Thursday, December 15, 2005

"Without spot of sin"

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To mark the Octave of the Feast of the Conception of Our Lady, I wanted to add some Anglican texts related to the subject.

I only recently discovered the reference to Mary's innocence in the preface for the Incarnation (used in Christmastide) from the Book of Common Prayer up until 1979. The prayer says:

"Because thou didst give Jesus Christ, thine only Son, to be born as at this time for us; who, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, was made very man, of the substance of the Virgin Mary his mother; and that without spot of sin, to make us clean from all sin."

I also found the following quotes. The first quote is from the Catechismus of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury (published in Volume III of the Father of the English Church).

"I believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, . . . was made perfect man, and was conceived in the womb of a woman, being a pure virgin, called Mary, of her proper substance, and her proper blood . . .

I believe also that all this was done by the working of the Holy Ghost, without the work of men, to the end that all that was wrought therein might be holy and without spot, pure, and clean; and that thereby our conception might be clean and holy, which of itself is altogether spotted and defiled with sin.

I believe that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, without any manner of sin, and without any breach of her virginity; so that by his pure and holy nativity he has purified and made holy ours, which of itself is altogether unclean and defiled with sin."

Archbishop William Wake of Canterbury, outlined the Church of England's poition on Mary in a sermon of 1688 to the members of Gray's Inn.

"We believe her to have been a most pure, and holy, and virtuous creature: that her virgin mind was clean and spotless, as her body chaste and immaculate; and that she was upon the account of both, the most fit of any of her race or sex for the Holy Ghost to over-shadow, and for the Son of the most highest to inhabit. When we consider the firmness of her faith, the fervour of her devotion, the excellence of her humility; we cannot but acknowledge a grace extraordinary in her, working all these eminent and divine qualities."

George Hickes, the Dean of Worcester also commented on the theme of the purity of Mary in one of his sermons.

"God the Father, who was to prepare a body for his eternal Son, . . . would not form it of the substance of a sinful woman, but his own essential holiness, as well as the mysterious decency of the dispensation would prompt him to form it of the substance of one, that like the king's daughter in the Psalm, was all glorious within, and a pure and spotless virgin, both in body and mind. We may also be assured from the holiness of God the Son, the eternal Word of the Father, that he would not . . . deign to be conceived in the womb of any woman, but of such an one, who was a vessel of honour, in whom the Spirit of God did dwell, and whose very body was a temple of the Holy Ghost.

She that was the Mother of God could not be but a very good woman; she that conceived, and bare, and brought forth the holy Child Jesus, the Virgin Mother of Immanuel, . . . surely must have been pure, as he was pure, and holy, as he was holy.

For to use the Apostle's phrase in another sense, the fulness of the Godhead could not dwell bodily in a wicked woman; nor could she be deceived and led away by the serpent, whose seed was to bruise the serpent's head.

Nay to be chosen for the Mother of God, was the greatest honour and favour that ever God conferred upon any human creature. None of the special honours and favours that he did to any of the saints before or since, are equivalent to the honour of being the Mother of God. And therefore we may be sure that God, who said, them that honour me I will honour, would not have done so great an honour to any daughter of Abraham, but to the one who best deserved it, to one of the holiest among the daughters of Israel, to the most heavenly minded Virgin of the tribe of Judah and the royal house of David; who had no superior for holiness upon earth."


Anonymous said...

Has there been any scientific inquiry into this?

I'm just wondering about the mechanics of the whole thing. How did the holy ghost actually impregnate Mary? I mean, for conception to take place, you need sperm right? So, did the holy ghost have sort of spirit sex with mary, like an incubus (and if so, did mary enjoy it? I certainly hope so.) And if that is the case, by what method can we speculate that it "delivered the package" so to speak?

Did it sort of teleport a packet of viable sperm into mary? Or did it affect the holy egg that would be Jesus directly (sort of like direct injection in-vitro fertilization)? Also, did it need just 1 sperm (a little power-swimmer), or did it use a regular amount (around 10,000,000 sperm).

Doesn't pregnancy by definition mean you are no longer a virgin? So how could we still call her the virgin mary ...if she gave birth?

Thank you in advance for explaining father.

Fr Timothy Matkin said...

Those are all interesting questions about the details of Jesus' conception. Of course, no scientific investigation is possible, probably not even if you could drag a team of doctors back in time for the occasion.

The Holy Spirit has a traditional role as the "giver of life," and so we would expect him to be involved in the incarnation. Luke's language about the Holy Spirit in the annunciation narrative may contain an allusion to the Spirit of God hovering over the waters in the creation narrative in Genesis.

What we are faced with the is the historical affirmation that Jesus has no biological father. We must either accept or reject that.

Texanglican (R.W. Foster+) said...

Thanks, Father, for posting this entry on early Anglican references to the BVM and her purity. Very helpful. Best wishes for a blessed Christ Mass and a happy New Year.