Tag Archives: Mary

The Ever Virgin Mary

In this Marian Month of October, here’s a little Catechesis on the title of Mary as “Ever Virgin”. It’s one of the titles of Mary which is often misunderstood, so here’s a recent article by Arinze Ani from CatholicGo.org. which should make things a little clearer.

Mary

We as Catholics firmly believe that Mary is “ever virgin.”  The Catechism asserts, “The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man” (#499).  Given this teaching, the perpetual virginity of Mary has traditionally been defended and examined in three parts:  Mary’s conception of Christ (virginitas ante partum); her giving birth to Christ (virginitas in partu); and her remaining a virgin after the birth of Christ (virginitas post partum).  This formulation was used by many of the early Church Fathers–  St. Augustine, St. Peter Chrysologus, Pope St. Leo the Great, St. Gregory Nazianzus, and St. Gregory Nyssa.  For example, the Catechism quotes St. Augustine’s elaboration:  Mary “remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to Him, a virgin in carrying Him, a virgin in nursing Him at her breast, always a virgin” (#510).

Mary’s virginity prior to the conception of Christ is quite clear from the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke where she is clearly identified as “a virgin” (cf. Luke 1:26-27, Matthew 1:18).  Moreover, when Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah, she responded, “How can this be since I do not know man?” indicating her virginity.

At the other end of the spectrum is Mary’s virginity after the birth of Christ.  In a previous article concerning whether Jesus had blood brothers and sisters, this question was dealt with in detail.  Succinctly, we as Catholics believe that Mary and Joseph did not have other children after the birth of Christ.  No evidence exists either in Sacred Scripture or Tradition to believe otherwise.

The troublesome part is the middle– Mary’s virginity in giving birth to Christ.  We remember that one of the sufferings inherited because of original sin is that of “child bearing pains”:  The Lord God said to Eve, “I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16).  Since Mary was free of original sin by her immaculate conception, she would consequently be free of “child bearing pain.”  In wrestling with this belief, the early Church Fathers then struggled to explain the meaning of this virginity in partu.  The majority of Western Fathers seemed to emphasize Mary’s physical integrity.   For instance, Pope St. Leo the Great said, “…She [Mary] brought him forth without the loss of virginity, even as she conceived him without its loss….  [Jesus Christ was] born from the Virgin’s womb because it was a miraculous birth….”  They compared the birth of our Lord to Him miraculously emerging from the closed tomb or appearing suddenly in the upper room although the doors were locked.  Some Fathers used the analogy of the birth of our Lord to a ray of sun shining through a glass:  just as the glass remains “unaltered” by the ray, so did Mary by the birth of our Lord.  (Even Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Mystici Corporis (1943) asserted, “It was [Mary] who gave miraculous birth to Christ our Lord….”)

On the other hand, the Eastern Fathers emphasized Mary’s joy and freedom from pain in giving birth to Jesus, the Son of God.  They looked upon Mary as the New Eve, free of the pain of original sin.  Moreover, they did not want to lose the notion of Mary being a mother in the full sense of the term.  Remember, the Gospel of St. Luke simply states, “She gave birth…” (Luke 2:7), which does not demand a miraculous birth process.

Officially, the Church has upheld the perpetual virginity of Mary.  Pope Siricius in 390 wrote:  “This is the virgin who conceived in her womb and as a virgin bore a son.”  The Council of Chalcedon (451) ratified the teaching of Pope Leo I regarding that Mary is ever-virgin.  The Lateran Council (649) (not one of the general councils) stated:  “If anyone does not, according to the holy Fathers, confess truly and properly that holy Mary, ever virgin and immaculate, is Mother of God, since in this latter age she conceived in true reality without human seed from the Holy Spirit, God the Word Himself, who before the ages was begotten of God the Father, and gave birth to Him without injury, her virginity remaining equally inviolate after the birth, let him be condemned.”  In 1555, Pope Paul IV affirmed the virginity of Mary before, during, and after the birth of the Lord.  However, the Church has not defined specifically how Mary is virgin in partu.

In the 1950s, great controversy arose among theologians over the interpretation of virgin in partu.  Albert Mitterer cautioned against so emphasizing the physical quality of virginity that one lost sight of the goodness of Mary’s role as mother and her giving birth to Jesus.  Freedom from “child bearing pain” does not necessarily entail freedom from the act of child bearing.  Dr. Ludwig Ott stated, “It seems hardly possible to demonstrate that the dignity of the Son of God or the dignity of the Mother of God demands a miraculous birth.”

Fr. Karl Rahner, without delving into all of the anatomical details, focused on the spiritual reality of Mary’s virginity:  Mary bore the Son of God.  Her childbearing must have been essentially different from other women since she was free of the effects of original sin.  Therefore, her virginity, childbearing, and motherhood are together in union with the will of God.

Finally, on July 27, 1960, the Holy Office (now the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) warned, “Several theological studies have been published in which the delicate problem of Mary’s virginity in partuis dealt with in unbecoming terms and, what is worse, in a manner that is clearly opposed to the traditional doctrine of the Church and to the devotional sense of the faithful.”  Frankly, a discussion of virginitas in partuwhich focuses on anatomical minutia not only loses sight of the beautiful theology of the incarnation but also becomes embarrassing.

In all, we need to emphasize and revere both the virginity and motherhood of Mary.  The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Vatican II asserted that Christ’s birth “did not diminish His mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it” (#57).  Accordingly, “in the mystery of the Church, which is itself rightly called mother and virgin, the Blessed Virgin stands out in eminent and singular fashion as exemplar both of virgin and mother” (#63).

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Candlemas

Presentation

February 2nd is the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, sometimes known as Candlemas. The feast recalls the Jewish purification rites, which would have taken place 40 days after the birth of a child. It was on this occasion when Mary offered sacrifices for her and her son’s purification, and also when the Holy Family met Anna and Simeon in the temple.

We recall on this day, and on Good Friday, the prophecy of Simeon that “a sword shall pierce you own soul too, so that the secret thoughts of many might be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).

 candlemas

On this day’s Mass, the candles that are to be used for the next liturgical year are blessed, hence the common name for the day ‘Candlemas’. Each member of the congregation also gets to keep a blessed candle for use in their home. Traditionally this candle was used to light the way of the priest from the font door of the home to the sick bed, when he was bringing Holy Communion to the ill and dying. Many still like to keep to this practice and it is not uncommon to be met at the door of the house with a lit candle when arriving with the Blessed Sacrament. Others light their candles in times of strife as an act of prayer– the polish community light their candles in heavy storms and pray for good weather to return.

 Blaise 2

Two of the candles, which are blessed on this day, are then used the following day, February 3rd, the day of Saint Blaise. St Blaise cured a child of choking on a fishbone and, as such, he has become the patron saint of illnesses of the throat. The blessing of throats, by invoking the intercession of St Blaise, is carried out on this day by placing the two candles across the throats of the faithful.

Blaise

The Immaculate Conception

IC

Today, December 8th, is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. This is the feast which celebrates that Mary was born without any mark of sin and committed no sins in her life. This has been a part of the Church’s teaching since ancient times, but has found a clearer articulation in 1854 Pope Pius IX published the document Ineffabilis Deus in which he declared the following dogma of the faith:

“…by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the honor of the Holy and undivided Trinity, for the glory and adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith, and for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own: “We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful. Hence, if anyone shall dare — which God forbid! — to think otherwise than as has been defined by us, let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church; and that, furthermore, by his own action he incurs the penalties established by law if he should are to express in words or writing or by any other outward means the errors he think in his heart.”

Our parish also contains the church of the Immaculate Conception at Narberth where Mass was celebrated today, exactly 31 years after the opening of the church!

Narberth 2 NArberth 4 Narberth 1

Marian Prayer Night

Mary

To all those who helped contribute to the Marian evening, thank you very much. Such a successful evening does just happen by itself. From the those who decorated the church, to those who provided music, from those who helped in the planning and those who provided refreshments, and of course those who helped to tidy up: you all did your bit. Well done and thank you.

Fr Liam has had many comments from those who enjoyed the video presentation and found it informative… and many more comments from those who liked the candle-lit Rosary prayer service.

Marian Prayers by Candlelight

Marian Prayers by Candlelight

A fitting end to the month of the Rosary! More pictures can be found here.

An evening with Mary

Mary

An evening of Marian devotion to end the Month of the Rosary.

Thursday 30th October, 7pm, St David and St Patrick Catholic Church.

The evening will start with a video presentation looking at Marian apparitions and theology. Then there will be chance for tea, coffee and some light bites, which will be followed by a candle-lit prayer service incorporating many Marian Prayers and devotions – including the Rosary.

October – the Month of the Rosary

The month of October has traditionally been dedicated to praying the Rosary.

Rosary Picture

There are many useful websites which can help understand this prayer and how to pray it. A few of those sites are included below.

Instructions on how the Rosary are here. While the Wikipedia page can be found by clicking here. Pope Pius XII wrote an Encyclical on the Rosary and Pope John Paul II wrote an Apostolic Letter soon after he’d added the Mysteries of Light.

To Celebrate the Month of the Rosary, Fr Liam is going to conclude the month by leading the parish in an evening of Marian Devotion on Thursday 30th October at 7pm in the Church of St David and St Patrick.

Stella Maris – Star of the Sea

Today in all military bases and in parishes with connections to the sea, the feast of Our Lady Star of the Sea was celebrated.

Stella Maris

She is our way into port in stormy waters and our harbour wall in distress;  the guiding light that shines to navigate our way to salvation offered by her son.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Bring us dear mother to your son.