Delicate Question about the Perpetual Virginity of Our Lady


I understand that Jesus left Mary’s womb like light passing through crystal and that Joseph never touched her in any carnal way. What confuses me is that it is true that, well, a hymen can break in young women from physical exertion, exercise, and the like. Surely a woman nowadays who’s broken her hymen through say horse back riding or martial arts is still a virgin without one. So as long as St Joseph never touched Mary (and I know he didn’t) why does her hymen matter? A woman can be a virgin with or without one, right? I understand it is fitting in the classical sense of the word that Mary show all the classical qualities of virginity, but if we now know that hymens break all the time from non-sexual activity, what is a virgin really, and what’s a hymen got to do with it?

Mother, forgive me for even asking this. :rolleyes:


As a principle, creation (Mary) yields to Creator (Jesus). This is important. Thus, the doors to the upper room were not broken when Jesus appeared to the eleven. Neither was it necessary to roll the rock away for Jesus to rise from the dead and exit the empty tomb. And what about the Incarnation in the first place? Refer to the guiding principle.


In Ezekiel 44:1-3, we see this said of the “Temple Gate”:

"Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east; and it was shut. And he said to me, “This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it; for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it; therefore it shall remain shut. Only the prince may sit in it to eat bread before the Lord; he shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gate, and shall go out by the same way.”

This site has a really good comparison of the Virgin Tomb, the Virgin Womb, and the Temple Gate that helps tie it all together :thumbsup:


I’ve heard it said that the birth was a sort of miraculous translocation through His Mother’s womb, just as Jesus entered the room where his disciples were after His Resurrection (John 20, possibly prefigured in Isaiah 66:7). Works for me, and settles any risky questions about anatomy. :slight_smile:


Yes, any woman who has not engaged in sexual relations is a virgin. Some women are born without a hymen. It doesn’t figure into the equation when no sexual relations have taken place.


So many words have over centuries been written on this subject I am fairly sure, Layp3rs0n, that Our Lady is merely bemused by now!

As you say it ultimately doesn’t matter or have any real bearing either way on the state of virginity (though presumably there were few bicycles in 1st-century Judea). A lot of nonsense quite frankly has been written about hymens (or the plural hymenes?). If only because until relatively recently it was more or less universally assumed in defiance of all logic that it entirely rather than only partially ‘seals’. So it really has absolutely no bearing on the state of virginity.

There are various sweet if clearly apocryphal stories regarding the Virgin Birth - so I really think the details of what happened are left to what each of us consider might be appropriate and fitting given the unique and wonderful meaning of it.

On the one hand the Christ-child passing from His mother’s womb like light through a crystal is a beautiful image. Another view, one I think I hold, might be that Our Lady could be spared the pain (and mess :stuck_out_tongue: ) of childbirth, which is held in a metaphysical sense to be a consequence of our fallen state (since she was without sin) - but that it would be appropriate for Jesus, fully human as He was, as well as fully divine, should be born by just as fully human a process as any other baby.

Whatever the reality of what happened - it has no bearing on the virginity of Our Lady, which was pre- and post-partum.


The doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Our Lady is: prepartum, in partu, and post partum. Her physical integrity, in other words, was undisturbed by the act of giving birth and remained intact. That is precisely what virginitas in partu is predicating.


Another of God’s Great Mysteries and we should be in AWE of it not picking it apart!. God Bless, Memaw


Well…whether I was teaching Trinity or Christology or Mariology, if a theology student received as their oral final exam a question from me to explain and distinguish – or to work with me through properly predicating the Communicatio Idiomatum, for example – and they answered me by saying “Another of God’s Great Mysteries and we should be in AWE of it not picking it apart!”…they would fail the exam and they would fail the course.

That response is not worthy of a theologian.


Don, thank you. Memaw, I’ve always respected you on these forums. That still hasn’t changed. :slight_smile:

Don, how would you answer this question? You’ve taught theology? Awesome. I’d love your opinion. :slight_smile:


My response would depend upon how detailed an analysis you are seeking.

Personally, in my life and work, when it comes to Mariology, I have always held in the highest regard (in terms of my own contemporaries) Father Roschini and the work of the Marianum. There are a couple of Mariologists, however, who are Anglophone and whose work I could guide you toward, if this is an aspect of Mariology you wish to research. It is a rather specialised area and while the literature is more extensive than one might think, it is far from as extensive as other areas of the field.

Obviously, to do the topic justice exceeds what the character limit of an internet post would allow.



…there would be no real argument if Jesus would have just appeared to John the Baptist and requested him to Baptize Him… but then all of the prophecies regarding the Son of God would have been nullified.

Mary remaining a virgin, as one of the previous posts noted, is in deference to God’s Divinity…

22 Now all this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: 23 Look! the virgin is with child and will give birth to a son whom they will call Immanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us’. 24 When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home; 25 he had not had intercourse with her when she gave birth to a son; and he named him Jesus. (St. Matthew 1:22-25/Isaiah 7:14)

I recall one instance when I was told that “Joseph would not have been such a sucker to not have had sex with Mary…” This person, as many non-Catholics, was so bent on faulting the Catholic Church’s theology that he did not consider for a second that St. Joseph was also called by God to this Holy Embrace (the Incarnation of the Word). When both Mary and Joseph are made aware of the Plan, they do not question the Word nor the Function of the Holy Spirit. Their lives are intertwined to bring into the world that Light which the Remnant of Israel had been awaiting…

It is in this scope that we must view Mary’s virginity… who is the Mother of God not because she herself has been deified but because the Word, God, never ceased being God.

Maran atha!



If you are wanting to examine this from the theological perspective, and do so as an English speaker, I would suggest beginning with Monsignor Arthur Calkins. He’s a noted Mariologist whom one understandably thinks of mostly for his writings on the theology of entrustment – which is a more theologically appropriate treatment of the concept of consecration as it relates to devotion to the Blessed Virgin; it is a contemporary theological treatment that takes into account the magisterium of Pope Saint John Paul II on this issue.

Monsignor did, however, also write a scholarly article on Our Lady’s virginitas in partu, which is part of the theological triptych of the perpetual virginity. His paper was in response to the position articulated by another theologian, which several academics also signed on to. There was a back and forth of papers on virginitas in partu and the various footnotes would, of course, allow you to track the source material.

I remembered that part of all this exchange was done through the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars…but it was some years ago and, now that I am retired, I don’t go to the symposia the way I once did in younger years. I am afraid I don’t know if Arthur is still alive as I haven’t seen him in some time now…but then neither has he seen me, for that matter.

I don’t know how much is presently available directly on line from that exchange of scholarly papers, but try starting with the link below and this will get you going. I remember my position being slightly different from Monsignor’s on the topic of virginitas in partu but not, as I recall, in any sense dramatically divergent. There are obviously also differing implications that depend upon how, precisely, the terms are being used and set forth. (It’s a topic also that does not come up typically in conversations with non-Mariologists.)

Cardinal Müller addressed this particular aspect of Mariology in recent past but I am not sure if his comments are available in English or just in German. His remarks would, of course, be worth reading, if they are available in a language you read.

Father Ignace de la Potterie, of the Society of Jesus, is someone whose writings you would want to seek out. I used to use some of his translated writings with my own Mariology students.

Finally, I presume this is a project of your own research but in the interest of full disclosure, I know that before I retired, the CDF had issued a monitum to the theological community relative to dissertation work on this topic and I believe it remains unmodified. That monitum should, obviously, therefore be consulted and complied with before undertaking a major writing project.

I hope your research goes well. It is a most interesting topic. I would have been pleased to have lectured more extensively on it, as I always over-researched the course I taught and had more material at hand than what they required.

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