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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Was Mary the "Ever Virgin"?


Mary the Mother of God is a topic of interest and many questions for non-Catholics and Catholics alike. She is also a subject I love and enjoy discussing with people as I have a great love for Mary. I hope to always honor her name and answer questions about her correctly. If any Catholic readers ever see an error in any of my responses please email me your corrections, I welcome them. Now to the question from Lora and my response about Mary:

Lora writes: Why do Catholics elevate Mary so much so that she seems to be nearly equal to Jesus? And what's with the "Ever Virgin" stuff? The bible clearly states several times that Jesus had brothers so we know Mary had other children. Why do Catholics ignore that?

My response: You've asked some great questions and I am happy to answer them to the best of my abilities. First off, let me say the Catholic Church does not elevate Mary to be equal to Jesus Christ. I can't speak for every individual Catholic in the world, so perhaps there are some out there who mistakenly and wrongly do that, but what I can tell you is the official teaching of the Catholic Church and my understanding of it. Mary is honored as the Mother of God Incarnate. Scripture states this and the Catholic Church believes it. In Luke 1:48 scripture declares that all ages/generations will call Mary blessed for being the Mother of God Incarnate. This is the high honor that God bestowed on her according to this verse. The Catholic Church today recognizes this honor and honors Mary accordingly. We do not worship her or elevate her to the same level as our Savior Jesus Christ, He is our Lord and Savior, she is our Blessed Mother. She is honored greatly, first by God as scripture shows and then by us. Even non-Christians honor Mary for being the Mother of Jesus Christ. Muslims, though they do not believe Jesus to be God Incarnate, view him as a great prophet and honor Mary as His Mother. The reason Mary is called the "Ever Virgin" is because she was. Mary gave birth to Jesus and Jesus only. Even the Reformers who founded Protestantism believed Mary to be the Ever Virgin. Here are a few of their quotes:

Martin Luther: "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". {Luther's Works, eds. Jaroslav Pelikan (vols. 1-30) & Helmut T. Lehmann (vols. 31-55), St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House (vols. 1-30); Philadelphia: Fortress Press (vols. 31-55), 1955, v.22:23 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539) }


Luther: "Christ . . . was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him . . . I am inclined to agree with those who declare that 'brothers' really mean 'cousins' here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers". {Pelikan, ibid., v.22:214-15 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539)

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John Calvin:

Helvidius displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ's 'brothers' are sometimes mentioned. {Harmony of Matthew, Mark & Luke, sec. 39 (Geneva, 1562), vol. 2 / From Calvin's Commentaries, tr. William Pringle, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1949, p.215; on Matthew 13:55} [On Matt 1:25:]
Under the word 'brethren' the Hebrews include all cousins and other relations, whatever may be the degree of affinity. {Pringle, ibid., vol. I, p. 283 / Commentary on John, (7:3)

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Huldreich Zwingli
I have never thought, still less taught, or declared publicly, anything concerning the subject of the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our salvation, which could be considered dishonourable, impious, unworthy or evil . . . I believe with all my heart according to the word of holy gospel that this pure virgin bore for us the Son of God and that she remained, in the birth and after it, a pure and unsullied virgin, for eternity. {Thurian, ibid., p.76 / same sermon}
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John Wesley
I believe... he [Jesus Christ] was born of the blessed Virgin, who, as well after as she brought him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin.
{"Letter to a Roman Catholic," quoted in A. C. Coulter, John Wesley, New York: Oxford University Press, 1964, 495}
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Heinrich Bullinger
'The Virgin Mary . . . completely sanctified by the grace and blood of her only Son and abundantly endowed by the gift of the Holy Spirit and preferred to all . . . now lives happily with Christ in heaven and is called and remains ever-Virgin and Mother of God.' {In Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion, combined ed. of vols. 1 & 2, London: Sheed & Ward, 1965, vol.2, pp.14-5}
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The bible never mentions Mary giving birth to anyone but Jesus. When the term "brother" is used, it points to ANY male relation (uncle, cousins, step-brothers etc.). We can find a few examples of this right in scripture. In Gen.14, Lot calls Abraham his "brother" when in fact Lot was Abraham's nephew. Another example is Jacob and his uncle Laban are called "brothers" when they are just 'relatives' (uncle and nephew). The same is done with Jesus and his 'relatives' in scripture. These "brothers" are male family relations, uncles, cousin and possibly (as some believe) step brothers if Joseph was a widower when he married Mary. Mary never gave birth to anyone but Jesus, that is what the bible records and the Catholic Church believes it. To believe otherwise is to go beyond Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition held by Christians for centuries, as shown above even the Reformers knew without a doubt that Mary was the Ever Virgin. So you see, Catholics don't ignore anything, we embrace the truth revealed by God to His Church. I hope that answered your questions. God bless.

2 comments:

~Joseph the Worker said...

Thank you for this blog. I love the question and answer format and you did a wonderful job with the "ever-virgin" question.

Julie said...

Thank you for the compliments Joseph the Worker. I enjoy doing this blog very much and try to be as accurate as I can in answering questions. God bless.

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