Upon being referred to the statements of Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologia, I read this:

It is written (Ezekiel 44:2): "This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall pass through it; because the Lord the God of Israel hath entered in by it." Expounding these words, Augustine says in a sermon (De Annunt. Dom. iii): "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?"

It seems to me that the context of this passage is about the temple that Ezekiel is to have built than any idea about the future. Indeed, the vision takes Ezekiel to other gates and other parts of the temple. I cannot find any New Testament writer (or subject) who alludes to this text.

Why would someone conclude that this passage is about Mary, the Mother of Jesus?

  • Hope you don't mid the edit. The original title just sounded a bit combative. Jun 24, 2014 at 4:42
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    I don't think this question is answerable. Augustine explains his reasoning, the reason why modern Catholics conclude this is probably mostly because he did. They seem to like him a lot. "Why does X conclude Y" isn't really something we can say.
    – Andrew
    Jun 24, 2014 at 6:45
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    Also, all spiritual publications that are read and circulated by Catholics must be sponsored or approved by the Catholic Church, so you may want to ask "Does the Catholic Church maintain documents supplementing or commenting on X written by Y during Z," etc.
    – Andrew
    Jun 24, 2014 at 6:52
  • I'm not asking about individuals but about the position of the Roman Catholic church. "Because the Pope said so" is, at least, an answer within the context of Roman Catholicism. If the Pope is infallible in matters of doctrine (the RC assumption, yes?) then the pontiff that made the assertion would be a part of a good answer. If he stated his reasoning, that would be even better. If Augustine is the authoritative origin of the idea (according to church leadership), then that would be an answer, too.
    – mojo
    Jun 24, 2014 at 11:49
  • I'll take a look, but my initial feeling is that if Augustine said so, then the Popes aren't going to either question the statement or re-assert it. I don't think there is a Catholic position on what the interpretation of a single passage of Scripture is. Jun 24, 2014 at 14:24

2 Answers 2


Even before Augustine, St. Ambrose of Milan and St. Jerome used this verse in support of the dogma of the Perpetual virginity of Mary. Probably St. Augustine learned from his teacher St. Ambrose of Milan.

Some quite emphatically understand this closed gate through which only the Lord God of Israel passes … as the Virgin Mary, who remains a Virgin before and after childbirth. In fact, she remains always a Virgin, in the moment in which the Angel speaks with her and when the Son of God is born. -St. Jerome (Commentarium in Evangelium Lucae, PL 25, 430.)

Only Christ opened the closed doors of the virginal womb, which continued to remain closed, however. This is the closed eastern gate, through which only the high priest may enter and exit and which nevertheless is always closed. -St. Jerome (Dialogus contra Pelagianos 2, 4)

“Who is this gate (Ezekiel 44:1-4), if not Mary? Is it not closed because she is a virgin? Mary is the gate through which Christ entered this world, when He was brought forth in the virginal birth and the manner of His birth did not break the seals of virginity.” -St. Ambrose (The Consecration of a Virgin and the Perpetual Virginity of Mary , 8:52)

"She is closed because she is a virgin; she is a gate, because Christ has entered through her......This gate faces east, because she has given birth to him who rises, the sun of justice.....Mary is the good gate that was closed and was not opened. Christ passed through it, but did not open it." -St. Ambrose (De Institutione Virginis, 8, 57. PL 16, 334)

But these people may not be the first to say this, because all of them are of same time period and people after them too use this same verse for this purpose and do not attribute it to them. This interpretation probably existed for more than a century before and is put in writing by these men.

The verse says that the door is already shut. And the only reason for it being shut is because the Lord has entered by it; And because of this reason It shall remain shut. Mary is ever virgin. The reason why Mary is virgin is because Jesus was born thru her. And because of that reason she will remain a virgin for ever (i.e., her womb will be shut, no one else will enter or exit it).

//It seems to me that the context of this passage is about the temple that Ezekiel is to have built//

If you look closely, almost every messianic prophecy is a context to something else. Take for example the prophesy The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Is 7:14) In its immediate context this is a sign to king Ahaz of Judah, promising the king that God will destroy his enemies even before that child grows up(Is 7:16). But Matthew holds that this as fulfilled in Jesus (Mat 1:23).

Such difference of context was the main point of contention between Jews and Christians from early on. Even Jesus had to explain this to his disciples (Luke 24:27).

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    I agree that some of the messianic prophecies are not obviously references to the messiah. The question becomes: Who decides whether or not something is such a prophecy? As a protestant, I tend to leave those decisions strictly to Jesus and the New Testament authors. Is the Roman Catholic position that the church fathers (including all the popes throughout history, I suppose) have the authority to decide such things?
    – mojo
    Jun 24, 2014 at 16:49
  • @mojo: There is something called The Magisterium or Teaching Authority of the Church. In short it is not just the pope. It also includes all the bishops of the church. Also they don't decide whether something is a prophecy or not. But they interpret the bible and teach it. Two bishops can contradict each other as long as they are inline with the magisterium. Jun 24, 2014 at 17:05
  • In the Orthodox Church, this passage is read during several of the "Great Feasts" related to Mary. It's connection to Mary is part of our Tradition. Another passage is Moses and the Burning Bush: like the burning bush, Mary bore God within her and yet was not consumed.
    – sockmonk
    Mar 31, 2016 at 17:15

Why would someone conclude that this passage (Eze. 44:2) is about Mary, the Mother of Jesus?

The reason Eze. 44:2 is compared to the idea that Mary remained a virgin even in the act of giving birth is because that is how the birth is presented or shown in the source for that idea.

The Infancy Gospel of James says this about the birth. Warning, this is a bit graphic.

... salvation has been brought forth to Israel. And immediately the cloud disappeared out of the cave, and a great light shone in the cave, so that the eyes could not bear it. And in a little that light gradually decreased, until the infant appeared, and went and took the breast from His mother Mary. And the midwife cried out, and said: This is a great day to me, because I have seen this strange sight. And the midwife went forth out of the cave, and Salome met her. And she said to her: Salome, Salome, I have a strange sight to relate to thee: a virgin has brought forth -- a thing which her nature admits not of. Then said Salome: As the Lord my God liveth, unless I thrust in my finger, and search the parts, I will not believe that a virgin has brought forth." -source-

The implication is that the baby appears at her side (east gate). Salome checks and everthing remained intact (south gate).

As the ever-virgin doctrine developed, many preferred a Scriptural, rather then non-scriptural source for the idea. So, with the idea that the baby appears at her side and she remained intact, Eze. 44:2 would be skewed to fit the picture.

If anyone doubts this scenario, we find John of Damascus still refering to the belief as late as circa CE 725.

...although some tell tales of His birth through the side of the Mother of God. For it was not impossible for Him to have come by this gate, without injuring her seal in anyway. -source-

So, why do some conclude Eze. 44:2 is about Mary? That fits the idea of how they believe Christ was born; that is, from the east gate, rather than the normal southern gate.

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