Andreas, a non-virginal conception (which was always what I believed the virgin-birth to mean) is far more important than a "being a virgin during birth" which I still haven't heard properly described (other than dogmatically and with great repetition). If Christ was the son of Joseph, then we are all fools for there was no incarnation. If Mary's hymen was torn as Christ passed through, we are not fools, though we lose some of the typological richness of "Mary as temple" (did I mention that Christ rent the temple curtain at death?... hrm... maybe that's not the only curtain He rent?)
I know of no authority that says Christ's virginal conception is more important than His virgin birth; after all, we have two great feasts - the Annunciation and the Nativity, but the latter (preceded as it is by a forty-day fast) perhaps being the greater. I'd have thought that you can't separate these two if we are talking about the Mother of God's ever-virgin nature. The texts of our services are not mere poetry (though they are poetical); they exist to expound doctrine at the celebration of the feasts. To challenge the truth of liturgical texts is a dangerous step to take, and, I would have to say (without wishing to give offence), foolish. No one is going to find the virgin birth 'properly described' because, as the liturgical texts say, it is 'past nature' and ineffable. As Herman suggests, you accept it or you don't but I'd have to say that an Orthodox Christian who doesn't accept the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ has got a problem.
Edited by Michael Stickles, 04 January 2010 - 03:28 PM.