Following the Scriptures, the Church over the centuries has pondered the meaning of Mary’s virginity. The “how” of a virgin conceiving and giving birth are beyond our understanding or explanation. That it is true is clearly taught in the gospels and is the universal teaching of the Church. Further, the Church teaches that Mary remained a virgin in giving birth and throughout her life (the doctrine of “perpetual virginity”). This was a common part of the universal teaching of the ancient Church and is witnessed in the Fathers, both East and West.1 This is in no way rooted in some ancient aversion to sexual relations. Rather, it is a doctrine revealed to us in Scripture. "Then said the LORD unto me; This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut” (Ezek 44:2). This verse concerning the sanctuary gate has always been interpreted by the Fathers of the Church to be a typological reference to the Virgin Mary.
God’s dealings with Mary reveal His utter concern for the integrity of the human soul in its freedom. Mary’s virginal conception occurs with her permission. Her response at the announcement of the Archangel Gabriel is, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word” (Luke 2:38).
Had Christ been conceived by human means (with a human father), He would not have been the Son of God. There was an early heresy called Adoptionism that put forward such an idea. It suggested that Jesus the human being was somehow “adopted” into His sonship with God. But the integrity of the “mere man” Jesus, would have been violated in such an arrangement. The Church does not say that He “became” God, but that He is “begotten of the Father before all ages.” Or, in another translation, He is “eternally begotten of the Father.”
In fact, the “brothers” and “sisters” of the Lord are believed to be relatives; they were most likely Joseph’s children from his first marriage, he being an elderly widower when he took Mary into his care. ↩