We all know that the mother of Jesus was the Virgin Mary.
We may also have a devotion to the Rosary.
Some people think that we don’t know all that much about Mary, because Sacred Scripture doesn’t say much about her.
But there’s way more to Mary than we think!
Here are 13 things you probably didn’t know about Mary.
#1 Mary was born September 8th
The Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God is nine months after December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, in probably the year 13 BC, as it was common in those days for women to marry in their early youth (source)
#2 Mary’s parents are named Joachim and Anne
Their names come from the early Christian Tradition but also explicitly from the second century writing called the Protoevangelium of James (source), which tells how Saints Joachim and Anne were childless and prayed to God for children. God hears their prayer and an Angel tells Anne that she will bear a child “and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world.”
Although the Protoevangelium of James was not actually authored by the Apostle James, and is among what are called the Apocryphal writings (“hidden” writings), it does reflect the early Christian Tradition that a) Mary was promised by an angel to Joachim and Anne, b) Mary was consecrated to God, and c) Mary remained a virgin all her life. (source)
#3 Mary was dedicated to the Lord to serve in the Temple
Joachim and Anne had promised God that their child would be dedicated to Him forever. When Mary was three years old, her parents took her to the Temple to serve the Lord as a consecrated virgin. The Eastern Church celebrates this event on November 21: The Entrance of the Mother of God Into the Temple. (source)
Before your conception, O pure Virgin,* you were consecrated to God;* and now after your birth you are offered as a gift to Him* in fulfillment of your parents’ promise.* To the divine temple you are brought,* yourself a Temple truly divine, innocent from the time you were a babe;* you have appeared in the sanctuary accompanied by brightly burning lamps,* who are the Receiver of the Divine Light that no man can approach.* Magnificent in truth is your entry,* O only Bride of God and ever-Virgin. – Festal Matins for the Feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple
#4 Mary made a vow of perpetual virginity
The angel Gabriel told Mary she would conceive and bare a son. Now, if you were a newlywed bride and someone told you that you were going to have a son, what would your response be? You probably wouldn’t be surprised that you were going to have a child; babies tend to be born in this way.
So why does Mary respond the way she does?
A woman who intends to have children with her husband would question, “How shall this come about?” Mary knows where babies come from.
Mary’s response only makes sense if she made a vow of virginity: “How shall this be done, because I know not man?”
Further, as mentioned above, this has always been the Tradition of the Church, handed down directly from the Apostles.
#5 Our Lord chose St Joseph to be Mary’s husband
When Mary reached the age for marriage customary at the time, Joachim and Anne having died by then, the high priest Zechariah saw fit to find her a husband. Knowing her holiness, Zechariah prayed to the Lord in order to ascertain the means by which her husband would be chosen.
All the men of marrying age of her tribe, Judah, were to bring their wooden rods to the high priest. Zechariah placed them in the Temple aver night and waited for a sign.
The next day, every man took his rod back…except for Joseph. His rod had blossomed with white flowers, just as Aaron’s rod had blossomed of old. Joseph would be Mary’s husband. (source)
#6 Mary and Joseph were, in fact, legally married at the time the Annunciation
Contrary to popular belief, Mary was NOT and unwed mother. We know from ancient Jewish marriage rites that the betrothal effectively made the marriage.
After the betrothal, the woman would go and live with her family while her husband would go and prepare their home. Then, when the home was ready, the husband would come back and take his wife to their home with more celebrating. (source)
Further, Sacred Scripture testifies to this fact: that after the Betrothal and before the homecoming, they are truly Husband and Wife. The Gospel of Matthew states:
Whereupon Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately. But while he thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost. – Matthew 1: 19-20
#7 Mary did not suffer birth pains and there was no blood
Pain in childbirth is the consequence of Original Sin. Since Mary was free from Original Sin from the moment of her conception, she therefore did not suffer pain in childbirth.
The constant teaching of the Church (Fathers, Councils, Popes, and the Doctors) is that Mary was a virgin before, during, and after the birth of Jesus.
So how was Jesus born?
Saint Thomas Aquinas, quoting Saint Augustine, says, “To the substance of a body in which was the Godhead closed doors were no obstacle. For truly He had power to enter in by doors not open, in Whose Birth His Mother’s virginity remained inviolate.” (source) That is, Jesus is God! He can walk through walls without destroying them; He can pass through the womb of The Virgin without violating her virginity.
#8 Mary did NOT have other children
It is commonly asserted, by Protestants, that Mary had other children. This flatly wrong.
And Sacred Scripture tells you!
At the crucifixion, the Gospel of Matthew reads, “There were also many women there, looking on from afar, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him; among whom were Mary Mag′dalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zeb′edee.” (Matthew 27:55-56). Later, when Jesus is buried and the woman mark where the tomb is, “Mary Mag′dalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulchre.” (Matthew 27:61).
It is inconceivable for Matthew to refer to the Blessed Virgin as merely, “the other Mary”. He always makes a point of identifying Jesus’ mother by either “his mother Mary” (referring to Jesus) or “Mary his mother”. Matthew is clear when he is referring to Jesus’ mother.
What about the brothers and sisters of Jesus?
Now a few points:
- In all four Gospels, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is ALWAYS mentioned as such.
- Nobody is EVER called “…the son of Mary” except for Jesus.
- There is no word in ancient Hebrew or Aramaic for “close relative” or “cousin” (source)
Matthew 1:25 is often quoted in order to claim that Joseph and Mary had relations after the birth of Jesus. It reads, “but [Joseph] knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.”
‘See! That means they had other children after Jesus was born’ the argument goes.
The original Greek word used for until is “heos”. It may surprise you that the same word is used elsewhere in Sacred Scripture:
- Psalm 110:1 – The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand, till [“heos”] I make your enemies your footstool.”
- 2 Samuel 6:23 – And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to [“heos”] the day of her death
Does this mean that the Lord no longer sits at the right AFTER His enemies are made His footstool? Or, does it mean that Michal had children AFTER the day of her death? Absolutely not!
From these two passages, it is clear the Greek word heos does NOT imply anything after the period of time specified.
#9 Mary’s perpetual virginity IS prophesied in the Old Testament
In the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel we read,
“And he said to me, “This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it; for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it; therefore it shall remain shut.” – Ezekiel 44:2
Saint Augustine expounds: “What means this closed gate in the house of the Lord, except that Mary is to be ever inviolate? What does it mean that ‘no man shall pass through it,’ save that Joseph shall not know her? And what is this: ‘The Lord alone enters in and goeth out by it,’ except that the Holy Ghost shall impregnate her, and that the Lord of Angels shall be born of her? And what means this – ‘It shall be shut for evermore,’ but that Mary is a Virgin before His birth, a Virgin in His birth, and a Virgin after His birth.” (source)
The Song of Songs echoes this Tradition when we read,
“A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a garden locked, a fountain sealed.” – Song of Songs 4:12
#10 Mary has a very special intercessory role
At the Wedding in Canna, at the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, at His very first public miracle, Mary features prominently. We read,
“On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.” So they took it. When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” – John 2:1-11
The Holy Spirit is telling us, by the hand of John, that Mary intercedes for us because she is very concerned for our wellbeing. We don’t know if anyone went to Mary to ask her to ask Jesus to do something. We do know that did recognize the problem and she brought it Jesus to handle.
This is how Mary always intercedes. She brings us to her Son Jesus.
And then, she tells us, “Do whatever He tells you.”
#11 Mary suffered Spiritual Martyrdom
In Luke’s Gospel, at the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple, Blessed Simeon prophesies to Mary,
“Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.” – Luke 2:34-35
What happens when someone is pierced with a sword? It’s likely that person will die! This sword will pierce Mary’s soul Seven times throughout her life. This is why she is Queen of Martyrs.
#12 Mary has no tomb
There have been many attempts over the centuries to find the tomb of Mary and many Protestants claim she is buried with John in Ephesus.
These efforts are in vain.
We know that at the end of her earthly life, Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. This is dogmatically defined by Pope Pius XII in 1950. (source)
It should be noted that the Church has never ruled on whether or not Mary actually died or not. Some say that being freed from Original Sin, she did not suffer death. Others say that she desired to follow her Son Jesus and to die as He did.
The Tradition in the East is that Mary, being very old, travelled back to Jerusalem. The Apostles, hearing she was nearing the end of her earthly life, all gathered from around the world. After Mary fell asleep in the Lord, the Apostles buried her with great solemnity.
But Thomas was not there, being in far-off India.
He was caught up in the Spirit and brought to Jerusalem three days after Mary was buried. He desired to pay his respects to Mary, so they opened the tomb and behold! It was empty! All that remained were sweet scented flowers of all kinds. Mary was taken up into heaven body and soul.
To this day Eastern Catholics celebrate the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God with the blessing of flowers.
“O Lady, marvellous are your mysteries.
You have become the throne of the Most High,
and today you are taken from earth to heaven.
Your glory shines forth with the radiance of divine grace
and surpasses every other splendour.
Rise up to the heavens, all you virgins,
together with the Mother of our King, and cry out:
Rejoice, O Woman full of grace, the Lord is with you,
the Lord, Who because of you,
bestows great mercy upon the world.”
– Great Vespers for the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God
“In giving birth you retained your virginity,* in falling asleep you did not abandon the world, O Mother of God.* You passed into life, for you are the Mother of Life,* and by your prayers* you deliver our souls from death.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and for ever and ever. Amen.
The tomb and death could not hold the Mother of God,* unceasing in her intercession and unfailing hope of patronage,* for, as the Mother of Life, she was transferred to life* by Him Who had dwelt in her ever-virgin womb.” – Troparion and Kontakion for the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God (source)
#13 We have her Mantle! (or pieces of it)
Since Our Blessed Mother was assumed into heaven, there are no relics from her body. There are, however, pieces of her mantle!
When Helena, the mother of Constantine, discovered the Ture Cross and the instruments of the Passion, she also discovered a piece of Our Lady’s mantle that had some drops of the Precious Blood on it.
This relic was passed down for centuries in the Byzantine royal family.
It was then given to Emperor Charles le Chauve of France, who housed it in Notre Dame in Chartes. (source)
This relic survived the French Revolution and the wars after that up until this very day. Pieces are in the United States, the Vatican, and in Venice (where are housed also locks of Our Lady’s hair!). (source)
For an excellent Bible study on Mary, I highly recommend the work by Dr. Brant Pitre (available here). My computer tells me that I personally have 8.5 DAYS worth of his talks.