The Ever-Virgin Mary

06-10-2018Weekly ReflectionRev. John C. Granato

My Dear Friends,

Today's Gospel talks about Jesus' mother and brothers. Until only recently (the 18th Century), most of the faithful, (the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, as well as many of the early Protestant communions), have understood that the "brothers" mentioned in this passage are really cousins or kinsmen of the Lord. There is no word in Aramaic or Hebrew for the relationship of cousin (or nephew or step brother as well). When the New Testament was written in Greek, the Gospel writers use the term "adelphoi" to describe the relationship between Jesus and His "brothers", who are more likely cousins or other relatives to the Lord. In the early Church, there was a belief that they might be half-brothers of the Lord, children of St. Joseph from a previous marriage, which is why in some pictures St. Joseph is portrayed as an old man.

Other Catholic saints and writers insist that St. Joseph was a young man and remained pure and chaste before and after his marriage to Mary. The earliest example of someone claiming that our Blessed Mother had other children is Helvidius in 380 AD. St. Jerome countered by saying that this was a "novel, wicked, and daring affront to the faith of the whole world." And the First Lateran Council in 649, declared Mary to be ever-Virgin and immaculate.

Since the 18th Century and the beginning of the Enlightenment, people have questioned miracles, demanding that there be a rational and logical explanation for things. Hence, Mary being Ever-Virgin did not make sense to them. Many of these people, including some Christians, do not believe in the conceiving of the Lord through the Holy Spirit. To them, St. Joseph must be the father, because that is the natural way to conceive. Today, many of the Protestant faithful, despite what their founders wrote when they broke away from Rome, insist that Mary and Joseph had other children. Even some Catholics believe that Mary had other children with St. Joseph. Father Raymond Brown, a noted Scripture scholar, has written that according to Sacred Scripture, there is no conclusive evidence that Mary had other children after giving birth to the Savior. Many other Scripture scholars have said the same thing. Mary has just given birth to the Savior, the Messiah, the Son of God, whom she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

St. Joseph was there from the beginning to protect and care for her and for her Son. He would have known that she found favor with God that she was found with child by the Holy Spirit. God had a claim on her life. St. Joseph, as a faithful and pure and chaste husband, would accept his role in Salvation History and remain the most chaste spouse.

God bless.
Fr. John