Christian Doctrinal Instruction: Mary’s Perpetual Virginity - She was a Virgin before, during, and after the Birth of Jesus Christ
Her Viriginity before the Birth of Jesus
Mary’s virginal conception was already foretold in the Old Testament by the Prophet Isaias in the famous Emmanuel prophecy: Therefore the Lord Himself shall give a sign: Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and His Name shall be called Emmanuel (7.14). A sign, that is, in Scriptural language, a miracle and the miraculous conception of the Messias would only exist if a virgin (an untouched marriageable maiden, cf., Gen. 24.43: 24.16; Ex. 2.8; Ps. 67.26), as a virgin, conceives and gives birth.
The fulfillment of the prophecy is narrated by Mt. 1.18ff and Lk. 1.26ff. Mt. 1.18: When Mary His Mother was espoused to Joseph before they came together, She was found with Child by the Holy Ghost. Lk. 1.34: And Mary said to the Angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the Angel answering, said to Her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee.
Virginity during the Birth of Jesus
“Mary bore Her Son without any violation of Her virginal integrity.” The dogma merely asserts the fact of the continuance of Mary’s physical virginity without determining more closely how this is to be physiologically explained.
The Church’s faith in Mary’s (active) virginal conception is expressed in all the symbols of the Fatih. The Apostles’ Creed declares: “Qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto…” Pope St. Leo I (“the Great”) expressly taught: “From the Mother of the Lord, nature, not guilt, was assumed; and in the Lord Jesus Christ born from the womb of the Virgin, because His birth was miraculous, nature was not for that reason different from ours” (Dogmatic Epistle Lectis dilectionis tuae, 13th June 449). The same doctrine was taught by the Council of Chalcedon, by the Fifth General Council of Constantinople which gave Our Blessed Mother the title of honor “perpetual virgin”, by the Lateran Synod, by Pope Paul IV (1555). Pope Pius XII in the Encyclical Mystici Corporis: “It was She who gave miraculous birth to Christ Our Lord.”
Virginity after the Birth of Jesus
That the Virgin shall remain a virgin even after the birth of the Messias was, according to the Fathers (St. Ambrose, Ep. 42,6; St. Jerome, Ep. 49,21), foretold, in a typical sense, by the Prophet Ezechiel: And the Lord said to me: This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall pass through it: because the Lord the God of Israel hath entered in by it, and it shall be shut (44.2). The Canticle of Canticles: My sister, My spouse, is a garden enclosed, a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up (4.12). And the same Canticle tells us that it is God Himself Who, as the only Beloved, is the seal of His garden and fountain (8.6).
Of Old also, Mary’s perpetual virginity was prefigured by the consecrated vessels at the Tent and at the Temple. A leader of the Protestant Episcopal Church of England, [Mr.] Bull, acquiesced: “It cannot with decency be imagined that the most holy vessel [referring to Our Blessed Mother] which was once consecrated to be a receptacle of the Deity [Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ] should be afterwards desecrated and profaned by human use” (in Cardinal Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers, 139). The same view was held by Grotius, Calvin, and other noted Protestant writers.
The New Testament of the Sacred Writ indirectly attests [for it belongs to the Church, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3.15), the office of teaching, therefore of making explicit the truth of the divine mystery] the continuance of Mary’s virginity after the Nativity. From the question which Mary puts to the Angel, How shall this be done, because I know not man? It is to be inferred that She had taken the resolve of consecrated virginity to God by a special Divine enlightenment for it was spoken of Her in the Canticle of Canticles addressing the Beloved: Draw me… (1.3). St. Augustine and many Fathers and Theologians therefore believed that Mary made a vow of virginity.
St. Matthew says that Joseph too unto him his Wife, and he knew Her not till She brought forth Her First-Born Son (1.25). The Revolutionaries contend that other children besides Jesus were born to Mary. But, in their ignorance of the Sacred Scriptures, the qualifying word till by no means implies that the chaste union which had subsisted between Mary and Joseph up to the birth of Our Lord was subsequently altered; for, when a thing is said not to have occurred until another event had happened, it does not necessarily follow that it did occur after that event took place. The same Revolutionaries, in consistency with their fallacy, must then confess that the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ would have ceased to sit at the right hand of God after his enemies were subdued for it is written: The Lord said to my Lord: Sit Thou at My right hand until I make Thy enemies Thy footstool (Ps. 109).
The name of first-born was given to the first son of every Jewish mother, whether other children followed or not. We find this epithet applied to Machir, for instance, who was the only son of Manasses (cf., Jos. 17.1).
By the brethren of Jesus (Mt. 12.46; 13.55,56), fortunately the Holy Gospels themselves enable us to trace the maternity of those who were called Our Lord’s “brothers”, not to the Blessed Virgin, but to another Mary. St. Matthew mentions, by name, James and Joseph among the brethren of Jesus; and the same Evangelist and also St. Mark tell us that among those who were present at the Crucifixion were Mary Magdalen and Mary the mother of James and Joseph (Mt. 27; Mk. 15). And St. John, who narrates with more detail the circumstances of the Crucifixion, informs us who this second Mary was, for he says that there stood by the Cross of Jesus His Mother and His Mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magddlen (19.25). There is no doubt that Mary of Cleophas is identical with Mary, who is called by Sts. Matthew and Mark the mother of James and Joseph. And as Mary of Cleophas was the kinswoman of the Blessed Virgin, James and Joseph are called the “brothers” of Jesus, in conformity with the Hebrew practice of giving that appellation to cousins or near relations. Abraham, for instance, was the uncle of Lot, yet he calls him brother (cf., Gen. 13.8). We note here that the fact that the dying Redeemer entrusted His Mother to the protection of the disciple John (Woman, behold thy son, Jn. 19.26), presupposes that Our Most Blessed Mother Ever Virgin had no other children but Jesus (cf., Origen, In Ioann, I, 4 (6) 23). Pope St. Siricius: "Surely, we cannot deny that regarding the 'sons' of Mary the statement is justly censured, and your holiness [the Bishop of Thessalonica] has rightly abhorred it, that from the same virginal womb, from which according to the flesh Christ was born, another offspring was brought forth. For neither would the Lord Jesus have chosen to be born of a virgin, if He had judged she would be so incontinent, that with the seed of human copulation she would pollute that generative chamber of the Lord's body, that palace of the eternal King. For he who imputes this, imputes nothing other than the falsehood of the [carnal-minded] Jews*" (Epistle Accepi litteras vestras, to Anysius, Bishop of Thessalonica, 392 A.D.).
* The Revolutionaries combatted the Catholic doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary for their creed was inspired by the carnal spirit of its author, Martin Luther - the ex-Augustinian monk who broke his vow of chastity to God and married a nun. The Jews, under concealment, aided Luther in propagating his revolution to "amend" the Catholic position (cf., Joshua Jehuda in our post "Anti-Christian Conspiracy...").