The Virgin Shall Conceive

It’s Advent, so it probably won’t be long before we’ll be subjected to the standard rant about Isaiah 7.14: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

What you may hear is that the Hebrew word for “virgin” is bethulah, but the word here is alma, which simply means “a young girl,” so the early Christians who thought Isaiah 7.14 meant “virgin” were simply confused.

I’ve had to endure this rant several times from the pulpit, and it’s trotted out every few years in the mainstream media, trumpeted as though it were the fruit of the latest biblical scholarship.

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USSCB spokesman: Catholic doctrine will “probably” stand until the end of time.

“The effort in this translation was to be as faithful to the original Hebrew as possible,” says the USCCB’s Mary Elizabeth Speers. “It doesn’t mean the bishops are changing their mind on the virgin birth of Jesus or the perpetual virginity of Mary. That doctrine stands, and will probably stand until the end of time.”

Editor’s note: What’s with the “probably” nonsense? And what business do the “scholars” of the New American Bible have, publishing a translation for the Catholic Church, that is in direct opposition to the words of the official Catechism of the Catholic Church? And how can the bishops of the United States even think of permitting such a thing?

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Mary’s virginity

496 From the first formulations of her faith, the Church has confessed that Jesus was conceived solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, affirming also the corporeal aspect of this event: Jesus was conceived “by the Holy Spirit without human seed”.146 The Fathers see in the virginal conception the sign that it truly was the Son of God who came in a humanity like our own. Thus St. Ignatius of Antioch at the beginning of the second century says:

You are firmly convinced about our Lord, who is truly of the race of David according to the flesh, Son of God according to the will and power of God, truly born of a virgin,. . . he was truly nailed to a tree for us in his flesh under Pontius Pilate. . . he truly suffered, as he is also truly risen.147

497 The Gospel accounts understand the virginal conception of Jesus as a divine work that surpasses all human understanding and possibility:148 “That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”, said the angel to Joseph about Mary his fiancee.149 The Church sees here the fulfillment of the divine promise given through the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.”150

498 People are sometimes troubled by the silence of St. Mark’s Gospel and the New Testament Epistles about Jesus’ virginal conception. Some might wonder if we were merely dealing with legends or theological constructs not claiming to be history. To this we must respond: Faith in the virginal conception of Jesus met with the lively opposition, mockery or incomprehension of non-believers, Jews and pagans alike;151 so it could hardly have been motivated by pagan mythology or by some adaptation to the ideas of the age. The meaning of this event is accessible only to faith, which understands in it the “connection of these mysteries with one another”152 in the totality of Christ’s mysteries, from his Incarnation to his Passover. St. Ignatius of Antioch already bears witness to this connection: “Mary’s virginity and giving birth, and even the Lord’s death escaped the notice of the prince of this world: these three mysteries worthy of proclamation were accomplished in God’s silence.”153

Mary – “ever-virgin”

499 The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man.154 In fact, Christ’s birth “did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it.”155 And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the “Ever-virgin”.156

500 Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus.157 The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, “brothers of Jesus”, are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls “the other Mary”.158 They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression.159

501 Jesus is Mary’s only son, but her spiritual motherhood extends to all men whom indeed he came to save: “The Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren, that is, the faithful in whose generation and formation she co-operates with a mother’s love.”160

Mary’s virginal motherhood in God’s plan

502 The eyes of faith can discover in the context of the whole of Revelation the mysterious reasons why God in his saving plan wanted his Son to be born of a virgin. These reasons touch both on the person of Christ and his redemptive mission, and on the welcome Mary gave that mission on behalf of all men.

503 Mary’s virginity manifests God’s absolute initiative in the Incarnation. Jesus has only God as Father. “He was never estranged from the Father because of the human nature which he assumed. . . He is naturally Son of the Father as to his divinity and naturally son of his mother as to his humanity, but properly Son of the Father in both natures.”161

504 Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary’s womb because he is the New Adam, who inaugurates the new creation: “The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.”162 From his conception, Christ’s humanity is filled with the Holy Spirit, for God “gives him the Spirit without measure.”163 From “his fullness” as the head of redeemed humanity “we have all received, grace upon grace.”164

505 By his virginal conception, Jesus, the New Adam, ushers in the new birth of children adopted in the Holy Spirit through faith. “How can this be?”165 Participation in the divine life arises “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God”.166 The acceptance of this life is virginal because it is entirely the Spirit’s gift to man. The spousal character of the human vocation in relation to God167 is fulfilled perfectly in Mary’s virginal motherhood.

506 Mary is a virgin because her virginity is the sign of her faith “unadulterated by any doubt”, and of her undivided gift of herself to God’s will.168 It is her faith that enables her to become the mother of the Savior: “Mary is more blessed because she embraces faith in Christ than because she conceives the flesh of Christ.”169

507 At once virgin and mother, Mary is the symbol and the most perfect realization of the Church: “the Church indeed. . . by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother. By preaching and Baptism she brings forth sons, who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God, to a new and immortal life. She herself is a virgin, who keeps in its entirety and purity the faith she pledged to her spouse.”170

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Link to Catechism


One more reason to “deep-six” the New American Bible.

The 2011 version also replaces the word “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14 with “the young woman,” explaining the original Hebrew word, almah, may or may not refer to a virgin.

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Editor’s note: What are these guys thinking? Catholics know that “almah” does indeed refer to a virgin, since 1) there’s nothing very unusual or significant about a young woman conceiving a child in her womb; and 2) The eternal virginity of Mary, the Mother of God, is the only possible object of Isaiah’s prophetic word, and that is a settled matter of Catholic dogma!

Isaiah 7:14  Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel. (Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible)

Immaculate Conception?

Q: Immaculate Conception?

With science being to the point it is now, immaculate conception is now possible and even used on a daily base. Wouldn’t it seem more as an improbability then a miracle ?

A: You are obviously confused.

The Immaculate Conception refers to the Blessed Virgin Mary’s own conception (absent original sin, full of grace) in her own mother’s womb, via normal heterosexual intercourse.

Jesus’ birth, as a result of his conception in Mary’s virginal womb, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is an entirely different matter.

Guadalupe “Sister” Site in Spain

Our Lady of Guadalupe (adapted from Seven Days with Mary)

Not far from Genazzano, in Rome itself, on Esquiline Hill, had been the miracle of Our Lady of the Snow, on August 5, where, back in the fourth century, Mary requested a church and indicated where she wanted it by causing snow to fall on the hill one summer morning.

The exact recorded date had been August 5, A.D. 352 and the church that was built, the Basilica of St. Mary Major, was the one where a miraculous Madonna used by Pope Gregory had been kept. If we remember, Gregory had paraded the statue from St. Mary’s through the streets of rubble-strewn Rome to rid that chastised city of an epidemic. The madonna was of unstained Oriental wood that, in its dignified countenance and in its majestic demeanor resembled the Virgin of Saragossa. Like the image at Saragossa, it was thought to have supernatural powers.

Upon proceeding through Rome with the image, an apparition of an angel had been seen above a mausoleum near the current-day site of the Vatican, and the plague stopped. It was a statue of Mary with the Christ Child, as she always holds up Jesus, although this time Mary was staring straight ahead, with great power and directness. Make no mistake: this was Mary full of her Son’s power. And after he used it in Rome, Pope Gregory sent the image as a gift to the Bishop of Seville in Spain, which was soon under assault by Arab invaders.

As was the case at the famous shrine of Montserrat in Spain, the statue had to be hidden from the Moslems, who destroyed all Christian images. And again like Montserrat, the faithful chose to hide the statue in a remote cave, this time under a church bell or in an iron casket (accounts differ) in the province of Caceres on the plain of Estremadura near a river known as “Guadalupe,” which in the local dialect of this Spanish hinterland meant “hidden channel.”

There the statue remained for more than 600 lonely years. Until 1326. That was when Mary appeared in apparition to a humble cowherd named Gil Cordero, who had been searching for a lost cow. Cordero found the cow on a mound of stones, but it was motionless, as if dead. Cordero was ready to cut off its hide when suddenly the cow miraculously sprang up. Cordero was stunned. The animal was alive! But more spectacular still was the apparition of a woman who Cordero spotted coming from the woods.

“Have no fear, for I am the Mother of God, by whom the human race achieved redemption,” the woman told Cordero. “Go to your home and tell the clergy and other people to come to this place where I appear to you and dig here, where they will find a statue.”

This was something the Virgin did across Spain, Italy, and the rest of Europe, appearing at the sites where statues had been lost or hidden and revealing them. Once an image was rediscovered, it was placed in a new chapel, leading to yet hundreds of new churches across Europe.

In this way was much of the Church built. It was one of Mary’s chief purposes in the early centuries, and when Cordero did as he was told, telling the local authorities to dig for a statue, he was initially mocked. After all, he was only a simple shepherd with a wild story. But when Cordero insisted on the apparition and showed them the marks on his cow where he was beginning to strip its hide, the noblemen and clerics began to listen. And soon they were proceeding to the site, where they dug at the designated spot and, removing stones and other debris, found the cave and inside it the casket or bell with an ancient document explaining its origin.

It was the image Gregory the Great had sent to Spain in 711. A chapel was built, and it became a huge center of pilgrimage. Thousands arrived from across Spain and other parts of Europe, including Christopher Columbus, who is said to have prayed in front of the image of Guadalupe before setting out across the Atlantic for the New World. Some accounts say he even carried a replica of the wood statue with him!

Mary was ready to cross the great ocean. She was ready to institute her Son’s Church in the Americas as she had done in Europe. Anyone who reads about Columbus will quickly learn that he was so devout, especially in his invocation of the Virgin, that he could be described as a Marian mystic. His main ship was named the Santa Maria and every evening Columbus and his crew sang the Hail Mary as they crossed the Atlantic.

While our secular scholars tell us little of that, Mary was a crucial part of the journey, and when Columbus got to the New World, he and his men named one island “Montserrat” and another “Guadeloupe.” Yet a third was named “El Salvador” for the Savior.

The Virgin was thus at the very foundation of our hemisphere, and the first Christian prayer ever said in our part of the world was the Salve Regina, which was also recited by Columbus.

There were many ways Mary was involved with establishment of the New World. America’s oldest city, St. Augustine, was founded on the feast of her nativity, and when the Chesapeake Bay was discovered it was originally known as the “Bay of St. Mary.”

Indeed, the land surrounding our nation’s capital — Virginia and Maryland — can be tied together as “Virgin-Mary-Land.” Most astonishing is the fact that French explorers who found the Mississippi River originally called this great waterway not the “Mississippi” but the “River of the Immaculate Conception.”

Soon after Columbus arrived in America had been a most astonishing event. It is an event that is connected to the Spanish image of Guadalupe and is our main focus this day. It is one of the major apparitions of all time. It occurred in 1531, in the midst of the Protestant rebellion, the same year Henry VIII took the Church of England away from Rome, and the same year, curiously enough, that the great comet known as Halley’s made a major appearance.

The Church in Europe was under assault, but as if to offset the division, Mary appeared on December 9 of that uproarious year to an Aztec convert whom many of you know as Juan Diego. Like the cowherd in Spain, and like so many previous and subsequent seers, Diego was a man of lowly position, at least in the eyes of the world. He lived in a hut with a dirt floor. He was a caring man, a widower who looked after his aging uncle. Juan was about 50 years old, and had been converted to Christianity by the missionaries who came with the Spanish soldiers. In his youth Juan had no doubt been aware of the awesome paganism prevalent in this part of the world, for like the Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians, the Aztecs revered nature spirits, worshipped reptilian idols like the snake, and offered human sacrifices to the various gods and goddesses who seemed like nothing more than evil spirits in disguise.

In fact when Juan was a teenager more than 80,000 were killed in a horrible sacrifice during dedication of the massive temple of Tenochitlan near what is today the sprawling metropolis of Mexico City.

At Tenochitlan they worshipped Quetzalcoatl, the “plumed serpent,” while at a local hill that Juan happened to be walking by on December 9, 1531, they revered a goddess called Tonantzin, the Aztec “mother goddess.”

Just as Mary had appeared at Saragossa to dispel paganism, just as she had established Good Counsel to dispel Venus, so too was she now in the New World to begin ridding it of its harmful idols. For as Juan passed the hill, known as Tepeyac, he encountered the sounds of birds singing, which was very strange because it was now winter and most birds did not stay in these parts during the winter months.

When Juan looked up he saw a bright light and climbing there a woman in a radiant gold mist, beckoning him and explaining, “I am the ever-virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God. I wish that a temple be erected here without delay.”

Juan Diego

Juan was instructed to tell the local bishop of this request just as Cordero was told to summon authorities and just as Mary indicated hundreds of times that she wanted shrines and churches. But this time it was in the New World, and this series of apparitions was to have monumental effects of Christian conversion. Many of you know the story: Juan went to Bishop Juan de Zumarraga, who was initially very skeptical, as bishops, in their prudence, tend to be. On his way home from the chancery Juan related the disbelief to Mary and she told him to try to convince the bishop again. This Juan did the next day, and seeing the Indian return so soon, the bishop indeed listened with greater interest. But Bishop Zumarraga wanted proof. He wanted a sign from heaven. Juan related this request to the Virgin and she told him she would provide such a proof the next day.

But there was one hitch: the next day, December 11, Juan’s uncle, Juan Bernardino, was desperately ill. The old man had been stricken with cocolistle, a contagious and often fatal fever. Juan feared he was dying. He wanted a priest to hear his uncle’s last Confession, and so the next day, on December 12, the poor Aztec set about that task instead of going to the top of Tepeyac to visit the Virgin.

As Juan was circumventing the hill, the unexpected happened. Mary descended to intercept him and ask where he was going.

“A servant of yours is very sick,” replied Juan. “My uncle. He has contracted the plague, and is near death. I am hurrying to your house (church) to call one of your priests, beloved by Our Lord, to hear his Confession and absolve him, because, since we were born, we came to guard the work of our death. But if I go, I shall return here soon, so I may go to deliver your message. Lady… forgive me, be patient with me for the time being. I will not deceive you… Tomorrow I will come in haste.”

To this the Most Holy Virgin replied, “Hear me and understand well, my son the least, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything. Do not be afflicted by the illness of your uncle, who will not die now of it. Be assured that he is now cured.”

Indeed, at that very same time, the Virgin was appearing to Juan’s uncle and healing him. Today there is a sanctuary dedicated to this other apparition at Tulpetlac.

When Juan heard the assurance, he was greatly relieved. The Virgin told him to go to the top of the hill and gather some unusual flowers at the site of her previous apparition. Now remember: this was winter and there were usually no flowers in bloom. Remember too that on such a stony hill, only weeds — thorns and thistles — could be expected.

Yet when Juan Diego got there he was amazed to find many varieties of exquisite roses — rosas de Castilla — in bloom! The flowers were extremely fragrant and covered with pearl-like drops of dew. Juan cut them near the petals, placed them in his tilma (a burlap-like cloak draped in front of his body), and folded it up to form a large pouch. He then returned to Mary, who asked to see what he had gathered and who rearranged them one by one.

“My son the least, this diversity of roses is the proof and the sign which you will take to the bishop. You will tell him in my name that he will see in them my wish and that he will have to comply to it. You are my ambassador, most worthy of all confidence. Rigorously I command you that only before the presence of the bishop will you unfold your mantle and disclose what you are carrying. You will relate all and well; you will tell that I ordered you to climb to the hilltop, to go and cut flowers; and all that you saw and admired, so you can induce the prelate to give his support, with the aim that a temple be built and erected as I have asked.”

In the Aztec language her words were more eloquent. All we have are rough translations. When Juan got back to the chancery, the bishop’s assistants, detecting a mysterious and beautiful fragrance around Juan, demanded a look at what he had in his tilma and were amazed to see fresh flowers. But when they tried to take the roses out, the flowers suddenly seemed painted or stamped on Juan’s cloth.

The bishop’s men were perplexed, mystified. They took Juan to the prelate’s inner office, and that’s when Juan knelt before Bishop Zumarraga, unfolded his cloak, and let the roses fall.

The flowers scattered onto the floor, but more amazing was the image Zumarraga saw on the cactus cloak. There on the coarse tilma was an exquisitely detailed painting of the Virgin Mary, so very humble-looking, her complexion like wheat, her delicate fingers formed in an aspect of prayer, her nose somewhat slender and long, brows arched and dark, her eyes looking down just as they looked down in the image of Good Counsel, but this time to her right, and this time with no Child visible.

Instead she was dressed in a sash, which to Aztecs indicated she was with child.

Mary was portrayed in vivid color and unlike a pagan goddess, she wore a cross. Once more, like Good Counsel, there was an expression of gentle concern. She wore a mantle of deep turquoise studded with stars, and there was a fleur-de-lils pattern. Her robe was like the robes worn by women in ancient Palestine, and her complexion, as well as the fleur-de-lils, reminded scholars of several paintings said to have been done by Saint Luke, including the famous one at Czestochowa!

Most fascinating was the name. The image quickly became known as “Guadalupe,” which many believe was because it was immediately connected to the earlier miracle in Guadalupe, Spain, which was well-known not only by Columbus but surely also by subsequent missionaries. “Guadalupe” may have been synonymous with “apparition.”

Others say that “Guadalupe” is a phonetic version of the Aztec Nahuatl words for “coatlaxopeuh,” which is what the Virgin is reported to have said in identifying herself to Juan’s uncle. “Coatlaxopeuh” is pronounced “quatlasupe” and sounds remarkably like the Spanish word “Guadalupe.” “Coa” means serpent, “tla” stands for “the,” and “xopeuh” means to crush or stamp out!

Thus Mary had identified herself to Juan’s uncle as “coatlaxopeuh,” the “one who crushes the serpent.”

womanserpent.jpg

Submitted by Doria2