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126

Part One

497

The gospel accounts understand the virginal conception of

Jesus as a divine work that surpasses all human understanding and

possibility:

148

“That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit,”

said the angel to Joseph about Mary his fiancée.

149

The Church sees

here the fulfillment of the divine promise given through the

prophet Isaiah: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.”

150

498

People are sometimes troubled by the silence of St. Mark’s Gospel

and the New Testament Epistles about Jesus’ virginal conception. Some

might wonder if we were merely dealing with legends or theological

constructs not claiming to be history. To this we must respond: Faith in the

virginal conception of Jesus met with the lively opposition, mockery, or

incomprehension of non-believers, Jews and pagans alike;

151

so it could

hardly have been motivated by pagan mythology or by some adaptation

to the ideas of the age. The meaning of this event is accessible only to faith,

which understands in it the “connection of these mysteries with one

another”

152

in the totality of Christ’s mysteries, from his Incarnation to his

Passover. St. Ignatius of Antioch already bears witness to this connection:

“Mary’s virginity and giving birth, and even the Lord’s death escaped the

notice of the prince of this world: these three mysteries worthy of procla-

mation were accomplished in God’s silence.”

153

Mary—“ever-virgin”

499

The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the

Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the

act of giving birth to the Son of God made man.

154

In fact, Christ’s

birth “did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sancti-

fied it.”

155

And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as

Aeiparthenos,

the “Ever-virgin.”

156

500

Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the

Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus.

157

The Church has always

understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin

Mary. In fact James and Joseph, “brothers of Jesus,” are the sons of another

Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls “the other

Mary.”

158

They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament

expression.

159

148 Cf.

Mt

1:18–25;

Lk

1:26–38.

149

Mt

1:20.

150

Isa

7:14 in the LXX, quoted in

Mt

1:23 (Gk.).

151 Cf. St. Justin,

Dial.,

99, 7: PG 6, 708-709; Origen,

Contra Celsum

1, 32, 69:

PG 11, 720-721;

et al.

152

Dei Filius

4: DS 3016.

153 St. Ignatius of Antioch,

Ad Eph.

19, 1: AF II/2, 76-80; SCh 10, 88; cf.

1 Cor

2:8.

154 Cf. DS 291; 294; 427; 442; 503; 571; 1880.

155

LG

57.

156 Cf.

LG

52.

157 Cf.

Mk

3:31-35; 6:3;

1 Cor

9:5;

Gal

1:19.

158

Mt

13:55; 28:1; cf.

Mt

27:56.

159 Cf.

Gen

13:8; 14:16; 29:15; etc.

90

2717