Q352: Why was it necessary for Mary to be a “virgin” in order to give birth to Jesus Christ, the Messiah? Couldn’t God have accomplished his plan “regardless” of that fact?
God’s plan of salvation did indeed include the virginity of Mary! There are two (and more) reasons for this, as taught by our Church Magisterium (the official teaching office of the Church) to help us understand the mystery.
First, God is the Creator, and does not “need” anything from anyone! It is always God who takes the initiative, as the life-giver and Creator. A Church Council (Friuli) late in the 8th century stressed the initiative of God the Father, and put it this way about Jesus: “He was never estranged from the Father because of the human nature which he assumed….He is naturally Son of the Father as to his divinity and naturally son of his mother as to his humanity, but properly Son of the Father in both natures.” For that reason the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God” (Theotokos).
Second, by the virginal conception of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb, we see that Mary’s virginity is the sign of her faith, and of her undivided gift of herself to God’s will and plan of salvation. The great St. Augustine has said that “Mary is more blessed because she embraces faith in Christ than because she conceives the flesh of Christ.” Because of her faith, our participation in the divine life in the spirit became possible – yet it still remains a pure gift from the initiative of God.
Mary is thus also the symbol and most perfect realization of the Church. As the Ecumenical Council Vatican II said in 1964, “the Church indeed…by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother. By preaching and baptism she brings forth sons, who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God, to a new and immortal life. She herself is a virgin, who keeps in its entirety and purity the faith she pledged to her spouse” (Lumen Gentium #63-64).
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! This wonderful mystery of God’s plan of salvation can be discovered in the context of the whole of divine revelation (CCC #502). The Church helps us to understand God’s plan to use Mary’s virginity (read CCC#495-507). The Virgin Mary cooperated in human salvation through her freely given faith and obedience (CCC #511). Her “yes” was uttered “in the name of all human nature” (St. Thomas Aquinas). Have you cooperated fully with your “yes” to God’s will, to the truths expressed through His Magisterium?
What’s in a Name?
Names are very important to us; we like people to remember our names. In ancient times names had even greater importance. The name was supposed to reveal some important quality characteristic of the person. The blessing given in the Book of Numbers gives us the beautiful Hebrew blessing which uses the distinctive Hebrew name for God: “Yahweh”, which we translate into English as “The Lord.” The blessing focuses on the gracious gifts God gives us. It is an appropriate blessing for this Day of World Peace which begins our new year. In the Gospel St. Luke tells us that on the 8th day after his birth Jesus was circumcised with the name Jesus, which in Hebrew means “Yahweh saves.” That name tells us who he is and what he does. God saves us in and through Jesus and his name reflects this. In the Epistle Paul tells the Galatians and us that we are in Christ through baptism and so are adopted sons of God, sharing through Jesus in a special relationship with God, Our Father.
Jesus, Son of God and son of Mary be our elder brother, our mentor, our model and our support. Teach us God’s ways and help us model; our lives on your life of self-giving.