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144 • Part I. The Creed: The Faith Professed

deepening theological inquiry. In 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed this

dogma infallibly: that is, in his role as supreme teacher of the Church,

he declared that this doctrine is divinely revealed and must be accepted

with faith by the entire Church.

It is also the faith of the Church that Mary is to be called the

“Mother of God.”“The One whom she conceived as man by the power

of the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was

none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy

Trinity. Hence, the Church confesses that Mary is truly the ‘Mother of

God’” (CCC, no. 495, citing Council of Ephesus: DS 251). In the Eastern

Churches Mary is honored by use of the Greek expression



“Birth-giver of God” (sometimes translated as “God-Bearer”).

The Holy Spirit’s power made possible the conception of Jesus in

Mary’s womb. There was no human father. The Gospels clearly present

the virginal conception of Jesus as a divine work (cf. Mt 1:18-25; Lk


Mary was always a virgin, both in conceiving Jesus, giving birth to

him, and remaining virgin ever after. God granted her this privilege to

emphasize that this was a unique moment in history—the birth of Jesus

who is the Son of God and the Son of Mary. The liturgy of the Church

speaks of Mary as “ever virgin.” In the early Church some denied this,

arguing that the Gospels speak of the brothers and sisters of Jesus, and

thus maintained that Mary did not remain a virgin after the birth of

Jesus. But already in the fourth century, theologians pointed out that

the Greek word for brother used in the New Testament can refer also to

cousin. A second explanation was that these brothers and sisters were

children of Joseph by a previous marriage. However, it is the constant

teaching of the Church that Mary remained a virgin even after the birth

of Jesus. In her virginity, Mary lived a life dedicated exclusively to her

Son and his mission. Her example has been followed by some of Christ’s

disciples who have lived lives of consecrated virginity and celibacy from

apostolic times to the present.

In the mystery of her Assumption, Mary experiences immediately

what we all will experience eventually, a bodily resurrection like Christ’s

own. “The Immaculate Virgin . . . when the course of her earthly life was