That a woman could conceive and give birth to a child without congress with a man, an idea seemingly contrary to our intelligence, is the very cornerstone of Nativity or the birth of Lord Jesus. Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus gave birth to her Son in a stable at Bethlehem and remained a virgin, is the teaching of the Holy Gospels. Of all the books written on the life and times of Jesus, only four, those of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are accepted as infallible by the Church. There were others, which were rejected and are known today as the Agnostic Gospels or the Suppressed Gospels. All the four accepted Gospels were written by Jewish converts to Christianity except that of Mark’s who was a Roman convert and none of them were contemporary of Jesus. They were written about seventy to a hundred years after Jesus’ Crucifixion.
The Church of Rome with a hallowed history of over two thousand years, the longest uninterrupted institution of mankind, has been persistent in its teaching of the Immaculate Conception. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is portrayed as a woman of incorruptible virtue and although she was married to her husband Joseph she had no carnal knowledge of him. She was fecundated by the Holy Spirit, which the theologians have explained as the Spirit of God, our Father in Heaven. One of the pivotal concepts of Christianity, that of the Holy Trinity, the unity of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit is rather difficult for a layman to comprehend. The Father is of course the God in Heaven and the son is Lord Jesus. The Spirit is the essence of God pervading and permeating the whole cosmos.
In due course of time she gave birth to her Son, a human being of normal flesh and bones, in an apparent painless labour. She remained a virgin with an intact hymen even during the actual time of her delivery, analogous to sunbeams passing through glass. This has been glorified in the Bible as the Immaculate Conception. We are led to believe that Mary, although a normal healthy woman, was able to conceive and deliver a child without experiencing the pleasures of sexual intercourse; nor did she suffer the discomforts of pregnancy and the pain of labour. According to the suppressed Gospels, a midwife doubting the strange phenomenon of Parthenogenesis wished to verify, and was instantly paralysed. Incidentally Mary herself is portrayed in some books as being a product of Immaculate Conception but that is a different story.
Thus was Jesus born without the taint of Original Sin, a unique concept of Judeo-Christian Theology. Adam and Eve, our first parents living in primal innocence in the Garden of Eden, transgressed the command of God by eating the fruit of the Forbidden Tree and indulging in sexual intercourse thereafter is the Original Sin of Bible. This resulted in their fall and expulsion from Paradise.
The sex act has somehow been mired in controversy. The male’s, at least those of the ruder ages, incomprehension of the normal physiology of females, the passage of blood during menstruation and the flow of vaginal fluids during intercourse has had some strange effects on the mind. It was an anathema to believe that Adam and Eve did indulge in intercourse before the Fall. The established Church still denies it. However the English poet John Milton, a staunch Puritan, unequivocally asserts in ‘Paradise Lost’ that our first parents did copulate before the Fall, as a mandate from Heaven, obeying God’s command ‘Go forth and multiply’ and it is sheer hypocrisy to think otherwise.
Milton is guilty, according to the elders of the Church, of holding the heretical views of Arianism. Arianism, a theism that held sway in the early years of Christianity, affirms the supremacy of the Father over the Son and that They were not one and the same, has been proscribed by the Church, which upholds that the Father and the Son are one and of the same ‘substance’.
In the early years, when Rome was gradually turning Christian, the esteemed Fathers of the Church were much concerned with the ideas of virginity and chastity. Virginity was not only praised to high heavens but also deified. Pre-Christian Rome, also known as Pagan Rome, did have an institution of virgins consecrated to the services of Vesta but it could hardly boast of six virgins at a time doing the temple duties. The ingenuity and the motivations of the Fathers of the Church were such that many women, even those from the noble families were more than willing to devote their lives to the Church and live as nuns, devoid of any contact with men and practicing rigid celibacy. The nuns were considered to be the spouse of the God. An esteemed Father, later canonised, St.Jerome, with characteristic naivety addressed a mother of a nun with an embarrassing sobriquet ‘Mother-in –law of God’.
The zeal for self mortification and self abnegation among the theologians and Church hierarchs was carried to such ridiculous levels that a most distinguished and learned Father, Origen, had himself castrated to be free from the pleasures of the flesh. Following his example, castration became a rage, sometimes voluntary, sometimes forcible until the obnoxious practice was forbidden by the saner elements of the Church.
To the Church, Lord Jesus on earth was the same as God in heaven. It was only natural then to believe that the body of Jesus, Corpus Christi, was unique and it was never defiled by the excretion of stool and urine and the ejaculation of semen. That the Son of Man, born of a woman, who lived among his contemporaries and shared his meals with his disciples, did not suffer the ‘impurities’ of the flesh is a strange centaur to behold. What are the Church’s views on this point, at present, is not known.
The much-debated stories of the ‘Shining Star’ and the ‘Adoration of the Magi’ are, unless proven to the contrary, symbolic. It emphasizes Divine approval to the birth of Jesus as per the opinion of the devout believers. The Magi, also known as the Wise Men of the East, were possibly Zoroastrians from Persia and were well versed in the esoteric arts of astrology, necromancy etc. They came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus. The gifts were certainly expensive in the material sense, as befitting an Emperor. That an infant born in a humble stable to parents of modest means should be worthy of adoration by men, rich in years and erudition, is an uplifting story of redemption.
All said and done the teachings of Jesus, initially meant for the Jews only but later spread far and wide by the genius of St.Paul, metamorphosed the tribal God Jehovah, a god of strict uprightness and capable of extreme vengeance, to a God of mercy and compassion. The old Testament, pregnant and heavy with the Ten Commandments which were more often obeyed in the breach, gave way to the New Testament of Jesus Christ with only two Commandments: Love thy God and Love thy neighbour. And what a sea change it brought about in human history.