What is the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary?

What is the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary?

A brief overview of the history and significance of the feast of the Immaculate Conception which is celebrated during Advent on Dec. 8th throughout the whole Church. The video is not-for-profit, and is solely intended for religious teaching, scholarship, and research purposes only (Fair Use Doctrine: Title 17, para. 107). 

 

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her (Lk 1:38).

History

The Immaculate Conception, a solemnity, is the patronal feast of the United States. It is one of the few Holy days of obligation on the Church calendar — that is, all Catholics are obligated to attend Mass on this day. As this feast occurs early in Advent, it is a perfect time to consider Mary and her important role in the celebration of Christmas.

In 1854, Pope Pius IX’s solemn declaration, Ineffabilis Deus, clarified with finality the long-held belief of the Church that Mary was conceived free from original sin. In proclaiming the Immaculate Conception of Mary as a dogma of the Church, the pope expressed precisely and clearly that Mary was conceived free from the stain of original sin. This privilege of Mary derives from God’s having chosen her as Mother of the Savior; thus she received the benefits of salvation in Christ from the very moment of her conception. (The picture above shows her mother, Anna, with the infant Mary within her womb.) This great gift to Mary, an ordinary human being just like us, was fitting because she was destined to be Mother of God. The purity and holiness of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a model for all Christians.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says of the Immaculate Conception of Mary:

490. To become the mother of the Savior, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role”. The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace”. In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.

491. Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1844:

“The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.” (Pius IX,Ineffabilis Deus, 1854.)

492. The “splendor of an entirely unique holiness” by which Mary is “enriched from the first instant of her conception” comes wholly from Christ: she is “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son.” The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and chose her “in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love.”

493. The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia) and celebrate her as “free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature”. By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.

For more on the role of Mary in Salvation History, read the entire section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, §§ 456-511.

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Pope Benedict XVI – address on December 8, 2009 

VATICAN

Pope: “Do not be afraid, Jesus defeated evil,” Mary tells people of our times
In his tribute to the statue of the Immaculata in Piazza di Spagna, Benedict XVI outlines the city’s problems: the evil told and amplified by the media, the indifference and lack of respect for people, the lack of responsibility that makes us spectators of evil. Mary’s presence means Jesus has defeated evil and “makes us hope even in the humanly most difficult situations.” The Pope thanks all those who respond to evil doing good rather complaining or recriminating.

Here is Benedict XVI’s full address:

Dear brothers and sisters!

In the heart of Christian cities, Mary constitutes a sweet and reassuring presence. In her self-effacing style, she gives everyone peace and hope during the happy and sad moments of life. In churches, chapels or the walls of buildings, a painting, mosaic or a statue stand as a remainder of the Mother’s presence, constantly watching over her children. Here too in Piazza di Spagna, Mary stands high, on guard over Rome.

What does Mary tell the city? What does her presence remind us? It reminds us that “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more (Rom., 5:20), as the Apostle Paul wrote. She is the Immaculate Mother who tells people of our time: Do not be afraid, Jesus defeated evil, uprooted it, freeing us from his rule.

When do we need such good deeds? Every day, in the newspapers, television and radio, evil is told to us, said again, amplified, so that we get used to the most horrible things, and become desensitized In a certain way, it poisons us, because the negative is never fully cleansed out of our system but accumulates day after day. The heart hardens and thoughts become gloomy. For this reason, the city needs Mary, whose presence speaks of God, reminds us of Grace’s victory over sin and makes us hope even in the humanly most difficult situations.

Those who invisible live or rather survive in the city. They make it to the front page of newspapers or the top of TV newscast—they are exploited until the end, for as long as the news and the images are newsworthy. Few can resist such a perverse mechanism. The city first, hides then exposes them to public scrutiny, without pity or with false pity. Everyone would like to be accepted as a person and considered as something sacred, because each human story is a sacred story that deserves the utmost of respect.

Dear brothers and sisters, we are the city! Each one of us contributes with our lives to its moral climate for better or worse. The border between good and evil runs across everyone’s heart and none of us should feel entitled to judge others. Instead, each one of us must feel duty-bound to improve ourselves. Mass media make us feel like “spectators” as if evil only touched others and that certain things could not happen to us. Instead, we are all “actors” for better or worse, and our behavior influences others.

We often complain about air pollution, that in some parts of the city the air is unbreathable. That is true. Everyone must do his or her part to make the city a cleaner place. However, there is another kind of pollution, which the senses cannot easily perceive, but which is equally dangerous. It is the pollution of the spirit, which makes us smile less, makes us gloomier, less likely to greet one another or look into each other face . . .

The city has many faces, but sadly, collective factors lead us to forget what is behind them. All we see is the surface. People become bodies, and these bodies lose their soul, become faceless objects that can be exchanged and consumed.

Mary Immaculate helps us rediscover and defend what is inside people, because in her there is perfect transparency of soul and body. She is purity in person in the sense that the spirit, soul and body are fully coherent in her and with God’s will. Our Lady teaches us to open up to God’s action and to look at others as he does, starting with the heart, to look upon them with mercy, love, infinite tenderness, especially those who are lonely, scorned or exploited. “[W]here sins increased, grace overflows all the more.”

I want to pay tribute publicly to all those who in silence, in deeds not in words, strive to practice the Evangelical law of love which drivers the world forward. There are so many of them even here in Rome. They do not make the headlines. They are men and women of all ages, who realize that it is not worth condemning, complaining or recriminating; that it is better to respond to evil doing good; to changes things; or better, to changes people, hence improve society.”

Dear Roman friends and all of you who live in this city! Whilst we are busy in everyday tasks, let us listen to Mary’s voice. Let us hear her silent but pressing appeal. She tells each one of us that wherever sin increases, may grace overflow all the more, first in our hearts, and then in our lives! Thus, the city shall be more beautiful, more Christian and more humane.

Thank you, Holy Mother, for this message of hope. Thank you for your silent but eloquent presence in the heart of our city. Immaculate Virgin, Salus Populi Romani, pray for us!

Why the Immaculate Conception?

by The Rev. Paul Mankowski, S.J.

Pure. Whole. Intact. Entire. Spotless. Stainless. Sinless. unsoiled. Unsullied. Unblemished. Uncorrupted. Immaculate!

I live in an age, and a country, wherein the largest singe cause of death of infants under one year of age is homicide. I live at a time when, according to those who claim to know these things, Ronald McDonald has surpassed Jesus Christ in popularity among children. I live at a time when the best known moral theologians have despaired of leading people to a more virtuous life, but are principally concerned to insulate the sinner from the consequences of his sin; logic has give way to latex as the preferred medium of instruction. I live in a country where, this very day, in the time between my rising and my standing here before you, 4,000 of our fellow citizens, 4,000 human beings with an eternal destiny, were summarily killed by abortion. I live at a time when most promises will be broken, most vows will be repudiated, most marriages will fail. I live at a time when it is virtually impossible to go through a day without using some commodity which, however innocent in itself, is not hawked in terms of some base or venal allure. I am promised prosperous and intriguing companions by the folks who brew my beer; and those who sell my shaving cream are at pains to assure me that it will provoke the women I encounter into sexual frenzy. (The last claim, I might add, is an exaggeration.)

It may seem pointless at such a time, in such a place, to hold up the Virgin Mary, and especially her Immaculate Conception, as a source of nourishment for our lives as Christians. For her perfection can appear so remote from the moral sweatiness and squalor in which our personal struggles occur that it recedes entirely into the background; it is swallowed up by our furious temptations and enthusiasms, and so is lost to us. This remoteness is widened, and not helped, by a way of speaking which would present the Virgin Mary to us as “the representation of an Ideal”, that is, as an abstraction, or at best a personified Virtue, like the Roman goddesses of Wisdom or Moderation. Thus, she, who begins as a real flesh-and-blood woman, “a virgin, betrothed to a man named Joseph”, as today’s Gospel has it, becomes an the end an abstract noun, a figure of speech.

And of course it’s not hard to see why in and of itself a personified Ideal is of little consequence to the moral or spiritual life. To use an analogy from a more trivial world, we might imagine a mythological golfer who scored 18 in every round he ever played, yet few instructors would “hold up” such a figure as an example to his pupils, and even fewer players would tell themselves in preparing to make a treacherous shot, “Stead now. Remember that the Great McTavish always did the 530 yard fifth hole in one stroke,…” Ideas can be beacons to guide us, but they are seldom fires at which we can warm our hands; they may be necessary to our thinking, but they don’t strengthen the will. In terms of discipleship, humanity in order to be spurred on to a companionship in godliness. If you think about the two or three saints to whom you yourself have the deepest devotion, is it not the case that part of what attracts and fascinates you about these saints is what you can recognize a certain kinship in the kind of fragility they possess, a fragility against which their heroism blazes with particular glory in your eyes, in your heart? Isn’t it the case that, since you can see God’s work in their weakness, you can come to accept the possibility of God’s working in your weakness too?

Perhaps then we’re in a little better position to understand the unique complications this presents in terms of the Virgin Mary. She says, “My soul glorifies the Lord … for He has looked with kindness on His lowly servant.” Now isn’t there a voice in the back of our heads which whispers at this point, “lowly? We should all be so lowly!” That is, we assume that Mary’s perfection would have been as obvious to her as it is to us, and it seem a trifle stagy in such circumstances to pretend to true lowliness. Now I apologize to those of you who have never been vexed by this problem, but I think it is common enough to be worth trying to free ourselves from it.

It seems to me that in speaking of the Virgin Mary as sinless, as immaculate, we all too often means that she was constitutionally incapable of sinning, that the was no more capable of sin than a man is capable of giving birth or an oyster is capable of flight. There are some difficulties here. First, we are told in the Letter to the Hebrews that “we have not [in Jesus] a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, but without sin.” (4:15) There is then a theological difficulty in attributing to Mary that freedom from temptation which her own Son did not cling to. Further, if we speak of the Virgin Mary as constitutionally incapable of sin, it is all the more difficult to discover in her the humanity which is by its very weakness transparent to God’s power. Consequently, in an age like our own especially, she is all the more likely to be treated as precisely that sort of Ideal which cannot warm our affections or stir our courage.

One obvious, all-too-predictable solution, is to deny the Immaculate Conception and the sinlessness of Mary, under the fatuous pretense that by doing so, she will become more “human”, and so more accessible to the rest of us sinners. Wrong on all counts, the most obvious being that a human who sins is less human after he succumbs that he was before. Still, there is a persistent, though imbecile, way of speaking in which some public figure who has an adulterous affair or a personal foible come to light thereby reveals a “human side” of himself. In fact, it is in keeping his commitments and displaying evidence of virtue that a man is most fully human; in giving in to temptations, even trivial or petty ones, he becomes that much more bestial.

When we fall, we fall from a human dignity, not an angelic one; our skid may well end at a level of animal savagery, but we never “tumble down” into humanity. It was natural indeed that the Legion inside the Gerasene demoniac pleaded to be cast into swine — not because pigs are of themselves wickeder then men, but because the elevator, so to speak, was already at that floor. There is no point, then, in exploring this avenue further. I think the way out is more direct. A friend of mine is fond of saying, “Whenever I hear the word ‘dialogue’, I reach for my dogma.” Let us, in the same spirit, reach for our dogma and see if it has anything to say to us.

Pope Pius IX’s Dogmatic Definition of 1854 runs thus: “The Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of omnipotent God, in consideration of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind, was preserved free from all stain of original sin…. ” First, it should be noticed that the grace given to the Virgin Mary was “in consideration of the merits of Jesus Christ.” That is, in and of herself, she too was in need of salvation and was saved through the sacrifice of her Son, although it worked “retroactively” as it were, so as to affect her even at her conception.

A very partial analogy might be drawn with a woman afflicted from birth with a progressive terminal disease, whose own child grows up to be the scientist who discovers the cure for the disease, and so heals the mother. But let’s not push that too far. The second point, and this is the one I want to stress, is that it is original sin from which Mary was preserved at her conception. The contamination which we all inherited from Adam, namely, estrangement from God with its consequent warping of our human appetites, as well as death itself, did not touch her. The fittingness of this “singular privilege and grace” was, to my mind, well expressed by the English bishop Langdon Fox, who asked, “How could Mary be said to have been made fit to stand in the relationship of Mother to the all pure God if the Devil could claim, and claim truly that once, even if only for moment, she had been in the state of Original sin?” that is, if the devil had her in his control even briefly. Be that as it may, it should be clear that freedom from original sin does not bring with it an incapacity for actual sin. After all, Adam and Eve were both created without original sin; it was in fact their first actual sin whose effect we call “original” in their descendants.

Now the upshot, it seems to me, is this. The Blessed Virgin Mary lived her life in the state in which Adam and Eve lived before their sin. She was as capable of sin as they were; her life, to this extent like ours, was a series of choices between good and bad, self and other, God’s will and her own. her glory, for which all generations will call her blessed, is that in every instance she said, “I am your servant. Let it be done to me in accordance with your word.” She, who was full of grace, said, “Your will be done, not mine.” When she praised God because He had looked on her in her lowliness, she was not feigning humility. She was uniquely aware that it was God’s grace, and not her own merit, in virtue of which she had been set apart. And the consciousness of the gap between her humanity and God’s power was uniquely acute in her case.

C.S. Lewis remarked somewhere that we are not to imagine that Jesus had an easier time with temptation than we. In fact, he said, Jesus Christ was the only one who ever felt the full strength of temptation, because He was the only one who never gave in to it. He said by way of explanation something like this: “After all, you don’t discover the true strength of the German Army by laying down and letting it roll over you; but only by standing up to it and fighting it at every turn.” If I might extend (and correct) C.S. Lewis here, I would say that the Virgin Mary is, apart from her Son, the only one who really knew humility, since it was she who, in every instance, chose obedience, who let God’s will trump her own, who refused to be duped into trusting in her own resources.

We might illustrate what this means from the Gospel: I once heard another Jesuit talk over coffee about a homily he had to give at a summer camp for retarded children. The Gospel text on which he was to preach was the account of the Rich Young Man. Unsure how he was going to communicate the message to his congregation, this priest somewhat despairingly brought out a simple coffee cup after reading the Scripture. He said, “You see, the rich young man’s cup was already full of all the things he had, and so Jesus couldn’t give him anything; there was no room.” I still think that to be one of the most striking exegeses of that passage I’ve ever heard. And, when it is reversed, the same image can be applied to Mary. Her cup alone was genuinely empty; she alone had room only for God, for herself, no element of possessiveness or self-will, which took up the space made for God’s love. She alone was truly an earthen vessel, a repository, she whom the archangel Gabriel called “full of grace.”

Her humility, her lowliness, was not a sham. Alone of our race, she could point to her humility without an admixture of hypocrisy. The lowliness was hers; the glory was God’s. Far from being aloof from the pain of decision, she is the only one of us who ever felt the full sting. If you think I am laying it on a bit thick here, I’d invite you to try living for ten minutes genuinely unconscious of your own dignity, genuinely reliant on God. It hurts like blazes.

There is a strain of feminist Mariology which feels repugnance at the dogma of the Immaculate Conception because it views the notion as demeaning to women. Orthodox theologians were so scandalized by the particularly feminine dimension of sinfulness (according to this school) that they found it necessary to cook up the idea of an immaculate conception in order to sanitize the event of the incarnation. I hope I have shown that this way of thinking has got things exactly backwards. In articulating its belief that Mary was free of original sin, the Church is thrusting the Blessed Virgin into the heart of the problematic struggle of temptation and grace; it is the opposite of insulation. It is not some angelic perfection, but her humanity which is vindicated by Pius IX’s definition – her dependence on merits of Jesus Christ, her constant reenactment of the drama of Adam’s choice, a drama which is no less dramatic for its happy ending, a drama which ultimately includes us all, in the vision of the Woman clothed with the sun, crushing the serpent at the worlds’ end.

Every true Christian instinct points to this; all orthodox devotion to Mary rejoices in her triumph, because she was conscious of that profound humility of which we have ourselves only the faintest inklings; whether she is pictured at the foot of the cross, or with a child at her breast, or as the queen and bride arrayed in splendor, the prefigured bride without spot or wrinkle, it is our fragility in which we give thanks for God’s love, God’s grace, God’s fidelity to us in Her.

Pure. Whole. Intact. Entire. Spotless. Stainless. Sinless. Unsoiled. Unsullied. Unblemished. Uncorrupted. Immaculate!

Father Paul Mankowski, S.J. is a scripture scholar who teaches at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.The foregoing homily was presented at Women for Faith & Family’s Immaculate Conception Mass and festival held at St. Roch’s Church in St. Louis, December 8, 1989.

The Immaculate Conception: 8 things to know and share . . .

12/07/2014 

December 8 is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Here are 8 things to know and share . . .

December 8th is the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

It celebrates an important point of Catholic teaching, and in most years it is a holy day of obligation.

Here are 8 things you need to know about the teaching and the way we celebrate it.

1. Who does the Immaculate Conception refer to?

There’s a popular idea that it refers to Jesus’ conception by the Virgin Mary.

It doesn’t.

Instead, it refers to the special way in which the Virgin Mary herself was conceived.

This conception was not virginal. (That is, she had a human father as well as a human mother.) But it was special and unique in another way. . . .

2. What is the Immaculate Conception?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains it this way:

490 To become the mother of the Saviour, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.” The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace”.  In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.

491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin. 

3. Does this mean Mary never sinned?

Yes. Because of the way redemption was applied to Mary at the moment of her conception, she not only was protected from contracting original sin but also personal sin. The Catechism explains:

493 The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia), and celebrate her as “free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature”.  By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long. “Let it be done to me according to your word. . .”

4. Does this mean Mary didn’t need Jesus to die on the Cross for her?

No. What we’ve already quoted states that Mary was immaculately conceived as part of her being “full of grace” and thus “redeemed from the moment of her conception” by “a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race.”

The Catechism goes on to state:

492 The “splendour of an entirely unique holiness” by which Mary is “enriched from the first instant of her conception” comes wholly from Christ: she is “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son”.  The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and chose her “in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love”.

508 From among the descendants of Eve, God chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of his Son. “Full of grace”, Mary is “the most excellent fruit of redemption” (SC 103): from the first instant of her conception, she was totally preserved from the stain of original sin and she remained pure from all personal sin throughout her life.

5. How does this make Mary a parallel of Eve?

Adam and Eve were both created immaculate–without original sin or its stain. They fell from grace, and through them mankind was bound to sin.

Christ and Mary were also conceived immaculate. They remained faithful, and through them mankind was redeemed from sin.

Christ is thus the New Adam, and Mary the New Eve.

The Catechism notes:

494 . . . As St. Irenaeus says, “Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.” Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert. . .: “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.”  Comparing her with Eve, they call Mary “the Mother of the living” and frequently claim: “Death through Eve, life through Mary.”

6. How does this make Mary an icon of our own destiny?

Those who die in God’s friendship and thus go to heaven will be freed from all sin and stain of sin. We will thus all be rendered “immaculate” (Latin, immaculatus = “stainless”) if we remain faithful to God.

Even in this life, God purifies us and trains us in holiness and, if we die in his friendship but imperfectly purified, he will purify us in purgatory and render us immaculate.

By giving Mary this grace from the first moment of her conception, God showed us an image of our own destiny. He shows us that this is possible for humans by his grace.

John Paul II noted:

In contemplating this mystery in a Marian perspective, we can say that “Mary, at the side of her Son, is the most perfect image of freedom and of the liberation of humanity and of the universe. It is to her as Mother and Model that the Church must look in order to understand in its completeness the meaning of her own mission” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Libertatis conscientia, 22 March, 1986, n. 97; cf. Redemptoris Mater, n. 37).

Let us fix our gaze, then, on Mary, the icon of the pilgrim Church in the wilderness of history but on her way to the glorious destination of the heavenly Jerusalem, where she [the Church] will shine as the Bride of the Lamb, Christ the Lord [General Audience, March 14, 2001].

7. Was it necessary for God to make Mary immaculate at her conception so that she could be Jesus’ mother?

No. The Church only speaks of the Immaculate Conception as something that was “fitting,” something that made Mary a “fit habitation” (i.e., suitable dwelling) for the Son of God, not something that was necessary. Thus in preparing to define the dogma, Pope Pius IX stated:

And hence they [the Church Fathers] affirmed that the Blessed Virgin was, through grace, entirely free from every stain of sin, and from all corruption of body, soul and mind; that she was always united with God and joined to him by an eternal covenant; that she was never in darkness but always in light; and that, therefore, she was entirely a fit habitation for Christ, not because of the state of her body, but because of her original grace. . . .

For it was certainly not fitting that this vessel of election should be wounded by the common injuries, since she, differing so much from the others, had only nature in common with them, not sin. In fact, it was quite fitting that, as the Only-Begotten has a Father in heaven, whom the Seraphim extol as thrice holy, so he should have a Mother on earth who would never be without the splendor of holiness [Ineffabilis Deus].

8. How do we celebrate the Immaculate Conception today?

In the Latin rite of the Catholic Church, December 8th is the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and it is a holy day of obligation.

In the United States, the obligation to attend Mass exists even though it immediately follows a Sunday this year.

Read the source:  http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/the-immaculate-conception-8-things-to-know-and-share-.-1

What Now?

If you like the information I’ve presented here, you should join my Secret Information Club.

If you’re not familiar with it, the Secret Information Club is a free service that I operate by email.

I send out information on a variety of fascinating topics connected with the Catholic faith.

In fact, the very first thing you’ll get if you sign up is information about what Pope Benedict said about the book of Revelation.

He had a lot of interesting things to say!

The Immaculate Conception in Scripture

December 6, 2014 

In my new book, Behold Your Mother – A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines, I give eight reasons for belief in the Immaculate Conception:

1. Mary is revealed to be “full of grace” in Luke 1:28.

2. Mary is revealed to be the fulfillment of the prophetic “Daughter of Zion” of Zech. 2:10; Zeph. 3:14-16; Isaiah 12:1-6, etc.

3. Mary is revealed to be “the beginning of the new creation” in fufillment of the prophecy of Jer. 31:22.

4. Mary is revealed to possess a “blessed state” parallel with Christ’s in Luke 1:42.

5. Mary is not just called “blessed” among women, but “more blessed than all women” (including Eve) in Luke 1:42.

6. Mary is revealed to be the spotless “Ark of the Covenant” in Luke 1.

7. Mary is revealed to be the “New Eve” in Luke 1:37-38; John 2:4; 19:26-27; Rev. 12, and elsewhere.

8. Mary is revealed to be free from the pangs of labor in fulfillment of Isaiah 66:7-8.

Here, I will present some snippets from three of these biblical reasons for faith. But first, I must say I am sympathetic to my Protestant friends, and others, who struggle with this teaching of the Catholic Faith. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” I John 1:8 adds, “If any man says he has no sin he is a liar and the truth is not in him.” These texts could not be clearer for millions of Protestants: “How could anyone believe Mary was free from all sin in light of these Scriptures? What’s more, Mary herself said, ‘My soul rejoices in God my savior’ in Luke 1:47. She clearly understood herself to be a sinner if she admits to needing a savior.”

The Catholic Answer

Not a few Protestants are surprised to discover the Catholic Church actually agrees that Mary was “saved.” Indeed, Mary needed a savior! However, Mary was “saved” from sin in a most sublime manner. She was given the grace to be “saved” completely from sin so that she never committed even the slightest transgression. The problem here is Protestants tend to emphasize God’s “salvation” almost exclusively to the forgiveness of sins actually committed. However, Sacred Scripture indicates that salvation can also refer to man being protected from sinning before the fact.

Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and for ever (Jude 24-25).

The great Franciscan theologian, Duns Scotus, explained ca. 600 years ago that falling into sin could be likened to a man approaching unaware a massive 20-feet deep ditch. If he falls into the ditch, he would need someone to lower a rope and save him. But if someone were to warn him of the danger ahead resulting in the man not falling into the ditch at all, he would have been saved from falling in the first place. Analogously, Mary was saved from sin by receiving the grace to be preserved from it. But she was still saved.

The Exception[s] to the Rule

But what about “all have sinned,” and “if any man says he has no sin he is a liar and the truth is not in him?” Wouldn’t “all” and/or “any man” include Mary? On the surface, this sounds reasonable. But this way of thinking carried to its logical conclusion would list Jesus Christ in the company of sinners as well. No Christian would dare say that! Yet, no Christian can deny the plain texts of Scripture declaring Christ’s full humanity either. Thus, if one is going to take I John 1:8 in a strict, literal sense, then any man would apply to Jesus as well!

The truth is—and all Christians agree—Jesus Christ was an exception toRomans 3:23 and I John 1:8. And the Bible tells us he was inHebrews 4:15: “Christ was tempted in all points even as we are and yet he was without sin.” The real question now is: are there any other exceptions to this rule? Yes, there are. In fact, there are millions of them.

First of all, we need to recall that both of these texts—Romans 3:23and I John 1:8—are dealing with personal rather than original sin.Romans 5:12 will deal with original sin. And there are two exceptions to that general biblical norm as well. But for now, we will simply deal with Romans 3:23 and I John 1:8. I John 1:8 obviously refers to personal sin because in the very next verse, St. John tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins…” We do not confess original sin; we confess personal sins.

The context of Romans 3:23 makes clear that it too refers to personal sin:

None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave. They use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness (Romans 3:10-14).

Original sin is not something we do; it is something we’ve inherited. Romans chapter three deals with personal sin because it speaks of sins committed by the sinner. With this in mind, consider this: Has a baby in the womb or a child of two ever committed a personal sin? No, they haven’t (see Romans 9:11)! Or, how about the mentally challenged who do not have the use of their intellects and wills? These cannot sin because in order to sin a person has to know the act he is about to perform is sinful while freely engaging his will in carrying it out. Without the proper faculties to enable them to sin, children before the age of accountability and anyone who does not have the use of his intellect and will cannot sin. Right there you have millions of exceptions to Romans 3:23 and I John 1:8.

The question remains: how do we know Mary is an exception to the norm of “all have sinned?” And more specifically, is there biblical support for this claim? Yes, there is. Indeed, there is much biblical support, but in this brief post I shall cite just three examples, among the eight, as I said before, that give us biblical support for this ancient doctrine of the Faith.

1. LUKE 1:28:

And [the angel Gabriel] came to [Mary] and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

Many Protestants will insist this text to be little more than a common greeting of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary. “What would this have to do with Mary being without sin?” Yet, the truth is, according to Mary herself, this was no common greeting. The text reveals Mary to have been “greatly troubled at the saying and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be” (Luke 1:29, emphasis added). What was it about this greeting that was so uncommon for Mary to react this way? There are at least two key reasons:

First, according to many biblical scholars as well as Pope St. John Paul II, the angel did more than simply greet Mary. The angel actually communicated a new name or title to her. In Greek, the greeting waskaire, kekaritomene, or “Hail, full of grace.” Generally speaking, when one greeted another with kaire, a name or title would almost be expected to be found in the immediate context. “Hail, king of the Jews” in John 19:3 and “Claudias Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greeting” (Acts 23:26) are two biblical examples of this. The fact that the angel replaces Mary’s name in the greeting with “full of grace” was anything but common. This would be analogous to me speaking to one of our tech guys at Catholics answers and saying, “Hello, he who fixes computers.” In our culture, I would just be considered weird. But in Hebrew culture, names, and name changes, tell us something that is permanent about the character and calling of the one named. Just recall the name changes of Abram to Abraham (changed from “father” to “father of the multitudes”) in Gen. 17:5, Saray to Sarah (“my princess” to “princess”) in Gen. 17:15, and Jacob to Israel (“supplanter” to “he who prevails with God”) in Gen. 32:28.

In each case, the names reveal something permanent about the one named. Abraham and Sarah transition from being a “father” and “princess” of one family to being “father” and “princess” or “mother” of the entire people of God (see Romans 4:1-18; Is. 51:1-2). They become Patriarch and Matriarch of God’s people forever. Jacob/Israel becomes the Patriarch whose name, “he who prevails with God,” continues forever in the Church, which is called “the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16). The people of God will forever “prevail with God” in the image of the Patriarch Jacob who was not just named Israel, but he truly became “he who prevails with God.”

An entire tome could be written concerning the significance of God’s revelation of his name in Exodus 3:14-15 as I AM. God revealed to us volumes about his divine nature in and through the revelation of his name—God is pure being with no beginning and no end; he is all perfection, etc.

What’s in a name? A lot according to Scripture!

When you add to this the fact that St. Luke uses the perfect passive participle, kekaritomene, as his “name” for Mary, we get deeper insight into the meaning of Mary’s new name. This word literally means “she who has been graced” in a completed sense. This verbal adjective, “graced,” is not just describing a simple past action. Greek has the aorist tense for that. The perfect tense is used to indicate that an action has been completed in the past resulting in a present state of being. That’s Mary’s name! So what does it tell us about Mary? Well, the average Christian is not completed in grace and in a permanent sense (see Phil. 3:8-12). But according to the angel, Mary is. You and I sin, not because of grace, but because of a lack of grace, or a lack of our cooperation with grace, in our lives. This greeting of the angel is one clue into the unique character and calling of the Mother of God.

Objection!

One objection to the above is rooted in Eph. 2:8-9. Here, St. Paul uses the perfect tense and passive voice when he says, “For by grace you have been saved…” Why wouldn’t we then conclude all Christians are complete in salvation for all time? There seems to be an inconsistency in usage here.

Actually, the Catholic Church understands that Christians are completed in grace when they are baptized. In context, St. Paul is speaking about the initial grace of salvation in Ephesians two. The verses leading up toEph. 2:8-9, make this clear:

… we all lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath…even when we were dead in trespasses and sins…(by grace you have been saved)” (vss. 3-5).

But there is no indication here, as there is with Mary, that the Christian is going to stay that way. In other words, Eph. 2:8-9 does not confer a name.

In fact, because of original sin, we can guarantee that though we are certainly perfected in grace through baptism, ordinarily speaking, we will not stay that way after we are baptized; that is, if we live for very long afterward (see I John 1:8)! There may be times in the lives of Christians when they are completed or perfected in grace temporarily. For example, after going to confession or receiving the Eucharist well-disposed. We let God, of course, be the judge of this, not us, as St. Paul tells us in I Cor. 4:3-4:

I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted (Gr.—justified). It is the Lord who judges me.

But only Mary is given the name “full of grace” and in the perfect tense indicating that this permanent state of Mary was completed.

2. An Ancient Prophecy—Genesis 3:15:

Genesis 3:15 is often referred to by biblical scholars as the Protoevangelium. It is a sort of “gospel” before “the gospel.” This little text contains in very few words God’s plan of salvation which would be both revealed and realized in the person of Jesus Christ. Yet, when one reads the text, one cannot help but note that this prophetic woman seems to have what could be termed almost a disturbing prominence and importance in God’s providential plan:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed: he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

Not only do we have the Virgin Birth here implied because the text says the Messiah would be born of “the seed of the woman” (the “seed” is normally of the man), but notice “the woman” is not included as “the seed” of the devil. It seems that both the woman and her seed are in opposition to and therefore not under the dominion of the devil and “his seed,” i.e., all who have original sin and are “by nature children of wrath” as St. Paul puts it in Eph. 2:3. Here, we have in seed form (pun intended), the fact that the woman—Mary—would be without sin, especially original sin, just as her Son—the Messiah—would be. The emphasis on Mary is truly remarkable in that the future Messiah was only mentioned in relation to her. There can be little doubt that a parallel is being drawn between Jesus and Mary and their absolute opposition to the devil.

3. Mary, Ark of the Covenant:

The Old Testament ark of the Covenant was a true icon of the sacred. It was a picture of the purity and holiness God fittingly demands of those objects and/or persons most closely associated with himself and the plan of salvation. Because it would contain the very presence of God symbolized by three types of the coming Messiah—the manna, the Ten Commandments, and Aaron’s staff—it had to be most pure and untouched by sinful man (see II Sam. 6:1-9; Exodus 25:10ff;Numbers 4:15; Heb. 9:4).

In the New Testament, the new and true Ark would not be an inanimate object, but a person—the Blessed Mother. How much more pure would the new and true Ark be when we consider the old ark was a mere “shadow” in relation to it (see Heb. 10:1)? This image of Mary as the Ark of the Covenant is an indicator that Mary would fittingly be free from all contagion of sin in order for her to be a worthy vessel to bear God in her womb. And most importantly, just as the Old Covenant ark was pristine from the moment it was constructed with explicit divine instructions in Exodus 25, so would Mary be most pure from the moment of her conception. God, in a sense, prepared his own dwelling place in both the Old and New Testaments.

Read the source: http://www.catholic.com/blog/tim-staples/the-immaculate-conception-in-scripture

In Behold Your Mother, there is much more that I say not only about these three above biblical reasons for the Immaculate Conception, but I give you five more reasons as well. There is only so much I can do in a brief blog post. But if you would like to dive deeper, click here.


Tim Staples is Director of Apologetics and Evangelization here at Catholic Answers, but he was not always Catholic. Tim was raised a Southern Baptist. Although he fell away from the faith of his childhood, Tim came back to faith in Christ during his late teen years through the witness of Christian…

Behold Your Mother: A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines
From the cross Jesus gave us his mother to be our mother, too: a singularly holy model, consoler, and intercessor for our spiritual journey. Yet most Protestants—and too many Catholics—don’t understand the role that God wants her to play in our lives. In Behold Your Mother, Tim Staples takes you through the Church’s teachings about the Blessed Virgin Mary, showing their firm Scriptural and historical roots and dismantling the objections of those who mistakenly believe that Mary competes for the attention due Christ alone. Combining the best recent scholarship with a convert’s in-depth knowledge of the arguments, Staples has assembled the most thorough and useful Marian apologetic you’ll find anywhere.

The Church Fathers on the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Church Fathers believed that the Blessed Virgin Mary was exempt from the curse of Eve and from all sin. While the doctrine of original sin did undergo development (and thus the dogma of the Immaculate Conception), the Fathers of the Church believed that Mary was sinless. Below are some examples:

Blessed Mary, St Anne, and St Joachim

“He was the ark formed of incorruptible wood. For by this is signified that His tabernacle was exempt from putridity and corruption.” Hippolytus, Orations Inillud, Dominus pascit me {ante A.D. 235).

“This Virgin Mother of the Only-begotten of God, is called Mary, worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one.” Origen, Homily 1 {A.D. 244).

“Thou alone and thy Mother are in all things fair, there is no flaw in thee and no stain in thy Mother.” Ephraem, Nisibene Hymns 27:8 {A.D. 370).

“O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all O Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides.” Athanasius, Homily of the Papyrus of Turin 71:216 {ante AD 373).

“Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free of every stain of sin.” Ambrose, Sermon 22, 30 {A.D. 388).

“We must except the Holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honour to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin.” Augustine, Nature and Grace 4, 36 {A.D.415).

“As he formed her without my stain of her own, so He proceeded from her contracting no stain.” Proclus of Constantinople, Homily 1 {ante A.D. 446).

“A virgin, innocent, spotless, free of all defect, untouched, unsullied, holy in soul and body, like a lily sprouting among thorns.” Theodotus of Ancrya, Homily 6, 11{ante A.D. 446).

“The angel took not the Virgin from Joseph, but gave her to Christ, to whom she was pledged from Joseph, but gave her to Christ, to whom she was pledged in the womb, when she was made.” Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 140 {A.D. 449).

“The very fact that God has elected her proves that none was ever holier than Mary, if any stain had disfigured her soul, if any other virgin had been purer and holier, God would have selected her and rejected Mary.” Jacob of Sarug {ante A.D. 521).

“She is born like the cherubim, she who is of a pure, immaculate clay.” Theotokos of Livias,Panegyric for the feast of the Assumption 5:6 {ante A.D. 650).

“Today humanity, in all the radiance of her immaculate nobility, receives its ancient beauty. The shame of sin had darkened the splendour and attraction of human nature; but when the Mother of the Fair One par excellence is born, this nature regains in her person its ancient privileges and is fashioned according to a perfect model truly worthy of God…. The reform of our nature begins today and the aged world, subjected to a wholly divine transformation, receives the first fruits of the second creation.” Andrew of Crete, Sermon 1 On the Birth of Mary {A.D. 733).

“Truly elect, and superior to all, not by the altitude of lofty structures, but as excelling all in the greatness and purity of sublime and divine virtues, and having no affinity with sin whatever.” Germanus of Constantinople, Marracci in S. Germani Mariali {ante A.D. 733).

“O most blessed loins of Joachim from which came forth a spotless seed! Oh glorious womb of Anne in which a most holy offspring grew.” John of Damascus, Homily 1 {ante A.D. 749).

Read the source & comments: http://taylormarshall.com/2011/12/church-fathers-on-immaculate-conception.html 

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