Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Fr. Scott A. Haynes
A Meditation in Honor of Our Lady
Each year, on the second Sunday of October (or October 11th), we honor the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a doctrine which the Council of Ephesus, in the year 431 AD, infallibly declared. Not only did the Church that Mary is the Theotokos, the Mother of God, but also that the birth of Jesus that Mary experienced was unique in all of human history. Jesus birth was a miraculous birth because He kept Our Lady’s maternal virginity inviolate.
As St Anthony of Padua once put it,
“Mary is a Virgin before, during and after the birth of Christ.”
Even the Protestant reformers of the 16th century believed this. The Swiss reformer Huldreich Zwingli observed:
“To deny that Mary remained inviolata [inviolate] before, during and after the birth of her Son, was to doubt the omnipotence of God.”
And even Martin Luther, two years after his excommunication, wrote about his belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity.
In other words, as Christians, we believe that Our Blessed Lord left the womb of Mary through the natural channels but in a miraculous way. He came forth from Mary's womb using the same divine power by which He exited the sealed tomb before the angel opened it, as the Catechism of the Council of Trent plainly teaches. Think about it. Could not the God who created Eve from the side of Adam also have removed the New Adam, Jesus Christ, from the womb of the New Eve, Mary?
We are temples of the Holy Spirit, but in the most remarkable way, in the Divine Maternity of Mary, the baby Jesus made Mary his personal Temple for nine months. Saint Ambrose considered how Mary’s womb was like the Temple’s gate described in the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel:
“And [the Lord] brought me back to the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary, which looked towards the east: and it was shut. And the Lord said to me: This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall pass through it: because the Lord the God of Israel hath entered in by it, and it shall be shut.”
And Saint Ambrose adds:
“This good door is Mary, who was closed and not opened. Christ passed through her but did not open her...”
As the Fathers of the Church teach,
“As light passes through glass without harming the glass, so too Jesus left the womb of Mary in a miraculous manner without any opening of the womb and without any physical violation of her virginity.”
To Eve (the first Woman) it was said:
“In pain you shall bring forth children” (Gen. 3:16).
But the Immaculata (the new Eve) was exempt from this law, for preserving her virginal integrity inviolate, Mary brought forth Jesus, the Son of God, without experiencing pain.
With this dogma in mind what are we to make of that passage in Revelation 12 which reads:
“And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars: And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered.”
We immediately understand that the “Woman” mentioned here in Revelation is Mary – and the Bible says that she cried out and travailed with birth pangs.
At first reading, perhaps it seems that this is Biblical proof that Mary suffered during Jesus’ birth. But this is not so, as Pope St. Pius X explains:
“Everyone knows that this Woman [in the book of Revelation] signified the Virgin Mary, the stainless one who brought forth our Head [Jesus Christ]. The Apostle [John] continues: ‘And, being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered.’" (Apoc. xii., 2).
John therefore saw the Most Holy Mother of God already in eternal happiness, yet travailing in a mysterious childbirth. What birth was it? Surely it was the birth of us who, still in exile, are yet to be generated to the perfect charity of God, and to eternal happiness.
And the birth pains show the love and desire with which the Virgin from heaven above watches over us, and strives with unwearying prayer to bring about the fulfillment of the number of the elect.” (Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum, 24)
Mary suffered no physical pain in giving birth to Jesus, but, as Mother of the Church, Our Lady has spiritual pain as she gives birth to each Christian man, woman and child. When, from His cross, Jesus told Mary to gaze upon John and said,
“Behold your son,”
Our Lord was telling Mary, as Mother of the Church, to gaze through all human history, to behold every son and daughter of God – this is Mary’s mission. And in laboring for us, in bringing our faith to birth, Mary suffers a spiritual pain for love of us.