The Virginity of Mary

MP3 Audio:  WS330324_Dn-Joseph_Virginity-of-Mary.mp3

This homily was preached on Sunday morning, December 29, 2013,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.


Gospel Reading:  Matthew 1:18-25

For 2000 years, the Church has taught the perpetual virginity of Mary.  She was celibate her entire life, both before and after the birth of Christ.  Jesus had a brother from Joseph’s previous marriage, and He had many cousins.  But he was Mary’s one and only child.  She spent her entire life in virginity.

Why is this an important teaching of the Church?
And how is Mary’s virginity relevant to our lives today?

In Exodus 19, God prepares the Israelites for His descent onto Mt. Sinai. God warns Moses that anyone who touches the mountain will be put to death. In preparation for the appearance of God, Moses talks to the men of Israel and says, do not come near your wives.”

Why couldn’t they touch the mountain? Why couldn’t they touch their wives?

In most cases, there is nothing wrong with walking a mountain path.
Under normal circumstances, there is nothing wrong with marital intimacy.

But when God Himself makes a special appearance, that is a game-changer. When God descends upon Mt. Sinai with thunder and fire, you don’t dare to casually approach that mountain. And you don’t distract yourself by indulging in the pleasures of marital conjugal rights.

At Sinai, God manifested Himself with fire, thunder, a cloud, and His voice.

But when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, God manifested Himself in a way that is far more awesome. His presence in Mary’s womb is more significant than His presence on Mt. Sinai. And if His brief appearance on the mountain made it necessary for godly husbands and wives to practice a certain measure of celibacy, then how much more was it necessary because of the Incarnation?

If you saw God appear on a mountain, would you touch that mountain? If you knew that God spent nine months living in the womb of your wife, would you touch her?

The Perpetual Virginity of Mary teaches us:

1) The Perpetual Virginity of Mary teaches us the awe and power of the Incarnation. This is a bigger event than God appearing on Mt. Sinai. Mary remaining a virgin reminds us that the birth of Jesus is the birth of God.

2) The Perpetual Virginity of Mary teaches us that Jesus alone is enough to satisfy the deepest desires of our hearts. Mary was given an intimate relationship with her Creator, far surpassing any other pleasure she could have been given. A child is not deprived because he is given a holiday at the beach instead of an afternoon making mud pies. A man is not deprived when he inherits a sports car instead of a horse and buggy. And Mary was not deprived when she was given Jesus to hold, instead of her husband. She was not deprived. She was better off than anyone!

3) The Perpetual Virginity of Mary teaches us that virginity is a blessed way of life!

Meanwhile, this world bombards us with sexual advertising, desperately trying to convince us that virginity is a curse. The world hates monks, nuns, and any sort of celibate lifestyle. The world mocks young people who wait until marriage to have sex. When your spouse dies, the world expects you to enter a second marriage soon afterwards, so that you will have someone to sleep with. Regardless of whether you are young, old, single, or married, the world hates virginity! According to the world, the greatest pleasure you can possibly experience is in the bedroom. According to the world, you are justified in going to almost any extreme, just to achieve satisfaction in this one area of life. It doesn’t matter how many hearts you break, or how many people you hurt; the important thing is for you to gratify the desires of your flesh.

How far this is from the teaching of Scripture! In the New Testament, St. Paul tells us that marriage and virginity are both good. It is good to be married. It is also good for a man to remain single, and to never touch a woman. Either way, you have the blessing of God. But the really interesting thing is, St. Paul says that virginity is better! The married woman has to concern herself with the cares of this world, how she may please her husband. But the virgin can put all of her energy into serving the Lord, without hindrance (1 Cor. 7:34-35).

The prophet Elijah was celibate. John the baptist was celibate. Jesus was a virgin. Mary was a virgin. And since the time of Christ, the Church has been blessed with many thousands of monks, nuns, virgin saints and virgin martyrs.

According to Jesus, virginity will be one aspect of the blessedness we experience in Heaven. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says that we will neither be married, nor given in marriage, but we will be like the angels (Luke 20:35; Matthew 22:30).

For those who are immersed in the cares and lusts of this world, this can be a difficult message. But this has been the consistent teaching of the Church for the past 2000 years. Virginity is a good thing! Virginity is a blessing! And the perpetual virginity of God’s mother helps remind us of this. Mary herself said that she is blessed among women (Luke 1:48, also see Luke 1:28 & Luke 1:42). She was not disappointed with her life, so what right do we have to be disappointed with it?

It is important for us to remember that monks and nuns are not the only people in the world who are virgins. There is a much larger group of virgins which numbers in the hundreds of millions. Regardless of religion or nationality, the vast majority of children spend the first several years of their lives as virgins. They have a youthful innocence which captures the attention of God himself, as He says, “Let the little children come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 19:14; Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16).

Therefore, it is not surprising that a culture which hates virginity, is also a culture which hates children.

Over the past two generations, our culture has taught us that children are a curse to be avoided by birth control, and to be eliminated through abortion. As for the few children who are permitted to be born, they are encouraged to wear short-skirts and tight-fitting clothes, to watch sexually suggestive shows, to listen to sexually suggestive music, to date early, and to lose their innocence at earlier and earlier ages. While we indoctrinate them in a culture of hyper-sexuality, we teach them to practice “safe sex”, so that they themselves are not “cursed” with children.

This culture’s mocking of virginity is on the same continuum as this culture’s embrace of birth control, abortion, and the sexual corruption of our children. Get rid of monks and nuns, and you get Roe vs. Wade. Throw out the perpetual virginity of Mary, and you get Planned Parenthood. Imbue the culture with a hatred for virginity, and the result is over 50 million murdered babies.

This world despises virgins, and therefore it despises children.
So worldly people seek the pleasures of intimacy, even while trying to avoid the fruitfulness of the womb.

The Church honors virgins, and therefore loves children.
So when intimacy is celebrated within a marriage, the fruit of the womb is seen as a blessing. In this way, the Church’s teaching about virginity preserves the sanctity of marriage itself.

Yesterday was the feast of the Holy Innocents, when the Church remembers the thousands of children slaughtered by Herod, in an attempt to kill the baby Jesus. By extension, we also remember the tens of millions of babies who have been killed by abortion. Today, it is appropriate for us to mediate on a teaching of the Church which is an antidote to the world’s culture of corruption and death.

By believing in the perpetual virginity of Mary, and by honoring virginity as a good thing, we safeguard the awe and majesty of the Incarnation, we recognize that Jesus alone is enough to satisfy the deepest desires of the human heart, and we protect the innocence and sanctity of both marriage and children.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Our God is One.  Amen.


This homily was preached on Sunday morning, December 29, 2013,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.

About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
Video | This entry was posted in Abortion, Contraception, Exodus 19, Exodus 19:15, Fr. Joseph Gleason, Holy Matrimony, Luke 1, Luke 18:15-17, Luke 20:27-40, Mark 10:13-16, Mary the Mother of God, Matthew 19:13-15, Matthew 1:18-25, Matthew 22:23-33, The Incarnation, The Orthodox Christian Family. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Virginity of Mary

  1. tpkatsa says:

    Right on point. You make a compelling argument as to why the perpetual virginity of Mary is essential to properly understanding incarnational theology, and essential to our salvation!

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