During Jesus' Birth, His Mother Mary Remained A Virgin
During Jesus’ Birth, His Mother Mary Remained A Virgin
by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan
During Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation we recite the Nicene Creed, in which we profess: “By the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.”
We may pass over these words hundreds of times without much reflection. How unfortunate! Why? Because this phrase refers to several great mysteries. One is that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, meaning that Mary retained her virginity even while giving birth to Him.
The Church embraces Our Blessed Lady’s “Perpetual Virginity.” In 649, the Lateran Council under Pope Saint Martin I declared: “If anyone does not, in accord with the Holy Fathers, acknowledge the Holy, Ever-Virgin and Immaculate Mary as really and truly the Mother of God, inasmuch as she, in the fullness of time, and without seed conceived, by the Holy Spirit of God, Jesus the Word Himself, Who before all time was born of God the Father, and with integrity brought Him forth (incorruptibly bore Him), and after His Birth preserved her virginity inviolate, let him be condemned.”
Mary, the Church insists, is the “Ever-Virgin”: before, during and after the Birth of Jesus.
Before time began God decreed that the Mother of the Son would continue in her virginity. Therefore, Mary’s virginal state was never altered even while giving birth to the Savior. The term “Virgin Birth” signifies Mary’s virginity during the Birth. (Often, “Virgin Birth” is inaccurately used when discussing Jesus’ conception in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit.)
What the Baby Jesus left His chaste Mother’s womb, He did so miraculously without opening it or any part of her body. There were no lesions or ruptures. As light goes through a windowpane without shattering it, so the Messiah departed from Our Lady’s body without changing her virginal state.
The Prophet Isaiah (7:14) prophesied thus: “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son and He shall be called Emmanuel.” The woman who conceived virginally would bear virginally.
Several scholars understand Saint Luke 1:35 as relating to the Virgin Birth: “Hence He Who will be born holy (‘in a holy way’) will be called Son of God.”
No Father of the Church argued against the Virgin Birth and certain ones from the first five centuries—Saints Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Zeno of Verona, Ephrem, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine and Peter Chrysologus—wrote of it.
The Church’s Teaching Authority (“Magisterium”) has defended the Virgin Birth: the letter dated 392 Bishop Anysisus that scorned the notion “which holds that He (Jesus) could not be born of a virgin”; the 449 Tome to Flavian, Patriarch of Constantinople by Pope Saint Leo the Great, asserting that Mary “ brought Him forth without the loss of virginity, even as the conceived Him without its loss”; the 553 Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, referring to the Madonna with the Greek aeiparthenos (“Ever-Virgin”); the 649 Lateran Council cited above; the 1555 Bull of Pope Paul IV, which rejected a Unitarian concept that Mary relinquished her virginity during Christ’s Birth.
The 1964 Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (1962-1965) emphasized that “Jesus, at His Birth, did not diminish His Mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it” (#57).
The Roman Missal of 1970 reiterated the Virgin Birth in the special insert to Eucharistic Prayer I to be used on Christmas Day and during its Octave: “In union with the whole Church we celebrate that day (night) when Mary, without loss of her virginity, gave the world its Savior.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) stated: “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” (#499).
From the aforementioned, what may we conclude?
God the Father willed that His Son’s Mother always remain a virgin. This unique facet of “virginity-maternity” calls attention to Christ’s Divinity. Jesus is a Divine Person with two natures, one divine and the other human. He is the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity and shares the same essence as His Eternal Father and the Holy Spirit.
God chose Mary of Nazareth to become the Mother of Jesus, preserving her from Original Sin and then arranging that she would conceive virginally and retain her virginity while giving birth. It is no exaggeration to claim that Mary the Mother is Mary the Virgin. Clearly, Our Lady has no human equals because God established her as both Virgin and Mother.
Ours is an awesome God! What a marvel He has worked in Our Blessed Lady—the Virgin Mother of Jesus Christ.
Mary, Ever-Virgin, pray for us!
(Adapted from meditations published by Catholics United for Life [New Hope, Kentucky] and Queenship Publishing Company [Goleta, California].)
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Monsignor Charles M. Mangan - Official, 390 66616-1125
Divinity of Christ; Perpetual Virginity of Mary
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