An Advent Call for a New Vision of the Virgin Birth
Edward Holloway FAITH Magazine November-December 2009
A twenty-five year old Newsletter meditation for the First Sunday of Advent, Esher Parish, Surrey, originally entitled "The Truth Does Matter."
At the beginning of Advent it is as well to say that the truth concerning the Virgin Birth of Christ does matter, and the truth concerning the physical resurrection of Christ as well, and that with all deference to the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Durham. St. Paul put it simply a long time ago to the Christians (and they were a troublesome and doubting enough lot) of Corinth, when he said that "if Christ be not risen, then my faith is vain, and your faith is vain, and we are of all men the most wretched".
The early Christians had no time for "spiritual senses" and metaphorical expressions to "manifest what Jesus meant to them". Only comfortable middle class types, clerical or lay, in warm, protected surroundings, go in for that type of psychedelic nonsense. They gave up so much, they suffered so much, they endured the searing agnosticism and cynicism of the Greek mind, always looking for just that sort of thing to say... they also endured the searching, probing minds of the Jewish Pharisees, seeking with desperation to stop this 'new heresy' form spreading. We know from the whole sweep of the Gospels and the Pastoral letters, and from the writings of the saints of the early Church, that these people meant what they said, lived standards higher than any heretofore existing on earth, andhoped for a fullness of Salvation, and a resurrection of the body simply because Christ did so rise.
There is no doubt that the Christian people and their priests all through the ages have believed in the literal meaning of the birth of Christ without the intervention of St. Joseph, or of any man. There is no doubt that they have always in the feast of Easter Night celebrated the real, and physical body of Our Lord: "feel my hands and my side, that it is Myself indeed, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see Me to have". As ages pass, and mankind becomes more sophisticated, more clever, and more proud, it is true that the testimony of ages so long past, and the testimony of miracles and wonders so long past will fade in its probative force, and must do so.
The evidence that these things really happened, will be the power, through development of doctrine in the Church, always to give a new vision of the meaning of the Incarnation, and of the sheer relevance of Christ, and his Church to the nature of man, to personal holiness, and to the need for Man to have as answer from to the question "who am I" and "what is my meaning and my end". It is the sheer consistency and continuity of this line of revelation and understanding, which does, as time goes on, become more and more the evidence of Jesus.
Just as the Virgin Birth, and the physical Resurrection of Christ are and were requirements of his literal Divinity and uniqueness upon the human scene, so also this type of development to which we appeal cannot take place, except in a Church which claims the infallible magisterium on earth of the same Jesus in the name of his Divinity, and can manifest a line of consistent and coherent, definition because she has done so. There is no other way. The alternative is the agnosticism and subjectivism that is destroying the Church of England, and making Ecumenism an irrelevant concept. The true meaning of Ecumenism can only be to bring all people Catholics, and non-Catholics, (including their bishops and archbishops) to see and understand and evidence for the literal Divinityof Christ. This involves the need of a magisterium on earth which is truly that of Christ, and proves its credentials and divinity by its continuity and coherence, whether to men it is "welcome or unwelcome" as St. Paul puts it to Timothy. It is worth our while to ponder this thought in Advent time.