Q: Can Mary be a model for married sexual life?
A: Your struggle is a real one, especially since we have the tendency to present Mary, the Holy Family, as a model of Christian life in all of its aspects.
A real model has two aspects: one that is applicable to the many, because it applies and corresponds to the many; the other is and remains strictly personal and cannot be applied to other people. This second aspect lends authenticity to the first, since it is only by living our personal vocation that we become a model for other people. It is in and through our own way of living Christianity that we witness the Christian message or, at least, some aspects of this ideal.
We have a similar situation with regard to Mary. She lives the Christian message by accepting God's call and vocation. It entailed divine paternity, the overshadowing by the Spirit, the virgin birth: all aspects scripturally based, but not in tune with a normal/natural understanding of Christian marriage, at least not in all of its aspects. From the very outset of Mary's appearance in scripture, her destiny as far as conceiving and giving birth is concerned, is different and atypical, precisely because of the very personal and uncommon nature of her vocation. She becomes a witness, however, of some of the essential characteristics of Christianity, and thus a model. Virginity (virgin birth and perpetual virginity) highlights the following:
- God's absolute initiative in Incarnation.
- Christ is the New Adam and inaugurates a new creation. The first Adam was from the earth, the second Adam is from Heaven (1 Cor 15:45. 47).
- Participation in the divine life arises "not of blood nor the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God" (Jn 1,23). Jesus, by his original conception ushers in the new birth of the children of God. Acceptance and reception of this new life is virginal, meaning it is entirely the Spirit's gift to us.
- Virginity is a sign of Mary's faith, unadulterated by any doubt, and a sign of her total gift of self to God.
- Mary's model character with regard to the Church who is called to be mother and virgin. The Church is fruitful (efficient, productive, active) when faithfully receptive to the inspiration of God (Virgin).
For all of these points (1-5) you might want to consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church for more information (Art. 502-507).
In conclusion: Mary's own way of living her marriage and sexuality remains her own and is atypical, serving the purpose of Incarnation and Redemption. But in and through this out-of-the-ordinary personal destiny she has things to tell us regarding our understanding of the Christian message and its implementation (see points 1-5 above). Formulated pointedly: she is not a model on how to actively live a married sexual life, but has much to show and tell us about the meaning of sexuality and its ultimate purpose.
For some more specific information on Mary's virginity (perpetual virginity), see our website, Mary Page (http://www.udayton.edu/mary), specifically FAQ #18 and the Virginity section of Your Questions.
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