Perpetual Virginity of Mary

My son asked me a question last night. “Why is it so essential that I believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary?” He didn’t want an answer that explained the doctrine, the tradition or the justification for the belief. What he was asking was “why is believing that doctrine essential?”

The answer “Because that is what the Church has defined and we believe that as a matter of faith” wasn’t cutting it. I think he was searching for how not believing in that particular doctrine affects other aspects of the faith.

I was uanble to provide a satisfactory answer to his “why” question. I am hoping that some of the theological heavyweights on the Forums can give me some better ammunition.

He’s 15. What can I say. :rolleyes:

I appreciate your help. Thanks. :tiphat:

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Mary’s virginity

496 From the first formulations of her faith, the Church has confessed that Jesus was conceived solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, affirming also the corporeal aspect of this event: Jesus was conceived “by the Holy Spirit without human seed”.146 The Fathers see in the virginal conception the sign that it truly was the Son of God who came in a humanity like our own. Thus St. Ignatius of Antioch at the beginning of the second century says:

You are firmly convinced about our Lord, who is truly of the race of David according to the flesh, Son of God according to the will and power of God, truly born of a virgin,. . . he was truly nailed to a tree for us in his flesh under Pontius Pilate. . . he truly suffered, as he is also truly risen.147

The perpetual virginity of Mary is evidence of the divine origin of Christ. The Apostles themselves recognized it as such, and reported it as a historical fact, which it is.

From Dave Armstrong

The Catholic believes about this the same thing that he believes about the Immaculate Conception of Mary: neither doctrine is ontologically, intrinsically necessary. Rather, both are seen as “fitting” and the way things should properly be. I can’t think of a Protestant
parallel to this offhand but I’m sure there are some.

It was fitting (but not absolutely necessary – where it couldn’t have been otherwise in any other world) for Mary to be without sin (actual and original) because she was the Mother of God (Theotokos). Likewise, we think it is altogether fitting that she remain a virgin after bearing Christ.

Partly this is because of the nature of the miracle itself: Mary was a virgin and we believe that even the birth was miraculous (that Mary’s virginity – without getting
physiologically graphic – was retained even during and after the birth). This is traditional Catholic dogma (and, I believe, Orthodox, too).

It strengthens and supports the doctrine of the Virgin Birth (Mariology is always christocentric). It’s a miracle to have a virgin birth: a conception without the participation of a man. If Mary had had other children, and a normal sexual life after, people could always say, “well, how do we know that Jesus’ birth was before she started being sexually active? Why should we believe all this Holy Spirit ‘overshadowing’ foolishness?”

while i don’t have a conclusive answer for you, i think this DOES open up an area of discussion that would benefit those who read and post.

one thing i continually have problems with when in dialog with protestants is the ‘pragmatic’ issue. not all protestants are this way, but many have the mentality that ‘if so and so teaching doesn’t help me in my walk with Jesus, then why believe it?’

every time an issue such as this one comes up on the protestant board where i play, one particular member always asks ‘what’s the purpose of that?? how does it help my relationship with God for THAT to be true??’

it’s the same problem we run into when trying to explain to kids why they should learn history. ‘how am i going to USE this???’ is the recurring theme you run into when trying to teach someone about anything not related to science or math.

the thing is, and it relates to the history issue, the protestant issue, and your son’s question, i think: some things are true, and we should learn them and believe them, not because they serve some purpose, but because they constitute a beauty or a truth or a richness or a depth that God has made, or that has happened.

in other words, not everything God does makes sense, at least not to us. the sunset, though, doesn’t really ‘make sense’. neither does a waterfall.

why is it important to believe in the perpetual virginity of mary? because it’s true. why is it necessary for the sound of rain on leaves to sound like that? because it’s beautiful. some things, i think, are true and good and beautiful for no real ‘reason’ at all.

i don’t think that what i’ve said will help you, really, to explain anything to the hyperpragmatic mind of a 15 year-old. but i think that, perhaps, others who post and read here might find this line of discussion interesting.

God bless you as you seek to find answers to give your son.

[quote=Scott Waddell]From [In your quote from Dave Armstrong he said “The Catholic believes about this the same thing that he believes about the Immaculate Conception of Mary: neither doctrine is ontologically, intrinsically necessary.”
[/QUOTE]

I thought that the perpetual virginity, like the immaculate conception, were dogma. As such they must be believed by Catholics as part of the divine and Catholic faith.

My son’s question seems to be exactly that - are these teachings “ontologically, intrinsically necessary”? I thought that they were, but I couldn’t explain why, exactly, other than to say that they were dogmatic teachings.

Are you suggesting that they are not “necessary”? :confused:
[/quote]

i think he’s suggesting that they’re not necessary for a purpose. in other words, as my post suggested, they simply are true, for no pragmatic purpose. not ‘necessary’ for our salvation, not ‘necessary’ for Christ to be divine in origin.

the perpetual virginity of mary is, however, dogma.

[quote=jeffreedy789]…in other words, not everything God does makes sense, at least not to us. the sunset, though, doesn’t really ‘make sense’. neither does a waterfall.

why is it important to believe in the perpetual virginity of mary? because it’s true. why is it necessary for the sound of rain on leaves to sound like that? because it’s beautiful. some things, i think, are true and good and beautiful for no real ‘reason’ at all.
[/quote]

I really like your thought process on that. But I agree that it might not cut much mustard with the kid.

It helps ME, though… Thanks!

[quote=jeffreedy789]i think he’s suggesting that they’re not necessary for a purpose. in other words, as my post suggested, they simply are true, for no pragmatic purpose. not ‘necessary’ for our salvation, not ‘necessary’ for Christ to be divine in origin.

the perpetual virginity of mary is, however, dogma.
[/quote]

Thought so. I agree that is probably what Armstrong is getting at in discussing necessity.

Originally Posted by Scott Waddell
From [In your quote from Dave Armstrong he said “The Catholic believes about this the same thing that he believes about the Immaculate Conception of Mary: neither doctrine is ontologically, intrinsically necessary.”

[quote=OhioBob]I thought that the perpetual virginity, like the immaculate conception, were dogma. As such they must be believed by Catholics as part of the divine and Catholic faith.
My son’s question seems to be exactly that - are these teachings “ontologically, intrinsically necessary”? I thought that they were, but I couldn’t explain why, exactly, other than to say that they were dogmatic teachings.

Are you suggesting that they are not “necessary”? :confused:

Hi OhioBob! :slight_smile:

I think that you and Scott are talking about two different things as being necessary, if I’m understanding your question correctly.

It sounded like your son was wondering why it’s necessary to believe these Marian doctrines whereas I think Scott is explaining why the events themselves were not necessary but rather fitting.

Yes, they are dogma and it’s necessary that we believe them. We are bound to believe all that the Church professes to be true because God has revealed that these things are true. To deny what God has revealed as true is basically to say that God can make a mistake, that he’s not all-knowing. That’s heresy.

On the other hand, it is not necessarily “necessary” that the events unfolded the way they did but rather “fitting” that they did.

In Christ,
Nancy :slight_smile:
[/quote]

WHY? Because that’s the truth of the faith as defined by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. It’s a revelation that comes from God.

Pio

This is just a personal idea.

When looking at the doctrines of the perpetual virginity and the immaculate conception it is sometimes tough to see why we have to believe it. The first reason is because it is true and we are required to accept what is true because truth is a charachteristic of God. By rejecting truth you are openly rejecting God.

The second reason, and this is just my personal opinion, is that Mary remaining a virgin and remaining sinless is a human participation in the sacrifice of Christ. Although Christ was human, he was also God, so the participation of Mary would be different in a way. Christ kept Mary sinless so that we would have a model of a human that has accepted his sacrifice and shows the world that a human can be changed by the sacrifice of Christ.

Mary’s perpetual virginity is part of the same idea. Mary devoted her entire life to Christ and she promised to remain a virgin. This is also a part of the model Christian that Mary is.

Christ is like the bridge to salvation and Mary is the first to cross, consequently she is our guide in a way.

If there is heresy in this post, then I declare a condition anathema on the post.:wink:

maybe someone could expand on what I said above or they could adjust it to make it better.

while i don’t have a conclusive answer for you, i think this DOES open up an area of discussion that would benefit those who read and post.

one thing i continually have problems with when in dialog with protestants is the ‘pragmatic’ issue. not all protestants are this way, but many have the mentality that ‘if so and so teaching doesn’t help me in my walk with Jesus, then why believe it?’

every time an issue such as this one comes up on the protestant board where i play, one particular member always asks ‘what’s the purpose of that?? how does it help my relationship with God for THAT to be true??’

it’s the same problem we run into when trying to explain to kids why they should learn history. ‘how am i going to USE this???’ is the recurring theme you run into when trying to teach someone about anything not related to science or math.

the thing is, and it relates to the history issue, the protestant issue, and your son’s question, i think: some things are true, and we should learn them and believe them, not because they serve some purpose, but because they constitute a beauty or a truth or a richness or a depth that God has made, or that has happened.

in other words, not everything God does makes sense, at least not to us. the sunset, though, doesn’t really ‘make sense’. neither does a waterfall.

why is it important to believe in the perpetual virginity of mary? because it’s true. why is it necessary for the sound of rain on leaves to sound like that? because it’s beautiful. some things, i think, are true and good and beautiful for no real ‘reason’ at all.

This is wonderful! Though far from a child, I too wondered the same thing, and let certain aspects about Mary get in the way of my full conversion to Catholicism. Thank you for putting it so beautifully.

Sherilo

Sorry,

I still don’t have the quote thing down yet. But, as I said, or tried to say, thanks for a beautiful explanation of what never should have been a problem.

Sherilo

[quote=sherilo]Sorry,

I still don’t have the quote thing down yet. But, as I said, or tried to say, thanks for a beautiful explanation of what never should have been a problem.

Sherilo
[/quote]

Hi sherilo!! :wave:

This is off topic, but I just wanted to explain that quote thing to you. It took me a long time to figure it out. Hope to save you some time.

  1. Click on the number of the post you want to respond to.

  2. Click on “quote” in the bottom right corner.

  3. Now the post your respodding to is ready to show up as a quote. You can delete any parts of the quote you don’t want and just add your response at the bottom.

    If you want to respond to a few different things, highlight the portion you wish to respond to then click on the little yellow word bubble on the tool bar and respond below it. Each portion you highlighted will show up in a separate yellow box when you click “submit reply”. You can always preview before you submit to make sure it looks the way you want it to.

  4. After you click “submit” you can just close the window and you go right back to the original post.

Hope that wasn’t too confusing.

In Christ,
Nancy :slight_smile:

Thanks to all who have posted so far. I’ve gotten some new strategies to try. :tiphat:

I did the “It’s a dogma of the Church and as such it must be believed” thing, but it’s tough to accuse your child of heresy. :wink:

Besides, his point isn’t that he DOESN’T believe them, his question was "What harm would be done to his faith - his belief in God, the Trinity, etc. - if he had doubts about the perpetual virginity?

While I know he is just being argumenative (maybe he’ll make a good Apologist someday…) and maybe overly pragmatic, I believe that he does have an honest conflict over this. Hence my desire to help.

Keep the thoughts and prayers coming… :thumbsup:

[quote=OhioBob] Besides, his point isn’t that he DOESN’T believe them, his question was "What harm would be done to his faith - his belief in God, the Trinity, etc. - if he had doubts about the perpetual virginity?
[/quote]

Hi OhioBob! :wave:

John Henry Newman said “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt”. Having difficulty grasping a teaching is quite different from doubting its truth.

The harm that could be done to his faith is that it could be shaken in terms of the Church. “If the Church is wrong about this what else could she be wrong about?”

The harm to his relationship with God could be mistrust in his infalliblity. “If God is wrong about this what else could he be wrong about?”

The harm to his understand of the Trinity could be a rejection of that idea entirely. “If the Church was wrong about the Immaculate Conception she could be wrong about the Trinity. After all, other Christians say that the Church made it up. Maybe they are right and the Church is wrong. Maybe God isn’t a trinity at all”.

Confidence in the Church as the one through whom God has revealed all that is true and the one whom the holy Spirit is protecting from teaching error could be the thing that keeps your son from spinning off into the relativistic black hole that is Protestantism. Without this confidence there’s really no reason not to leave the Church for something intellectually or morally easier.

In Christ,
Nancy :slight_smile:

I apologize for the confusion. Others correctly pointed out that I was simply saying that the dogmas were not necessary in the sense that God had to make Mary sinless, as if there were no other way. Futher in the post Dave talked about how perpetual virginity protects the Virgin birth.

Sacred Scripture AND Sacred Tradition are the infallible Word of God. To ask whether any particular fact in it is strictly necessary is to miss the point. It is almost as if someone is making the argument that only parables or accounts of Christ that are found in all four Gospels are necessary to believe and the ones found only in one or two are optional. For instance, I think the raising of Lazarus only appears in John. Was it strictly necessary for Jesus to raise Lazarus? No. Is it necessary to believe because it is found in the infallible Word of God? You betcha. Same with perpetual virginity.

Scott

Dear OhioBob,

As an occasional doubter myself, and one who participated in a long thread on your son’s side of this very issue, not convinced but at least with a working hypothesis, I can attest to the difficulty you might have in “getting him on board.”

Not only that, it reinforces a doubter’s opinion that when the Church teaches things she can’t explain, she resorts to name-calling and intimidation.

Besides, his point isn’t that he DOESN’T believe them, his question was "What harm would be done to his faith - his belief in God, the Trinity, etc. - if he had doubts about the perpetual virginity?

Exactly. What harm is it to him to have doubts about things like this? If he goes around teaching against the Church then he risks sinning in case he is wrong so he should be warned against that. Having questions, however, is a sign of a healthy mind and if oppressed by external threats or otherwise insistence that he “sing the right tune,” it could cause him a very deep resentment and irreconcilable distrust in everything that is the Church. He has a lot of time to come on board. If we level with him that he can live a great Christian life and never be internally convinced in all the truths of the Church, he will more likely keep an open mind. A doubter has a lot more respect for somebody who says, “I believe it and to me it’s important but I can’t explain why” than somebody who says “you must also not only believe it, but believe that it is gravely important or you will suffer.”

While I know he is just being argumenative (maybe he’ll make a good Apologist someday…) and maybe overly pragmatic, I believe that he does have an honest conflict over this. Hence my desire to help.

It sounds like you are helping him by being honest with him in that you don’t have explanations for everything. For that matter, nobody has explanations for some things, explanations that would hold up under pure scientific and logical scrutiny. (If they did, there would be no need for faith at all because faith cannot exist, nor is it necessary, without an element of carnal doubt.)

Alan

The perpetual virginity of Mary is a Catholic belief, not a Protestant one.

Not so; all the early Protestant leaders, including Martin Luther, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli believed that Mary remained a virgin after giving birth to Jesus:

Martin Luther: “It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a virgin…Christ, we believe, came forth from a womb left perfectly intact.” (Weimer, The Works of Luther, English Transl. by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Louis, v.11,pp. 319-320; v. 6 p. 510.)

"Christ…was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him…“brothers” really means “cousins” here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers. (Sermons on John, chapters 1-4, 1537-39.) “He, Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary’s virginal womb…This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that.” (Ibid.)

John Calvin:

“There have been certain folk who have wished to suggest that from this passage (Matt 1:25) that the Virgin Mary had other children than the Son of God, and that Joseph then dwelt with her later; but what folly this is! For the gospel writer did not wish to record what happened afterwards; he simply wished to make clear Joseph’s obedience and to show also that Joseph had been well and truly assured that it was God who had sent His angel to Mary. He had therefore never dwelt with her nor had he shared her company…And besides this Our Lord Jesus Christ is called the first-born. This is not because there was a second or a third, but because the gospel writer is paying regard to the precedence. Scripture speaks thus of naming the first-born whether or not there was any question of the second.” (Sermon on Matthew 1:22-25, published 1562.) Ulrich Zwingli:

“I esteem immensely the Mother of God, the ever chaste, immaculate Virgin Mary…Christ…was born of a most undefiled Virgin.” (Stakemeier, E. in De Mariologia et Oecumenismo, Balic, K., ed., Rome, 1962, p. 456.) “I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the gospel as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin.” (Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Berlin, 1905, in Evang. Luc., v. 1, p. 424.)

So even the Reformers knew and acknowledged that the perpetual virginity of Mary is a truth rooted in both Scripture and Church history:blessyou:

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