Dear Father Angelo,
I write to you about a doubt that has weighed on me for a long time about Our Lady’s virginity. I read your answers on this subject that support Her physical integrity at the time of childbirth and afterwards.
My confessor told me that virginity should not be understood as physical integrity but as security in the fact that she never had intercourse.
I find myself confused not understanding if integrity or virginity is a dogma and if one thing excludes the other.
I take this opportunity to ask you for a prayer. Thank you very much for your availability.
The Priest’s reply
1. If the dogma (because it is a dogma) of the virginity of Mary simply meant that Our Lady has never had relationships, it is not understood why we speak of virginity in childbirth.
2. Certainly the dogma also means what your confessor said, but the Magisterium maintains that Our Lady remained intact even in childbirth.
How this could have happened cannot be explained from a human point of view.
It is certainly a truth of faith, but not incomprehensible.
3. In the meantime, it must be said that the Church has always believed that Our Lady gave birth to Jesus without shedding blood.
The shedding of blood was for Jews a cause of impurity or ritual contamination.
It is unthinkable that the Saviour of the world coming into the light, instead of saving, was a source of contamination for his mother.
4. Of this singular birth there is an indication in the Gospel of Saint John, where it is said – according to some manuscripts – that the Word (in the singular) made flesh was not born from the bloods (not ex sanguinis), in the plural.
In Italian there is no plural of blood, but there is in Greek and Latin.
And by bloods (plural) we mean the blood that the woman loses during childbirth.
5. As to how this may have happened, according to some, we have an allusion in Sacred Scripture itself when it is said that the risen Jesus passed through the walls when he appeared to the apostles on the evening of the day of his resurrection.
Saint Albert the Great, teacher of Saint Thomas, in order to show the virginity of Our Lady during childbirth, refers precisely to this fact: “Mary is a star because as the star emits the ray, so the Virgin generates the Son with the same splendor: neither the star is impaired by the emission of the ray, nor the mother by the birth of the Son. (…). He who walked on the waves of the sea without sinking in them, He who went out of the tomb without breaking the seal of the stone – it was overturned, as the Gospel says (Mt 28:2), by an angel and not by the Lord – He who presented himself to the disciples behind closed doors, could also be born of a virgin Mother without violating her virginal modesty. That’s why we call the star the Virgin Mary” (St. Albert the Great, Treatise on the Nature of Good, chap. 142).
6. It is true that the risen body of Jesus, being glorious, could pass through the walls, while the normal body could not.
But as Jesus in the hour of the transfiguration, anticipating the event of the resurrection, showed his glorious body to the three Apostles, so it cannot be denied that he was able to make his body glorious even at the time of delivery, further anticipating what he did on the day of the transfiguration.
And that is why Saint Thomas Aquinas says that the birth of Our Lady happened like this: “The pains of childbirth are caused by the infant opening the passage from the womb. Now it has been said above, that Christ came forth from the closed womb of His Mother, and, consequently, without opening the passage. Consequently there was no pain in that birth, as neither was there any corruption; on the contrary, there was much joy therein for that God-Man “was born into the world,” according to Is. 35:1,2: “Like the lily, it shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise.” (Summa Theologiae, III, 35,6).
7. The truth about Mary’s perpetual virginity is of faith, that is, indisputable, as you can see from the following answer published on our website: Vorrei sapere se la Verginità perpetua di Maria sia un dogma della Chiesa cattolica
I wish you all the best, I commend you to the Lord and I bless you.