The Church has constantly regarded Mary as holy and free from all sin or moral imperfection. The Council of Trent expressed this conviction, affirming that no one “can avoid all sins, even venial sins, throughout his life, unless he is given a special privilege, as the Church holds with regard the Blessed virgin.” (Pope St. John Paul II, General Audience June 19, 1996)
-Council of Trent (1545) did not wish to define this privilege but stated that the Church vigorously affirms it
-This is a decision which confirms its nature as a solid doctrine
-Conviction is based on the grace attributed to Mary by the angel at the annunciation
-Calling her “full of grace” (kecharitomene)
-Fullness of sanctity
-Without the shadow of sin
-Without moral or spiritual imperfection
Solemn definitions of faith (virginal birth of Christ):
-Early Christian writers
-Ignatius of Antioch (died 108 AD)
EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS CHAP. XIX.--THREE CELEBRATED MYSTERIES.
Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord; three mysteries of renown, which were wrought in silence by God. How, then, was He manifested to the world? A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars, the light of Which was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment. And all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above them all. And there was agitation felt as to whence this new spectacle came, so unlike to everything else [in the heavens]. Hence every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, God Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life. And now that took a beginning which had been prepared by God. Henceforth all things were in a state of tumult, because He meditated the abolition of death.
-Aristides (died 133-134 AD)
The Apology of Aristides
The Christians, then, trace the beginning of their religion from Jesus the Messiah; and he is named the Son of God Most High. And it is said that God came down from heaven, and from a Hebrew virgin assumed and clothed himself with flesh; and the Son of God lived in a daughter of man. This is taught in the gospel, as it is called, which a short time ago was preached among them; and you also if you will read therein, may perceive the power which belongs to it. This Jesus, then, was born of the race of the Hebrews; and he had twelve disciples in order that the purpose of his incarnation might in time be accomplished. But he himself was pierced by the Jews, and he died and was buried; and they say that after three days he rose and ascended to heaven. Thereupon these twelve disciples went forth throughout the known parts of the world, and kept showing his greatness with all modesty and uprightness. And hence also those of the present day who believe that preaching are called Christians, and they have become famous.
-Justin (died 165 AD)
Mary in the Writings of St. Justin Martyr
Christ, the Son of God, first existed before the morning star and the moon, yet deigned to become Incarnate, and be born of this Virgin of the family of David.
Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the word of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary conceived faith and joy, when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her: wherefore also the Holy One begotten of her is the Son of God.
And hear again how Isaiah in express words foretold that He should be born of a virgin; for he spoke thus: ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bring forth a son, and they shall say for His name, “God with us.”’ (...) This, then, ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive,’ signifies that a virgin should conceive without intercourse. For if she had had intercourse with any one whatever, she was no longer a virgin; but the power of God having come upon the virgin, overshadowed her, and caused her while yet a virgin to conceive.
-Irenaeus (died 202 AD)
Christ assumed actual flesh, conceived and born of the Virgin
4. In accordance with this design, Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word. Luke 1:38 But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin. And even as she, having indeed a husband, Adam, but being nevertheless as yet a virgin (for in Paradise they were both naked, and were not ashamed, Genesis 2:25 inasmuch as they, having been created a short time previously, had no understanding of the procreation of children: for it was necessary that they should first come to adult age, and then multiply from that time onward), having become disobedient, was made the cause of death, both to herself and to the entire human race; so also did Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race. And on this account does the law term a woman betrothed to a man, the wife of him who had betrothed her, although she was as yet a virgin; thus indicating the back-reference from Mary to Eve, because what is joined together could not otherwise be put asunder than by inversion of the process by which these bonds of union had arisen; so that the former ties be cancelled by the latter, that the latter may set the former again at liberty. And it has, in fact, happened that the first compact looses from the second tie, but that the second tie takes the position of the first which has been cancelled. For this reason did the Lord declare that the first should in truth be last, and the last first. Matthew 19:30, Matthew 20:16 And the prophet, too, indicates the same, saying, instead of fathers, children have been born unto you. For the Lord, having been born the First-begotten of the dead, Revelation 1:5 and receiving into His bosom the ancient fathers, has regenerated them into the life of God, He having been made Himself the beginning of those that live, as Adam became the beginning of those who die. 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 Wherefore also Luke, commencing the genealogy with the Lord, carried it back to Adam, indicating that it was He who regenerated them into the Gospel of life, and not they Him. And thus also it was that the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.
-Council of Chalcedon (451)
-Profession of Faith; carefully phrased with its infallibly defined content affirmed that Christ was “begotten…as to his humanity in these last days, for us and for our salvation by the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.”
-Third Council of Constantinople (681)
-Proclaimed Jesus Christ was “begotten…as to his humanity by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, she who is properly and in all truth the Mother of God.”
-Other Council’s that have declared Mary as “ever-virgin” stressing her perpetual virginity:
-Constantinople II (553)
-Lateran IV (1215)
-Lyons II (1274)
-Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)
Meaning of the term “virgin:”
-The voluntary abstention from sexual acts and the preservation of bodily integrity.
-Physical integrity is considered essential to the truth of faith of Jesus’s virginal conception (CCC 496)
Mary’s intent to remain a virgin:
-“How can this be since I do not know man?”
-Usual announcements of extraordinary birth to childless women who were naturally sterile; God gave the gift of a child through their normal conjugal life in response to their anguished prayers
-She was not married, rather had a voluntary choice to remain a virgin
-“How can this be” and the affirmation “since I do not know man” emphasize both Mary’s present virginity and her intention or remain a virgin.
-The expression she used, with the verb in the present tense, reveals the permanence and continuity of her state.
-Her intention of virginity disposed her to accept God’s will “with all her human and feminine ‘I,’ and this response of faith included both perfect cooperation with the ‘grace of God that precedes and assists’ and perfect openness to the action of the Holy Spirit.”