Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Mary at the Foot of the Cross...

It has, perhaps, become unfashionable to refer to the longstanding tradition within the Church that Our Lady was spared the normal pains of childbrith when Our Lord was born. As the pain of childbirth is associated with Original Sin. As God says to Eve in Gen 3:16: "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."
Now, I don't propose to go into the whole debate about what kind of childbirth Mary had - I've heard opinions ranging the claim (not in accordance with the Tradition) that it was a perfectly normal childbirth to the condemned proposition of a Medieval German monk who suggested that Our Lord was born of light emerging from the ears of Our Lady.
What is interesting though is this snippet of a Middle English poem:
Nu thu fondest, moder milde,
Wat wyman drith with hir childe,
Thei thu clene maiden be.
Nu thes thiolden arde and dere
The pine werof thu were
Ine ti chilthing quite and fre.
(Now you find, mother mild
What women suffer with their children,
Though you were a pure virgin,
Now you have suffered hard and dearly,
The pain of which you were
In childbirth free and clear
The author is repeating an analogy (or even a strict identification) found in some patristic sources (including, I am reliably informed,Chrysostom) between the pain that Mary did not suffer at Christ's birth and the pain she experienced at the foot of the Cross.
One could, perhaps, speculatively link this with Our Lady's title as Mother of the Church and the patristic notion of the Church being born from the side of Christ on the Cross. From that, one could make the leap to the woman in Revelation (who does suffer the pains of childbirth).

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