We Don’t Call Her “The Virgin Mary” For Nothing.

Whenever we talk about Mary, we address her with many different titles: Mother of Jesus, Mother of God, Holy Mary,  Blessed Mother.  However, out of all these, the one most often heard across Catholic (and Protestant) aisles is The Virgin Mary.

Virtually every person that claims the Christian faith accepts that Mary miraculously conceived Christ as a virgin. Yet, it is widely believed across every Protestant denomination that after Mary gave birth to Jesus, she was free to give herself fully to her husband Joseph, and thus ceased to be “the virgin” Mary.

For Catholics, it’s a different story.  We hold that Mary was Ever Virgin, which means even after she bore the Son of Man, she remained a virgin for the rest of her life.  This belief is significantly crucial to our understanding and veneration of the Mother of God.

The Traditional belief that Mary was Ever-Virgin is as old as the Church itself, and held by those who were closest to Mary and her family.  In other words, those who could’ve pointed fingers and said “nuh-uh” but instead attested to the belief that she lived her life as a virgin.

Tradition is an important word because you won’t find any specific reference to Mary’s perpetual virginity in the Bible. As we’ve discussed before, Catholics rely on more than just Sacred Scripture.  In fact, our Tradition precedes the scripture by many decades.  So technically speaking, the belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity is actually older than the New Testament itself.

The earliest writings we do have of this belief are once again found in the Protoevangelium of James, which if we recall, is not considered inspired scripture by the Church, but does contain true Tradition.

However, much in the same way we approached her immaculate conception, we can understand the Tradition of Mary as ever-virgin through reason alone.

So ultimately the question is, does it make sense that, after birthing the savior, Mary did not enter into a normal relationship with Joseph, her spouse, with whom she shared all the rights of the marriage bed?

To answer this, we must first recall that Mary was never “normal” to begin with. Remember that when we refer to Mary, we refer to her as holy, which means set apart.  She was brought into this world for a specific, divine purpose, one that would impede her from living a “normal” life all together.

Mary’s perpetual virginity was the mark of her complete and total purity. That’s how God made her to be. Were she to simply go about her business as any other woman, she would have ceased to be the perfect vessel that bore the Light of the World.

But what about Biblical references to siblings of Jesus? Many who wish to discredit Mary’s perpetual virginity will often cite verses in the Scriptures that refer to Jesus’ brethren.

It is suggested in the Protoevangelium of James that Joseph was a widower with his own children, which could make Christ’s “brethen” his step-siblings.

However, St. Jerome in the 4th century claimed such references to be cousins of Christ, born by a relative of Mary, who also happened to be named Mary. This is perhaps the most logical explanation.

Even more telling, are the actions of Christ right before his death. Before breathing his last, Jesus gave Mary to John, who was with Him at the cross, to care for as if she was John’s own mother.   Why would Jesus do that if Mary had other children — or even stepchildren?

When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”  Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household. — John 19: 26-27

Whatever the explanation, the truth remains that Christ was the son of Mary, not a son of Mary. It’s important to understand that belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity dates back to the time of the apostles, and it wasn’t until after Martin Luther broke away from the Church that it was ever widely contested. In fact, Luther himself accepted the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity.

Those who were closest to Mary — who knew her, walked with her, and took care of her — they knew that the Lord had made her holy. They knew of her perfection and unblemished purity, and Catholics across the world hold tight to that truth today.

The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man.154 In fact, Christ’s birth “did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it.”155 And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the “Ever-virgin” 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church. 499

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5 thoughts on “We Don’t Call Her “The Virgin Mary” For Nothing.

    • That’s something I think about often. Joseph is a fantastic example off men today, and I’ve been mulling the topic for a blog for sometime now. Perhaps I should get on it!

  1. Matt 12:46, Luke 8:19 and Mark 3:31 say that Jesus’ mother and brothers’ came to see him. The Bible tells us that Jesus has four brothers: James, Joseph, Simon and Judas (Matt 13:55) ans also that Jesus had sisters but they are not named or numbered (Matt 13:56)
    In Mark, a crowd asks Jesus, “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon and are his sisters here with us?” Mark 6:3
    In every instance, the specific Greek word for “brothers” is used, not cousins as a few interpret…the Greek word is very clear.
    Perpetual virginity is a myth and not substantiated by anything Biblical, period. The concept of Mary’s perpetual virginity derives from Origen (C.E. 185-254) who based his claims on the apocryphal “Gospel of James.” which appeared in the mid second century.

    • There is actually was no word for “cousin” in the ancient Hebrew language, so the word for brethren was often used interchangeably.

      And even if the Greek word for brother, as in an actual sibling, was used, you still have to consider the fact that in Hebrew tradition, if one did not have any siblings of their own, then one’s cousins legally assumed the role of “brother” and “sister.”

      It is not a myth. As I said in the blog, this view was held by those who knew Mary, walked with her, and took care of her. It’s a part of the tradition that precedes the Bible, so arguing that “it’s not in the Bible” doesn’t hold water with Catholics.

      Keep in mind also that since our Tradition precedes the Bible, and since Catholics are the ones who put the Bible together in the first place, then it’s not possible that anything in the Bible can contradict the Tradition. Mary’s perpetual virginity was pretty much a given for everyone back then, and the very few who dared to challenge the notion were labeled as heretics.

      Again, even Luther held to this belief. The wide spread rejection of Mary as Ever-Virgin didn’t come about until years after the reformation. Now THAT is where the real myth lies.

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