with my preconceived beliefs about Mary is absolutely true. That's exactly what I had done as a Protestant! It was the Catholics, on the other hand, who had the more sound, consistent, and biblically inclusive hermeneutic on Mary's perpetual virginity.

(Cont'd...)

Gregory said...

Part 4:

Now first of all, you are trying to make an argument here from silence...

Why do people keep saying that? Chris tried to make the same accusation in a phone conversation a few weeks back about this topic.

First of all, I would say that Mary's question itself is not an "argument from silence" but is rather very clear, if implicit. I will deal with your arguments to the contrary below in a minute. However, you did say above that my interpretation was logical--that you "agreed" with it. I will show in a minute that nothing in Matthew's account contradicts it, but first I want to finish responding to the charge of "silence". Besides Mary's question, there is much in the Gospels to imply that Mary never had other children, the most explicit example being Jesus' giving Mary into St. John's care on the cross (John 19:25-27). If Jesus had brothers, it would have been their duty under both Mosaic Law and Christian Law to take care of Mary (see, for example, 1 Timothy 5:4,8, where St. Paul says that a person who doesn't take care of his own family has "abandoned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever"). That Jesus put Mary into John's care clearly shows that Mary had no other children to care for her. Thus, either God closed Mary's womb after she gave birth to Christ (which is typically viewed in the Bible as a curse) or Mary was perpetually a virgin. Couple this implicit, but loud, biblical testimony with the unanimous and explicit testimony of ancient and enduring Church Tradition, beginning at least as early as AD 150 with the Protoevangelium of James, through to St. Augustine and that most famous of Scripture Scholars, St. Jerome, on through the Middle Ages even up to the Reformation, including Martin Luther and John Calvin, and I'm forced to wonder, how much noise is required before something is no longer an "argument from silence"? In contrast, you rest your denial of the perpetual virginity of Mary on the implicit testimony of Scripture based on amateurish and faulty exegesis, the arguments of early heretics such as Helvidius, and the Johnny-come-lately beliefs of the radical reformation. Who's arguing from silence?

...in which case my opinion probably based on similar silence, would not be any more valid than yours. But Matthew makes it clear Mary was already enough into term that Joseph one way or the other knew. Furthermore, if Mary had told him she was pregnant (it was early in term and not noticable), then he would not of put her away to be divorced as he had planned. I doubt Mary told Joseph what was up, because it appears to be new news to him when the angel comes to him in a dream.

I'm not sure how any of that leads to a denial of Mary's perpetual virginity.

So to answer your inference it would have been "absurd" for Mary to have asked, "How can this be, for I am a virgin," the reason was because the marriage was not immanent.

I don't see how their wedding date has any bearing whatsoever on Mary's question and its implications. At the point when Mary asked, "How can this be?" Gabriel had given absolutely no indication of when this conception and birth would take place. Gabriel did not say, "Right now you will conceive..." or "Tonight..." or "This weekend..." He simply told her that she would. From what the Angel said, Mary had no reason to assume that she would conceive by extraordinary means when she asked her question, and so her question only makes sense if extraordinary means were the only means possible. Whether she was marrying Joseph in a week or a year was irrelevant.

Did Mary want to be a virgin her whole life[?] Maybe. But this blessed announcement changed all that. Here you and I agree.

I'm not so sure that we do. I'm not entirely sure what you're trying to say, to know whether I agree. In what way did Gabriel's announcement "change" Mary's desire to remain a virgin?

But now Gregory you can put to rest your "maybe's" based on silence (what Scripture does NOT specify) and turn your eyes to the Matthew account, where I highlighted this, "but he knew her not UNTIL SHE HAD BORNE A SON; and he called his name Jesus."

Once again, I deny that my "maybe's" are maybes, or that they are based on silence. But now, just as we finally get to the meat and potatoes of your argument, I find I have run out of time to finish typing out my response.

I shall continue as soon as I can with the conclusion.

God bless
Gregory

Gregory said...

Part 5: Conclusion...

Now the Greek word here used for "until" is "ews" which is a conjunction. That means the second part of the sentence here in Matthew is joined grammatically to the first part of it(I say this for any wishing a grammar brush-up). For the sake of fairness I went to a Greek Lexicon which gives all the possible nuances of the Greek word at the time of the New Testament. I will list them:

-"to denote the end of a period of time, till, until"
-"to denote contemporaneousness, as long as, while"
-"marker of limit reached, as far as, to"
-"marker of order in a series, up to"
-"marker of degree and measure, denoting the upper limit, to the point of"

Gregory, you will be hard pressed to make any of these meanings give any other meaning here in Matthew chapter 1, than that Joseph refrained from sexual relations with his betrothed Mary "up to, until, to the point of, as long as, as far as, while and to the point" of Jesus' term in the blessed virgin Mary's womb and until his birth.


You're absolutely right. I would be hard-pressed indeed. Good thing I completely agree that Mary and Joseph never had sex before Jesus was born! The problem is not with what "until" (ews) does mean, but with what it doesn't mean. That is, there is nothing in the word ews, and in the definitions which you provided, that implies a change after the point refered to by "until". That is, Matthew makes no statement whatsoever regarding Mary and Joseph's sex life after Jesus' birth. He is simply emphasising the utter and absolute lack of a sex-life before Jesus birth. Thus, you are doing the very thing of which you accused me: making an argument from silence!

Notably, this is exactly the argument that Helvidius tried to bring against Mary's perpetual virginity.
"It was definitively and easily leveled by a professional biblical scholar," writes Scott Hahn. "Responding to Helvidius, Jerome demonstrated that scripture 'often uses a fixed time...to denote time without limitation, as when God by the mouth of the prophet says to certain persons, "Even to old age I am He" (Is 46:4).' Jerome thundered on: 'Will He cease to be God when they have grown old?' The answer, of course, is no. Jerome goes on, then, to quote Jesus, Who said: 'Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age' (Mt 28:20). Wryly, Jerome asked Helvidius if he thought the Lord would then forsake His disciples after the close of the age" (Hail, Holy Queen, pp.105-106, emphasis in original).

In his endnote for this paragraph, Hahn writes, "St. Jerome's refutation appears in most editions of the Church Fathers as 'Against Helvidius.' Other commentators note that 'come together,' in Greek could apply to domestic arrangements (e.g., sharing a house) as well as sexual arrangements. Moreover, the Greek word for 'until' does not imply what the English word until implies. Thus a Greek historian could write, 'Not a soldier perished until they reached safety'"(HHQ, p.185, emphasis in original).

In light of this, your statment that "There is no other possible meaning here in Matthew" than that Mary and Joseph entered into normal sexual relations after the birth of Christ is a case of erroneous exegesis and an argument from silence. It is not me nor the Catholic Church "oppos[ing] the meaning of Matthew based on...conjecture of the Lukan account of the annunciation," but rather you who forcibly reinterpret Mary's question to the Angel in Luke to fit your own interpretation of ews in Matthew, contrary to the long-standing Tradition of the Church.

So, in conclusion, yes, actually, grammatically speaking it means EXACTLY that, they did have sexual relations like any other married Jewish couple after Jesus' birth occurred, or else I just can't wrap my head around the simple concept of the word "until."

Quite honestly, this seems to be exactly your problem--an incorrect understanding of the Greek word for "until". Since it does not, in fact, "grammatically speaking" mean "EXACTLY that they did have sexual relations," and since Matthew is otherwise silent on the subject, his description must be interpreted in light of the clearer meaning of Mary's question in Luke, and not vice versa. Furthermore, our interpretation should be guided by the historical Tradition of the Church, unless we presume to set ourselves up as greater arbiters of the meaning of the Bible over and against everyone else.

Please everyone, don't take this the wrong way, I am not trying to be sacreligous but rather honest about what the Bible says.

In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, "I'll be back."

Until then..

Suneal


I sincerely believe that you don't intend sacrilege. But if you do honestly seek the truth of Scripture, then I invite you to find it in what I have written, and in the Apostolic Tradition of the Catholic Church. In my own study and strident attempts to disprove her teaching I discovered that only she really allows Scripture to speak in its entirety in a living and dynamic way.

And I do honestly hope you will be back to participate further in this discussion.

(Oh, and if you're interested, I can email you a .doc copy of St. Jerome's Against Helvidius. It's only about 10 pages. Let me know.)

God bless
Gregory

~Fin~