The Mother Of Christ by Father Vassall-Phillips Part 4

That our Blessed Lady made a vow of Virginity is not a matter of Faith. But neither is it a matter of controversy amongst Catholics. (Cf. Suarez, iii., p. 9; xxviii., Art. iv.) It is a subject on which all Catholics are agreed. St. Augustine writes that on any other supposition it would be impossible to explain her answer to the Angel:

" ' How,' she said, 'shall this be done because I know not man ?' For she surely would not have spoken thus, unless she had already vowed herself as a virgin to God. But because the customs of the Israelites were as yet opposed to this, she was espoused to a just man who, far from seeking violently to take away, would on the contrary most jealously guard against all who would violate it, that which she had already vowed." (De Sancta Virgin, iv. Cf. Serm. 291, v. 4, 6 ; 287, 4 ; 293, i,)

Pope Benedict XIV. holds that the Blessed Virgin made her vow whilst still dwelling within the Temple; St. Thomas Aquinas, however, thinks it probable that the vow was made after her marriage, in conjunction with a vow to the same effect made by St. Joseph, but certainly before the Annunciation.

Tradition tells us that our Lady was fifteen years of age when she was espoused to Joseph—a humble artizan, who belonged to the tribe of judah, and the race of David. The Fathers of the Church insist upon the reasons of prudence which made it necessary for the Most Holy Mother of God not only to be espoused, but also to be joined, in virgin marriage, with a man chosen by God as the guardian of her virginity as well as of her good name before the world.

Thus, St. Augustine writes :

" Mary had made a fixed purpose of virginity, and her husband, so far from detracting from her chastity, was its guardian. Or rather, since God was its guardian, her husband was a witness to her virginal purity—lest she might have been thought to have conceived through sin." (Serm. ccxxv. 2.)

And again:

"The Virgin was espoused, that Joseph might himself take care of the Infant, whether going to Egypt, or returning thence." (Ap. Morales, ii. i.)

Origen gives yet another reason :

"Hence it has been admirably said, as I have found in the Epistle of a certain martyr, I mean Ignatius, the second Bishop of Antioch after Peter, who in the persecution fought with beasts at Rome: The Virginity of Mary was hidden from the Prince of this world. It was hidden in consequence of Joseph. It was hidden by reason of the nuptials. It was hidden because she was supposed to have a husband. . . . Look too in another Scripture, and you will find that it was Christ's will that the Devil should know not of the coming of the Son of God. For the Apostle when affirming that the Powers of wickedness were ignorant of His Passion says : ' We speak wisdom among "the Perfect." But not the wisdom of this world; nor of the princes of this world who come to nought: but we speak the Wisdom of God hidden in Mystery, which none of the princes of this world knew. For, if they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of Glory. Hence the Mystery of the Saviour was hidden from the princes of this world ... so much as to why Mary had a spouse." (In Luc. Hom. vi.)

Origen here writes because " she was supposed to have a husband." Catholics understand the sense in which these words may be rightly used; yet we must always remember that there was a real marriage between Mary and Joseph, and that therefore in a real and true sense Joseph is called the husband of Mary. St. Augustine reminds his readers that:

" All good things pertaining to marriage were found in that of Christ's Parents, offspring, fidelity, and a sacrament." (De Nuptiis et Concupiscentia, LI. xxi.)