PART I: THE VIRGINITY IN SCRIPTURE
Our insight into Mary's virginal conception of Jesus comes from the
Gospels of Matthew and from Luke. The virginal conception is not referred to in
Paul, Mark or John. Raymond Brown asserts that the belief in the virginal conception
preceded Matthew and Luke:
It seems clear that the two evangelists traditionally known as Matthew
and Luke, writing in the era AD. 80-100, believed that, in conceiving
Jesus, Mary remained bodily a virgin and did not have intercourse with Joseph...
Neither evangelist knew the other's infancy narrative, and the fact that a
virginal conception through the power of the Holy Spirit is one of the few
points on which they agree means that this tradition antedated both accounts.
Indeed, it had been in circulation long enough to have developed into (or to have
been employed in) narratives of a quite diverse character and to have
circulated in different Christian communities.1
In Matthew's Gospel (1:18-25) we learn about Jesus' miraculous
conception through the revelations made to Joseph. Mary is betrothed to Joseph.
There were two
stages to marriage among the Jewish people at this time. The first
step was the betrothal, which involved consent before witnesses. This contract was
so binding that the woman could be referred to as a "wife," as in Matthew 1:20, 24
where Mary is referred to as Joseph's
gynê. The bride remained with her family for
about a year, after which she was taken to her husband's home. In parts of Judea the
man was allowed to be alone with his betrothed before she actually came to his
house but this was not allowed in Galilee.2 Although Matthew situates Mary and Joseph
in Bethlehem and not in Galilee, Brown observes: "Matthew's story of virginal
conception is set in a background of peculiarly Galilean marriage customs."3
Matthew 1:19 relates: "Joseph, her husband, since he was a righteous man,
unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly." The
general interpretation is that Joseph assumed that something was wrong. The
New American Bible attests: "As a devout observer of the Mosaic law, Joseph wished
to break his union with someone whom he suspected of gross violation of the law. It
is commonly said that the law required him to do so, but the texts usually given
in support of that view, e.g. Deuteronomy 22:20-21, do not clearly pertain to Joseph's situation.
Unwilling to expose her to shame: the penalty for proven adultery was
death by stoning; cf. Deuteronomy 22:21-23."4
The New Jerusalem Bible offers two possibilities: "It is perhaps because
Joseph is upright that he does not want to name as his own a child of an unknown
Another explanation is that he is deterred from proceeding with the marriage
reverence for the mystery of Mary's motherhood and has to be persuaded by
the angelic message that it is still God's will that he should take her to
Rene Laurentin endorses the latter explanation: "This account by Matthew contains
hint of any suspicion on Joseph's part...What Joseph knew, according to
is that this child belonged to God alone. Justice required that he not seek
to make his
own either the holy offspring that was not his or this wife who belonged to
therefore withdrew quietly to avoid putting Mary in an awkward situation."6
does acknowledge that the interpretation described as "Joseph's suspicion"
"dominant in exegesis from the time of Justin, Ambrose, Augustine,
Matthew 1:22-23 states: "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had
through the prophet:
'Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name
him Emmanuel'" referring to Isaiah 7:14. The Hebrew of Isaiah 7:14 uses 'almâ which means a young maiden of marriageable age. In its context, during
the Syro-Ephraimite war of 734, Isaiah is foretelling that God will give King
Ahaz a sign
which will be the birth of a son from a young woman.
Probably in the third century, although possibly extending into the second
century, before Christ, Jews living in Alexandria, Egypt, composed a Greek
of the Hebrew Scriptures. This was called the Septuagint, meaning "seventy,"
thus referred to as LXX. The name recalls the (unfounded) legend that
elders did the translation in seventy-two days. Since this version of the
used by Greek-speaking Jews, it was the version used by most of the early
Generally the New Testament's references to the Old Testament are to the
In the Septuagint, the Hebrew word,
'almâ is rendered by the Greek word
parthenos which actually means "virgin." The Septuagint does not
that the child will be conceived while the woman is still a virgin. However,
finds a fuller sense to this text in which a virgin bears a child. Matthew
asserts that this
fulfills what the Lord had spoken through the prophet. This would be an
instance of the
difference between the literal sense of Isaiah, the original author, and a
fuller sense understood by the Church, which was intended by God, if not by
the human author. The New Jerusalem Bible grants that Isaiah, at least,
intended more than just the birth of a child:
Even if Isaiah had the birth of a son to Ahaz, for instance Hezekiah,
immediately in mind...we may sense from the solemnity of the prophetic
saying and the emphatic meaning of the symbolic name given to the child that
Isaiah saw more in this royal birth than immediate circumstances, namely a
decisive intervention by God, towards the final establishment of the
messianic kingdom. Thus the prophecy of Immanuel goes beyond its immediate
realization, and the Evangelists, Matthew 1:23 quoting Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 4:15-16
quoting Isaiah 8:23-9:1, cf. John 1:5, followed by the whole Christian tradition,
have understood it as a prophecy of the birth of Christ.8
Isaiah 7:14 is not Matthew's source for believing in the virginal conception
Jesus. The authors of the ecumenical work, Mary in the New Testament,
"[I]t was unlikely that Matthew first came to the idea of the virginal
Jesus by reflecting on Isaiah 7:14, a text, that, as far as we know, no Jew had
seen as indicative of a virginal conception of the Messiah. However, if
already an idea that Jesus had been virginally conceived, this may have
Matthew of Isaiah 7:14 which the would then have reinterpreted as foretelling
Brown in his work, The Virginal Conception & Bodily Resurrection of Jesus,
likewise affirms: "[I]t is dubious that Isaiah 7:14 was the origin of Matthew's
a virginal conception; elsewhere, including chapter 2, it is Matthew's
custom to add
fulfillment or formula citations to existing traditions. And, indeed, there
is no proof
that Isaiah 7:14 played any major role in shaping the Lucan account of the
Matthew 1:25 relates: "He had no relations with her until she bore a son,
named him Jesus." In Luke it will be Mary who calls her son Jesus (Luke
word "until" eôs is ambiguous. Matthew's concern is to explain the virginal
of Jesus. This same expression is used by the LXX to explain David's
his wife Michal, Saul's daughter. "And Michal, the daughter of Saul, had no
the day of her death" (2 Samuel 6:23 ).
In Luke 1: 34, Mary's response to the angel's message that she will have a
is: "I do not know a man" epei andra ou ginôskô. "To know" is the
expression for sexual relations. The same word is used in Matt 1:25, "He did
not know eginôsken her."
Luke makes it clear that Mary is a virgin. Virginity was not valued by the
Jews. Thus the daughter of
Jephthah goes to the mountains to bewail her virginity because 'She had never known
a man' (Judges 11:39). Similarly, Judges 12:12 speaks of four hundred virgins 'who
never slept with a man' as though they were unfulfilled.
Ignace de la Potterie
raises the question whether Mary had intended to preserve her virginity despite
her marriage to Joseph. He writes: "We do not think that it is a question of a conscious
decision to keep one's virginity. That would be putting too much into the text.
At this moment in salvation history that would be an anachronism. It is rather a question
of orientation, of a profound attraction to a virginal way of life, a secret desire for virginity,
proved and existentially experienced by Mary, but which could not yet take
the form of a decision, because that was impossible in the milieu in which she lived."11
Pope John Paul II in
a Wednesday audience in 1997, draws attention to Mary's question, "How can
this be?" Would this be a difficulty if she did not have the intention to remain
a virgin? The Pope mentions that celibacy was practiced among the Essenes at Qumran and
among a sect related to the Essenes in Egypt called the Therapeutae, although
he doubts that Mary was aware of these movements. He believes her grace of celibacy
is related to her Immaculate Conception.
Although the second
chapter of Luke does not bring out Mary's virginity, a little aside in the
third chapter does. In the genealogy, Luke 3:23 tells us: "When Jesus began His ministry
He was about thirty years of age. He was the son, as was thought, of Joseph." Fitzmyer
observes: "As in the Matthean genealogy, Jesus ancestry is traced through Joseph, not
through Mary...To Joseph a legal or commonly estimated paternity is thus ascribed; Jesus
is regarded as his heir. This is also the reason why Mary and Joseph are described
as 'his parents' in 2:41, and Mary is made to refer to Joseph, in speaking to Jesus as
'your father' (2:48). Cf. 4:22; John 1:45; 6:42. "12
virginity has been described as ante partum (before the birth), inpartu
(during childbirth without breaking the hymen and/or a birth without pain) and post partum
(after the birth of Jesus). A question rises regarding the "brothers and the sisters of
the Lord." If they are Mary's children, then Mary's virginity relates only to Jesus' conception
and possibly his birth.
References to the brothers
and at times also the sisters of Jesus are found in various places in the
New Testament such as Mark 3:31; 6:3; Matthew 13:55; Luke 8:19-20; John 2:12; 7:5; Acts 12:17;
15:13; 21:18; 1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19; 2:9, 12; James 1:1; Jude 1.
The authors of Mary in the New
Testament point out:
The term adelphos, which
is used in Mark 6:3, would normally denote a blood brother, 'son of the same mother,'
frater germanus. It is well known that in the NT adelphos at times denotes
other relationships: e.g. 'co-religionist' (Rom 9:3, where it is in the plural,
and further specified as referring to kinsmen [syngeneis] according to
the flesh); 'neighbor' (Matt 5:22-24)- but these instances do not help with the
problem at hand, for here Jesus' mother and sisters are mentioned also. More
pertinent would be the use of adelphos for step-brother in Mark 6:17-18. In
the Greek adelphos is sometimes used in the broad sense of 'kinsmen, relative'
e.g., in the LXX of Gen 29:12, Jacob tells Rebekah 'that he is her father's
adelphos (Kinsman)' also Gen 24:48. The Greek usage here obviously reflects
the underlying Hebrew in which 'ah means both (blood) brother and ' kinsman.'
The same range of meaning seems to be attested for Aramaic.13
Fitzmyer also notes:
For the word adelphos can
express other relationships: 'neighbor' (Matt 5:22- 24), co-religionist (Rom 9:3
[syngenes, 'kin']), 'stepbrother' (Mark 6:17-18, unless the evangelist has erred
there about the relationship of Philip to Herod's relative' or 'kinsman' (so at times
in the LXX: Gen 13:8; 14:14; 24:27; 29:12). The LXX usage may reflect the broader
sense of Hebrew ah or Aramaic aha, 'brother, kinsman.' Thus an Aramaic
papyrus letter bears the opening formula, 'To my son from your brother' as
a father writes to his son who is away on a caravan.... The same is found occasionally
in Greek texts..."14
There is an indication in the text
that clearly raises the possibility that those who are described adelphoi
Jesus' blood brothers. In Mark 6:3, his brothers are spoken of as James, and Joses,
Judas and Simon. Then when Mark identifies the women at the Cross when Jesus died,
he states: "Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger
James and of Joses, and Salome" (15:40). Is this a coincidence? In Matthew 13:55,
His brothers are James, Joseph, Simon and Judas. When Matthew names the women at
the cross, he lists: "Among them were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of
James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee."
The authors of Mary and the
New Testament reach these conclusions:
We did agree on these points: 1)
The continued virginity of Mary after the birth of Jesus is not a question directly
raised by the NT. 2) Once it was raised in subsequent church history, it was
that question which focused attention on the exact relationship of the 'brothers'
(and 'sisters) to Jesus. 3) Once that attention has been focused, it cannot be
said that the NT identifies them without doubt as blood brothers and sisters and
hence as children of Mary. 4) The solution favored by scholars will in part
depend on the authority they allot to later church insights.15
A thorough study of the issue was
made by Joseph Blinzler entitled Die Bruder und Schwestern Jesu (SBS
21; Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1967). His conclusion was that those described as brothers
and sisters were cousins.
PART II: THE VIRGINITY IN THE
The first reference in the Fathers
to Mary's Virginity is found in the writings of Ignatius who died between
AD. One of Ignatius' concerns was to refute the Docetists who denied the reality
of Jesus' flesh since in their opinion the matter could not be spiritual, thus Jesus only
seemed to have a body. Two of his five references to Mary mention her virginity:
"You are fully persuaded concerning
our Lord, that he is in truth of the family of David, according to the flesh,
Son of God by the will and power of God, truly born of a virgin" (Smymeans
"And hidden from the prince of
this world were the virginity of Mary, and her giving birth, and likewise the
death of the Lord: three mysteries crying out to be told, but wrought in the silence
of God" (Ephesians 19.1).
Another author is Aristides of
Athens, an apologist who died about 145, who writes: "it is confessed that the
Son of the most high God, descended from heaven [in] as holy spirit and took flesh from
a virgin. "16
A curious work written in the middle
of the second century is the Protoevangelium of James,
which is an apocryphal gospel. In this account Anna, the wife of
Joachim, mourns her barrenness. After an apparition of two angels to Anna, Joachim offers sacrifices and Anna
bears Mary. When Mary is three years old, she is brought to the temple where she
dances on the steps of the altar. Mary stays in the temple and is fed by angels. When
she is twelve the high-priest determines that she should be married and he asks the
widowers to bring their staffs. A dove flies out of Joseph's staff and rests on his
head. Joseph protests that he is an old man. In the meanwhile Mary is asked by the
high-priest to spin a new purple veil for the temple.
As she is drawing water, she experiences
the Annunciation and then visits her cousin Elizabeth. Joseph goes away building
houses. When he returns he is startled to notice that Mary is pregnant and felt
he is responsible for not have watched over her more carefully. When the priest finds
out that Mary is pregnant, he conducts a trial. Joseph is made to drink some potion which
will reveal his crime. When Joseph remains well, the priest sends them off. Because
of the decree calling for the census, the couple go to Bethlehem where Jesus is born
a cave. Joseph seeks a midwife. Another woman Salome certifies that Mary's virginity
is intact but her hand is withered until an angel heals her. After the wise men come,
Herod seeks to kill the children. Elizabeth looks for a place to hide her son John
in the mountains which divide to hide them. When Herod cannot find John,
his soldiers to the Temple where they murder Zachariah who is offering sacrifice
at the altar.17
One cannot help but notice the
difference between the simplicity of the Gospels of the Church and this work which
tends to be complicated and concentrate on what seems to be almost magical, e.g.
a dove flying out of Joseph's staff. Rene Laurentin says of this work:
[T]he Protoevangelium of James
[is] an apocryphal gospel without historical value. I do not say...without
value. The Protoevangelium of James testifies not only to great fervor towards Mary,
but also to a profound insight into her holiness and her virginity, yet,
in spite of its antiquity (the middle of the second century), it shows (unlike our
gospels), a tremendous ignorance regarding the Jewish customs and laws which were
operative in the temple in Jerusalem. It is totally unlikely that a little
girl of three years of age could have been reared there, let alone in the holy of
holies, reserved for priests on solemn occasions.18
Luigi Gambero makes these observations:
Obviously, works such as the
Protoevangelium cannot claim the seal of divine inspiration. However, in
they helped the first generations of Christians to intuit the truth
of certain mysteries whose dogmatic formulation would later become more and more
clear in the light of divine revelation; these writings also traced an itinerary
through which believing people sought to draw near to the unfathomable mystery
of the virgin mother....The Protoevangelium's author,
as a collector of different stories and traditions, can be considered a very early and
valid witness to the Christian people's faith in the complete holiness and virginity of the Mother of the Lord.19
The authors of Mary in the
New Testament point out the contribution of Justin:
It is only with Justin Martyr, the apologist
and philosopher (d.ca. AD. 165), that Marian themes and particularly
Jesus' virginal conception, gained some prominence in theological argument.
It is possible, as we have mentioned, that Justin knew the Protoevangelium
and used it. However, his interest in Mary basically serves a christological
and soteriological purpose: Jesus' birth of the virgin is, on the one hand, proof
of his messiahship and, on the other, the sign of a new time.20
With Clement of Alexandria (150-215)
we find an explication of Mary's virginity which seems to show the influence of the Protoevangelium or similar sources:
But, as appears, many even down to
our own time, regard Mary, on account of the birth of her child, as having
been in the puerperal state, although she was not. For some say that, after
she brought forth, she was found, when examined, to be a virgin. Now such to
us are the Scriptures of the Lord, which gave birth to the truth and
continue virgin, in the concealment of the mysteries of the truth. 'And she
brought forth, and yet brought not forth' says the Scripture; as having
conceived of herself and not from conjunction.21
Tertullian (155/160-240/250) was
born in Carthage. He affirms Mary's virginal conception of Jesus:
Now it will first be necessary
to show what previous reason there was for the Son of God's being born of a virgin.
He who was going to consecrate a new order of birth, must Himself be
born after a novel fashion, concerning which Isaiah foretold how the Lord Himself
would give a sign. What, then, is the sign? 'Behold a virgin shall conceive
and bear a son' (Isaiah 7:14). Accordingly a virgin did conceive and bear 'Emmanuel,
God with us' (Matthew 1:23). This is the new nativity; a man is born in
God. And in this man God was born, taking the flesh of an ancient race, without
the help, however, of the ancient seed, in order that he might reform it with new
seed, that is, in a spiritual manner, and cleanse it by the removal of all its ancient
stains. But the whole of this new birth was prefigured, as was the case in
all other instances, in ancient type, the Lord being born as a man by a dispensation
in which the virgin was the medium. The earth was still in a virgin state,
reduced as yet by no human labor, with no seed as yet cast into its furrows, when,
as we are told, God made man out of it into a living soul. As, then, the first
Adam is thus introduced to us, it is a just inference that the second Adam
likewise, as the apostle has told us, was formed by God into a quickening spirit
out of the ground - in -- other words, out of flesh which was unstained as yet by any
Tertullian, while affirming Mary's
virginal conception of Jesus, did not hold that Mary was virginal in childbirth.
He also considered the "brothers and sisters" to be blood brothers and sisters.
Origen (185-254) was born in Alexandria.
He believed in Mary's perpetual virginity, stating: "There is no
child of Mary except Jesus, according to the opinion of those who think correctly about
her. "23 The same teaching is found in his Commentary on Matthew. "Those who speak
thus mean to safeguard Mary's dignity in the virginity she conserved until the end, so
that body chosen to serve the Word... did not know any relations with a man, after the
point that the Holy Spirit came down upon her and the power of the Most High overshadowed
Athanasius (295-373), bishop of
Alexandria, makes the argument for Mary's perpetual virginity from the Gospel
If Mary would have had another
son, the Savior would not have neglected her nor would he have confided his
mother to another person, indeed she had not become the mother of another. Mary,
moreover, would not have abandoned her own sons to live with another,
for she fully realized a mother never abandons her spouse nor her children. And
since she continued to remain a virgin even after the birth of the Lord, he
gave her as mother to the disciple, even though she was not his mother; he confided
her to John because of his great purity of
conscience and because of her intact
In St. Ambrose (339/340-397), bishop
of Milan, we see explicit reference to Mary's virginity in childbirth:
"Since Christ was born from the womb of the Virgin, nevertheless he preserved the enclosure
of her sexual chastity and the untouched seal of her virginity."26 And, "Behold
the miracle of Our Lord's Mother. She conceived, a Virgin; she brought forth, a Virgin.
A Virgin was she when she conceived, a Virgin when pregnant, a Virgin after childbirth:
as it is says in Ezekiel: And the gate was shut, and it was not opened for the
Lord passed through it." 27
St. Hilary (315-367), Bishop of
Poitiers, who was a defender of the Creed of Nicea against the Arians, argues
regarding Mary's perpetual virginity on the basis of John's Gospel:
Indeed many depraved men give authority
to their opinion that our Lord Jesus Christ was known to have brothers
(and sisters). While if these were really the sons of Mary and not those of Joseph
from a former marriage, never would our Lord at the time of his passion
have given Mary to the apostle John to be his mother by saying to both of them,
'Woman behold your son,' and to John, 'Behold your mother,' unless he
were leaving the charity of a son in the disciple for the solace of his now desolate
Epiphanius of Salamis (d.403) taught
the perpetual virginity of Mary: "Is not the very name [virgin] sufficient
witness? Is it not enough to convince you, you quarrelsome fellow? Was there ever
anyone who dared pronounce the name of holy Mary without immediately adding
the title 'Virgin.'"29 Epiphanius considered Joseph to be old and Jesus' "brothers" to
be Joseph's children of a previous marriage.
Jerome (347-419/420), who was born
in Stridon in Dalmatia, present Croatia, and died in Bethlehem, we find
very explicit teachings on the perpetual virginity of Mary in his work against Helvidius:
I was requested by certain of the
brethren not long ago to reply to a pamphlet written by one Helvidius. I have
deferred doing so, not because it is a difficult matter to maintain the truth and
refute an ignorant boor who has scarce known the first glimmer of learning,
but because I was afraid my reply might make him appear worth defending....!
must call upon the Holy Spirit to express His meaning by my mouth and defend
the virginity of the Blessed Mary. I must call upon the Lord Jesus to guard the
sacred lodging of the womb in which He abode for ten months from all suspicion
of sexual intercourse. And I must also entreat God the Father to show
that the mother of His Son, who was mother before she was a bride, continued
a Virgin after her Son was born.30
Jerome responds to Helvidius' appeal
to Tertullian: "Feeling himself to be a smatterer, he then produces Tertullian
as a witness...Of Tertullian I say no more than that he did not belong to the Church.
Jerome disregarded the apocryphal
gospels: "No midwife assisted at his birth; no woman's officiousness intervened.
With her own hands she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, herself both
mother and midwife, 'and laid Him,' we are told, 'in a manger, because there was no room
in the inn'; a statement which on one hand, refutes the ravings of the apocryphal accounts...
St. Jerome makes it clear that
his emphasis on Mary's virginity is not a rejection of marriage:
Nor do we say this to condemn
marriage, for virginity itself is the fruit of marriage. You say that Mary
did not continue a virgin. I claim still more, that Joseph himself on
account of Mary was a virgin so that from a virgin wedlock a virgin son was
born... It is nowhere written that he had another wife but was the guardian
of Mary whom he was supposed to have to wife rather than her husband, the
conclusion is that he who was thought worthy to be called father of the
Lord, remained a virgin.33
St. Augustine, (354-430) teaches
Mary's virginal conception and birth: "The angel makes the announcement, the
virgin hears, believes, and conceives; faith in the mind, Christ in the womb. The virgin
conceived; you're astonished; the virgin gave birth; you're more astonished still;
after giving birth she remained a virgin."34 He also maintains the perpetual virginity
of Mary: "As in the womb of the Virgin Mary no one was conceived before Him, and no
one after Him, so in the sepulcher there was no one buried before Him, and no one after
PART III: THE VIRGINITY IN THE
Letter of Pope Siricius to Anysius,
Bishop of Thessalonica: "Your holiness is rightly repelled by the idea that
any other birth should have taken place from the womb whence Christ was born according
to the flesh. Jesus would not have chosen to be born of a virgin if he had to regard
her as being so little continent as to desecrate the place of birth of the Lord's body, that
temple of the eternal King, by human intercourse"36
Paul IV in the Constitution
Cum Quorundam (1555): "[The opinion is condemned that Jesus Christ] was
not conceived according to the flesh by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Blessed
Virgin Mary, ever Virgin...or that the same most blessed Virgin Mary is not the
true mother of God and did not retain her virginity intact before the birth, in the
birth, and after the birth in perpetuity."
PART VI: THE THEOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE
OF MARY'S VIRGINITY
The theological significance of
Mary's virginity would seem to lie in her total self- giving to God and in her
fruitfulness as a result of that self-giving.
Cardinal Ratzinger has made some
comments on the denial of the virginity of Mary:
The world-view that would force
us psychologically to declare the virginal birth an impossibility clearly does not
result from knowledge, but from an evaluation.... Now we can say that
the real reason behind the reasons against the confession of Mary's virginity
lies not in the field of a historical (exegetical) knowledge, but in the presuppositions
of a world-view... Contrary to the usual presentation the real dispute occurs
not between historical naiveté and historical criticism, but between two preconceptions
of God's relationship to His world....The affirmation of Jesus'
birth from the Virgin Mary intends to affirm these two truths: (1) God really
acts - realiter, not just interpretative, and (2) the earth produces its fruit -
precisely because He acts. The Natus ex Maria virgine is in its nucleus
a strictly theological affirmation that bears witness to the God who has not let creation
slip out of His hands. On this are based the hope, the freedom, the assurance,
and the responsibility of the Christian.37
St. Jerome writes: "For me, virginity
is consecrated in the persons of Mary and of Christ." 38
With St. Ambrose we see some of
the theology of Mary's virginity:
Let, then, the life of Mary be
as it were virginity itself, set forth in a likeness, from which, as from a mirror, the
appearance of chastity and the form of virtue is reflected. From this you may
take your pattern of life, showing, as an example, the clear rules of virtue:
what you have to correct, to effect, and to hold fast....What is greater than
the Mother of God? What more glorious than she whom Glory Itself chose? ....For
why should I speak of her other virtues? She was a virgin not only in body
but also in mind, who stained the sincerity of its disposition by no guile, who
was humble in heart, grave in speech, prudent in mind, sparing in words, studious
in reading, resting her hope not on uncertain riches, but on the prayer
of the poor, intent on work, modest in discourse; wont to seek not man
but God as the judge of her thoughts, to injure no one, to have good will towards
all, to rise up before her elders, not to envy her equals, to avoid boastfulness,
to follow reason, to love virtue.... This is the likeness of virginity, for Mary
was such that her example alone is a lesson for all.... How many kinds of virtues
shine forth in one Virgin! The secret of modesty, the banner of faith, the
service of devotion, the Virgin within the house, the companion for the ministry,
the mother at the temple.39
Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.
July 19, 2002
1 Raymond, E.. Brown,
The Virginal Conception & Bodily Resurrection
Pau1ist, 1973), 52-53.
2 Raymond E. Brown et a1, Mary in the New Testament, (New York: Pau1ist,
1978), 83, note
3Brown, The Virginal Conception & Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, 65.
4 The New American Bible, in The Catholic Study Bible (Oxford: Oxford
1990), 8, note 1, 19.
5 The New Jerusalem Bible, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co, 1985), 1611,
6 Rene Laurentin, The Truth of Christmas : Beyond the Myths, trans .Michael
(Petersham, ÌÁ: St. Bede's Publications, 1986), 266.
7 Rene Laurentin, The Truth of Christmas, 267 .
8 The New Jerusalem Bible,
1201, note f.
9 Brown et al, Mary in the New Testament, 92.
10 Brown, The Virginal Conception & Bodily Resurrection of Jesus , 64.
11 Ignace de la Potterie, S.J.
Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant, trans. Bertrand Buby, S.M. (Staten Island, NY: Alba House,
12 Joseph Fitzmyer, S.J., The
Gospel According to Luke I-IX (New York, Doubleday, 1984), 449.
13 Brown et al, Mary in the
New Testament, 65-66.
14 Fitzmyer, Luke I-IX,
15 Brown et al, Mary in the
New Testament, 72.
16 Aristides of Athens, Apology,
15, 1, quoted by J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines
(New York: Harper & Row, 1960),
17 The Proto-Gospel of James,
in Bertrand Buby, S.M., Mary of Galilee, Vol. Ill, The Marian
Heritage of the Early Church
(Staten island, NY: Alba House, 1997), 37-52. Also in The Apocryphal
Books of the New Testament
(Philadelphia: David McKay Publisher, 1901), 24-37.
18 Rene Laurentin, A Year of
Grace with Mary (Dublin: Veritas Publications, 1987), 29.
19 Luigi Gambero, Mary and the
Fathers of the Church, trans. Thomas Buffer (San Francisco,
Ignatius Press, 1999), 40-41.
20 Brown et al, Mary in the
New Testament, 254-255.
21 Clement of Alexandria, "The Stromata, or Miscellanies" in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. II,
ed. Alexander Roberts and James
Donaldson (Grand Rapids: Win. B. Eerdmans, 1986), 551. (This
Scriptural reference is also given
by Tertullian to Ezekiel but the words cannot be found).
22 Tertullian, "On the Flesh of
Christ" in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. Ill, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand
Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1986), 536.
23 Origen, Commentary on John
1, 4; PG 14, 32, in Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church, 75.
24 Origen, Commentary on Matthew
10, 17; PG 13, 876-77, in Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church, 75-76.
25 Athanasius, "De virginitate,"
in Buby, Mary ofGalilee, III, 104
26 Ambrose, "De institutione virginis,"
52, in Buby, Mary ofGalilee, III, 122.
27 Ambrose, "Homily for Christmas,"
in Buby, Mary ofGalilee, III, 128.
28 Hilary, Commentary on Matthew,
in Buby, Mary ofGalilee, III, 134.
29 Epiphanius, Haer. 78,
6; PG 42, 705 D. in Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church, 123.
30 Jerome, "Against Helvidius,"
in The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, vol. VI, ed. W.H. Freemantle, G. Lewis and W.G. Martley
(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1983), 335.
31 Jerome, "Against Helvidius,"
in The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, vol. VI, 343.
32 Jerome, "Against Helvidius,"
in The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, vol. VI, 339.
33 Jerome, "Against Helvidius",
in The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, vol. VI, ed. W.H. Freemantle, G.Lewis and W.G. Martley
(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1983), 344.
34 Augustine, "Sermon 196" The
Works of St. Augustine, III, 6, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., ed. JohnE. Rotelle, O.S.A. (New Rochelle,
NY: New City Press, 1992), 61.
35 Augustine, "On The Gospel of
John", cxx, in The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, vol. V, ed. Philip Schaff (Grand Rapids:
Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1971), 435.
36 Josef Neuner, S.J. & Heinrich
Roos, S. J., The Teaching of the Catholic Church, ed. Karl Rahner, S. J., trans. Geoffrey
Stevens (Staten Island, NY: Alba, 1966), 183.
37 Joseph Ratzinger, Daughter
Zion, trans. John M. McDermott, S.J. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1983), 59-61.
38 Jerome, "Letter XXII, to Eustochium",
in The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, vol. VI, ed. W.H. Freemantle, G. Lewis and W.G.
Martley (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1983), 29.
39 Ambrose, "Concerning Virgins,"
Book II, in The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, vol. X, ed. Philip Schaffand Henry Wace
(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1983), 374-375.