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Consecrated to God
Question from Leigh Anne on 3/17/2002:

Father Echert--I have often heard Catholics say that Mary was consecrated to God as a young woman in defense of her perpetual virginity. However, Mary was Jewish, and nowhere in Scripture does it tell us that Jews who were consecrated to God took on celibacy as a requirement. The Nazirite vow forbid three things: Cutting one's hair with a razor, partaking of wine or other fermented drinks, and contact with a dead body. I have studied Scripture at some length and cannot find any explanation for the perpetual virginity of Mary, nor for her sinlessness. Surely Jesus would have know of Mary's sinless nature, and would have found it of profound importance and mentioned it somewhere in the gospels. But quite the opposite is true--He is abrupt with His family when they come to see Him in Luke 8: 20-21: "Someone told Him, 'Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.' He replied 'My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice." Also, in Matthew 13: 57, Jesus says "Only in his hometown and IN HIS OWN HOUSE (emphasis mine) is a prophet without honor." We must remember that Jesus' family did not understand what He was doing, until after the Resurrection.

Answer by Fr. John Echert on 3/25/2002:

Vows of celibacy and virginity were not unknown in ancient Israel and among the Jews. Levitical priests were obliged to observe celibacy throughout the period in which they ministered in the Sanctuary and Temple of the Lord. Soldiers were under a vow of celibacy during the course of a Holy War against enemies of God. My assumption is that those under the Nazarite vow were also obliged to celibacy during the period of the vow—or a lifetime for those few who were consecrated from birth. Widows and young virgins served in the Temple as well and lived celibate lives.

A second century writing relates that Mary was consecrated as a virgin following her birth and served in the Jewish Temple until age twelve, at which time she was entrusted to the care of St. Joseph as a guardian. While we do not know whether this tradition is accurate or not, the fact that Mary was perplexed and uncomprehending at the announcement of the Angel that she was to become the mother of the Savior suggests that she had already consecrated herself to perpetual virginity, with no intention to consummate her marriage to St. Joseph. Regardless of whether the details of the ancient writings are accurate in every respect, we know with the certitude of Faith that Mary remains perpetually the Virgin Mother of the Lord. ©

Thanks, Leigh

Father Echert


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