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EXEGESIS -- ANNUNCIATION AND INCARNATION (CONT.)

In answer to the question, Why the genealogy of Joseph, and not of Mary is recorded in the Gospels, S. Chrysostom, -- after the reason he had given in his Second Homily -- goes on thus to expose in his Third Homily another reason, which, he says, is more mystical and hidden: --

"What is it? you ask. It is because God was unwilling it should be known, even at the time of the Nativity, that Christ was born of a Virgin. Be not however troubled at so unexpected an answer. For what I say is, of a truth, not my word, but that of our fathers, men admirable and renowned. For if Christ at the beginning spoke much that was obscure, calling Himself the Son of Man, and did not on all occasions clearly reveal His equality with the Father, why dost thou marvel if He put this truth too (of His Mother's virginity) in the background, thereby making use of a great and wonderful economy? But thou wilt say, What is it precisely that is wonderful here? I answer, the conduct of Divine Providence, thus to save the Virgin, and to free her from all evil suspicions. Since, had the Jews heard of this from the first, they would have put a malicious construction on the Virgin Mother, and stoned her, condemning her as an adulteress. For if even on other occasions, of which they had like examples in the Old Testament, their conduct was so outrageous; if, for instance, when Our Lord cast out devils, they called him a demoniac; and because He wrought cures on the Sabbath -- though the Sabbath had been often broken before -- they charged Him with being an enemy of God, what would they not have said had it come to their ears that His Mother was a Virgin? Since here they had on their side all past history, wherein nothing at all like was ever known. Again, if after all His many miracles would they ever have believed Him to be the son of a Virgin? For this reason, then, was the genealogy of Joseph drawn out, and he espoused the Virgin. Now, if even Joseph, a man so just and admirable, needed many arguments to bring himself to accept what took place; for example, the assurance of the angel, the vision during sleep, and the testimony of the prophets, how would the Jews, who were perverse and corrupt, and so hostile to Our Lord, have entertained such a notion? For anything so strange and novel would certainly have been made only fresh matter of difficulty and scandal, since nothing of the kind had ever happened in the time of their forefathers. But if any one believed once for all that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, he would have no further ground for doubt about this other matter; whereas, if he held Him to be only an impostor and an enemy of God, would he not, at hearing of His being born of a Virgin be all the more scandalised rather than induced to believe in its truth?

"For the same reason the Apostles also do not speak of it straightway at the beginning; whereas we find them discoursing much and often about the Resurrection; since of this there were examples in past times, though, indeed, they were dissimilar. But they are uniformly silent as to His being born of a Virgin, and not even did His Mother herself venture to utter it. For observe what the Virgin says even to Himself: Behold I and Thy father have been seeking thee. Since had there been any suspicion here, He would not have been held to be really even the Son of David; and were this not held, many other further evil consequences would have arisen. For like cause too, even the angels do not affirm it, save to Mary alone, and to Joseph; and when proclaiming the glad tidings of what had happened, they refrain altogether from adding it."*


* S. Chrysostom, In Matt., Hom. iii.

 

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