The second dogma regarding the Blessed Virgin is the dogma of Mary’s Perpetual Virginity. This defined truth received generally unanimous acceptance among the early Church Fathers and was confirmed by papal and conciliar definitions.
The dogma of Mary’s Perpetual Virginity proclaims that the Blessed Virgin Mary was always a virgin, before, during, and after the birth of Jesus Christ. This threefold character of Mary’s virginity was declared in the definition of Pope St. Martin I at the Lateran Synod in 649 A.D., where he pronounced as an article of faith that:
The blessed ever-virginal and immaculate Mary conceived, without seed, by the Holy Spirit, and without loss of integrity brought Him forth, and after His birth preserved her virginity inviolate. (1)
Virginity Before the Birth of Jesus
Mary’s virginity before the birth of Jesus is explicitly revealed in Sacred Scripture. The prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 states: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.” Although the Hebrew word for “virgin” can also be translated “maiden,” the Old Testament use of maiden was likewise in a virginal context. Moreover, the New Testament fulfillment of the prophecy confirms inerrantly that indeed a virgin conceives and bears the redeeming “Emmanuel” or “God with us.” The Gospel of St. Luke tell us, “the Angel Gabriel was sent from God… to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary” (Lk 1:26-27). In the dialogue between the Angel Gabriel and Mary, we have a further confirmation of Mary’s virginity as Gabriel announces: “You will conceive in your womb and bear a Son” (Lk 1:31). Mary responds: “How will this be since I know not man?” (Lk 1:34). To “know” in this scriptural context is a reference to sexual relations.
The Archangel Gabriel responds: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:35). The dialogue between Mary and Gabriel manifests both the virginity of Mary and the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb by the miraculous overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.
The Apostles’ Creed professes Mary’s virginity before the birth of Jesus when it states that Jesus Christ “was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.” The early Fathers of the Church unanimously expressed their belief that Jesus had no human father and was conceived in Mary in a virginal and miraculous manner by the power of the Holy Spirit. The virginity before the birth was taught by St. Ignatius of Antioch (d.107), St. Justin the Martyr (d.165), St. Irenaeus of Lyon (d.202), and on and on, down the line of the early Church Fathers and continuing in the Church’s Tradition.
Virginity During the Birth of Jesus
The second aspect of this dogma refers to Mary’s physical virginity during the birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Here we can take a more specific look into what the virginal birth of Jesus truly means.
The papal definition of Mary’s continued virginity during the birth of Christ refers to the event that at the appointed time of birth, Jesus left the womb of Mary without the loss of Mary’s physical virginity. The Church understands Mary’s virginity during the birth of Christ as an absence of any physical injury or violation to Mary’s virginal seal (in Lati