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Non-Catholics Section: Marian (Perpetual Virginity)

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Marian (Perpetual Virginity)

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Do You Reject the Catholic Church's Teaching that Jesus' Mother Mary Remained a Virgin?

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Do You Reject the Catholic Church's Teaching that Jesus' Mother Mary Remained a Virgin? 

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* Do you reject the Catholic Church's teaching that Jesus' mother Mary remained a virgin because Scripture says that "before they came together, she was found with child" (Mt. 1:18)? If so, you should understand that "before they came together" may be taken to mean "before they lived together" or "before the time of the celebration of their nuptial rites". Also, you should consider that the phraseology used doesn't of itself necessarily mean that a particular event followed. For example, consider that "In common conversation, when we say that a man died before he reached his 30th year, we do not mean that he afterwards attained it." (DR)

* Do you reject the Catholic Church's teaching that Jesus' mother Mary remained a virgin because Scripture says that "He had no relations with her until she bore a son" (Mt. 1:25, emphasis added)? If so then, you should consider that Scripture may use this term without implying that something occurred afterwards. For example, consider the following passages (emphasis added)...

Mt. 28:20: And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.

1 Cor. 15:25: For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

Lk. 2:36-37: There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.

As St. Thomas Aquinas states, "as in Psalm 123:2: 'Our eyes are unto the Lord our God, until He have mercy on us'; from which it is not to be gathered that our eyes are turned from God as soon as His mercy has been obtained. In this sense those things are indicated 'of which we might doubt if they had not been written down: while others are left out to be supplied by our understanding. Thus the evangelist says that the Mother of God was not known by her husband until she gave birth, that we may be given to understand that still less did he know her afterwards' (Adversus Helvidium v)." Surely, this is a way of speaking that doesn't necessarily imply that something occurred afterward. When interpreting Scripture, it is clearly essential to understand ways of speaking in order not to fall into all means of serious error [e.g. taking Scripture to mean that there is more than one God because 1 Cor. 8:6 says that "for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things are and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are and through whom we exist."].

* Do you reject the Catholic Church's teaching that Jesus' mother Mary remained a virgin because Scripture calls Jesus a "firstborn" son? Do you seriously imagine that one must wait for a second-born for there to be a firstborn? "From the words, her first-born Son, some most erroneously suspect that Mary had other sons, saying that first-born can only be said of one that has brethren. But this is the manner of Scripture, to call the first-born not only one who is followed by brethren, but the first birth of the mother." (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church) Such terminology has to do with Jewish law and in no way requires that a second birth follow! As St. Thomas Aquinas has said, "The Scriptures are wont to designate as the first-born, not only a child who is followed by others, but also the one that is born first. 'Otherwise, if a child were not first-born unless followed by others, the first-fruits would not be due as long as there was no further produce' (Jerome, Adversus Helvidium x): which is clearly false, since according to the law the first-fruits had to be redeemed within a month (Numbers 18:16)." 

* Do you reject the Catholic Church's teaching that Jesus' mother Mary remained a virgin because Scripture refers to certain persons as Jesus' "brothers" and "sisters"? Do you not realize that some ancient languages have no word for cousin (and other relatives) so the terms "brothers" and "sisters" may be used to refer to relatives other than blood brothers and blood sisters? This can be further proven by the fact that Scripture refers to James and Joseph (or Joses) as the "brothers of the Lord" but also tells us that they are the sons of Mary, wife of Clopas (who is the 'sister' of Jesus' mother Mary). (Note: See Jn. 19:25, Mt. 13:55, Mt. 27:56, Mk.6:3, Mk. 15:47) As St. Isidore of Seville, Doctor of the Church has said, "Those who are here called the Lord's brethren, are the sons of a Mary, His Mother's sister; she is the mother of this James and Joseph, that is to say, Mary the wife of Cleophas and this is the Mary who is called the mother of James the Less." As St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church" has said, "Mary who is called 'the mother of James and Joseph' is not to be taken for the Mother of our Lord, who is not wont to be named in the Gospels save under this designation of her dignity - 'the Mother of Jesus.' This Mary is to be taken for the wife of Alphaeus, whose son was James the less, known as the 'brother of the Lord' (Galatians 1:19)." It should also be noted that the term "brothers" is sometimes used in a spiritual sense (e.g. Acts 1:15).

* If you believe Jesus had siblings, why weren't they mentioned in Lk. 2:41-51?

* If you believe Jesus had siblings, explain why Christ entrusted His mother - while hanging on the Cross - to St. John and not one of his "brothers" or "sisters" (see Jn. 19:27). 

* How can you reject the Catholic Church's belief that Mary was vowed to virginity prior to Christ's birth in light of her response to the angel in Lk. 1:34 ("And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man?")? If Mary was betrothed and had not vowed virginity, why would she respond this way upon being told that she was to bear a child? As St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, says, "Mary answered the announcing angel: 'How shall this be done, because I know not man?' She would not have said this unless she had already vowed her virginity to God." A woman about to be married who had not vowed virginity would certainly not need to ask how she will become pregnant (assuming she understood how this process works, which Mary obviously does in light of her answer).

* Do you reject the Catholic Church's teaching that Mary remained a virgin because Scripture refers to Mary as Joseph's wife? Does this mean that if you had a son who got married, you would refuse to call his new bride his "wife" since they had not yet engaged in intimate relations? As St. Ambrose of Milan has said, "Neither does it make any difference that the Scripture says: 'Joseph took his wife and went into Egypt'; for any woman espoused to a man is given the name of wife. It is from the time that marriage begins that the marital terminology is employed. It is not the deflowering of virginity that makes a marriage, but the marital contract. It is when the girl accepts the yoke that marriage begins, not when she comes to know her husband physically." (St. Ambrose of Milan, Doctor of the Church, c. 391 A.D.)

* How do you argue against Mary's perpetual virginity in light of the fact that Scripture says of a mere material gate: "This gate is to remain closed; it is not to be opened for anyone to enter by it; since the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered by it, it shall remain closed" (Ezek. 44:2)? "Who is this gate, if not Mary? Is it not closed because she is a virgin? Mary is the gate through which Christ entered this world, when He was brought forth in the virginal birth and in the manner of His birth did not break the seals of virginity." (St. Ambrose of Milan, Doctor of the Church, c. 391 A.D.) How can you imagine that Scripture could speak this way of a mere piece of material that the Lord entered through, and not also expect that the Lord's own mother - the woman that He entered the world through and received His own flesh from - would remain "shut" to others? "The gate which was shut (Ezech. 44,2) was her virginity. Through it the Lord God of Israel entered; through it He advanced into this world from the Virgin's womb. And, because her virginity was preserved intact, the Virgin's gate has remained shut forever." {Rufinus, 5th century A.D.}

* How is it that Scripture recommends the practice of virginity (cf. Mt. 19:12, 1 Cor. 7:8, 1 Cor. 7:32-38, Rv. 14:3-5), but you believe that Christ's own mother was unable to accept it?

* Why is it that you would (probably) be offended to think that some person would later lay in Jesus' tomb (where Christ's lifeless body had remained but a few days), yet not be troubled at the thought that others rested in the womb of Mary - the very womb that Christ Himself took flesh from? Do you make a mere burial cave more holy than the very womb in which Jesus received life?


Closing Quotations...

"A Virgin conceived, a Virgin bore, and a Virgin she remains." (St. Peter Chrysologus, Doctor of the Church, c. 435 A.D.) 

"The Friends of Christ do not tolerate hearing that the Mother of God ever ceased to be a virgin." (St. Basil, Doctor of the Church)  

"For as a virgin she conceived, as a virgin she gave birth, a virgin she remained." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, 5th century A.D.)

"And to Holy Mary, Virgin is invariably added, for that Holy Woman remains undefiled." (St. Epiphanius of Salamis, c. 374 A.D.)

"[T]he immaculate virginity...was unblemished before birth, during the birth, and after the birth" (St. Sophronius of Jerusalem, c. 634 A.D.) 

"Heretics called Antidicomarites are those who contradict the perpetual virginity of Mary, and affirm that after Christ was born she was joined as one with her husband." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, c. 428 A.D.) 

"But those who are said to be our Lord's brethren according to the flesh, you must not imagine to be the children of the blessed Mary, the mother of God, as Helvidius thinks, nor the children of Joseph by another wife, as some say, but rather believe to be their kinsfolk." (St. Bede the Venerable, Doctor of the Church)

"Indeed, her virginity was itself more beautiful and more pleasing, because Christ, in His conception, did not Himself take away that which He was preserving from violation by man; but, before He was conceived He chose one already consecrated to God of Whom He would be born." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, 5th century A.D.)

"When you hear of our Lord's brethren, you must understand the kindred of Mary, not her offspring after our Lord's birth. For as the body of our Lord once only lay in the sepulcher, and neither before, nor after that once; so could not the womb of Mary have possibly conceived any other mortal offspring." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church)

"Christ, in being born of a virgin who, before she knew Who was to be born of her, had resolved to remain a virgin, chose rather to approve holy virginity than to impose it. So, even in that woman in whom He took upon himself the nature of a slave, He desired virginity to be free." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, 5th century A.D.) 

"Thus the Ever-Virgin remains after birth a Virgin still, never having consorted with man... For how were it possible that she, who had borne God, and had come to know that miracle from her experience of subsequent events, should receive the embrace of a man? Perish the thought!" (St. John Damascene, Doctor of the Church, c. 8th century A.D.) 

"Lastly, I would ask, Why then did Joseph abstain at all up to the day of birth? He will surely answer, Because of the Angel's words, 'That which is born in her...' (cf. Mt. 1). He then who gave so much heed to a vision as not to dare to touch his wife, would he, after he had heard the shepherds, seen the Magi, and known so many miracles, dare to approach the temple of God, the seat of the Holy Ghost, the Mother of his Lord?" (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church) 

"You had good reason to be horrified at the thought that another birth might issue forth from the same virginal womb from which Christ was born according to the flesh. For the Lord Jesus would never have chosen to be born of a virgin if He had ever judged that she would be so incontinent as to contaminate with the seed of human intercourse the birthplace of the Lord's body, that court of the Eternal King." (Pope St. Siricius, 390 A.D.) 

"If any one does not, in accord with the Holy Fathers, acknowledge the holy and ever-virgin and Immaculate Mary as truly the Mother of God, inasmuch as she, in the fullness of time, and without seed, conceived by the Holy Spirit God the Word Himself, who before all time was born [begotten] of God the Father, and without loss of integrity brought him forth, and after His birth preserved her virginity inviolate, let him be condemned." (Pope St. Martin I, 649 A.D.) 

"Otherwise, on account of the glorification of the most holy Mary, she could not be known by Joseph until the birth; for she who had the Lord of glory in her womb, how should she be known? If the face of Moses talking with God was made glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look thereon, how much more could not Mary be known, or even looked upon, who bare the Lord of glory in her womb? After the birth she was known of Joseph to the beholding of her face, but not to be approached carnally." (Glossa) 

"But some suspect the brethren of the Lord to be sons of another wife, following the idle fancies of apocryphal writers, who have coined a certain woman called Esca. But we understand by the brethren of the Lord, not the sons Joseph, but cousins of the Savior, sons of a sister of Mary, aunt of Our Lord, who is said to be the mother of James the Less, and Joseph, and Jude, whom in another place of the Gospel we find called the brethren of the Lord. And that cousins are called brethren, appears from every part of Scripture." (St. Isidore of Seville, Doctor of the Church)

"Let us rejoice, brethren; let the nations exult and be glad. It was not the visible sun, but its invisible Creator who consecrated this day for us, when the Virgin Mother, fertile of womb and integral in her virginity, brought Him forth, made visible for us, by whom, when He was invisible, she too was created. A Virgin conceiving, a Virgin bearing, a Virgin pregnant, a Virgin bringing forth, a Virgin perpetual. Why do you wonder at this O man? It was fitting for God to be born thus, when He deigned to become man" (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, c. 5th century A.D.) 

"Some, as Jerome says on Matthew 12:49,50, 'suppose that the brethren of the Lord were Joseph's sons by another wife. But we understand the brethren of the Lord to be not sons of Joseph, but cousins of the Savior, the sons of Mary, His Mother's sister.' For 'Scripture speaks of brethren in four senses; namely, those who are united by being of the same parents, of the same nation, of the same family, by common affection.' Wherefore the brethren of the Lord are so called, not by birth, as being born of the same mother; but by relationship, as being blood-relations of His." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"From this Helvidius strives to prove that no one can be called firstborn who has not brothers, as he is called only-begotten who is the only son of his parents. But we thus determine the matter. Every only-begotten is firstborn, not every firstborn is only-begotten. We say not that he is first-begotten whom others follow, but before whom there is no one; (otherwise, supposing there is no firstborn but who has brothers following him, there are then no firstlings due to the priests as long as there are no others begotten;) lest perchance when no birth follows afterward, there should be an only-begotten and not a firstborn." (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church) 

"That the nuptial bond should be broken between those who, by mutual consent, agree to abstain perpetually from the use of carnal concupiscence - perish the thought! On the contrary, it will be made the stronger by reason of the pledges they have entered into between themselves, which will have to be kept by a special endearment and concord, not by the voluptuous joinings of bodies but by the voluntary affections of souls. For it was not deceitfully that the angel said to Joseph, 'Fear not to take Mary, your wife.' She is called a wife from the first plighting of their troth, although he never had nor ever would have any carnal knowledge of her." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, c. 419 A.D.) 

"One-texters' say that the Bible speaks of Our Lord as having brethren; therefore, they conclude, He was not born of a virgin. But this claim can be answered. When a preacher in a pulpit addresses his congregation, 'My dear brethren', it does not mean that everyone in the church has the same mother. Secondly, the word 'brother' is used in Sacred Scripture in the wide sense, to cover not only one's relatives but also one's friends; for example, Abraham calls Lot is brother: 'Pray let us have no strife between us two, between my shepherds and thine; are we not brethren?' (Gen. 13:8) But Lot was not his brother. Thirdly, several who are mentioned as brothers of Christ, such as James and Joseph, are indicated elsewhere as the sons of another Mary, the sister of the mother of Jesus and wife of Cleophas! 'And meanwhile his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary, the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen, had taken their stand beside the Cross of Jesus' (Jn. 19:25). Fourthly, James who is particularly mentioned as the brother of Jesus: 'But did I not see any of the other apostles except James, the Lord's brother' (Gal. 1:19), is regularly named, in the enumeration of the Apostles, as the son of another father, Alphaeus (Mt. 10:3, Mk. 3:18, Lk. 6:15)." (Archbishop Fulton Sheen)

"Helvidius is at much superfluous trouble to make this word know refer to carnal knowledge rather than to acquaintance, as though any had ever denied that; or as if the follies to which he replies had ever occurred to any person of common understanding. He then goes on to say, that the adverb 'until' denotes a fixed time when that should take place, which had not taken place before; so that here from the words, He knew her not until she had brought forth her first-born Son, it is clear, he says, that after that he did know her. And in proof of this he heaps together many instances from Scripture. To all this we answer, that the word 'until' is to be understood in two senses in Scripture. And concerning the expression, knew her not, he has himself shown, that it must be referred to carnal knowledge, none doubting that it is often used of acquaintance, as in that, The child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem, and His parents knew not of it (Luke 2:43). In like manner 'until' often denotes in Scripture, as he has shown, a fixed period, but often also an infinite time, as in that, Even to your old age l am He (Is 46:4). Will God then cease to be when they are grown old? Also the Savior in the Gospel, Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of this world (Matt 28:20). Will He then leave His disciples at the end of the world? Again, the Apostle says, He must reign till He has put His enemies under His feet (1 Cor 15:25). Be it understood then ... that that which if it had not been written might have been doubted of, is expressly declared to us; other things are left to our own understanding. So here the Evangelist informs us, in that wherein there might have been room for error, that she was not known by her husband until the birth of her Son, that we might thence infer that much less was she known afterwards." (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church) 

"It is written (Ezekiel 44:2): '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.' Expounding these words, Augustine says in a sermon (De Annunt. Dom. iii): 'What means this closed gate in the House of the Lord, except that Mary is to be ever inviolate? What does it mean that no man shall pass through it, save that Joseph shall not know her? And what is this - The Lord alone enters in and goeth out by it - except that the Holy Ghost shall impregnate her, and that the Lord of angels shall be born of her? And what means this - it shall be shut for evermore - but that Mary is a virgin before His Birth, a virgin in His Birth, and a virgin after His Birth?' I answer that, Without any hesitation we must abhor the error of Helvidius, who dared to assert that Christ's Mother, after His Birth, was carnally known by Joseph, and bore other children. For, in the first place, this is derogatory to Christ's perfection: for as He is in His Godhead the Only-Begotten of the Father, being thus His Son in every respect perfect, so it was becoming that He should be the Only-begotten son of His Mother, as being her perfect offspring. Secondly, this error is an insult to the Holy Ghost, whose shrine was the virginal womb (Sacrarium Spiritus Sancti [Office of B.V.M., Antiphon to Benedictus]), wherein He had formed the flesh of Christ: wherefore it was unbecoming that it should be desecrated by intercourse with man. Thirdly, this is derogatory to the dignity and holiness of God's Mother: for thus she would seem to be most ungrateful, were she not content with such a Son; and were she, of her own accord, by carnal intercourse to forfeit that virginity which had been miraculously preserved in her. Fourthly, it would be tantamount to an imputation of extreme presumption in Joseph, to assume that he attempted to violate her whom by the angel's revelation he knew to have conceived by the Holy Ghost. We must therefore simply assert that the Mother of God, as she was a virgin in conceiving Him and a virgin in giving Him birth, did she remain a virgin ever afterwards." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

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