In this series of 8 blog posts we are addressing the subject of the human nature of Christ from the perspective of the Orthodox Church. This, the 6th post in the series addresses the following question:
Were Christ’s conception and birth like ours?
Concerning the statement, “No special exceptions are needed for Him,” it would be sufficient to recall Christ’s extraordinary conception and birth. Since the beginning the Church has expressed her faith that Christ was conceived without human seed (virgin birth) and that He was born leaving His mother a virgin, as she was before conception. Being born without a human father is an exception, not an excuse. And it is of faith.
Indeed an extraordinary Being requires an extraordinary conception and birth! A Protestant may believe whatever s/he wants, but to be Orthodox a Christian must believe in the immaculate conception of Jesus Christ and the ever-virginity of the most holy Theotokos (Mother of God).
1) Official pronouncements of the Church
First Ecumenical Synod
“…the Son of God… was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man.”
Fifth Ecumenical Synod
“The Word of God… came down from heaven and was incarnate of the holy, glorious, Theotokos, and Ever-Virgin Mary.”
2) The witness of the Holy Scripture
Mt. 1:23, Is. 7:14
“Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.”
3) The witness of the Fathers of the Church
“A Virgin conceived, a Virgin bore, and after the birth as a Virgin still.”
St. Cyril of Alexandria
“After His birth, He preserved the virginity of His mother, although this is not true of any of the saints…Because He was God by nature, when in this last time He also took the human condition, He revealed the birth from the Virgin as different from all other births. Therefore, it is right and just that the blessed one should be called Theotokos and Virgin Mother. For Jesus, who was born of her, was not a mere man.”
St. John Damascene
“[He is] like to us in that He was man born of woman, and above us because it was not by seed, but by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Virgin Mary, transcending the laws of parturition.”
4) The witness of the hymnology of the Church
Ancient liturgical hymn
“Only begotten Son and Word of God, although immortal, You humbled Yourself for our salvation, taking flesh from the holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary and, without change, becoming man.”
5) The confirmation by Orthodox theologians
Fr. Dumitru Stăniloae
“Through the descent of Christ as hypostasis within her and as He began to form the body from her with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit as a whole person, her body that was kept by her in the purity of virginity and in the purity of total availability for God, is cleansed also of the original sin so that the divine Hypostasis may not take His body from a body still under this sin and under the natural law of birth in voluptuous pleasure.”
Some of this material was drawn from my book, Jesus: Fallen? The Human Nature of Christ Examined from an Eastern Orthodox Perspective (Orthodox Witness: Clearwater, FL, 2013).
Parts 7-8 coming soon. Go to part 1