— Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary —

“Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:18)

In an ancient work known as the Incomplete Work on Matthew, an anonymous Ancient Christian Writer (ACW) offers the following insight on these verses from today’s Gospel:

“Such, according to Matthew, was the exceptional genealogy of Christ. He has made it clear that Jacob begot Joseph, to whom Mary was betrothed when she bore Jesus. Yet no one hearing this should suppose that the birth of Christ came about in the same usual manner as that of his forefathers. So Matthew continues to present the special lineage of Christ, which was not like the lineage of these fathers in every respect, as we will see. How can this be so, that he stands in this lineage but stands in it differently?

“After Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, she was found to be with child before they had married.” That is, the child was from a virgin but had [an adoptive, legal] human father. While enumerating his line, Matthew shows him to have descended from the seed of David according to the promises of God. But in explaining that his birth happened in a way quite beyond human nature, he reveals the mystery of his divinity. It was not fitting that the only Son of God should be born in the human way. For he was born not for himself but for humanity. He was indeed born into flesh that would undergo corruption. But Christ was born in order to heal corruption itself. Human corruption is not derived from the uncorrupted state of a virgin. It does not make sense that the only Son of God, who was born to heal corruption, might be born of a corrupt union. Humanity is born out of the necessity to exist. Christ, however, was not born out of the necessity of nature to exist but by his merciful will to save. He was appropriately born contrary to the law of human nature because he was beyond nature.

Behold the strange and wonderful birth of Christ. It came through a line that included sinners, adulterers and Gentiles. But such a birth does not soil the honor of Christ. Rather, it commends his mercy.

This is the miracle: He who adopted and begot fathers was born from their sons! They were made his fathers whose son he was not. He did them a favor by being their son. They, however, offered him nothing by being his forefathers. Among men, fathers adopt whomever they wish to be their sons. This son, however, adopted fathers whom he chose for himself. Among men, sons receive the honor of birth from their fathers. But in Christ’s case, the fathers received honor from the son.

The text reads, “Although his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they married, she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.” Subsequently all saints would be born from the virgin church which is betrothed to Christ. … Sons often imitate the example of their father. Note that Mary was betrothed to a carpenter. Christ, betrothed to the church, was about to fashion for humanity salvation in its entirety and his entire work from the wood of the cross.” (Incomplete Work on Matthew, «Homily 1»)

Impart to your servants, we pray, O Lord,
the gift of heavenly grace,
that the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin
may bring deeper peace
to those for whom the birth of her Son
was the dawning of salvation.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen