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Monday, January 17, 2011

Why do Catholics believe Mary was a Perpetual Virgin?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37
Question: Why do Catholics believe Mary was a Perpetual Virgin?  Doesn't it say in Scripture that Joseph "had no relations with her until she bore a son"?  (Matt 1:25)
Would it matter if she weren't a virgin after Jesus was born?  And why are Catholics obsessed with her virginity anyway?

The problem lies with the word "until". In our modern day understanding, the word "until" implies a change in action after a certain point. That is, if it says that Joseph had no relations with Mary UNTIL she bore a son...we assume it means that a change occurred after Mary gave birth to Jesus. 

However, this is not how the ancient languages of the Bible used the word "until". The inspired authors' use of the word "until" sometimes implied one thing:  up to that particular point in time.  It does not assume that a change occurred subsequently.

The point Matthew was making in that verse was to show that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, not through relations with Joseph. 

Here are some examples of Scriptural verses which unmistakably indicate that the ancient writers used "until" to indicate something only occurred up to that particular point, but not necessarily after:
2 Sam 6:23: "Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child UNTIL the day of her death." (We can assume that she did not have children, then, after she died!)

1 Corinthians 15:25"For He must reign TILL He has put all enemies under His feet." (We know that Jesus reigns even AFTER He has put all enemies under His feet.)
1 Tim 4:13: "UNTIL I come, attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, to teaching." (Clearly the early Christians were not being exhorted to stop the public reading of Scripture, preaching and teaching after the writer arrived.)
Why would it matter if Mary was or wasn't a virgin after Jesus' birth? And are we really obsessed with her virginity?
It's because, as with all Marian doctrines/dogmas, its significance has to do with our understanding of Christ. Every Marian doctrine/dogma re-affirms and enhances our understanding of Jesus.  It's always all about Him!

Mary’s Perpetual Virginity emphasizes the divinity of Jesus by telling us how fitting it was that the womb that housed God Incarnate was set apart just for that purpose! Imagine the Ark of the Covenant in the OT, which housed the sacred Word of God, later being a container for some pretty pebbles. It would diminish the sacredness of the stone tablets.  Imagine your parish priest placing a pretty decoration inside the Tabernacle at your church, in which now rests the Divine Presence.    Can you imagine the womb which held God Incarnate later carrying anything else? 

Thus, every single Marian doctrine and dogma reinforces and highlights the divinity of Christ.
And our "obsession" is not with Mary's virginity, but to the Truth, which must be protected and defended. 

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

Catholic Bible online

Catechism of the Catholic Church online

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

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