The Mother Of Christ by Father Vassall-Phillips Part 19

St. Epiphanius also was indignant:

"Some men [the new heretics] have ventured to outrage with insult that Holy and Blessed Virgin, saying that after the wondrous and virgin mystery of the Lord's Incarnation she suffered the loss of virginity—a thing which surpasses all other wickedness and impiety."

Again he writes :

" Who in any generation has ever dared to utter the name of Holy Mary and did not at once, when asked, straightway add the title of Virgin ?"

What, one wonders, would the Saints of old— what would Ambrose, Jerome and Epiphanius—-what would any one of the great Fathers Of the Church who in unbroken line, handed on the Divine Tradition and proclaimed the glory of Mary's spotless virginity—have found to say, had they surmised that in these latter days men should arise who would declare that they had the right still to call themselves Christians, nay, to remain even official teachers, and in certain cases highly placed dignitaries, in a Christian Church and yet deny that our Lady was a virgin when she bore her Divine Son.

In two places in the Koran, Muhammed, more Christian in this than some modern Anglicans, asserts the Virginity of our Lady: "And Mary, the daughter of Imram who kept her maidenhood, and into whose womb We [God] breathed of Our Spirit."

Anglican Modernists assure us that it is possible to deny our Lady's Virginity and yet preserve the sub stance of Christianity. How different was the judgment of the Fathers of the Church. St. Proclus, the disciple of St. John Chrysostom, gave utterance to the sentiment of all in these words:

"Unless His Mother had remained a virgin, her offspring would have been but man, and the mystery of the Birth would have been lost. But if after her childbearing she remained a virgin, how shall not He be God and a Mystery which is unutterable?"

We are told that it is necessary to conciliate and come to terms with the " modern mind."

Strip then, if you will, the Faith of its awful Mystery. Suggest, if it please you, to " the modern man," that the Gospel narrative is a myth, or—to quote the words of Dr. Sanday, a most highly respected and moderate exponent of the new view— that it is at best a realistic expression, adapted to the thought of a time that is long past, of an ineffable truth which the thought of bygone ages could not express in any other way 1 —tell him, if it seems good to you, that you are able " to subsume the idea of the Virgin-Birth under the yet larger and more important idea of Supernatural Birth"—say to him, if it pleases you: "I will venture to express my meaning in a phrase: it all seems to me to stand (sit venia verbo) for the direct influx of Deity into mankind"  —but who that knows "the modern man" as he is, will expect him to agree with you ? Numberless modern minds, like ancient minds and mediaeval minds before them, bow down in reverence before "the Mystery hidden in God from endless ages"—the Mystery of the Incarnation of God, born in time of a Virgin Mother—but, outside a handful of leisured Anglican clergymen dreaming their lives away in theoretic speculations, who will be ready "to subsume the idea of the Virgin Birth under that of a supernatural birth " ? Men will ask, and I think will ask with reason, why should they be called upon to do anything of the kind ?

Dr. Sanday's fine phrases, if perilously vague, may sound pleasantly enough to the ear of the unbeliever, but how shall they escape the charge of tampering with the Faith ? If " the supernatural birth," of which Dr. Sanday informs his readers that he has neither doubt nor hesitation, 1 be not that Birth from a Virgin-Mother, concerning which we read in the Gospels, which is enshrined in the Creeds, which has been the object of the adoring wonder of all the Christian Saints, which has inspired the Martyrs in their torments, and has been reckoned the glory of womanhood and the joy of humanity in every believing heart—if the picture of Mary the Virgin venerated in every Catholic home is the picture of one who is not a virgin at all, but of one who bore her Son as other women bear their children—then what is Christianity but a fraud, and why—can any one tell me why in plain language which I can understand— why should I believe in any supernatural birth of any kind whatsoever ? If men are taught that Joseph was (or perhaps was) the father of our Lord Jesus Christ in the same sense that Mary is His Mother, they will soon regard Jesus Christ as no more than human. Nor, in view of the teaching of Christianity throughout the centuries, would this be an unreasonable conclusion.

Christianity has always taught that the Saviour of the world was born of a pure Virgin. Until recent years the Virginity of our Lady was taught unhesitatingly by all Anglican Divines. Bishop Pearson, for example, thus bears witness to the common Christian teaching:

" We show first that the Messias was to be born of a Virgin according to the prediction of the Prophets ; secondly, that this Mary, of whom Christ was born, was really a Virgin when she bare Him, according to the relation of the Evangelists; thirdly, that being at once the Mother of the Son of God, and yet a Virgin, she continued for ever in the same Virginity, according to the Tradition of the Fathers and the constant doctrine of the Church."

And again:

"We believe the Mother of our Lord to have been not only before and after His Nativity, but also for ever, the most Immaculate and Blessed Virgin."

If this be false, or if it be merely " a realistic expression," who can expect to be listened to when he attempts to deny that Christianity has proclaimed a falsehood on the housetops? It is, assuredly, far more difficult for "the modern mind" (at least as we find that mind in the ordinary modern man) to believe—in the teeth of the Gospels and in flat contradiction to authoritative, worldwide Christian teaching in every age—that Christ was born (or may have been born) as the result of the laws that govern birth in other men, and yet to preserve his faith in Christ's Godhead, than it can be frankly to accept the Christian Creed. That Creed must either remain what it is—a supernatural Mystery transcending in a thousand ways common experience, or in the minds of men it will soon lose all serious import and be banished to the galleries that contain curious pictures of the dead. It would, like the outworn religions of the past, cease to live.