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Canon LXXIX.

As we confess the divine birth of the Virgin to be without any childbed, since it came to pass without seed, and as we preach this to the entire flock, so we subject to correction those who through ignorance do anything which is inconsistent therewith.  Wherefore since some on the day after the holy Nativity of Christ our God are seen cooking σεμίδαλῖν , and distributing it to each other, on pretext of doing honour to the puerperia of the spotless Virgin Maternity, we decree that henceforth nothing of the kind be done by the faithful.  For this is not honouring the Virgin (who above thought and speech bare in the flesh the incomprehensible Word) when we define384384    The Latin adds “and measure.” and describe, from ordinary things and from such as occur with ourselves, her ineffable parturition.  If therefore anyone henceforth be discovered doing any such thing, if he be a cleric let him be deposed, but if a layman let him be cut off.

Notes.

Ancient Epitome of Canon LXXIX.

Whoever after the feast of the Mother of God shall prepare σεμίδιλιν (semilam) or anything else on account of what is called puerperia, let him be cut off.

400As the Catholic Church has always taught the Virgin-birth as well as the Virgin-conception of our Blessed Lord, and has affirmed that Mary was ever-virgin, even after she had brought forth the incarnate Son, so it follows necessarily that there could be no childbed nor puerperal flux.  It need hardly be remarked here that besides other texts that of the prophet is considered as teaching thus much, “Behold the Virgin (ha alma) shall conceive and bear a son,” she that “bare” as well as she that “conceived” being a virgin.  Some commentators have taken ἐπιλόχεια for the afterbirth, but Christian Lupus, as Van Espen notes, has pointed out that the early fathers seem to have recognized that the Virgin did have the “afterbirth,” and this St. Jerome expressly teaches in his book, Contra Helvidium.

The Greeks, however, understood it as I have translated, and the witness of Zonaras will be sufficient.  The words λοχος, λοχαιος and the like all signify “lying in,” “a place of lying in,” and Liddell and Scott say that the latter word is used of “bearing down like heavy ears of corn,” which would well express the labour pains.

Zonaras.

This canon teaches that the parturition of the holy Virgin was without any childbed.  For childbed (puerperium) is the emission of the fœtus accompanied by pain and a flux of blood:  but none of us ever believed that the Mother of God was subjected to sufferings of this sort, for these are the consequents of natural conception, but her conception was supernatural; and by the Holy Spirit it was brought to pass that she was not subjected to those evils which rightly are attached to natural parturition.

On this canon should be read the extensive treatment of Asseman (Bib. Juris Orient., Tom. v., pp. 193 et seqq.)


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