Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Blessed Virgin and the Blasting Out of the Baby Jesus

When I was expecting my second baby, lo those many years ago, my oldest would happily tell anyone in earshot that the new baby was going to "blast out" of mommy sometime soon. He also thought that maybe it was going to be a baby elephant, "like Dumbo."

He was wrong . . . on both counts. It was a baby person. And she was born the regular way, through and down and out and whatnot.

And there were the "pangs" (how's that for euphemistic, huh?) of childbirth to go with it. A challenge, to be sure, but I think it's kind of cool that women across the world and throughout time are united through the shared experience of pain in giving birth. Whether you went natural or opted for the epidural, be it regular or c-section, there's pain involved in there somewhere. It unites us in community with each other and with generations past.

But guess who's NOT in the club?

The Virgin Mary. That's who.

In addition to being different from us in things like talking with angels, and being a virgin when she conceived her baby, and not sinning . . . ever, she also had a very different experience of childbirth than the rest of us.

It's been the long and unbroken tradition of the Church that Jesus was born miraculously, blasting out, as it were, without breaking the seal of the womb and without pain to Mary.


It seems like, perhaps in an effort to make Mary more identifiable somehow, we've lost track of that deep and ancient tradition. In popular movies we see Mary giving birth the old fashioned way, with pain and pushing and all that.


Granted, she's considerably calmer than most of us can claim, but the birth depicted here seems like a regular, non-miraculous one.

But NOTHING about the incarnation was regular. Mary isn't someone we get to identify with, she's aspirational. She's perfect. She's sinless. And she gave birth painlessly, with her physical virginity intact.

The three essential aspects of Our Lady’s Virginity were defined by Pope St. Martin I in 649 at the First Lateran Council: she maintained her perfect virginity before, DURING, and after the birth of Jesus. This has always included the traditional patristic and magisterial understanding that Mary gave “miraculous birth” to Jesus (in the words of Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, 1943), without any violation to her virginity. As the Fathers of the Church explained, as “light passes through glass without harming the glass," so Jesus was born without affecting Mary physically.

The mystery of Mary’s virginity in giving birth to the Savior was preached and taught consistently by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. One finds beautiful expositions of it in the homilies and catecheses of St. Gregory of Nyssa (+ c. 394),  St. Ambrose (+ 397), St. John Chrysostom (+ 407), St. Proclus of Constantinople (+ 446), Theodotus of Ancyra (+ before 446), St. Peter Chrysologus (+ 450), Pope St. Leo the Great (+ 461), Severus of Antioch (+ 538), St. Romanos the Melodist (+ c. 560),  St. Venantius Fortunatus (+ c. 600), and Pope St. Gregory the Great (+ 604). ()


As Christians, we hear plenty about Mary's virginity before Jesus was conceived. And Catholics are clear on the point of her remaining a virgin after Jesus' birth. But I can't personally ever remember hearing a homily that mentioned Mary's virginity during birth.

However, the Church Fathers were quite clear about it back in the day.

St. Ambrose: There is a gate of the womb, although it is not always closed; indeed only one was able to remain closed, that through which the One born of the Virgin came forth without the loss of genital intactness (per quam sine dispendio claustrorum genitalium virginis partus exivit).

Pope St. Martin I: [Mary] gave birth to (God the Word) without corruption.

The Catechism of the Council of Trent:
For in a way wonderful beyond expression or conception, he is born of his Mother without any diminution of her maternal virginity. As he afterwards went forth from the sepulcher while it was closed and sealed, and entered the room in which his disciples were assembled, although “the doors were closed” (Jn. 20:19), or, not to depart from natural events which we witness every day, as the rays of the sun penetrate the substance of glass without breaking or injuring it in the least: so, but in a more incomprehensible manner, did Jesus Christ come forth from his mother’s womb without injury to her maternal virginity. …
To Eve it was said: “In pain you shall bring forth children” (Gen. 3:16). Mary was exempt from this law, for preserving her virginal integrity inviolate, she brought forth Jesus the Son of God, without experiencing, as we have already said, any sense of pain.

It's all a part of the fact that Christ's incarnation and birth are inextricably, wonderfully, beautifully bound together with his death and ressurection. The wood of the cross recalls the wood of the manger. Jesus was born without breaking the seal of the womb just as he rose from the dead without breaking the seal of the tomb.

How could she not have gazed at her son with awe and wonder on the night he was born?


How could we not do the same?

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57 comments:

  1. I had been wondering about this when pondering the third joyful mystery, but I never thought I could just look it up. This is so great, thank you for illuminating another wonderful mystery of our faith.

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  2. I tell myself that scene in the movie is just *pressure* ;) This has always been the hard one for me. (Out of all things, I know.) Because the stone WAS rolled away and Jesus participated in suffering and the work of the land because of Adam's sin. Why not Mary sharing in Eve's as co-mediatrix? This link that a reader shared with me once was the best explanation I've ever seen on it. http://home.earthlink.net/~mysticalrose/virginityinpartu.htm
    I don't think it's talked about much during homilies and things because priests are SO uncomfortable with what that actually means and laying it out and teaching requires a delicacy that they just don't want to attempt. Or (I think around here, at least) many of them unfortunately haven't been taught all that well either.

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    1. This was a great post! Ialeaysstrughle with is tradition for the same reasons that Mary just said. What just helped me appreciate this mystery a bit more was what you wrote about Jesus entering the locked room, physically, but without opening the locked door after His resurrection. As an aside, our parish priest actually DID preach about Mary's virginity during birth at a recent homily... I give him credit, but it also kinda made me squirm a bit... :)

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  3. Honestly, this one thing makes Mary seem so remote to me. I've experienced the greatest suffering in my life giving birth to my children. How can she relate to that if she had a painless birth? Although I do understand the idea that she, being sinless, should not have had to suffer the pain of childbirth the way the rest of us do. That at least makes sense. But to be perfectly frank, (forgive me here) I just think it's totally weird that the early church fathers were so focused on the state of the Blessed Mother's hymen. Especially since being a virgin and having an intact hymen are not inextricably linked - why is this particular point so insisted upon?

    Also it's not as though there is any way to back it up with actual evidence. Not like, say, the miracle of Juan Diego's tilma, where we have the actual artifact and can examine it and say "yes, this picture has no scientific explanation." I'm certain no one examined her at any point and discovered this, so where did this idea come from? Scripture tells us Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and that the Blessed Mother was a virgin. It doesn't say that she gave birth without any physical changes to her body. (I know this is my Protestant roots showing through, but I don't think this tradition has been defined as dogma? Please correct me if I'm wrong!)

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    1. Well, I followed Mary's link (comment above), and it looks as though I am wrong and it actually is dogma. (But I still think it's weird. WHY is this so important?)

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    2. I don't know whether it's dogma or not, Elizabeth, and I know there has also been a tradition that Mary remained a virgin (of course) but did experience pain in childbirth.

      Maybe the more important thing to think about is that whether or not Mary experienced physical pain in childbirth (or ever), she absolutely did experience acute emotional pain in her mothering. Her heart was pierced by a sword, right? The pains or at lest discomforts of pregnancy and childbirth (and I have no doubt it hurt to ride that donkey the day before giving birth!) are just the initiation into the joy/pain mix that so characterizes motherhood, not the apex of it. Her little boy never, sinned, no...but she watched Him be tortured and killed by their enemies. So she definitely felt pain in her motherhood, even if it wasn't physical. She is so, so like us. Her experiences of emotional pain are certainly enough for her to stand with us in our excruciating pain in childbirth, you know?

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    3. Elizabeth, I'm with you here. While I love Mary and feel like she takes such good care of me, many teachings of the Church about her (such as her perpetual virginity - and this one about no suffering in childbirth) are very hard for me to accept. I agree that her lack of physical suffering here makes her more remote, especially as a mother, and elevates her to a level that we, as mere sinful mortals, can NEVER attain. (Also, the obsession with virginity in general bothers me.) Compare this to following her example of virtue, her faithfulness to God, hope in His plan of salvation, obedience to His will, etc. which I think is at least in the realm of possibility for us to try and emulate. However, I think Dixie makes a great point that some of the most intense sufferings in this life are not physical but emotional, spiritual, and mental - and who felt this more intensely than Mary?

      Despite this apparently being dogma, I struggle. Personally, this is NOT so important to me (I agree with you - WHHHHY is this so important beyond the theological? I don't think it is). For me, I pray that God opens my heart and mind to understand more of these teachings and accept them, if nothing else, then by faith alone. But ultimately, I don't think God is bent out of shape that this is something you or I are not super on board with. (And I think it's good to question, struggle, and ask for answers!)

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    4. I think the "why" has more to do with her Immaculate Conception and cause and effect - Mary's Immaculate Conception IS super important, and thus a Virgin Birth, including its physical implications of integrity reveal something just as important as the Assumpton about the body. It's like TOB in the Gospel vs in Genesis - deeply revelatory about the original plan and then redemptive plan. We tend to think in slightly reductive moralistic terms in our American mindset - why is it "better" - it's a total gift and revelation, based on Who Mary was, just as our offering of our painful births United to the cross can be a gift because of who we are. Peace!

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    5. I have to agree with Elizabeth, it does make Mary harder to relate to... However, I don't think Mary was completely spared of all pain, for her whole life. After all, they said "her heart was pierced by a sword".

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    6. LPatter, that's a great point!

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  4. Interesting. I didn't know this was official, i thought it was still debated. I love parallels though, so reassuring to see God at the good and the bad.

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  5. This is so fascinating. Love it! I've never really contemplated the connection between the womb and the tomb that way. Plus, it's just one of those things that as a plain-old-non-theology-degree-holding Catholic I just say "I don't get it but the Church Fathers did. So I'll trust them."
    Also - who is the the artist for your first picture posted? (of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus in the clouds with the Angels surrounding). That is absolutely beautiful. Took my breath away. I would love to find a copy for my home somewhere. Thanks!!

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  6. I've always struggled with this as well. I mean, there is truly no way to know if she was a virgin during birth and after birth. I know that there are many aspects to faith that you simply need to believe without evidence, but this has always struck me as a weird one to fixate on. Does it imply that being a virgin makes her better than other women? It sure makes her different, but I don't think virginity (especially for a married woman) makes you holier. Why did the Church fathers care about this so much?

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    1. I think you've hit on an important distinction here. She was a virgin during birth and after birth, because being a virgin means never having had sexual intercourse. If an athletic young girl breaks her hymen (forgive me for being blunt) riding horseback or in a serious fall or doing gymnastics, no one claims she is no longer a virgin. That would be silly. This is why I agree with you; I fail to understand why the church fathers felt the physical intactness of the hymen was such an important point.

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    2. YES! I totally agree with this point, Elizabeth!

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    3. ^^ditto. Well said, Elizabeth.

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  7. I'm sorry. I love my Church, I love Mary, and I respect the authority of the Magisterium. But...I am having a LOT of trouble with this one. Not with the painless part, but with all the hymen talk.

    Pardon me while I get very biologically detailed. I think the issue requires it. There is no "seal of the womb," unless you mean the mucus plug that forms at the cervix during pregnancy. But I suspect that is not what these *MEN* are talking about, if they were even aware of the mucus plug's existence. I think they are talking about the hymen - which does NOT seal the womb shut in any way, shape, or form - and I think the only reason they are talking about the hymen is because they equate it with Mary's virginity.

    There is no "physical virginity." An intact hymen doesn't make you a virgin. Not having sex makes you a virgin. Equating the two is unscientific, morally confused, and weird. How many young ladies did you know growing up who talked about being technical virgins, when they were far from chaste? And how few of you actually bled when you were first intimate? As we all know, many ordinary activities partially or fully rupture the hymen. Such as, say, riding on a donkey for countless miles while 9 months pregnant.

    Did Mary never menstruate, either? How could she, with an airtight, saran-wrapped hymen? Or did her uterine lining miraculously pass through the hymen every month, "like light passes through glass"? Did the same thing happen to her placenta?

    Maybe the answer is, she never ovulated, never had an "LH surge," never had cervical fluid, never menstruated, never had a uterine lining, never had a placenta, and never had an umbilical cord because Jesus didn't need any of that hardware?

    Why is any of this something the Church takes a position on?

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    1. Yes. This is precisely what I struggle with. The whole conversation just seems...weird. And like it's completely missing the point.

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    2. Thank you, Lisa. Virginity is a decision to abstain from sex. I don't get the obsession with hymens. It's not a moral issue.

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  8. Wow...as evidenced by the comments, this is a difficult tradition to accept. I'm just going to chime in with a little peacemaking perspective here...
    The dogma of the Church that we must accept, or "be anathema" is that Mary remained a virgin before, during, and after birth. However, as Lisa pointed out, our understanding of what virginity (physically) is has changed since the church fathers spoke on this matter. The church fathers, for the record, said a lot of things that were biologically untrue in their attempts to explain theological matters that ARE very true. (Case in point, Clement of Alexandria, in his attempt to teach that the Blood of Christ in the Eucharist nourishes our souls, explained that a mother's nourishing breast milk is actually just frothed-up blood...um, really? And we've all heard the "St. Thomas Aquinas said girls don't have souls right away" argument ad nauseam.)
    I think it worth noting that even the "pain in childbirth" is only one translation of a passage which could also be interpreted "toil in childbirth." If we take that latter translation, the toil of a woman in labor matches her husband's original-sin-consequence of toil in his work. We know that Christ, untouched by sin as He was, worked as a carpenter. So on that account, is it so unreasonable to wonder if Mary toiled through birth? Again, this doesn't necessarily mean pain. Lots of women have painless births--and NOT just from epidurals or interventions, either. Are they miraculously free from Eve's punishment?
    How Mary gave birth is--again, as the Fathers and Church have always said--a mystery. Personally, I can't wait to get to Heaven and find out. I can't really wrap my brain around skipping the whole birth canal, but I refuse to hold a hard-and-fast opinion on the matter, because I'm open to being amazed.

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    1. "Open to being amazed." -I love your whole post but that last line gave me chills :) Amen!

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  9. P.S. I've always loved that Nativity painting by Giotto. But doesn't it look like St. Joseph is thinking, "I am SO tired, I wish those angels would just stop singing for one minute!" ;)

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  10. I remember first hearing this teaching, that Jesus came forth into the world via a ray of light as a means of preserving Mary's virginity, when I was about 14 years old. As a young girl, in love with my faith and the holy Church, I remember being shocked and deeply confused by the necessity of such a teaching. Like so many girls/women, it had never occured to me that the birth of our Savior was linked in any way to Mary's sexuality or physical virginity. It seemed almost obsece to say that any baby, let alone the Son of God, would have corrupted her perpetual virginity, by simply passing through the birth canal. I sought to accept this connection, but I also remember feeling physically degraded, that somehow my hope of one day birthing children was in and of itself a corruptible event.
    As a grown woman, blessed with a third baby on the way (my first girl), and a college education rooted in the study of women in the early church, I now see the importance of historical context in regard to this particular teaching. Yes, Mary's perpetyal virginity is dogma - how it is defined during her labor is by no means so. It is ultimately a myserty, and one that I truly believe will be more greatly understood in time as women are invited to table of discussion. We must always seek obedience to our Mother Church, but as adult women, it seems we must also recognize a need to accept that leaders in our past have had very flawed and harmful concepts of the female body. I seek to be Orthodox, but for the sake of my daughter, I will continue to wrestle with this.
    Although this would not be on my top list of topics to bring up as we near Christmas, I am grateful for the thought provoking discussion, the challenge of remaining humble and ultimately the bravery of our Holy Mother, who trusted in the Lord perfectly, and thus was free of the greatest pains of childbirth: fear and despair.

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    1. Thank you for this very articulate response. I love your final paragraph, especially.

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    2. Ahhh.....this makes so much sense. THANK YOU!!

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  11. Also, I found this to be a helpful link in resting in the myserty of "virginitas in partu" -https://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/DURBIRTH.HTM

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  12. Thank you for clearing this up! I had always wondered about this as well.

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  13. As a member of the LDS church it is very interesting to me to read about what your church believes. I am just wondering how Catholics interpret the scripture Mark 6:3 that lists the names of Jesus's brothers and states that he had sisters. The LDS church believes that these are the children that Mary had with Joseph after Jesus' birth. So therefore Mary was no longer a virgin because she went on to have other children. Just wondering what your thoughts are on this.

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    1. Catholics believe that that verse refers to Jesus' extended family, rather than actual brothers and sisters. It's my understanding that there isn't a difference in the word for "siblings" and for "cousins" there's just one word that means "kin."

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    2. This scripture verse is one of those great examples of why we can't consider only the English translation of the Bible. Kendra's explanation is totally correct, but I would add that in both Mark 6:3 and Matthew 12:46 the reference ti brethren or kin or brothers and sisters are ask the translation of "adelphoi" which is the original Greek and means, as Kendra says, kin or relatives because there's not a direct translation for Cousins in Hebrew or Ancient Greek. There are also examples of this Greek term used for "relatives" in John's Gospel, and many Old Testament books like 1 Sam 1:26, Deut 23:27, etc. This is all info from the Ignatius Study Bible in case anyone is wondering (I'm not a scholar but the folks who publish that Bible are! )

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    3. Ok I have also heard that about the Hebrew language so that makes sense. Thanks for answering. A lot of my ancestors were Catholic so it's always interesting to me to learn more about what they believed.

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  14. This is a great question and, like that of the Immaculate Conception, rests on a linguistic oddity. Hebrew is a "weak" language, and does not have as many words as we are blessed with in English, but the words they have are generally multipurpose. So we use "brethren" a lot in translation, which is quite vague, but lacks the biological specificity of "brothers and sisters." There's no doubt that Jesus had a large extended family, and was probably swarmed with cousins, but the teaching of the Church since the most ancient times has been that Jesus was Mary's only child.

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  15. Please note that the Church never has authoritatively ruled on the interpretation or specifics of . Moreover, on July 27, 1960, the Holy Office (now the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) warned again discussing this issue in a way "...clearly opposed to the traditional doctrine of the Church and the devotional sense of the faithful." Quote from EWTN.com on the question of this matter. So I don't think it has been established one way or the other- it is a mystery. And anyhow, why dwell upon this?

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    1. Thank you for bringing this up. I feel like for lack of a better word, your point should be used as a "disclaimer" whenever the specifics of this topic are discussed. There is the dogma of Mary's perpetual virginity...and the interpretations of how this is manifested during the birth...and sometimes the later is conflated with the former. Your point is important and helpful for all.

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  16. My thought/question to all those seemingly unhappy about "fixating" on this topic would be, after reading through the comments, why worry about what the specific teaching was if it's something you don't care to think deeply about? If the portion of all this that we have no choice but to accept is that Mary was a Virgin forever and always, and you accept that, then why not just move on? Maybe the pondering of this particular aspect is helpful to some people.. To me, there are so many tenets that I don't fully understand, another hardly upsets me. Of course to each his own, if you want to struggle with something because it's important to you, that's wonderful. But if you find worrying about a small detail that actually isn't dogma (like the specifics as to how Jesus got out) is detrimental to you in some way, maybe just pass it by?

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    1. When I say "the specific teaching," I mean the ones that are not dogma. Poor wording, my bad. I meant a person long ago's guess as to how Jesus exited the womb while leaving Mary a virgin, which, unless I'm mistaken, is not a matter of dogma and is just an idea meant to support the actual dogma of Mary's perpetual virginity.

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    2. I don't really fixate on this topic, but since Kendra brought it up it was an opportune time to get some input into what, to me, has always seemed an extremely odd discussion among the early church fathers. I promise it isn't something I lose sleep over. :-) I'm really enjoying the discussion here - thanks to everyone who has offered her thoughts!

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    3. Ah, okay. It sounded like several people didn't like the Church and others fixating on it, so I was thinking maybe it would be one of those things better ignored. You know? But it is an interesting discussion, I agree. I hadn't ever considered it, except disbelief that Mary would be able to go through the normal birth process in a stable.. Not like it couldn't theoretically happen, just exactly how awful it would have had to be.

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  17. I think that by seeing Christ's birth as truly miraculous also clears up a lot of details that occur with childbirth. For those of us who have given birth we know first hand-- its a bloody mess. And they were essentially in a barn. There was no midwife available to Mary, and since St. Joseph was the only one there to assist her, it would be strange (in my humble opinion ;)) for him to see her giving birth, in such an intimate way, if they were truly living a completely chaste life (which they did). I'm sure the argument could be made of a brother assisting his sister birth, but even so, I think this was different. After all, this wasn't just anyone being born that night. :)

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  18. A nun told me when I was a teenager that the Christ Child emerged from the Blessed Mother in a great beam of light, and I thought at the time that was rather odd! Since then I have wondered, if the Blessed Mother had a painless childbirth, then what is meant in Revelation 12:2, in the part about the woman clothed with the sun: "And being with child she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered."
    To me it's still a mystery, but I still pray to the Blessed Mother when I'm in labor and feel she understands what I'm going through!

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    1. The last time I gave birth, I spent all my contractions meditating on Christ's agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. It seemed much more germane to what I was going through at the time.

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    2. That's the thing, I noticed, with mysteries. My husband is going through RCIA and they were discussing heresies having to do with Jesus being God AND man, like no, he's not God taking on man's appearance, and no, he's not a super man, and no, he doesn't have like two separate persons, just two natures... And it occurred to me thar with every bit cleared up by a theory, be it the heresies OR the truth/Church teaching, other problems pop up that are seemingly unclear. It's maddening! ;] Except for the fact that God would be quite a disappointment if he fit nicely in a human box.

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  19. While the Protoevangelium of James is not canonical scripture, many of the stories in it are considered pious legends and it mentions two midwives who were there for the nativity. One of them, Salome, didn't believe in Mary's perpetual virginity and checked her and her hand withered. It was healed upon touching Jesus.
    Just wanted to throw that related bit in before saying... This is weird. Can't we just agree on her Perpetual Virginity and not worry about specifics?

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  20. I think advent should be the unofficial season of birth stories. Following Mary's lead about how each birth story looks different.

    You gotta expect The birth of Jesus, the God man, to be pretty badass.

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  21. Whoa. this is a really good discussion. Thanks for food for thought.

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  22. I hate the great hymen debate of the BVM. Kendra, I think you have overstated your position regarding the miraculous birth. We are free to believe anything we like regarding the integrity of her hymen, including ignoring it. What we must believe is that she is ever-virgin. The ancient version of the nativity icon shows Mary reclining on a childbirth bed and Jesus being washed of bodily fluids by the two midwives. It is interesting to compare the icon of the nativity of our Lord with the icon of the nativity of Mary. Holy Anna is shown reclining on a childbirth bed being brought food and drink by two attendants while two attendants wash the baby Mary. In the nativity icon, Mary reclines on the childbirth bed with a peaceful look. No one attends to her because she has been through a miraculous birth. Nevertheless, Jesus, who is fully human and like us in all things but sin, is being washed by midwives. The early fathers claimed that the birth was miraculous, but also that Jesus must have fully entered into the human experience to redeem it. There was once a movement to paint over the scene of him being bathed by midwives because of an uneven focus on his divinity. Yet, St. John of Damascus and others taught that it was necessary for Christ to be born like us, even while miraculously maintaining her virginity. "After the normal nine month gestational period, Christ was born at the beginning of the tenth, in accordance with the law of gestation. It was a birth that surpassed the established order of birth giving, as it was without pain; for, where pleasure had not proceeded, pain did not follow. And just as at His conception, He had kept her who conceived Him intact, so also at His birth did He maintain her virginity intact, because he passed through her and kept her shut. While the conception was by “hearing”, the birth was by the usual orifice through which children are born, even though there are some who concoct an idle tale of His being born from the side of the Mother of God. For it was not impossible for him to pass through the gate without breaking the seals." So, in refuting the idea that Christ was somehow less man than God, the fathers supported the restoration of the ancient form of the icon showing Christ being washed even while showing Mary unattended and comfortable after a miraculously painless birth that left her intact, but still allowed Christ to be born through the normal means because he is like us in all things but sin. Thus, the miracle was in the preservation of Mary's body and not in the absence of Jesus being born like us. Anywho, that is one view and you can certainly find support for your view, but neither view is a definitive teaching. Thankfully, most theologians don't spend a ton of time contemplating her hymen. So, why did you bring it up? You can discuss her virginity without getting into this hairy topic, right?

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    1. There is absolutely room for debate here. And I have found all the commentys quite interesting.

      As someone who grew up Catholic but without the knowledge of any of the rich history of tradition of the Church, I just find these ancient, widely held beliefs fascinating. I love the concept of the womb and the tomb. I find the argument that Mary wouldn't have been subject to the pain of childbirth because she was free from original sin very compelling.

      From my research on the subject, I'm convinced that this would have been a part of her perpetual virginity. But others might do their research and come to another conclusion. As long as folks inform their consciences, they should feel comfortable being guided by them, I think. :)

      Thanks for taking the time to weigh in.

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  23. Is there any Biblical support to the claim that Mary didn't feel pain during childbirth or gave birth in a non-traditional way?

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  24. I tend to agree that it is misguided to assume that "perpetual virginity" means "completely exempt from the human condition." Because that's essentially what we're arguing when we use one miracle (the Immaculate Conception of Mary and then the Incarnation of Jesus) to reason our way to another (the supposed miraculous birth) for the sake of explaining something that we don't even know to be the case (Mary suffering no pain or other ill effects from giving birth).

    We are arguing that because Mary was sinless, she was exempt from the "curse of Eve" of pain in childbirth, yes? Well, as someone else pointed out, Hebrew can be pretty vague. Plus, all of humanity's OTHER negative experiences are also a result of original sin (which Mary was exempt from, remember?), and I don't see anyone arguing that Mary:

    - Had no morning sickness
    - Had no discomfort as her organs rearranged to make accomodation for the growing King of Kings
    - Had no discomfort from being nine months pregnant and looking forward to labor
    - Never had sore / cracked nipples while nursing Jesus
    - Never had to clean up an epic poop-splosion on a scale that could only be caused by an infant I AM

    Specifically with regard to Mary's physical incorruption - injury, aging, and death are also results of original sin. We know that she evaded death by being assumed into Heaven, but she did age, and surely she wasn't exempt from being bruised, getting splinters, being saddlesore, or just being tired.

    TL/DR: If we are arguing that Mary was exempt from the physical effects of original sin, then to be consistent we need to assume that she was exempt from much more than physical pain during childbirth.

    P.S. Complete speculation here, but what makes more sense to me is that she was not exempt from the pain of childbirth (even as she remained ever virgin, whatever that actually means in practice). I think that she was in control of the experience in a way that we are not. I think that when she felt those first few contractions she was able to pat Jesus and say, "Just a few more minutes - Joseph is finding us a place to stay" and he waited a bit longer. I think that when she was ready to PUSH, she was able to say, "Hang on there, Son - the midwives should be here shortly," and he waited a bit. I think that she retained her higher order mental functions during labor in a way that we do not. I think she chose every contraction, every push, every pang, and chose it joyfully because she had the perspective on suffering that we do not. Finally, I think she had no postpartum body and needed no recovery from childbirth. THAT is how I picture the birth of Jesus.

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  25. Your house is so beautiful! I recognized that it had to be in one of two cities because I grew up in the area. I found it easily on a realty website. Don't worry, I won't say where it's located. I only looked it up to see if there were more pictures and there wasn't! Disappointed. I hope you will post pictures of the whole house and especially before and after. I grew up in an old large house that my parents renovated about 10 miles from your house. This brings back memories.

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    1. Thanks Debbie! Yes, there will be more photos. :)

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  26. I was wondering if the "pain of childbirth" mentioned in the Bible as a curse encompasses the pain of fertility, if you will. I don't have kids, but I guess the "pain" of simply being a fertile female always seemed to fit into this category. (I know, it can't compare to childbirth itself.) Would this then, apply to Mary? Was she redeemed from the curse/pain of fertility in general, or only childbirth? Not trying to split hairs, but for some reason, I've always thought "childbirth" included all that is necessary to make childbirth possible.

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    1. That is a really interesting question. I've never thought about whether or not Mary was actually fertile, because it doesn't much matter either way if she remained a virgin her whole life. Except you're right, why wouldn't she be spared all the pains of fertility and cycles and red tents and purification rituals and whatnot? Interesting. I've never heard it discussed before. I do get what some of the other commentators have pointed out, that it's not really our business. And I'm fine with not knowing. But I do think it's an interesting question.

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  27. St. Ambrose of Milan
    “Who is this gate (Ezekiel 44:1-4), if not Mary? Is it not closed because she is a virgin? Mary is the gate through which Christ entered this world, when He was brought forth in the virginal birth and the manner of His birth did not break the seals of virginity…There is a gate of the womb, although it is not always closed; indeed only one was able to remain closed, that through which the One born of the Virgin came forth without the loss of genital intactness” (St. Ambrose of Milan, The Consecration of a Virgin and the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, 8:52; ca. AD 391).

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