Thursday, September 8, 2011

St. Jerome on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

A Homily by St. Jerome, the Priest.

In Isaiah we read: Who shall declare his generation.  But let us not therefore conclude that there is a contradiction between the Prophet (who implieth that this thing cannot be done) and the Evangelist (who bringeth his Gospel by doing it).  For the one speaketh of the generation of the Divine Word by the Eternal Father, and the other of the family in which the incarnation took place.  In other words, Matthew beginneth with carnal things (contrariwise to the Prophet) that by learning of men we may go on to learn of God.  And when he saith: The Son of David, the son of Abraham, he reverseth the proper order, for Abraham came in time before David.  But this reversal is necessary to his account, for if Abraham had been put first and David afterwards, Abraham would have had to be mentioned again, in order to marshall the pedigree properly.

Thus Matthew in the first place nameth as Christ the Son of these twain, namely, Abraham and David, without making mention of the others, because unto these twain only was promise of Christ made.  Unto Abraham, where it is said: In thy seed, that is, in Christ, shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.  And unto David, in the words: Of the fruit of thy body shall I set upon thy seat.  The Evangelist continueth: And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar.  Here it is to be remarked that in the geneology of the Saviour none of the holy women are named, but those women only are named against whom the Scripture hath something to say amiss.  He who came to save sinners was born of sinners, that he might wash away all sin.  Thus afterwards, are named Ruth, who was a Moabitess, and Bathsheba, who had been the wife of Uriah.

Matthew continueth: And Jacob begat Joseph.  This is one of the passages which the Emperor Julian put forward against us as an instance of mutual contradiction between the Evangelists.  For, whereas Matthew here saith that Jacob begat Joseph, Luke saith that Joseph was the son of Heli.  And herein Julian shewed how little he understood the use of Scripture.  For one Evangelist speaketh of the father of Joseph by nature, and the other speaketh of the adoptive fatherhood according to the law.  Thus the Mosaic ordinance, which was held to be a command of God, ordained: If brethren dwell together, and one of them die and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger; her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother unto her; and it shall be, that the first-born which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.  And when ye read: Joseph, the husband of Mary, let not this title of husband lead thee to suppose that the marriage had already taken place.  Remember rather the use of Scripture, which is to speak of the bride and bridegroom as husband and wife.

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