Holy Spirit

What is the dogma of the perpetual virginity of Mary,
and why is it important?

"… the greatest obstacle on the path to holiness may be to cling too closely to the image we have of our own perfect selves."
T

he Church teaches as a truth revealed by God that Mary was a virgin before, during and after the birth of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

That she was a virgin before His birth is testified to by the prophet Isaiah when he says (7:14), "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and shall bear a Son and shall call His name Immanuel." This dogma of her virginity at the conception of Jesus protects the greater dogma that He was conceived, as we profess in the Apostles' Creed, "of the Holy Spirit," i.e. that He is true God and true man.

"Behold, a virgin shall conceive and shall bear a Son and shall call His name Immanuel."
- Isaiah 7:14

That she was a virgin during His birth is shown in that same text of Isaiah, for the one subject, a virgin, governs both verbs, conceiving and bearing. This means that Christ passed through her physical seal, just as He passed through the sealed tomb at His resurrection.

That she was a virgin after the birth of Christ is attested to by Ezekiel when he says (44:2), "This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall pass through it; because the Lord the God of Israel has entered in by it." And St. Augustine explains, "What means this closed gate in the House of the Lord, except that Mary is to be ever inviolate? What does it mean that 'no man shall pass through it,' save that Joseph shall not know her?"  This safeguards the dogma of Christ's conception by the Holy Spirit, for if the womb of the Virgin Mary became a shrine where God formed the flesh of Jesus, it would be supremely unfitting for her womb also to be a place for the conception of a mere man.

Also, for more Marian reading, here is a special gift from our friends at OSV.

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