Did Mary Suffer Labor Pains?

In anticipation of the upcoming movie, “The Nativity Story”, Taylor Marshall brings up the question of whether or not Mary suffered in her labor. Marshall, quoting Thomas Aquinas, writes that Catholic tradition teaches that Mary “did NOT experience birth pains when giving birth to Christ our Savior.” (emphasis his) Apparently the movie, which will premiere at the Vatican, shows Mary suffering through child birth.

Has anyone read anything about this from a Reformed perspective? My first thought is to lean in the other direction. The writer of Hebrews seems to go at length to show how Christ was ‘just like us’ in our humanity. God did not deliver Christ from the natural suffering coming from crucification, why would we suppose that he spared Mary from the natural suffering that accompanies child birth? Taylor makes the point that Mary could have been delivered from the curse of Eve as was being used to bring the new Adam into the world.

What do you think?

19 responses to “Did Mary Suffer Labor Pains?

  1. I remember reading of a certain Catholic artistic tradition which asserted that Mary did not only not go through labor pains, but that Christ was born via Caesarian teleportation, appearing in a flash of light outside of her womb without passing through the birth canal — all part of preserving the Blessed Virgin’s holy “gate.”

  2. Mary labored.

    Call it maternal instinct, but I think so ;o)

  3. I think she labored.

  4. I agree with you.

  5. My gut says that she probably suffered labor pains.

  6. The Orthodox response and positions would be the exact oppisite of the RC response. Mary was fully human, so it is common sense that she DID suffer labor pains. Unrelated, but worth pointing out, Mary was also not without sin like the RC teach.

  7. Hey Kristen, we do blog and here is our link: http://nash.typepad.com/

    Thanks for the letter – it was fun!

  8. Yeah, have I do you that I have two CREC Sarah Nashes in my life in two different states and both comment on this blog? ;o) Sorry!

  9. I’ve never thought about this little bit of “trivia” we’ll never know until we’re in line before the throne of glory for everyone to ask his One Question of God (hehe)…really interesting to consider, though, if Christ is the fulfillment of the Genesis 3 pronouncements, it could be fitting for Mary to not have experienced labor pains, but it seems inconsistent with the whole sacrificial incarnation…Christ’s taking on of flesh brought the ultimate imminence of God to man – enduring all we endure, yet being without sin. It just seems kind of “un-earthy” and esoteric to say Mary was excluded from labor pains…did he come with a wad of cash for Joseph to quit carpentry, too? hehe.. interesting conjectures, though.

  10. why would God exlude her from labor pains when He knew she would watch her son be crucified? that makes no sense to me.

    i think mary had a natural, uncomplicated, labor. i believe she was protected from the things that can go wrong with labor and make it longer/more painful/more difficult to recover from – but not from labor itself.

  11. Isaiah 66:7 says Before she goes into labor,she gives birth; before the pains come upon her,she delivers a son. I don’t think God would subject Mary to a long difficult labor in a stable after walking to Bethlehem. There are women who show up at hospitals, have a few cramps and give birth relatively pain free.

  12. IIRC part of the issue in RC theology is that Mary is ever-virgin not just in the sense of not having had relations, but in posessing an intact hymen.

    If she had given birth in the completely ordinary way, even if God preserved her from feeling pain, I doubt the hymen would survive intact.

  13. If it’s about an intact hymen, then the RCC is pretty crappy in its knowledge of physiology and ignores commonly occuring things to preserve a peripheral, non-standard notion of “virginity”. A hymen can be breached simply by strenuous exercise depending on the movement.

    She had labor pains. The Nativity Story (which we saw tonight) showed them, too. Honestly, faster and less pain than most (in compressed hollywood time, of course), but pains still.

  14. I do not believe Mary labored. Genesis tells us that labor pains are part of the “curse” of Original Sin, which the Catholic Church clearly maintains Mary was exempt from. As such, I believe she gave birth in the blessed state intended in the first Eden.

    Also, there is an apocrophal book out there with a story that a midwife examined Mary after the birth to discover the hymen was still intact.

  15. Would the Catholic Church say that she’s exempt from the “curse” of Original Sin, or only the “guilt”. I think there is a difference.

    If she’s exempt from the curse, then does she no longer need to toil the earth? Does no one sin against her? I think the earth, reproduction, and our relationships are three areas where the “curse” is found.

    I think a Catholic could argue that Mary was free from the “guilt” (which is personal), but not free from the “curse” (which is communal); hence, they could also faithfully say that she could suffer labor pains.

    Plus, labor pains are such a vivid eschatological image that would be quite appropriate for such an occasion.

  16. it is actually an ANCIENT HERECY that the church condemns to diminish the FULLY human quality of Christ. The bible tells us that Christ was both FULLY human and FULLY divine- this is a concept that is very difficult to understand. He was fully human in his physical self, but also fully divine in being the son of God the Father as well as the Trinity. If we were to claim that Mary did not have a natural birth, we would actually be diminishing and taking away from Christ’s fully human characteristics.

    Also, when Adam and Eve ate from the tree in the garden of Eden and Fell, God’s punishment in the world was that the earth would bring forth thorns in the ground and that women would now be in pain during labor. Mary was not divine herself, so she would experience the same punishment of God stemming from Adam and Eve’s sin.

    I could also raise the question… if God did not spare Christ from suffering on the cross, why would be spare Mary from suffering during childbirth… and she is not even divine, CHRIST IS!

  17. Do you ever wonder what was going through Mary’s head from the moment with the angel to the first moment she held Jesus in her arms?

  18. Here is what the Catholic Church believes and teaches. Chosen from all eternity by God to be the Mother of The Word Incarnate, Mary was preserved from the moment of her conception, by the singular grace of God, from all stain of Original Sin. Catechism of the Catholic Church 491, Ineffabilis Deus, Lumen Gentium. All stain, not just personal guilt which everyone else inherited from our first parents. After the sin of Adam and Eve,no one before her was in the State of Grace because of Original Sin. Yet Gabriel addresses her by a new name: “Full of Grace.” Luke 1:28. Her name was changed, like Abram’s was to Abraham and Simon’s to Peter because a new role was being taken on. But to be full of grace,she could not have been touched by Original Sin. She was preserved from all sin and “redeemed by the foreseen merits” of her Son’s passion and death. To be full of grace also means there was no room for any sin, her soul being completely full of grace. And since Eve our first parent , was without the stain of Original Sin and would therefore not give birth in pain before The Fall, how could any deny that the Mother of God ought not to be accorded this singular grace of God? Without the stain of Original Sin there is no curse or other impediment of Original Sin.
    Christ’s suffering and death were necessary for the completion of His redemptive plan. There was no requirement in that plan requiring that Mary suffer. In any event, The Church takes no Dogmatic or Doctrinal position on labor pains. It is not part of the Deposit of Revelation. But the Perpetual Virginity is. So what of Phil’s objection that the Virginal hymen could not be intact? Could TheSon of God pass through such a barrier without disrupting it? Apparently so. After His Ressurection, the Apostles were hiding in fear in the room, and the doors were shut. Yet Christ passed through the doors and came among them them.John 20:19

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