But Christian materialism - our emphasis on the reality of an Incarnate God and the goodness of his created universe - is not the materialism of secular society. S Joseph was the foster-father of God, not his begetter; the chaste Guardian, not the bedfellow, of the Mother of God. This unambiguously masculine figure, whose calling was continent love, is God's witness against the sexual trophyism and appetite of the culture we live in. Dogmatically, S Joseph's witness is encapsulated in another title of our Lady, Aeiparthenos, Ever-Virgin; a title which features so much more largely in the ancient Conciliar documents and the authentic tradition of both East and West than it does in much modern writing. I think we have lost yet more of our nerve when it comes to talking about virginity and purity. And the result has been that we end up with Bishops being gathered at the expense of the faithful from the four corners of the globe (rhetoric, rhetoric!) to discuss sympathetically, tactfully, and without condemnations ... Adultery, fornication, and sodomy!!
How often, Fathers, do you preach on Chastity? How often, brothers and sisters, do you hear your clergy teaching about Purity? How much time would you guess is being devoted, in the Synod of Bishops, to discussing Sexual Abstinence? How many of the clustered, hungry, journalists in Rome are leaking the explosive words of Bishop X about Purity; the angry 'intervention' of Bishop Y on Virginity? The Zeitgeist, the Spirit of the Age, has used our own doctrine, the inherent materialism of the Incarnation, to undermine the whole concept of Continence; and what have we ended up with? A society which respects, enhances, and protects Marriage as never before? You know that we haven't. We find ourselves with a culture in which fornication and adultery have become norms, and wedlock is treated as endlessly terminable and repeatable, and Marriage is redefined in terms of fluid Gender. (There's such skilled and calculated cynicism here ... who can fail to believe in a personal Devil?) Only now do we see, five decades after Humanae Vitae, that it is solely in the context of a society which exalts Continence and Virginity that Marriage itself has a chance of surviving.
In 1854, Pope Pius IX issued an dogmatic decree, over the small print of which Latins and Byzantines may make differing judgements. What is indisputable about it is that it did put the adjective Immaculata right at the centre of Western devotional culture. By doing so, it brought the Occident into line with the Orient; taught us timorous Westerners the importance of that great word-bag of alpha-privatives with which Byzantine hymnody had for more than a millennium adorned the Mother of God: amomos, akhrantos, apsilos, aphthartos. Khaire, nymphe anympheute! I put it to you that Mary's perpetual Virginity, an immaculate purity of heart and mind and body, is not so much a title, a mere honorific, as it is a dogma. And not so much even a dogma, as God's conquering and triumphant Truth, which alone can win the victory over the disorders of our culture.
The Immaculate and Ever-Virgin Lady of Victories, born aloft by the sculptors on billowing draperies, her gravity-defying bulgy baroque crown precariously perched upon her head, is the Woman of Triumph whom God is giving to this world, and he is giving her now. She treads down all the serpents of heresy; she crushes all the serpents of vice and corruption with her virgin and immaculate heel. Khaire, kataptosis ton daimonon! Her Immaculate Heart will prevail.