The Perpetual Virginity of Mary
The Orthodox Church strongly champions the belief that Mary remained “chaste”, i.e. a perpetual virgin. As we earlier examined the issue, this is not true. Nonetheless, it would be interesting to delve into this topic a little deeper from some different angles and to arrive at a correct conclusion.
“When the All-Holy Virgin completed the fourteenth year after her birth and was entering her fifteenth year, after having spent eleven years of living and serving in the Temple of Jerusalem, the priests informed her that, according to the Law, she could not remain in the Temple but was required to be betrothed and enter into marriage. What a great surprise to the priests when the All-Holy Virgin answered that she had dedicated her life to God and that she desired to remain a Virgin until death, not wanting to enter into marriage with anyone! Then, according to Divine Providence, Zacharias, the high priest and father of the Forerunner, under the inspiration of God, and in agreement with the other priests, gathered twelve unwed men from the Tribe of David to betroth the Virgin Mary to one of them to preserve her virginity and to care for her. She was betrothed to Joseph of Nazareth who was her kinsman.”
“Under the acceptable role of one betrothed, she could live in virginity and thus fulfill her desire and formally satisfy the Law, for it was then unknown in Israel for maidens to vow virginity to the end of their lives. The Most-holy Virgin Mary was the first of such life-vowed virgins, of the thousands and thousands of virgin men and women who would follow her in the Church of Christ.”
From just these texts we learn about the alleged oath attributed to Mary before the Lord, which committed herself to eternal virginity and celibacy. We learn also that the elderly man Joseph received the young girl Mary with full knowledge that she would become the future mother of the Savior – and that she would give birth as a virgin, without having intercourse with a man. However, it remains unclear why sacred tradition has to mention the issue that the “elderly man” Joseph wanted to divorce Mary, who was more than sixty years his junior, when he discovered her pregnancy? Should Joseph not have rejoiced instead since Zechariah told him everything in advance? Also, why did the angel have to come to Joseph in a dream and tell him to marry Mary when he was supposed to only be her guardian?! (Remember that marriage and custody are not synonyms for one and the same phenomenon.) Scripture describes the angelic command to Joseph regarding Mary in the following manner:
“But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit…’ Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife…”