“Failure is not the problem. The problem is low aim.” — Dr. Benjamin Mays
Yes, I believe that Mary was a virgin through-out her life. This belief was central in early church doctrine, continued (though somewhat skewed) in Roman Catholicism, and was unchallenged by the first wave of church reformers. It wasn’t until the more radical reformed churches came into being that the perpetual virginity of Mary was questioned and rejected. Many make this error based on the scripture that Jesus had brothers and sisters with His mother waiting to speak to Him even though in that culture one’s cousins were also counted as siblings. Others are misled by the text where Joseph did not know (as in carnal knowledge) Mary until she bore her son and named him Jesus. This is a translation problem for in the same Gospel, Jesus declares He will be with us until the end of the age. By that logic, after the end of the age, Jesus will no longer be with us. Also, if Jesus did have blood siblings as we define them by our western standard, why is it that he left the care of His mother to a disciple rather than one of the children she supposedly gave birth to?
Perhaps the most disturbing and failed excuse for rejecting Mary as ever virgin is that “she was still human.” Yes, I believe and the Church teaches that Mary was fully human. But, is it wise to believe that the natural state of humanity is to wallow in desires of the flesh, or to pursue purity and unity with God? If we aim for the best standard of physical pleasure, sex in heterosexual marriage, we aim for what God has ordained under the Old Covenant, which is good. As humans, we have a chronic tendency to fall short of our goals. Pursuing pleasure often distracts us from our goals. In fact, we tend to excuse personal fulfillment of pleasure as a greater good (“all is fair in love and war”). Combine aiming for the lesser goal with our tendency to fall short of our goals and the distraction of pleasure and you have a recipe for a society doomed for sexual failure. It is like a darts thrower who never aims for the bull’s eye. If there is no central point that he seeks, he will barely reach the inner circle where there is great value. Instead, his darts will land on various parts of the board (at best) and may even stray far away from the board and hit by-standers causing injury.
But, let a society pursue the purity of an ever virgin Mary. There is an unusual purity to aim for; to be human and offer one’s sexuality as a sacrifice as a celibate. It was through the Virgin that the Savior was born and He was also celibate as he was fully human as well. Mary becomes the bull’s-eye the dart thrower aims for. With a central target, the thrower will still not make his goal all of the time. But, he can hit the safe and valuable inner circle of holy matrimony. A darts-man who hits this circle with regularity is as admired as the one who hits the bull’s-eye. Novices at darts that constantly strive for the bull’s-eye will improve from hitting the wall, to hitting the outer areas of the board, to hitting either the highest targets of monasticism or matrimony. And this may be the root of why our modern society is engulfed in sexual immorality; rejecting the ever virginity of the fully human Mother of God has taken away the spiritual bull’s-eye that we should strive for in our sexuality. We don’t see that supreme holiness can be born in us and in one another. If we cannot see this possibility, then it is difficult to see ourselves and one another as much beyond potential sex partners. We dehumanize each other in the worst ways. Men are seen as lovable but brutal. Women, especially in modern pornography, are treated in ways that if they really were dogs, the PETA would break every law in the world to protect them. Even outside of porn, our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters are too frequently thought of, referred to, and treated as less than the icon made by God that they are as we men are.
This is not to say that those of us who hold Mary to be Ever Virgin are perfect in obtaining sexual purity. We are probably as bad as, and in some cases worse than anyone else. But, holding her as one who abstained from sex even after giving birth gives us an example to aim for. And if one constantly aims for the bulls-eye, the result will be to the better.