Friday, December 30, 2011

If Mary is the Mother of Jesus, why isn't the Holy Spirit called his father?

January 1st, Solemnity of Mary the Holy Mother of God
The generation of Christ was in this wise. When his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph etc. (Matthew 1:18)
St. Matthew makes it very clear that Mary is truly the Mother of Jesus, and this is affirmed also in the other Gospels many times over. Throughout the Gospels and in the Church’s Tradition, Mary is called the Mother of Jesus. Indeed, we know that (because Jesus is one divine person) Mary is truly said to be the Mother of God.
However, given that Mary is the Mother of Jesus with respect to his humanity, why do we not call the Holy Spirit the Father of Jesus? Since it was by the power of the Holy Spirit that Mary conceived, and since Mary is called the spouse of the Holy Spirit, why does the Church refuse to say that Jesus is the Son of the Holy Spirit in his humanity?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why does the Church celebrate Christmas with greater solemnity than the Annunciation?

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
The mystery of the Incarnation was effected by the Annunciation, nine months before Our Savior’s Nativity. The Word was made flesh with our Lady’s fiat, and at that moment humanity was joined to divinity in a personal union. The Child conceived is already a perfect man, meriting the salvation of the whole world, praying in our behalf and offering to God perfect worship. Further, Blessed Mary was already the “Mother of God” at the Annunciation, for women are mothers from conception even before giving birth.
Why, then, does the Church celebrate the Birth of our Savior with greater solemnity than the Incarnation itself (at the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25th)?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Birth of Jesus, revealed to St. Bridget

Over the past week, we have posted a few articles related to the temporal generation of the Son – on Mary’s pregnancy [here], on the miraculous birth itself [here], and on the rational perfection of the Child conceived [here].
In these articles, we showed that our Lady did not suffer any pain when giving birth to her Son, that the physical closure of her virgin womb remained intact even in the very act of giving birth (for Christ passed through without causing any harm to her virginal integrity), and that the Christ Child already knew all created things and loved each of us in his humanity from the very first moment of his conception (thus, while an infant, he was already a rational man).
While all of these articles were firmly rooted in the magisterial teachings of the Church and in the doctrines of the Church Fathers, it is always good to compare our theological insights with the lived faith of the great saints. We will not be the least surprised to discover that the mystical revelations given to St. Bridget of Sweden (surely, one of the greatest saint-mystics of the Church) wholly confirm all that the saint-theologians have taught and all that the Magisterium has declared.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

When did Christ reach the "age of reason"?

Femina circumdabit virum.

How long wilt thou be dissolute in deliciousness, O wandering daughter? for the Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth: A WOMAN SHALL COMPASS A MAN. (Jeremiah 31:22)
St. Thomas Aquinas, following the tradition of the Fathers (especially St. Jerome) reads this verse from Jeremiah as a prophetic sign that the Christ Child, from the first moment of his conception and while yet enclosed within the womb of the Woman Mary, will be a “perfect man” – which means that he will have perfect use of both reason and will.
Though, in general, by the “age of reason” we refer to around six or seven years of age, the real meaning of the phrase is to specify the point in which a child attains to the use of reason and free-will. When a child is capable of making morally significant decisions, we say that he has reached the “age of reason”.
Some will be quite surprised to realize that the Church has taught, in her ordinary Magisterium, that Christ our Savior had use of reason from the very first moment of his conception. While yet in the womb, our Lord was a rational man in regard to the powers of his human intellect, though his body was yet that of a tiny child.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The virgin birth of Christ - What the Church really teaches

Christ’s birth “did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it.” (Lumen Gentium [Vatican II], 57)
The Church teaches de fide that Mary was a virgin before, during, and after the birth of Christ our Savior. She conceived as a virgin, she gave birth as a virgin, and she remains a virgin forever. Yet, we ask, What does the Church mean when saying that Mary was a virgin “during birth”? What is the mystery we contemplate in the third joyful mystery of the Rosary? Why do the Popes and Church Fathers (together with the Doctors) insist that Christ’s birth was “miraculous”?
While we will briefly consider a few points from Scripture, our primary goal in this little article will be to describe just what exactly it is that the Church means when she professes that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Why did God send Gabriel for the Annunciation?

4th Sunday of Advent, Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.
Familiar as we are with the narrative of St. Luke’s Gospel, we are tempted to take it for granted that God sent the archangel Gabriel to announce the joyful news of the Incarnation to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary.
Yet, of course, it did not need to have happened that way. God could have forgone the Annunciation all together. Or one of the Persons of the Trinity could have appeared to Mary rather than sending an angel. Further, even granting that God chose to send an angel – he could have sent a seraphim rather than an archangel, or he could have sent Michael rather than Gabriel.
Why then did God choose to send an archangel? And why did he send Gabriel?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Biblical proof that Mary (and Joseph) made a vow of virginity

4th Sunday of Advent, Luke 1:26-38
But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”
The Gospel text recounting the Annunciation of the angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary contains the biblical evidence and proof that she had made a vow of virginity prior to her conception of the Christ Child. Further, as we consider the historical circumstances of her betrothal to Joseph, it will become quite clear that he also had vowed perpetual continence as the spouse of our Lady.
Rather than discussing the universal and emphatic teachings of the Fathers of the Church – all of whom assert that Mary had made a vow of virginity – because such texts will often be ignored by Protestants (to their eternal ruin), we will look simply at the Gospel text itself and shall assert only those things which are affirmed also by the Evangelist.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What was it like to be pregnant with the Savior?

For nine months, the Blessed Virgin Mary carried the Christ Child within her own body. She was “with child”, pregnant. The body of our Lord grew within her over those nine months, and he was sustained by the nourishment which was given him through her most pure body.
St. John of the Cross, whose feast we celebrate on Wednesday, writes beautifully of this mystery:
Del Verbo divino
La Virgen preƱada
Viene de camino
¡si le dais posada!
With the divine Word
The Virgin heavy
Comes down the way
If only you'll give her welcome!
During the season of Advent, we await the Nativity of our Savior; and it is only natural that, meditating upon the time before Christ’s birth, we should begin to ponder what the pregnancy was like. In such matters as these – which touch upon the most intimate union of our Lord and our Blessed Lady – we must write with great tenderness, caution, love, devotion, and dignity.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Whether St. John the Baptist is Elijah?

Third Sunday of Advent, John 1:6-8,19-28
So they asked him [John], “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.”
In this Sunday’s Gospel, its seems quite clear that St. John the Baptist is not Elijah – he even specifically denies it saying, “I am not Elijah”. Hence, we ought to think that John is not Elijah.
However, we may become confused if we consider the Sunday Gospel in relation to the Saturday morning Gospel (Matthew 17:9a,10-13) where Jesus says, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come”Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
The Savior makes this same point even more explicitly when he says: For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who is to come. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 11:13-15)
So, was or was not John the Baptist Elijah? John denied it, but Jesus seems to affirm it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Was Jesus immaculately conceived?

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception refers, as we know, to the blessed Virgin Mother of God as having been preserved from all sin (including the stain of original sin) from the first moment of her conception. The dogma, of course, is about the Immaculate Conception of Mary – even though many Catholics mistakenly think it refers to the virginal conception of the Christ Child.
Still, this common misconception about the Immaculate Conception leads us to a further point of reflection: Was Christ immaculately conceived? Our answer to this Christological question will help us to understand the Marian dogma in a new light.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Did St. Thomas deny the dogma of the Immaculate Conception?

As we prepare for the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Thomists are forced to face the rather popular criticism: “You know, St. Thomas doesn’t know everything. After all, he denied the Immaculate Conception!”
Beyond the obvious fact that no good Thomist would ever hold that St. Thomas knew literally everything in the first place, and the fact that nearly every person in St. Thomas’ day who held the Immaculate Conception held the dogma in a heretical way (claiming that our Lady did not need a Redeemer), and also the further point that most of the best theologians of the 12th and 13th centuries also seem to have denied the doctrine (including Sts. Bernard, Anselm, Albert the Great, and Bonaventure, as well as Peter Lombard and Hugh of St. Victor); beyond all of that, there is this little point: St. Thomas did not (most probably) deny the Immaculate Conception after all.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Why was John baptizing?, and John Paul II: When confession is need before communion

2nd Sunday of Advent, Mark 1:1-8
John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
St. John the Precursor is a central figure of the Advent season and his baptism is set before us not only this Sunday but also the following. But why was John sent to baptize in the first place?
What was the value of John’s baptism? Was it a sacrament? Did it forgive sins? Did it confer grace? Why did John baptize? We will see that our answer directs us to the devotion with which we must receive our Lord in Holy Communion, and the role that confession plays in preparing the way of the Lord.