[Note: This post deals with the how and the why more so than the that. In the philosophical section, I sought to address the why and move into the how. With the beginning of St. Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle, I intended to touch on how the Holy Spirit might have served in place of the male sperm as an “agent” that brought instructions and form to the genetic material already within the Blessed Mother’s body. I only sought to “prove” (or, rather, sketch out proofs) that this could have happened.]
With the Virgin Birth, you actually have more evidence that it is true rather than untrue.
We have great historical testimony to it, and there is no proof that it did not happen — obviously. But there is more.
How can it be proven by science? Well, I suppose this depends on your definition of “science”. If you refer to that of the exact (quantitative), of course, it could be difficult. But theology, “the highest form of philosophy”, does have an answer. And, just as you trust astronomers to tell you about many things beyond earth, you should trust the Church to tell you about God.
Before I can get into that, you must consider something: how did you come into being, and why do you exist? You cannot know much else aside from that you were ordained for some purpose. If you were not around, things would be different, the environment would be changed — perhaps, this would not just cause some sort of “gap”, but it would be destructive, even. You are necessary, to us and to the “Something” (God) from which you spring.
Let us say that the Virgin Birth, too, was necessary for things to properly function. It was ordained from the beginning, as God knew that He would come to reach out to the lost tribes of the house of Israel (Gentiles). The Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection were necessary for God’s “re”-marriage, this time to the Church, His Bride. (This connects to the Church’s teachings on the indissolubility of marriage.) The destroyed Temple and Jewish sacrificial method had to be replaced with a new, universal and eternal system. “No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins” (Mark 2:22). If something is truly necessary to proper existence, it comes into being.
Why has this Birth not been replicated, though? It was only needed once, just like you are only needed once. Likewise, there has to be a mystery to it, as there is mystery to you. Uniqueness and mystery pervade.
But St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out, also, “According to the Philosopher [Aristotle] (De Gener. Animal. i, ii, iv), in conception the seed of the male is not by way of matter, but by way of agent: and the female alone supplies the matter. Wherefore though the seed of the male was lacking in Christ’s conception, it does not follow that due matter was lacking.” (Summa Theologiae, TP, Q. 28, A. 1, R. to Ob. 5)
That point is key. Mitochondrial DNA, for example, come exclusively from the mother, and there is also talk of “female sperm“. “Female sperm” could, theoretically, develop within a woman, given the right impetus. (Of course, the impetus for normal procreation is male sperm.) The point is, the material necessary for life sufficiently exists within women — that is evidenced by the fact that the X-chromosome contains far more genetic material than the Y-chromosome. All the material needs is the masculine influence to trigger it, to give it form and shape. Even without the Y-chromosome from a man, one could still be a “XX male“, at least. And it is clear that the distinctions and origins of the Y-chromosome are a mystery, anyway [1, 2]. In Mary’s exceptional case, this trigger was the Holy Spirit, which poured out abundantly on her and directed her body on what to do (Luke 1:30-35). “…[T]he Divine power, which is infinite, can transmute all matter to any form whatsoever” (Aquinas). This mutation can be rationally explained — “random mutations” occur frequently.
Is it not ironic that we have confirmed this by reckless science, which has sought to artificially create “test-tube babies” [1, 2] and introduce “transgenderism”? God has drawn straight with our crooked lines, yet again.
Christ’s body was not tangled to any imperfect man. This connects to scientific proof of Mary’s perfection, too. It has been shown that groups of cells from infants transfer to mothers’ brains [1, 2], after traveling through the placenta. Because of this, the Blessed Mother must have been perfect, for she literally had, in purity, the mind of Christ.
Why else must the Theotokos be a virgin? St. Augustine of Hippo wrote, “For it behooved that our Head, on account of a notable miracle, should be born after the flesh of a virgin, that He might thereby signify that His members would be born after the Spirit, of the Church a virgin…” (Of Holy Virginity)
There is nothing wrong with asking the heavenly saints to pray for us.
Many Protestants argue that asking the saints to pray for us is “unbiblical,” while throwing around verses like 1 Timothy 2:5. But they are incorrect.
1 Timothy 2:5 — the infamous “one mediator between God and men” verse — refers to salvation, not prayer. The verse reminds us that it is only because of the graces found through Christ (God Himself) that we are able to have any real relationship with God and reach Heaven. It does not, however, absolutely negate relations with angels or heavenly saints. After all, it was an angel (Gabriel) that spoke to Mary before Christ was conceived in her body, not God Himself.
I was raised in several Protestant denominations. They all placed a major emphasis on Christians praying for each other — which is encouraged in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 and other passages. I would contend that a heavenly saint, one who is holy and in Heaven with God, would have a lot more sway with God than a rebellious sinner on Earth would.
To put that another way, if someone asked you to do something for them, would you not be more likely to help them if they were your best friend, as opposed to a complete stranger? Of course, you may very well be willing to do something for a complete stranger, but you would probably be more willing to do something for your best friend.
And there is evidence in the Bible of the saints praying to God.
“Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.” – Revelation 8:3-4
The word for “saints” in that passage comes from the Greek word hagios. Thayer’s New Testament Greek-English Lexicon says that the best definition of hagios is “most holy thing, a saint”. This would seem to undermine the Protestant assertion that “saints” in this context can only refer to people on earth.
Now, what would the saints be praying for? Themselves? Doubtful. They are in Heaven, so they do not need anything, as eternal life with God is perfect. That really only leaves one option: they are praying for us. And because they are praying for us anyway, how could it be wrong to ask them to pray for us about something specific? It is like interacting with a DJ at an event. He’s playing music anyway, so what is the harm in asking him to play your favorite song?
Here’s my Scripture-based defense of the practice that should answer most Protestant objections:
Matthew 17:3-4 & Luke 9:28-31.
Moses and Elijah (who are clearly heavenly saints, not “saints” in the way Paul would sometimes use the word) are with Christ during the Transfiguration.
The martyrs can talk to God.
From those three passages, we can gather that the saints in Heaven interact with God.
The angels and saints (who, in Luke 20:35-36, Christ says are equal to the angels) are aware of earthly events.
1 Timothy 2:1 & James 5:16.
It is good for Christians to pray for one another.
Now, if the saints interact with God and are aware of earthly events (and can therefore hear us), why wouldn’t they pray for us, considering that it is good for Christians (which the angels and saints definitely are) to pray for one another?
Nothing imperfect will enter into Heaven.
Psalm 66:18 & James 5:16.
God ignores the prayers of the wicked, and the prayers of the righteous are effective.
Because the saints have reached perfection (they are in Heaven), their prayers are more effective than the prayers of those that are less righteous, so that’s why one might ask them to pray instead of asking another Christian on earth or simply doing it themselves.
When I was contemplating converting to Catholicism, one of the biggest factors in my decision was, as silly as this may sound, this clip of the Litany of the Saints being prayed (in Latin!) before the 2005 Conclave:
I was so in awe of the sheer beauty of the procession and the Litany itself. The clip opened my eyes to the glorious splendor that is found only in the Church.
I have asked many saints to pray for me, but my most profound experience was before my conversion, when I — after watching a movie about her life — asked St. Therese to pray for me about something that weighed heavily on my mind. I also asked her to send me a red rose (I was very specific about it being a singular red rose, too) to let me know that she had heard my plea. Three days later (Trinitarian symbolism!), a red rose appeared in my house. It obviously got there due to, at least in part, human action (my grandmother happened to bring it home with her that day), but that does not undermine the importance of it to me. Soon after that moment, my big problem was solved, and it was then that I truly believed in this practice.
Catholics do not “worship statues,” as some Protestants have accused. I know that firsthand.
(All verses are from the NASB translation.)
- The Madonna in Sorrow, by Sassoferrato, 17th century
Some claim that the Virgin Mary was not a virgin because of the fact that a single Latin manuscript from the fifth century left out Mary’s question (“How can this be, since I am a virgin?”) in Luke 1:34 (you can read about that claim and a response to it here), because the Bible supposedly does not say enough about the miraculous event, and because they think there was a possible translation error.
On the validity of that single Latin manuscript…
The logic behind the first reason is terrible, but even if you concede that maybe every other version of the same text is wrong (LOL), Church history shows that the Virgin Mary has always been regarded as a virgin.
The First Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.) amended the Nicene Creed to include, among other things, “…by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary…”. The vast majority of Christian denominations entirely approve of that updated Nicene Creed.
The Apostles’ Creed (which is more popular in the Western part of the world than it is in the Eastern part) also mentions the “Virgin Mary”.
Even the Chalcedonian Creed (adopted at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D.) mentions the “Virgin Mary”.
St. Ignatius of Antioch (who was born around the year 50 A.D. and died sometime between 98 and 117 A.D.) wrote about “the virginity of Mary” in his Epistle to the Ephesians.
St. Augustine (354 – 430 A.D.) also wrote about the virginity of Mary in his work, “Of Holy Virginity”.
On the idea that the Bible does not say enough about it…
It is written about in Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23, and Luke 1:34. How much more could someone want?
On the possibility of a translation error…
The third claim also does not make sense. Here is an explanation of why from here (I encourage you to read the full explanation, as I am only featuring this single excerpt for the sake of brevity):
Whereas “almah” is translated in the KJV as “virgin” and this rendering is supported from the Greek Septuagint translation, Jewish revisers and naturalistic textual critics prefer to render “almah” as “young woman,” hoping to undercut the prophetic value of the passage. They claim that if Isaiah were really desiring to prophesy that a virgin would conceive, that he would have used the Hebrew word “bethulah”, which is claimed as a more proper word for “virgin”…“almah” is in fact a more proper term to denote virginity in Hebrew. Further, its translation by early Jewish scholars into the Greek Septuagint demonstrates that the idea of virginity was understood to be conveyed in Isaiah 7:14 and that in pre-Christian Judaism, there was no problem identifying the “almah” of Isaiah 7:14 as being virginal in her conception.
In short, yes, the Virgin Mary was indeed a virgin.