22 Feb Transcribed talks on Mother Mary − Episode 5 − Perpetual Virginity of Mother Mary − Fr Joseph Edattu VC
Series of talks on Mother Mary − Episode 5 − Perpetual Virginity of Mother Mary − Fr Joseph Edattu VC
[A reading from the Gospel of St John, Chapter 17, Verses 1-11]
Dear brothers and sisters, as we have been reflecting on Mother Mary, let us continue the reflection. When we reflect on Mother Mary, there are a lot of things to know about her, because Mother Mary is the new Eve and she is the new Ark of the Covenant. No Catholic ever worships Mother Mary or will ever worship her. Catholics only venerate, honour and respect our Mother, who is not only the Mother of Jesus but also our Mother entrusted to us by Jesus. Therefore, we need to listen to her and honour her.
A person once said, “Father, I do not want to honour Mother Mary too much.” My reply to him was simple. “Don’t honour Mother Mary more than Jesus honoured her.” But the question is do we honour Mother Mary as much as Jesus honoured her? If not, we should honour her as Jesus honoured her.
How did Jesus honour Mother Mary?
Jesus, who knows the Ten Commandments, honoured Mother Mary so much. Jesus always took care of his Mother. That is why even when he was dying on the cross, he made sure that his Mother was safe in the hands of his beloved disciple John. Not only that, when Jesus went to heaven, the priority was given to one thing—to take Mother Mary physically (i.e. with her body) to heaven, and Jesus gave her the best place—the highest throne in heaven, the title of the Queen of Heaven and Earth. According to Israelite tradition, the wife of the king does not become queen, but the mother of the king is the queen. When Solomon was the king, Bathsheba was the queen. Post that, all successors of Solomon, whenever they became the king, their mother became the Queen Mother. The Hebrew word for that is Gebirah which means Queen Mother. So, the Queen Mother has a very important role. She is the most powerful mediator according to Israelite tradition. If somebody had a problem with the king, they would complain to the queen, and the queen would work as the mediator between the king and the people. In the same way, if Jesus is the continuation of King David, as his successor, and he sits on the throne of David, then we need to believe that Mother Mary is the Queen Mother. If Jesus is the King of Heaven and Earth, then Mother Mary is the Queen of Heaven and Earth. This fact cannot be denied and is of prime importance.
Today we will discuss the Perpetual Virginity of Mother Mary. There are many groups and denominations in this world that are so keen and interested to prove that Mother Mary had children besides Jesus. However, if one reads the Bible carefully, it can be proved biblically that Mother Mary had no other children, only Jesus. Although this is not an important issue, we do not want to attribute anything wrong (or that which is against Mother Mary) and attribute to her anything that which she hasn’t done. The Catholic Church has proclaimed the dogma of Perpetual Virginity of Mother Mary. This dogma states that Mother Mary was a virgin before the birth of Jesus, was a virgin during the pregnancy and birth of Jesus, and she is a virgin even after the birth of Jesus.
Let us first look at the childhood of Mother Mary. We do not know much about Mother Mary’s childhood from the Bible. We know her only from the time of the Annunciation, when Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and spoke to her. Yet, there are several Apocryphal books (books that were once considered a part of the Bible but later rejected from the group of Biblical books) from the second century that are available even today. These books, though later not accepted by the Catholic Church as official books, are widely available and are read even today. Some examples of these Apocryphal books include the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, the Gospel of Barnabas and the Gospel of the Apostles. If you read any of these books, though it is not officially accepted by the Church, it gives an idea of the childhood of Mary as well as information on the childhood of Jesus. In the Apocryphal Gospel of St Thomas, there are references to Jesus’ childhood stories. In one such account, Jesus was playing with mud and making statues of birds when he was very young. It was the Sabbath and he wasn’t supposed to work like this. Some people who saw him complained to Joseph, and Joseph came running to Jesus and questioned him. Jesus innocently replied that he was playing with birds. Joseph told him that he wasn’t playing with birds but making birds, and that he wasn’t allowed to do it on the Sabbath. Then Jesus breathed into the mud statues, and these statues became birds and started flying. This is just one instance, but there are several such stories in the Apocryphal books.
Another story narrates that Jesus and the neighbourhood children were playing on the roof of a house. It so happened that one of these children fell down and died. When the parents came running, all the other children blamed Jesus, saying that Jesus pushed the boy and he fell down and died. When everyone turned towards Jesus and asked him whether he did it, Jesus replied that he pushed no one. Yet all the children insisted that Jesus pushed the boy. The parents then said that everybody was lying and asked who would own the truth. Jesus then said, “Ask the boy who fell down and died, he will tell the truth.” They replied that he is dead, and so how could they ask him. But Jesus insisted, “Ask, and he will tell you.” So, after much coercion, they asked the boy, “Who is lying? Did Jesus push you?” At that time, the dead boy got up, and said, “Jesus is right; he did not push me. I just fell on my own.” There are several such stories and incidents in the Gospel of St Thomas.
But the Gospel of St James speaks about the childhood stories of Mother Mary. These are good to know and will highlight why Mother Mary observed celibacy and why she was a perpetual virgin. Anne and Joachim—the parents of Mary—were childless even in their old age. They would cry and ask God why he cursed them to be without children. According to Jewish tradition, if anyone is childless, they are considered cursed. So, people would make fun of them and insult them. Anne and Joachim were rich, yet childless. One day, Joachim prayed and cried to the Lord that he wouldn’t go back home until he was blessed, and he went out and lived in a hut and prayed and fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. While Anne was at home alone, everyone hurt her and insulted her. One day, she put on the bridal dress, went out and sat under a tree and prayed and cried to the Lord, asking him why he brought such a curse upon her. She made a vow to the Lord, that if she was blessed with a child, she would bring the child up in holiness and surrender the child to the temple. As she was praying, an angel appeared to her and told her that her prayer was heard. She would give birth to a child and she should call her Maryam. Anne questioned the angel how it would be possible. The angel told her that Joachim would now come running to her with the same message, and when she hears it, she should be assured that the blessing would come true. The angel disappeared, and when Anne looked up, she saw her husband come running to her and repeat the same message that the angel told her. They both then rejoiced and went back home. After nine months, Anne gave birth to a girl and they called her Maryam (Mary). She was brought up in the house, and Anne asserted that Mary was a special and holy child, anointed by God, and therefore, she should not be touched by anything unholy. So, Anne didn’t allow her to touch soil. Anne made a small crib at home and kept the baby Mary there. All the clothes she wore were fresh and new. After a year, Anne remembered her promise that she would surrender the baby in the temple, but Joachim said that she was too young and would cry for her parents and that they should wait for another year. When Mary turned two, Anne again wanted to surrender the baby in the temple, else they would be disobeying God, but Joachim thought it was too early. After a year, when Mary was three years old, they decided to take her to the temple. But they were sad on being parted from her. Joachim said if when they took the baby, she goes straight in smiling without looking back, it would mean she is meant to be brought up in the temple. If the baby is not happy being in the temple, she would look back and come back to her parents. And if she came back to them, they would bring her back home. When they took Mary to the temple and produced her before the high priest Zechariah, Mary was so happy that she started dancing and running and held onto the priest, not looking at her parents at all. So, Anne and Joachim knew that Mary was to be brought up in the temple and she was left there.
After a few years, Anne and Joachim died, but Mary remained and was brought up in the temple, in the presence of the Lord. It is believed that angels would feed her with heavenly food and the temple priests took great care of her as well. When she was twelve and about to reach maturity (adolescence), the priests were worried that the temple might be defiled on account of her. According to Jewish tradition, it is considered uncleanness. So, all the temple priests came together to discuss what needed to be done, and the high priest Zechariah was entrusted to ask God about this. When he asked God what should be done with the girl who was entrusted to be brought up in the temple, God sent an angel who asked Zechariah to call all the widowers from the city and keep their staffs before the altar. When all the widowers came, including Joseph who was a carpenter and lived alone, they surrendered their staffs at the altar as the priests prayed. After the prayers, the staffs were handed back. When Joseph took his staff, it started budding and flowering with lilies. (This is the reason Joseph holds a staff with lilies in all Holy Family pictures). So, the priests realised that Joseph was the one chosen to take Mary to his home. But Joseph refused because he was old and was worried about what people might say about him. The priests convinced him that it was the command of God and that it should be obeyed. Mary and Joseph were then betrothed. According to Jewish tradition, the couple needs to wait a minimum of one year after betrothal for marriage to take place. However, betrothal is equal to marriage, the only difference being that they were not allowed to live together. So, after betrothal, Joseph took Mary home and planned for her living, while he set out on a journey for his carpentry work. He deliberately left home because he was not supposed to live with her after betrothal. The neighbours and relatives cared for Mary, and Mary also did housework. She was good at embroidery, stitching and drawing. The temple priests wanted a new curtain for the temple and were searching for a holy, virgin woman who would stitch the main veil of the temple. The high priest vouched for the only holy virgin he knew who was Mary, and so she stitched the main veil of the temple. (We know that when Jesus died, this veil was torn from top to bottom. It is also believed that the long robe worn by Jesus was stitched by Mother Mary).
During this time, the Annunciation took place. Later, when Joseph returned, he came to know that Mary was pregnant. He was in disbelief and shocked and questioned Mary. Mary, while crying, narrated to Joseph the whole incident of the Annunciation. But Joseph didn’t believe her. He went to his room and cried and prayed that he wouldn’t marry her if she had committed sin. If he did marry her, he would be committing a sin. If what Mary was saying was true and he denied it, he would also be committing a sin. So, he asked God to show him the way. He almost decided to escape from the village so that Mary wouldn’t be blamed but he would. But that night an angel appeared to Joseph and told him he shouldn’t be afraid to take Mary as his wife as she is pregnant through the Holy Spirit. The next day, when Joseph awoke from his sleep, he did as the angel of God commanded him and took her as his wife (Mt 1:24). According to Jewish tradition, the first night of marriage is the night of consummation and there was nothing stopping Joseph. Yet, Joseph had no marital relations with her until she bore a son and named him Jesus (Mt 1:25).
Many denominations quote this verse and say that it clearly states, ‘until she bore a son’. When Matthew was writing the gospel, his intention of this verse was to prove that Jesus was born of a virgin. Everyone in the first century knew the perpetual virginity of Mary. It need not be proved. Matthew didn’t need to write it down because everyone knew that Mary had no children except Jesus. Matthew’s intention of this verse was to prove that Jesus was not born of physical relations but that Jesus was born from the Holy Spirit. ‘Until’ doesn’t mean that after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had marital relations. If the marital relationship didn’t happen on the first night, there was a reason. The Bible highlights several people who took vows of celibacy. These were not just men but also women, and even married women. There is a Jewish tradition that any woman when she is young can take a vow before God that she would be celibate her entire life. If her father comes to know about it and he agrees, she can continue her vow. But if her father doesn’t agree, she should stop. The same girl, if she marries, should inform her husband of her vow. If he agrees, she can be celibate her entire life (Num 30:3-8). Therefore, it is believed that Mary must have disclosed her vow that she took when she was brought up in the temple and Joseph accepted it and that was the reason why they didn’t consummate their marriage. Then the question arises why Matthew said until she bore a son. But ‘until’ doesn’t mean that after Jesus was born they had relations. The word ‘until’ is used many times in the Bible. Paul says,
“Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting and teaching.”
(1 Tim 4:13)
Does it mean that Paul said that after he arrived Timothy could stop reading the scripture and teaching? No. The intention of Paul was obviously to stress that until he arrives this is what needs to be done and can be continued even after. For example, if someone says, “I don’t smoke”, it doesn’t mean that the person doesn’t smoke just now but can do so later. It means that the person doesn’t smoke at any time. Let’s look at another instance.
“Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”
(1 Cor 15:24-25)
The Word says that Jesus must reign until all his enemies are put under his feet. Does it mean that after Jesus puts his enemies under his feet, God the Father would put Jesus out of the throne? No. It means that Jesus will continue to reign. So, brothers and sisters, do not take the word ‘until’ seriously.
The Protestant groups and other denominations use Mk 6:3 against Mother Mary saying that she had many other children.
“‘Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him.”
Looking at this scripture verse, let us attempt to count the number of brothers and sisters Jesus had. Four brothers and a minimum of two sisters. So, citing this verse, many denominations believe that Jesus had a minimum of six siblings, which means Mother Mary had a minimum of seven children. Since many people believe in Sola Scriptura, let us look only at the Bible to refute this claim. We know that Joseph died before the public ministry of Jesus. When Jesus started his public ministry, there is no mention of Joseph or any siblings, only Mother Mary. That means, Joseph and Mary lived together as husband and wife for a maximum of 30 years (the time Jesus started his public ministry). Tradition says Joseph died much before, but since many people do not believe in tradition, let us assume 30 years. In the Gospel of Luke (Lk 2:41-52), there is an account of Jesus being lost in the temple at Jerusalem when he was twelve years old. In those days, the Jews would travel a long journey to reach the temple of Jerusalem. If Mother Mary was carrying a baby, it should have been mentioned here. There is no mention of any other child, and only Joseph and Mary returned looking for Jesus. Would it be possible that they would leave all their children at home and only take Jesus on such a long journey to the temple? According to UK safeguarding law, Mother Mary should have been arrested because no parent is supposed to leave their children at home unattended and go out. But here, it can be biblically proved that Mary and Joseph had no other children when Jesus was twelve years old. Therefore, out of 30 years, for 12 years there were no other children. That leaves 18 years, and can 6 children be born one after another within 18 years? If one still believes that to be true, then when Jesus started his public ministry, the youngest sibling should have been very young and Mary should have been carrying that child along. So, when Jesus was being crucified, Mary should have been carrying at least one child in her arms. Yet, there is no mention of any such child. If Mary did have other children, why would Jesus entrust Mary to John. We read that from that moment Mary went into the home of John. If Mary had other children, why would she leave the young children and go to live in someone else’s home? Common sense clearly states otherwise. This clearly proves that Mary had no other children besides Jesus.
James and Joses mentioned in Mk 6:3 were actually the cousins of Jesus. Mk 15:40-41 says that there were women standing at a distance from the cross, and among them were Mary who was the mother of James and Joses. So, standing beside the cross were three Marys—Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the wife of Clopas, the mother of James and Joses, and the sister of Mother Mary (Jn 19:25).
Therefore, let us accept Mother Mary as a perpetual virgin. She is 100% holy forever and anointed, and there should be no confusion about it. Let us thank the Lord for the gift of Mary as our Mother and believe the Catholic Church.