Catechism of the Catholic Church

126 Part One 497 The gospel accounts understand the virginal conception of Jesus as a divine work that surpasses all human understanding and possibility: 148 “That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit,” said the angel to Joseph about Mary his fiancée. 149 The Church sees here the fulfillment of the divine promise given through the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” 150 498 People are sometimes troubled by the silence of St. Mark’s Gospel and the New Testament Epistles about Jesus’ virginal conception. Some might wonder if we were merely dealing with legends or theological constructs not claiming to be history. To this we must respond: Faith in the virginal conception of Jesus met with the lively opposition, mockery, or incomprehension of non-believers, Jews and pagans alike; 151 so it could hardly have been motivated by pagan mythology or by some adaptation to the ideas of the age. The meaning of this event is accessible only to faith, which understands in it the “connection of these mysteries with one another” 152 in the totality of Christ’s mysteries, from his Incarnation to his Passover. St. Ignatius of Antioch already bears witness to this connection: “Mary’s virginity and giving birth, and even the Lord’s death escaped the notice of the prince of this world: these three mysteries worthy of procla- mation were accomplished in God’s silence.” 153 Mary—“ever-virgin” 499 The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. 154 In fact, Christ’s birth “did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sancti- fied it.” 155 And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the “Ever-virgin.” 156 500 Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus. 157 The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, “brothers of Jesus,” are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls “the other Mary.” 158 They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression. 159 148 Cf. Mt 1:18–25; Lk 1:26–38. 149 Mt 1:20. 150 Isa 7:14 in the LXX, quoted in Mt 1:23 (Gk.). 151 Cf. St. Justin, Dial., 99, 7: PG 6, 708-709; Origen, Contra Celsum 1, 32, 69: PG 11, 720-721; et al. 152 Dei Filius 4: DS 3016. 153 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Eph. 19, 1: AF II/2, 76-80; SCh 10, 88; cf. 1 Cor 2:8. 154 Cf. DS 291; 294; 427; 442; 503; 571; 1880. 155 LG 57. 156 Cf. LG 52. 157 Cf. Mk 3:31-35; 6:3; 1 Cor 9:5; Gal 1:19. 158 Mt 13:55; 28:1; cf. Mt 27:56. 159 Cf. Gen 13:8; 14:16; 29:15; etc. 90 2717