Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Virginal Conception and Other Preposterous Things

It has become traditional this time of year for some clergyperson or theologian to confidently declare that “modern” people can no longer believe in such a thing as the virginal conception (virgin birth) of Jesus. It goes against the way we know things work.

The virginal conception does seem preposterous. It always has. I doubt Joaquim and Anne found it any less preposterous when their daughter first tried to explain it to them. I don't believe it glibly. I've had and will have my reservations, questions, and doubts about this and other aspects of the Creed. But, I figure, once you believe in something as preposterous as resurrection or that God loves you and is able to do something about it, you're in for a pound, you might as well toss in the penny.

But, preposterous as the virginal conception sounds, I find other things more preposterous and harder to accept given how we know the world works:

Jesus is the measure of all things? The turn-the-other-cheek guy from Nazereth who got himself crucified?

I must love my enemies and pray for them, repaying evil with good?

We are expected to live nonviolently in such a world as ours? Peace is always better than violence?

Forgiveness is always better than revenge or resentment?

Money is "unrighteous" and dangerous to my soul? That my best investment is to give it all away?

All people are created equal? Is there any other "truth" that is less self-evident or more easily contradicted by reason and scientific evidence? The closest I can get to that is we are all of us equally created in the image of God, equally loved by God, and equally the objects of Christ’s redeeming. It’s still pretty hard to believe from a purely empirical perspective.

Humility is a virtue?

Heck, believing that the Mystery at the heart of it all chose to become incarnate in a particular time and place from a particular girl named Mary without the usual male contribution is a relative piece of cake. In truth, most of the time I am only able to entertain these other preposterous things precisely because I believe God has done something so preposterous as being born of the Virgin Mary.

1 comment:

A. D. Hunt said...

Fr. Gunter,

At this time last year I was having difficulties with this doctrine. A year later, for some reason, this "difficulty" has seemed rather not-difficult compared to many other things.

Yes to all you said and a pox on bishops who deny this fundamental truth ;)