Dear ICC Friends,
As we begin the great journey of Lent, I want to share with you an excerpt from a homily by Saint John Chrysostom on the true nature of fasting. Saint John was known by the nickname “Golden Mouth” because of the powerful words he delivered. I encourage you to print this three-page selection and use it for your spiritual reading this evening.
“Let the mouth too fast from disgraceful speeches and railing. For what does it profit if we abstain from birds and fishes; and yet bite and devour our brethren? The evil speaker eats the flesh of his brother, and bites the body of his neighbour.” St. John Chrysostom, On Fasting
If you just read Deacon Sabatino’s article about St. Matthew’s infancy narrative and the wondrous mystery of the Incarnation, you may be interested in reading Subdeacon Sebastian Carnazzo’s article on the perpetual virginity of Mary. Click here to read the entire article.
For those who are not on our email list – click here and sign up! And then read his entire article below – Deacon Sabatino is responding to several questions he received about Mary’s perpetual virginity, when St. Matthew states that she remained a virgin “until” giving birth to Jesus. Read this, and meditate on the Word of God and the revelation of the Incarnation of our Savior.
In these days of preparation for the Nativity of the Lord, many Christians are paying special attention to the biblical narrative of the birth of the Savior. Reading over the Scriptural text in prayer is one of the best ways to internalize the gift of Salvation that will be born in our midst on Christmas morning.
The biblical narrative of the birth of Christ, however, contains words and phrases that are difficult for the modern reader to understand and can sometimes lead to confusion. One such stumbling block is the text of Matthew 1:25, in which we read that Joseph “knew [Mary] not until she had borne a son.”
In what sense can we understand that use of the word “until” if we are to hold to the ancient tradition of Mary’s virginity before, during and after giving birth? “You see,” many of our Protestant brethren will say to us, “the Bible does not support your belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity!” How many of us cower in embarrassment at this attack and do not give a response?
Far from supporting the Protestant claim, however, the evangelist’s statement regarding the virginity of Mary is the foundation for the apostolic tradition and does not support the Protestant position in any way. To understand this point, we will need to look beyond the English translation of this text and our modern interpretation of “until” and ask ourselves what St. Matthew meant his readers to understand by his statement.
First, it is important to remind ourselves that St. Matthew’s concern for Mary’s virginity has nothing to do with the modern Catholic vs. Protestant debate over the role of Mary in our salvation. St. Matthew knew nothing of Protestantism! In fact, St. Matthew’s concern is not primarily about Mary at all, but rather about Christ.
Remember, the biblical narrative of the Nativity is a revelation about the Incarnation of God and was written to reveal the nature of the God-man to the world. St. Matthew’s concern is to show clearly that Joseph had no involvement in Mary’s pregnancy – it was wholly due to the work of the Holy Spirit.
Thus, as we read this text, we must stay focused on the wonder of the Incarnation. Mary’s virginal state reveals and gives evidence for the supernatural work of the Incarnation. In other words, St. Matthew’s concern in the opening chapter of his Gospel has nothing to do with proving or disproving Mary’s state in life after Jesus’ birth. Rather, the focus of the text is totally on the revelation of the Incarnate Word of God, in which no human father has taken part.
Now that we understand St. Matthew’s focus in his Infancy Narrative, we are still confronted with what appears to be an implicit denial of Mary’s perpetual virginal state. What else could St. Matthew mean, using the word “until,” other than that Joseph and Mary had marital relations after Christ was born?
The answer to this question is simple. In the original Greek text of Matthew’s Gospel, the word that is translated in our English Bible as “until” is heos. Heos, in the present context, does not indicate a change of state at some future time as our English word “until” often does, but rather is bound to the time in which the statement is referring. In other words, heos simply indicates that Joseph and Mary had no marital relations that would have resulted in Mary’s pregnancy.
To see a clear example of the use of heos that does not indicate a change of state in the future, turn to the final verse of Matthew’s Gospel, where we read of Christ’s final promise: “And lo, I am with you always, until (heos) the end of the age” (Matt 28:20; see also Matt 22:44). Here, the use of the word heos in the original Greek clearly does not mean that the Christ will cease to be with us when this age is complete.
Another example of this is found in 1 Timothy 4:13, where we read, “Until I come, attend to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching, to teaching.” Clearly, St. Paul does not hope that his disciple will cease reading the Scriptures, preaching and teaching once St. Paul has visited him.
Finally, my favorite example to help us understand St. Matthew’s use of the word heos is found in 2 Samuel 6:23. Here we read of a certain woman named “Michal, the daughter Saul,” who “had no child until the day of her death.” Here, the use of heos in the Greek text of 2 Samuel sounds almost comical when translated into English. Obviously, Michal, who was barren, did not suddenly start bearing children after she had died!
With a clearer understanding of St. Matthew’s motives and his linguistic background, we are able to read the narrative of the birth of Christ in its original sense and not read into the text more than the author had originally meant. St. Matthew proclaims the Good News to us: the Eternal Word of God is with us – Emmanuel has been born! In no way can we deny it, for Joseph did not have any relations with her “heos” she had born a son” (Matthew 1:25).
Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Touchstone Magazine has a great article in its archives about how we calculate the date of Christmas. Occasionally, you will hear that the dates for Christ’s birth and death are completely artificial and based on pagan festivals. To read the truth, read William Tighe’s article. A snippet:
December 25th as the date of the Christ’s birth appears to owe nothing whatsoever to pagan influences upon the practice of the Church during or after Constantine’s time. It is wholly unlikely to have been the actual date of Christ’s birth, but it arose entirely from the efforts of early Latin Christians to determine the historical date of Christ’s death.
If you weren’t able to attend Bishop Vasa’s lecture in person, take an hour now and go listen!
We thank Bishop Vasa for coming to the Institute and giving such a great presentation!
If you missed last night’s seminar with Dr. Timothy O’Donnell of Christendom College, we have posted the video for your educational pleasure!
Please click here to watch the video – and send the link to a friend!
If you missed Tuesday’s moving and thought-provoking presentation with Bishop Angaelos, the Coptic General Bishop of the United Kingdom, you will want to watch it as soon as you can!
Visit the event page (click here) to watch the video of this fantastic lecture on the future of Christianity in Egypt and in our world today.
Make sure you make plans now to attend our event Sunday night with Dr. Alice von Hildebrand! At the end of her lecture, we unveil both our upcoming schedule for the fall, as well as the entire educational plan for our upcoming 2013-2014 academic year. Don’t miss it!
Full details for Dr. von Hildebrand’s lecture can be found here.
For those unable to join us in person, please watch the live broadcast by clicking here.
We have recently posted the following audio presentations for your listening pleasure:
Body & Soul: A Study of the Feast of the Assumption, with Deacon Sabatino Carnazzo
Render Unto Caesar: The Catholic Church’s Role in Politics Today, with Prof. Robert Reilly
His Grace, Bishop Angaelos will be coming to the Institute of Catholic Culture to speak on the future of Christianity in Egypt and in our world today. Bishop Angaelos is the Coptic Bishop in the United Kingdom.
Before his lecture, make sure you are caught up on the current situation in Syria & Egypt and the plight of Middle Eastern Christians.
Click here to read an article in Zenit to get started : http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/beauty-unconquered.
Click on the flyer to read all the details of this specially-scheduled event.
From Christendom’s news announcement:
Dr. John Cuddeback announced a new website and blog dedicated to his philosophy of family and household. The site features a brief mini-course on household according to Aristotle, as well as a blog that will feature a weekly reflection on household stewardship.
“I hope that the works of great philosophers—my study has focused on ancient thinkers—can provide helpful insights into the challenges of running or simply living in a household today,” Cuddeback says.
The website, which is called Bacon from Acorns, is dedicated to mining the works of great thinkers for assistance in a project of discovery and stewardship.
“It is intended to be for all households—urban, suburban, or rural,” Cuddeback says. “While most ancient writers focused on the rural context, it is my hope and conviction that their reflections can be applied fruitfully to any household.”
The USCCB is co-sponsoring an event on Religious Freedom & Human Rights: Path to Peace in the Holy Land That All May Be Free on Monday, September 9, 2013 in Washington, D.C. For more information, please click here.
Professor Robert Reilly, a speaker for the Institute of Catholic Culture, recently gave a hard-hitting interview for the European Conservative, comparing Islam & the West.
A portion of the interview with Professor Reilly speaking about Islamist philosophy:
“…it’s a denial of natural law and because of this almost perverse concentration on God’s omnipotence. The theological school in Sunni Islam called Ash’arism, which is the majority theological school, even today says that God is the first and only cause of everything and there cannot be secondary causes (such as natural law) because that would be a challenge to God’s omnipotence. So for God to be omnipotent, nothing else can be even so much as potent. Therefore, gravity does not make the rock fall; God does. Fire doesn’t burn cotton; God does. There is, therefore, no cause and effect in the natural world. This teaching has destroyed the Sunni Muslim world.”
Dr. John Cuddeback, a professor of Christendom College and a frequent lecturer for the Institute of Catholic Culture, just published a piece on challenges to families in the home. His latest work is all about home and family. A brief excerpt:
Human life is all about presence. Real, personal, presence. And the fundamental place of presence is the home. At the end of the day what else is a home but the place where we can live in the presence of those to whom we are closest?
Read the entire article here: http://www.crisismagazine.com/2013/contemporary-challenges-to-family-unity
Pope Francis’ first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, has been released. You can read it online here.
If you’ve been missing the Institute’s latest audio and video files, you should definitely head over to our library.
We’ve posted video for the past two lectures on the Gospel of Matthew, plus audio and video for:
The Conversion of Russia with Dr. Brendan McGuire
Fides et Ratio: The Role of Faith in a Rational World with Dr. Timothy O’Donnell and Professor Mark Wunsch, and
Praying Constantly: A Practicum on the Divine Office, with Prof. David Clayton.