Similarly, certain interpolated passages found in the Sibylline Oracles, passages which probably date from the third century, show an equal preoccupation with the dominant role played by the Blessed Virgin in the work of redemption (see especially II, 311-12, and VIII, 357-479).
Also attention has rightly been called to the fact that St.
Mark, though he tells us nothing of our Christ's childhood, nevertheless describes Him as "the son of Mary" (Mark 6:3), a circumstance which, in view of certain known peculiarities of the Second Evangelist, greatly emphasizes his belief in the Virgin Birth. Ignatius of Antioch, who, after describing Jesus as "Son of Mary and Son of God", goes on to tell the Ephesians (7, 18, and 19) that "our God, Jesus Christ, was conceived in the womb of Mary according to a dispensation of the seed of David but also of the Holy Ghost," and he adds: "Hidden from the prince of this world were the virginity of Mary and her childbearing and likewise also the death of the Lord three mysteries to be cried aloud". Justin also use explicit language concerning the Virgin Birth, but it is St.
The existence of the obscure sect of the Collyridians, whom St. 403) denounces for their sacrificial offering of cakes to Mary, may fairly be held to prove that even before the Council of Ephesus there was a popular veneration for the Virgin Mother which threatened to run extravagant lengths.
Hence Epiphanius laid down the rule: "Let Mary be held in honour.
In the paintings of the catacombs more particularly, we appreciate the exceptional position that she began, from an early period, to occupy in the thoughts of the faithful.
Some of these frescoes, representing the prophecy of Isaias, are believed to date from the first half of the second century.
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Evidence regarding the popular practice of the early centuries is almost entirely lacking, and while on the one hand the faith of Christians no doubt took shape from above downwards (i.e.