- Mariology 101

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.

Virginity before birth <virginitas ante partum>

This means that Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit without participation of any man (de fide). The Greek term Aeiparthenos (i.e. "Ever Virgin") is attested to from the early 4th century. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (item 499) includes the term Aeiparthenos and referring to the dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium (item 57) states: "Christ's birth did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it.

Virginity during birth <virginitas in partu>

This means that Mary gave birth without losing her corporal virginity (de fide) and her corporal integrity was not affected by giving birth. The Church does not teach how this occurred physically, but insists that virginity during child birth is different from virginity of conception; Pope Pius XII stating in Mystici Corporis "Within her virginal womb Christ our Lord already bore the exalted title of Head of the Church; in a marvelous birth she brought Him forth as the source of all supernatural life".

Virginity after birth <virginitas post partum>

This means that Mary remained a virgin after giving birth (de fide). This belief of the Church was questioned in its early yearsgiven scriptures say little about this, mentioning the brothers of Jesus, but never "sons of Mary," suggesting to the patristical writers a broader family relationship.

The Greek term Aeiparthenos (i.e. "Ever Virgin") is attested to by Epiphanius of Salamis from the early 4th century. It is widely used in the liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (item 499) also includes to the term Aeiparthenos and referring to the dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium (item 57) states: "Christ's birth did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it." The doctrine of perpetual virginity is also held by some Anglican and some Lutheran churches, but not all of those churches endorse the doctrine.Eastern Orthodox liturgical prayers typically end with "Remembering our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary".

The virginity of Mary at the time of her conception of Jesus is a key topic in Marian art in the Catholic Church, usually represented as the annunciation to Mary by the Archangel Gabriel that she would virginally conceive a child to be born the Son of God. Frescos depicting this scene have appeared in Roman Catholic Marian churches for centuries. The oldest fresco of the annunciation is a 4th-century depiction in the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome.

SAINT JEROME Against Helvidius.

This tract appeared about a.d. 383. The question which gave occasion to it was whether the Mother of our Lord remained a Virgin after His birth. Helvidius maintained that the mention in the Gospels of the sisters and brethren of our Lord was proof that the Blessed Virgin had subsequent issue, and he supported his opinion by the writings of Tertullian and Victorinus. The outcome of his views was that virginity was ranked below matrimony. Jerome vigorously takes the other side, and tries to prove that the sisters and brethren spoken of, were either children of Joseph by a former marriage, or first cousins, children of the sister of the Virgin. A detailed account of the controversy will be found in Farrar's Early Days of Christianity, pp. 124 sq. When Jerome wrote this treatise both he and Helvidius were at Rome, and Damasus was Pope. The only contemporary notice preserved of Helvidius is that by Jerome in the following pages.

Jerome maintains against Helvidius three propositions:—

1st. That Joseph was only putatively, not really, the husband of Mary.

2d. That the brethren of the Lord were his cousins, not his own brethren.

3d. That virginity is better than the married state.

1. The first of these occupies ch. 3-8. It turns upon the record in Matt. i. 18-25, and especially on the words, Before they came together (c. 4), knew her not till, etc. (5-8).

2. The second (c. 9-17) turns upon the words first-born son (9, 10), which, Jerome argues, are applicable not only to the eldest of several, but also to an only son: and the mention of brothers and sisters, whom Jerome asserts to have been children of Mary the wife of Cleophas or Clopas (11-16); he appeals to many Church writers in support of this view (17).

3. In support of his preference of virginity to marriage, Jerome argues that not only Mary but Joseph also remained in the virgin state (19); that, though marriage may sometimes be a holy estate, it presents great hindrances to prayer (20), and the teaching of Scripture is that the states of virginity and continency are more accordant with God's will than that of marriage (21, 22).read more:http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3007.htm

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