Blasphemies Against Perpetual Virginity II
Today I continue with my treatment of Mary’s perpetual virginity and the blasphemies directed against it.
The sign of Mary’s perpetual virginity, revealed in Scripture as interpreted by tradition, is God’s appearance to Moses in the burning bush. (cf. Liturgy of the Hours, Solemnity of the Mother of God, 3rd antiphon of Vespers) As the presence of God, likened to a fire, in the bush, a creature, did not destroy the bush, so the presence of God in the Blessed Virgin did not destroy her nature, but elevated it. The miracle of Mary’s virginity is not merely an arbitrary display of divine power, but a revelation of divine wisdom, showing us the way he works for our salvation.
At the Annunciation we see how the Son of God, our Savior, enters the world through the virginity of Mary; the angel respects and honors the nature of the Virgin by asking her consent; through her consent, the Blessed Virgin allows the divine power to work in her beyond the power of nature, enabling her to conceive the Son of God made man in her womb. According to the order of nature, the child grows and is formed in her womb, but beyond the order of nature the child enters the world without causing any physical harm or suffering to the Virgin’s integrity.
The manner of Jesus’ entry into the world conforms to the manner of his departure from the tomb and stands as a sign of his future resurrection; indeed, through her perpetual virginity the Blessed Virgin is a unique and privileged witness both of Jesus’ identity as the Son of God and the future resurrection, the resurrection to which we are all called, the resurrection in which they will neither marry nor be given in marriage, but will be like the angels in heaven. (cf. Mt 22:30)
In Mary’s perpetual virginity we see God working to transform and elevate the physical creation, making it to be transparent both to the sanctified human spirit and to the divine Spirit. That means that Mary’s virginity is also a sign of the virgin soul, sanctified by divine grace and the power of the Holy Spirit in the waters of baptism.
And what is the result of the blasphemy that denies Mary’s perpetual virginity? It reduces the miracle of the virginal conception to be nothing more than an isolated display of divine power; it denies the full scope of God’s intervention in his creation in favor of our salvation; it ends by denying the reality of grace transforming the soul from within, making it be wholly godlike, sharing in his life; it surrenders us to the spirit of ‘naturalism’ which reduces the world to that which is within the experience of fallen humanity.
The spirit of naturalism allows us to aspire to an earthly utopia or to an eternal life which is a vague continuation of the form of life as we now experience it, but excludes any possibility of a real elevation or transformation in God. Naturalism has many more destructive consequences: once human vision is reduced to the horizon of our fallen world it becomes inevitable that we will begin to approve and bless the impulses of our fallen nature; as a result virginity comes to be held in contempt, while sexual activity, between consenting adults, is praised as offering the highest possibility for human fulfillment. From the perspective of faith we can see the sexual revolution and all its consequences as a fruit of the denial of the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Doubt regarding Mary’s virginity has led to the decline of the religious life, the decline of priestly vocations, and the rejection of priestly celibacy.
There remains one more important aspect of Mary’s virginity that we learn from the tradition of the Church: the intimate relation between Mary’s virginity and the integrity of the Church’s faith. The catechism tells us: “Mary is a virgin because her virginity is the sign of her faith ‘unadulterated by any doubt,’ and of her undivided gift of herself to God’s will.”(CCC 506) The Blessed Virgin received the message of the incarnation of the Son of God in her womb, not from any human source, but from the messenger of God; so the Church receives the word of the Gospel, in which she puts her faith, not from any human source, but from God. As the Virgin brings forth the Son of God without suffering any harm to her virginal integrity, so the Church proclaims the Gospel she has received, uncorrupted by merely human doctrines. As the Virgin preserves her virginity during the whole course of her earthly pilgrimage, the Church preserves the integrity of the deposit of faith, through all generations, until the coming of the Lord.
The Church is herself always a faithful virgin, guarding the deposit that has been entrusted to her, but in an era in which the virginity of Mary receives little honor, the life of the Church has been subject to an extraordinary carelessness regarding the expression of the faith, the teaching of the faith, and the rejection of heresy – indeed the word heresy today is nearly as forgotten among Catholics as is the perpetual virginity of Mary.
The First Saturdays of reparation, therefore, call us to honor the virginity of Mary, to reaffirm our faith, to commit ourselves anew to guard the faith with diligence, and faithfully to put into practice the word that we have received.