Page images
PDF
EPUB

Some proofs for the perpetual virginity of Mary have already been given in our Commentary of the Gospel of the Annunciation. Helvidius alleged that the fact that the Evangelist had excluded the matrimonial union up to a certain limit,“—and he knew her not till she had brought forth a son,” etc., supposes that such union took place afterwards. Jerome refutes this by citing passages where such a preposition totally negatives the event spoken of. The truth is that such statements, must be interpreted according to the nature and circumstances of the event. Sometimes the fixing of such a limit suggests that the event spoken of is to take place after the limit. Thus in the statement, “The persecution of the Church continued from Nero until the days of Constantine," the clear suggestion is therein contained that it ceased with Constantine. On the other hand, as has been well said, when the Scriptures declare that “Michal, the daughter of Saul, had no child till the day of her death," it does not suppose that there is midwifery in the grave. Therefore we must determine whether the preposition assigns a limit beyond which the event spoken of is to be expected or not. In the statement of Matthew the mere force of language leaves the proposition indeterminate as regards subsequent events: his purpose is only to exclude any operation of the male principle in the conception of Jesus. But the marvelous dealing of God with Mary, the relations of Joseph to her, her character and mission as revealed to us in the Scriptures prepare us to expect the αειπαρθενεία. .

Jerome in his treatise against Helvidius, cites for the Catholic opinion the great witnesses Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenæus, Justin the Martyr, “and many learned apostolic men.” Jerome challenges Helvidius to cite any authority for his side, except the heretical Tertullian and Victorinus of Pettau ( +330). Victorinus speaks not of children of Mary, but of children of St. Joseph.

That in Scriptural usage the term brother is employed of kindred not in the strict sense of brothers is so clearly proven that to deny it is ignorance. Abram calls his nephew Lot his brother, Gen. XIII. 8; the cousins of the daughters of Eleazar are called their brethren, I. Chron. XXIII. 21; Nadab

[ocr errors]

and Abihu, sons of Aaron, are called brethren of Mishæl and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel, the uncle of Aaron, Lev. X. 4; the kindred in general of Ahaziah are called his brethren, II. Kings (Vulg. IV. Kings) X. 13. Were the Mother of God also mother of other children, it would be singular indeed that no mention of such maternity is found in Scripture; and that the Mother of Jesus is confided to St. John's care, and not to one of these supposed children. The attempt of Mayor in Hasting's Dictionary to set aside the force of this argument is ridiculous. Renan who in his Vie de Jésus had adopted the theory that Mary had more children than Jesus, ten years later abandoned this theory, and declared that it was improbable that Mary had more than one son (Les Évangiles, 1877, p. 542.).

The doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity is supported by all the great witnesses of the faith in the East and in the West. This truth has also the sanction of infallible authority. In the seventh century the Council of Lateran by the authority of Martin I. condemned “any one who should say that the ever-virgin and immaculate Mary ... had not given birth to the Son of God without loss of her virginity, which remained intact after her motherhood.” In 1555, Paul IV. against the Socinians defined that the doctrine of Mary's virginity before her conception, in her conception, and after her conception was a part of Catholic faith.

In determining the degree of kinship of those called brethren of the Lord, the Fathers are not of one accord. St. Jerome speaks severely of those who assert that these brethren were the children of St. Joseph by a preceding marriage. This opinion Jerome calls a dream of the Apocryphal Gospels (In Matt. XII. 49.). St. Epiphanius, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Cyril of Alexandria accept the statement of the Apocryphal Gospels. Origen and St. Hilary seem to incline to this opinion, while the belief of Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius and Ambrosiaster is doubtful. St. Jerome declares that those called brethren of the Lord were born of Mary whom the Gospels call the mother of James the Less and of Joseph; that this Mary was daughter or descendent of Klopas; that she was wife of Alphæus, and maternal aunt of Jesus, being the sister of the Mother of Jesus. Jerome draws this beautiful conclusion: "Thou sayest (O Helvidius) that Mary remained not a virgin; but I claim more than that, namely, that Joseph was also a virgin on account of Mary, in order that he who was the Virgin by excellence should be born in a marriage of virgins.”—Adv. Helvid. 19.

Though SS. Chrysostom and Augustine had for a time adhered to the opinion of St. Epiphanius, they later accepted St. Jerome's opinion and from this epoch the theory that St. Joseph was the father of children is rejected by all the Fathers. So concordant is this witness that the doctor of the Church, St. Peter Damian declared that it was “the expression of the Catholic faith” (Opusc. XV. 113.). St. Thomas declares the opposite opinion false (In Epist. ad Gal. I. V.).

Petavius is censured by many theologians for representing this belief as only a more probable opinion. On the other hand some believe that Corluy has exceeded bounds in pronouncing the opposite opinion rash (Les Études, 1878. I. 15.).

We see, therefore, that by intrinsic evidence of Scriptural texts, by the authority of the great witnesses of the faith, by the confirmation of the Christian conscience, and by the infallible voice of the Church, the perpetual virginity of the Mother of God is made a part of our faith. Concerning the exact identity of those called brethren of the Lord, the question is open. Some believe them sons of the sister of the Blessed Virgin; others believe them sons of the brother of St. Joseph; while others believe that Simeon and Jude were born of Klopas, brother of St. Joseph, while James and Joseph were born of a Mary, sister of St. Joseph, and that this Mary was the wife of Alphæus. While the more probable opinion identifies James and Jude the brethren of the Lord with the Apostles James the Less and Jude, yet there is no evidence at hand to afford us certainty.

The perpetual virginity of St. Joseph while not an article of faith, is strongly rooted in the pious belief of the faithful, and accords better with the Scriptures.

The place given to St. Joseph in the designs of God seems incompatible with any other character than that which Catholic devotion has always given him, the virgin spouse and protector of the Mother of God.

The plain words of Scripture leave no doubt that these kinsfolk did not believe in the Messiahship of Jesus. His life to them was a mystery. They had seen him grow to manhood in the little village of Nazareth. Except for a wonderful grace of expression and form, he was in the likeness of men, and “in fashion as a man. He occupied no exalted station, received no notice from men. He did the humble deeds of an artisan, and apparently counted as a small factor in the world's population. Israel looked for a Messiah, but its Messiah was to be a king

When the public life of Jesus began, kinsfolk and townsfolk were puzzled. They heard his wonderful words, they saw his wonderful works. Men spoke of other works still more wonderful. He had empire over the winds and the sea; he had empire over disease and death; and yet how could it be?-one of the poorest citizens of Nazareth laying claim to be the consubstantial Son of God!

Let us not judge these people too harshly. We are able to gain a more comprehensive view of the Christ. All the lowliness of his life is sublimed into effulgent glory by the sacrifice of Calvary and the Resurrection from the dead; and yet how often our belief in him is a mere dead name!

The advice here given seems to have been given in good faith as a tentative effort to test the true character of the Son of God.

There is no doubt that in the sixth verse Jesus denotes as his time, the day of the Crucifixion. This was the hour of his supreme devotion to duty. This was the hour for which he lived, and for which he worked. This was the hour in which the work which the Father had given him to do was to be consummated. This hour was not yet come, and therefore, as far as was compatible with duty, Jesus avoided danger.

A human act is always modified by circumstances. Thus the same virtue will impel a man to act in a directly opposite manner on two different occasions. All virtues and all perfections were in Jesus, and in all the varied circumstances of human life we always find him the absolute exemplar of virtue. In him there is no extravagance, no defect, but the absolute equipoise and harmony of goodness. Duty forbade him

needlessly to expose himself to danger till his hour was come. There is encountered some difficulty to explain what Christ means by the contrast, “but your time is always ready. The words of Christ seem to contain a reproach of his brethren. This is confirmed by the seventh verse; Jesus was obliged to go up secretly to Jerusalem, because he had aroused the hatred of a world whose crimes be rebuked. But no such danger awaited his brethren at Jerusalem. They might go when and how they pleased, for they had not antagonized the spirit of the world.

The eighth verse contains no command to the brethren to go to the feast, but it simply declares that they are free to go, and that there is no danger for them in going.

Another difficulty that confronts us is to reconcile Christ's statement with his line of action. In the eighth verse he declares that he will not go up to the feast, and yet in the tenth verse he goes up secretly to the feast. To soften this seeming contradiction, we believe that the reading oŭtw came into many of the codices. In fact, the Revised Edition has it: “I go not up yet unto the feast."

The "yet” is superfluous, and it does not take away the difficulty. Christ gives as his cause of not going to the feast, that his time had not yet come. Now only a few days later he did appear at the feast, and yet his time was many months distant.

If we were confronted with an inexplainable line of conduct in the life of Christ, we should not accuse him of inconsistency; but we should confess our inability to comprehend Jesus' divine life.

Now all that we shall say to explain the motives of Jesus' actions must always be taken in conjunction with this principle. In studying the divine life of Jesus we are groping in the darkness of our present state, and yet trying to follow the footsteps of God.

We believe that when Jesus says: “I go not up to this feast,” he means: “I go not up publicly to manifest myself to the world at Jerusalem, as ye counsel." He was expected at Jerusalem; perhaps plots were laid for him; and by withdrawing from the feast for the first days, he accomplished the purpose for which he refused to go, as advised to go by his brethren.

« PreviousContinue »