Explaining CCC 507

Hi having a discussion with a friend and I quoted the CCC 507 to try and show why Mary’s (perpetual) virginity is important. I’m not quite sure how to respond to this.

I can accept the symbol of Mary to the church. Not so sure about Mary being the perfect realization of the Church… that’s like saying Manna is the perfect realization of Christ. The symbol, by definition, cannot be a ‘perfect realization’ of which it is alluding to. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be called a symbol perhaps? It also seems to suggest that the purity of her faith is shown in her virginity… but here I’m stuck on a contradiction. If one were to be married, being faithful to the husband would surely include being faithful in sex. The scripture you quoted later, 1 Cor 7 expounds this very clearly. Verse 5 “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control”. Surely, here Paul is saying NOT to withhold sex in order to stay faithful to God? So, to be pledged in marriage and not have sex is not God’s intention (as he designed man and woman to reproduce, and even gave us the commandment to have children). Without sex (“hold fast”), one does not “become one flesh” (Gen 2:24).

Obviously this argument is without the use of the protoevangelium of James, which I’m still trying to argue has SOME validity. So to answer this I would have to assume Mary didn’t have a vow of virginity. I don’t think this should be an issue since the Church doesn’t restrict us to believe either case, if I’m not mistaken.

Obviously this argument is valid without the use of the protoevangelium of James [which stipulates that Joseph was an old man, and beyond the ability to conceive], which I’m still trying to argue has SOME validity.
I suggest you drop this. It is speculative at best, and is not aligned with the ordinary Catholic understanding of the Holy Family.

So to answer this I would have to assume Mary didn’t have a vow of virginity. I don’t think this should be an issue since the Church doesn’t restrict us to believe either case, if I’m not mistaken.

You are correct. There is no established Catholic doctrine that Mary had ever made a vow of perpetual virginity. The fact that she was espoused to Joesph pretty much means that she had made no such vow (otherwise, she would have broken her vow at her espousal).

You have correctly cited the teaching of Scripture that a husband and wife may, for a time, withdraw from sexual relations. St. Paul, however, does not stipulate any maximum time interval for which this is permissible. The Holy Family clearly exists beyond even the most extreme idea of marriage (how many OTHER women have borne the Savior of the World?), and thus may test the limits of the ordinary definition of “family” but this was no ordinary family.

Thanks for the reply! I can see your point in that Paul doesn’t stipulate a time, but I can see the reply being that he still does say ‘to come back together’ (at some point), which Mary and Joseph wouldn’t do. As to the Holy Family existing beyond the normal marriage, I don’t know how well that would be accepted, but we’ll see!

I was using the protoevangelium to support the perpetual virginity, the vow thing was more of ‘it could have happened because of this’. But one thing that drives the vow thing is because of what Mary said “I do not know man” seems to point to a vow or at least not having sex with Joseph (indefinitely). How is that reconciled?

Mary gave birth to a Son by the Spirit as a virgin.
The Church gives birth to “sons of God” by the Spirit (no one is born a Catholic).
That is all 507 states; no attempt to prove Mary’s virginity.

The simple fact is, Mary was and remained a virgin (an actual phenomenon). Theologically we try to understand the implications of that (and there are implications) but for Mary, that was just the fact of her daily life, serving God (and Joseph and Jesus) in the daily routines, informed by her faith and empowered by the infused Grace with Virtue from God.

She was and remained a virgin; no need to prove it, just as Jesus died and rose again - no need to prove it.

There is a wealth of meaning to these two simple actual phenomena. If you take them as actual happenings, then you can participate in this wealth of meaning. Your friend, who questions the phenomenon of Mary’s perpetual virginity is unable to participate, while you are able. You ask Mary to intercede for you as she stands near the ear of her Son, the King. Your friend cannot see her in this role, most likely and does not participate.

No, that’s not true. It’s absolutely the case that in general, symbols do not do what they symbolize (after all, a stop sign doesn’t jump off of its pole and throw itself in front of your car to make it stop), but there are symbols that do exactly what they portray. For example, sacraments are symbols that effect what they symbolize.

It also seems to suggest that the purity of her faith is shown in her virginity… but here I’m stuck on a contradiction. If one were to be married, being faithful to the husband would surely include being faithful in sex. … Surely, here Paul is saying NOT to withhold sex in order to stay faithful to God?

Here’s the problem: you’re being anachronistic. That is, you’re taking a teaching from a later period of time and trying to make it apply to an earlier period in time. Remember: Paul is talking to Christians; but, Mary & Joseph were married before the Church existed. So, there’s no way that Mary & Joseph run afoul of Paul’s teaching. :wink:

Your example is like trying to say that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were criminals, since they owned slaves and the 13th Amendment made slavery illegal.

So to answer this I would have to assume Mary didn’t have a vow of virginity. I don’t think this should be an issue since the Church doesn’t restrict us to believe either case, if I’m not mistaken.

By saying “Mary didn’t have a vow of virginity”, do you mean that she wasn’t perpetually a virgin? Or, do you simply mean that her perpetual virginity can be explained by something other than the assertion of a vow?

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It also seems to suggest that the purity of her faith is shown in her virginity… but here I’m stuck on a contradiction. If one were to be married, being faithful to the husband would surely include being faithful in sex. The scripture you quoted later, 1 Cor 7 expounds this very clearly. Verse 5 “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control”. Surely, here Paul is saying NOT to withhold sex in order to stay faithful to God? So, to be pledged in marriage and not have sex is not God’s intention (as he designed man and woman to reproduce, and even gave us the commandment to have children). Without sex (“hold fast”), one does not “become one flesh” (Gen 2:24).

If a woman marries a man from another country specifically so that he can remain in the United States, they might never have sex. So, not all marriages are for the purpose of sexual union and procreation.

What if Joseph and Mary NEVER intended to have sex? What if they were married for another reason?

Alternatively, what if they were like any other young couple, but after God chose Mary (and Joseph), they simply dedicated their lives to providing for their divine Son?

Hello cat_holic, you’ve received some good answers, especially with regards your use of the protoevangelium, so I’m just going to get right into your friend’s rebuttal.

I can accept the symbol of Mary to the church. Not so sure about Mary being the perfect realization of the Church… that’s like saying Manna is the perfect realization of Christ.

Your friend should read CCC 507 again. It does not say that Mary is the perfect realization of the Church. What it says exactly is “Mary is… the most perfect realization of the Church.” The perfect and the most perfect mean two very different things.

It also seems to suggest that the purity of her faith is shown in her virginity… but here I’m stuck on a contradiction. If one were to be married, being faithful to the husband would surely include being faithful in sex.

There are two things here that absolutely need to be said.

First, the Church understands Mary’s spouse to be the Holy Spirit. In fact, this is one of the foundations of the Church’s teaching that Mary and Joseph never had sexual intercourse, and thus no other children. Joseph’s marriage to Mary was an act of obedience to the will of God, because this is what the angel directed him to do.

The annunciation narratives are rife with the language of marital union. The image of the Holy Spirit “overshadowing” her recalls the image of “spreading one’s skirt over,” an OT euphemism of intercourse. This same image we see in the opening verse of Genesis, “and the spirit of God moved over the waters.” The term “moved” may be translated as “hovered” and carries with it a connotation of seeding, or planting. From this sprung the life of the waters, an image that is again repeated after the great flood, when a dove moved over the waters and brought life back to the ark.

After learning that Mary was pregnant of the Holy Spirit, Joseph would have understood the marital union that then existed between Mary and the Holy Spirit, according to the Jewish marriage customs. Thus, by taking Mary as wife, Joseph was not taking her as such in the proper sense, but more in the sense of a protector and provider. Had Mary and Joseph had sexual intercourse, Mary would actually have been committing adultery against the Holy Spirit.

Second, the Church does not understand “virginity” in the conventional sense; that is, never having had sexual intercourse. I call this the conventional sense because that is not what the word meant originally, but rather that is how it has come to be understood in modern times.

Virginity comes from the Latin “virginem” which means “maiden, unwedded girl or woman,” also an adjective, “fresh, unused,” probably related to virga “young shoot.” In the 12th century, the Angle-French word “virgine” meant “unmarried or chaste woman.” In the 13th century, it held two meanings, “young woman in a state of inviolate chastity,” and “pure, untainted.” In the 14th century the term was also applied chaste men.

Here, the point is that in calling Mary a perpetual virgin, the Church means primarily that she was perpetually chaste, pure, sinless, perfectly faithful to her husband, God the Holy Spirit. Thus, her perpetual virginity is tied very closely to her immaculate conception, and in fact extends out from it. It does not specifically mean that she did not have other children, though that is implied by it. It is implied by it because she is the spouse of the Holy Spirit, and if she had other children, it would mean a violation of her chastity in an adulterous relationship.

@John Martin

The simple fact is, Mary was and remained a virgin (an actual phenomenon). Theologically we try to understand the implications of that (and there are implications) but for Mary, that was just the fact of her daily life, serving God (and Joseph and Jesus) in the daily routines, informed by her faith and empowered by the infused Grace with Virtue from God.

Are there any clear teachings by the church on the implications of her perpetual virginity, or is it just bundled up with her immaculate conception and assumption? Am I just looking in the wrong place in the Catechism?

@Gorgias

No, that’s not true. It’s absolutely the case that in general, symbols do not do what they symbolize (after all, a stop sign doesn’t jump off of its pole and throw itself in front of your car to make it stop), but there are symbols that do exactly what they portray. For example, sacraments are symbols that effect what they symbolize.

Thanks, I understand what you mean, I thought so too just couldn’t think of a good example. Any other examples, since they probably won’t accept the sacraments as examples.

Here’s the problem: you’re being anachronistic. That is, you’re taking a teaching from a later period of time and trying to make it apply to an earlier period in time. Remember: Paul is talking to Christians; but, Mary & Joseph were married before the Church existed. So, there’s no way that Mary & Joseph run afoul of Paul’s teaching.

Your example is like trying to say that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were criminals, since they owned slaves and the 13th Amendment made slavery illegal.

By saying “Mary didn’t have a vow of virginity”, do you mean that she wasn’t perpetually a virgin? Or, do you simply mean that her perpetual virginity can be explained by something other than the assertion of a vow?

Was it a common thing within the jewish community to abstain (indefinitely) while in a marriage? I mean can her perpetual virginity be explained (affirmatively from scripture) by something other than the assertion of a vow?

*I’m basing off scripture because they’re protestant, and have not argued against SS yet. That will come later :wink:

@phil19034
I’m waiting for ‘Behold your Mother’ to arrive!

@Randy Carson

If a woman marries a man from another country specifically so that he can remain in the United States, they might never have sex. So, not all marriages are for the purpose of sexual union and procreation.

What if Joseph and Mary NEVER intended to have sex? What if they were married for another reason?

Alternatively, what if they were like any other young couple, but after God chose Mary (and Joseph), they simply dedicated their lives to providing for their divine Son?

Again as said previously is it a common thing to be married then but not intend to have sex? I don’t think I can use “So, not all marriages are for the purpose of sexual union and procreation.” Unless I can show historically that was the case (for righteous people like Mary and Joseph).

@MrSnaith

Your friend should read CCC 507 again. It does not say that Mary is the perfect realization of the Church. What it says exactly is “Mary is… the most perfect realization of the Church.” The perfect and the most perfect mean two very different things.

Sorry could you elaborate on this?

First, the Church understands Mary’s spouse to be the Holy Spirit. In fact, this is one of the foundations of the Church’s teaching that Mary and Joseph never had sexual intercourse, and thus no other children. Joseph’s marriage to Mary was an act of obedience to the will of God, because this is what the angel directed him to do.

I’m having trouble with this too because it seems like a weak point that can be preyed on where someone might say, then the church allows 2 marriages per person 1 real 1 not real. I know it isn’t true but I just don’t know how I would argue against that. I guess you answer it 2 paragraphs down… I guess you would have to argue that when the Holy Spirit said “…take Mary as your wife…” the HS meant take Mary as your wife only in name. Do I have anything to support this interpretation? (I’m willing to accept "It’s the church’s interpretation, but he wouldn’t. Which I’m OK with but it’ll nice to help him see where the Church is coming from before taking SS away)

And I can see where you’re coming from in the final paragraphs.

Thanks for all your replies!

Hmm… do they believe that baptism ‘does’ anything? Or that it’s just a sign of something that happens? If they believe in baptism as being efficacious, then you’re got a symbol that does what it symbolizes right there!

Was it a common thing within the jewish community to abstain (indefinitely) while in a marriage?

Well, given David’s statement to his wife Michal, and the Bible’s affirmation that she never had children, I think we can pretty fairly assert that David took of vow of abstinence vis-a-vis Michal, and kept it for her entire life!

I mean can her perpetual virginity be explained (affirmatively from scripture) by something other than the assertion of a vow?

Such as what, for example? What else would work, aside from a vow of some sort, that would work in the context of a freely willed decision to abstain?

@Gorgias
Thanks, I’ll check about their view on baptism.

Could you please point me to where I can find David’s statement? :slight_smile:

Sorry I meant vow prior to her marriage. But I don’t think it is an issue. Or can’t remember why it was. I’ll bring it up again if it comes up :stuck_out_tongue:

From the Cathecism:

507 At once virgin and mother, Mary is the symbol and the most perfect realization of the Church: “the Church indeed. . . by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother. By preaching and Baptism she brings forth sons, who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God, to a new and immortal life. She herself is a virgin, who keeps in its entirety and purity the faith she pledged to her spouse.”

See that it says that she is the spouse of the Holy Spirit. She remains faithful to her spouse. That is the key reason why she is a perpetual virgin that many folks misunderstand.

But she actually received Christ herself. The Church also received Christ, but less directly (not physically they way that Mary did.)

2 Samuel 6. He makes a promise to Michal, the effect of which is “Michal was childless until the day she died.” (2 Sam 6:23)

And now I’m confused. This quote from the Catechism says “the Church indeed. . . by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother. By preaching and Baptism she brings forth sons, who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God, to a new and immortal life. She herself is a virgin, who keeps in its entirety and purity the faith she pledged to her spouse.”

This is confusing because the quote is speaking of the Church, who conceives by the Holy Spirit. The “her” in the last sentence when it says “her spouse” is the Church. So, this quote from the Catechism is saying that the Church is the spouse of the Holy Spirit, with whom she conceives and brings forth sons through preaching and baptism. I thought the Church was the Bride of Christ. Wouldn’t her spouse be Jesus?

Since Mary is the most perfect realisation of the Church, and Mary is to be pure (from her immaculate conception and perpetual virginity). Does that mean the Church is NOT hence why she is the most perfect realisation. Or does it mean the Church IS pure? And by Church is that the body i.e whole? Or members?

In other words is it the case where the Church is pure because Mary is a symbol of/represents the church and its members aren’t hence why she is the most perfect realisation.

Or

The Church, the whole and its members, is not pure hence Mary is both a SYMBOL and is the most perfect realisation, ie. what the Church strives to be.

Mary actually received Jesus, through the Holy Spirit.

Similarly the Church received the word (Jesus) too and brings forth sons through the Holy Spirit too by baptizing.

Something to pray about. The Church is our Mother for the same reasons that Mary is Jesus’ Mother. It is all quite intimate and beautiful. Something to contemplate with a sense of awe for the beauty of it.

A lot of Catholic theology is focused on things that are both a symbol and real at the same time. But only the most precious aspects of the faith are described that way. Sort of the intersection of the Divine world (which we only understand symbolically) with what we perceive as the real world.

Well, the Church is Christ, properly speaking. The symbolism of the NT is that the Church is Christ’s body. I wonder if speaking in this manner was a primitive way of saying that the Church is Christ’s humanity. It is generally understood that it is in the Incarnation that the marriage between God and man takes place. So, in this sense, the Hypostatic Union is that “two becoming one flesh” of marriage.

But in a mystical sense, we share in that body, in that humanity, united to Him through the Church, through His established Kingdom, which is Himself.

So, because the Church is Christ, Himself, Mary cannot be the perfect realization of the Church, because that would mean she had risen to the same level of Christ, which is heresy. But she is the most perfect realization, meaning that she most resembles Christ, has reached the highest levels of sainthood.

Remember that Mary is as much a member of the Church as you and I are. But we ought to distinguish between what the Church is and what it is not. When I sin, I do not as as the Church. I am a member of the Church only insofar as I adhere to her teachings, the teachings of our Lord and Saviour. For in obeying the Church, I obey Christ, who is the Church. And what are His commands? They are nothing less than to do as He did, to be like Him. To be perfect as the Father in heaven is perfect. Well, how do we know what the Father’s perfection is? Christ tells us that “He who sees me sees the Father.” So, the perfection of the Father shines through the person of Jesus. And to be like the Father in His perfection, we must imitate Christ.

When we imitate Christ, we realize the Church. That is, we make Him real in the world. We realize Him, who is the Church, both in ourselves and in the world. Mary did this more perfectly than any of us could, thus she is the “most” perfect realization of the Church.

But isn’t Christ the bridegroom of the Church? I’m getting confused. I understand we are part of the Church and the Church itself is a separate entity correct?

Yes, He is the Bridegroom, and the Church the Bride. Yet, the Church is also the Body of Christ. So, there is no division between Christ and His Church. And the image of the bride and bridegroom is appropriate, because in marriage, especially in the consummation of marriage, the bridegroom and bride become one flesh. Likewise, it is the case with the Church and Christ.

When it is said in Eph 5:25-27, is the correct reading meant to be that the OT church is sanctified into the NT church that Jesus builds?

Since Mary’s perpetual virginity/ pureness reflects the Church. How do we explain this sanctification of the Church, which was not pure before thus needs sanctification, with Mary who was at all times pure?

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