How to Defend the Immaculate Conception?
1. Why does the Church teach that Mary was immaculately conceived? Her conception is never even mentioned in Scripture.
Before presenting the scriptural foundations for the Church’s belief in Mary’s Immaculate Conception, know that the person who is posing this question to you is probably operating with the three following misconceptions: (1) The doctrine infringes upon the universality of Christ’s redemption and the unique holiness of God. (2) The Church has no scriptural foundation for the teaching. (3) If any doctrine is not in Scripture it must not be true. Any adequate defense of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception is incomplete unless all three of these areas are addressed.
The first issue that you need to cover is sola scriptura—the idea that the Bible is the only rule of faith. One of the reasons why our separated brethren have difficulty accepting certain Marian teachings is that they do not understand the scriptural role of sacred Tradition and the magisterium.
The Catholic Church was commissioned by Christ to teach all nations and to teach them infallibly—guided, as he promised, by the Holy Spirit until the end of the world (see John 14:25, 16:13). The mere fact that the Church teaches that something definitely true is a guarantee that it is true (see Luke 10:16).
Besides historical evidence and the authority of Tradition, several biblical texts can be offered. In Genesis 3:15, God states that there is to be an enmity between the “woman” and the serpent, and this enmity is shared between her seed and its seed. Her seed is the messiah, who stands in opposition to the seed of the serpent. The mother of the messiah is said to share the same enmity—total opposition—with Satan.
If Mary, “the woman,” had any sin, then she would not be in complete opposition to the devil. Some argue that the “woman” refers to Eve, but this can not be the complete meaning of the text, as Eve is always associated with her collaboration with the serpent, not her opposition to him. Only Mary, the new Eve, fits the description of the woman in Genesis 3:15.
An implicit reference can also be found in the angel’s greeting to Mary in Luke 1:28: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” The phrase “full of grace” is a translation of the Greek word kecharitomene. This word represents the proper name of the person being addressed by the angel, and it therefore expresses a characteristic quality of Mary. Kecharitomene is a perfect passive participle of charitoo, meaning “to fill or endow with grace.” Since this term is in the perfect tense, it indicates a perfection of grace that is both intensive and extensive.
This means that the grace Mary enjoyed was not a result of the angel’s visit, and was not only as “full” or strong or complete as possible at any given time, but it extended over the whole of her life, from conception onward. She was in a state of sanctifying grace from the first moment of her existence to have been called “full of grace.”
Over the centuries, the Fathers and doctors of the Church spoke often about the fittingness of the privilege of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. The dogma is especially fitting when one examines the honor that was given to the Ark of the Covenant. It contained the manna (bread from heaven), stone tablets of the Ten Commandments (the word of God), and the staff of Aaron (an instrument of Israel’s redemption).
If this box was created with such honor—to carry a stick, some bread, and stone tablets—how much more should Mary be made a worthy dwelling place for God himself? She is the new Ark of the Covenant because she carried the real bread from heaven, the Word of God, and the instrument of our redemption, Jesus’ body.
Some argue that the new ark is not Mary but the body of Jesus. Even if this were the case, it is worth noting that 1 Chronicles 15:14 records that the persons who bore the ark were to be sanctified. There would seem to be no sense in sanctifying men who carried a box and not sanctifying the womb who carried the Holy One himself. After all, wisdom will not dwell “in a body under debt of sin” (Wis. 1:4 [NAB]).
2. If Mary is sinless, doesn’t that make her equal to God?
If this question is posed to you, it opens up a wonderful opportunity to show how the Immaculate Conception of Mary glorifies God.
Many people are under the impression that one is not quite human if he or she is sinless. On the contrary, it is when we sin that we fall short of what it means to be fully human. Since we are made in the image and likeness of God, we are called to love as God loves. This is why Christ fully reveals man to himself, as Vatican II says. He shows us what it means to be perfectly human.
In the beginning, God created no one (neither angel nor human) with sin, and yet no one was equal to God. When Adam and Eve sinned, they acted in a manner that was beneath their dignity as beings made in God’s image and likeness. It was their sin that detracted from the glory of God, not their original sinlessness. God’s goodness is most clear when he sanctifies his creation by entering into it fully with the life of his grace.
This is why the sinless souls in heaven give the most glory to God. The unique glory of the Trinity is manifested most clearly in heaven—where is he surrounded by sinless beings. In their sinlessness, God has made them most fully what he intended for them to be. In Mary’s case, her sinlessness gives the most glory to God, since his work is made perfect in her. She is his masterpiece.
3. How could Mary be sinless if in the words of the Magnificat she said that her soul rejoices in God her savior?
The Church does not hesitate to profess that Mary needed a savior. This should be the first issue to address if this question arises. It was by the grace of God—and not the work of Mary—that she was saved from sin in a most perfect manner. By what is called “preservative redemption,” Mary was preserved from sin at the time of her natural conception. John the Baptist was sanctified in the womb prior to his birth (Luke 1:15), and Mary was sanctified at her conception.
It is no difficulty that Christ distributed the grace of Calvary some forty-five years or so before it happened, just as he bestows it upon us 2,000 years after the fact. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that this gift was given to Mary, making her “redeemed in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son” (492). She has more reason to call God her Savior than we do, because he saved her in an even more glorious manner!
God can “save” a person from a sin by forgiving him or by providing him the grace never to fall into that particular sin. An ancient analogy is often useful to explain this: a person can be saved from a pit in two ways; one can fall into it and be brought out, or one can be caught before falling into it. Mankind is saved in the first manner, and Mary in the second. Both are saved from the pit of sin. If Jesus wished to save his mother from the stain of sin, what is to prevent him?
4. How can you reconcile Mary’s sinlessness with Paul’s statement that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God?
Though Paul is making a generalization of all humanity, Protestants and Catholics alike would agree that there are exceptions. For example, a child below the age of reason is not capable of committing actual sin. By definition he can’t sin, since sinning requires the ability to reason and the ability to intend to sin. This is indicated by Paul later in the epistle to the Romans when he speaks of the time when Jacob and Esau were unborn babies as a time when they “had done nothing either good or bad” (Rom. 9:11).
Jesus is another significant exception to the rule, having been exempt from actual and original sin (see Heb. 4:15). If Paul’s statement in Romans 3 includes an exception for the new Adam (Jesus), one may argue that an exception for the new Eve (Mary) can also be made.
5. Didn’t the Church just invent the doctrine 150 years ago?
Pope Pius IX officially defined the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in 1854. When Fundamentalists claim that the doctrine was “invented” at this time, they misunderstand both the history of dogmas and what prompts the Church to issue, from time to time, definitive pronouncements regarding faith or morals. They are under the impression that no doctrine is believed until the pope or an ecumenical council issues a formal statement about it.
Doctrines are defined formally only when there is a controversy that needs to be cleared up or when the magisterium (the Church in its office as teacher; see Matthew 28:18–20, 1 Timothy 3:15, 4:11) thinks the faithful can be helped by particular emphasis being drawn to some already existing belief. The definition of the Immaculate Conception was prompted by the latter motive; it did not come about because there were widespread doubts about the doctrine.
In fact, the Vatican was deluged with requests from people desiring the doctrine to be officially proclaimed. Pope Pius IX, who was highly devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, hoped the definition would inspire others in their devotion to her. By understanding the work that God has done in our Lady, all should have greater appreciation for both him and her. For if one member of the body is honored, all should share in its joy (see 1 Corinthians 12:26).
Jason Evert has spoken to more than one million people about the virtue of chastity. He is a best-selling author of more than ten books, including “Theology of the Body for Teens,” and “How to Find Your Soulmate without Losing Your Soul.” Jason earned a master’s degree in theology, as well as…
3 Ways to Defend the Immaculate Conception from Scripture:
Is the Immaculate Conception Biblical?
Yes, but only if you accept typology as a valid interpretation of Scriptural texts (i.e. a method used by the Apostles and Fathers to interpret Old Testament people, things, and events as types foreshadowing New Covenant realities).
Below are three common arguments used by the early Church Fathers, the Popes, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church to justify Mary’s title as the Panagia or “All-Holy.” The first is straight-forward, the latter two rely on typology.
Argument #1 Mary is Full of Grace
Luke 1:28: “And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!’”
The term traditionally translated “full of grace” or “highly favored” is κεχαριτωμένη or kecharitomene. This “perfect passive participle form” (Even if you never study Greek, memorize what I have placed into quotes. Burn it into your memory) denotes something that happened in the past and continues into the present. She was perfectly graced in the past and continues in that state. Luke 1:28 has served as the locus classicus for the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady.
When a Protestant fronts you on this, just keep the broken record approach by repeating “perfect passive participle of kecharitomene” until the Protestant grabs your Rosary beads and start praying it aloud. Works every time.
Argument #2 Mary as New Eve Having Enmity with Satan
Gen 3:15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall crush your head, and you shall strike at His heel.”
In this verse God addresses Satan. The Seed here is Christ. The Woman is His Mother, that is, Mary. Thus Satan has perfect enmity with Christ and with His Mother. The Catholic Church has interpreted this as indicating the sinlessness of Christ and Mary. If either actually committed sin, then they would not be at enmity with Satan but actually a cooperator with Satan at times.
If you want to know more about the Hebrew debate over whether “he” or “she” crushes the head of Satan, read my post on it here: Does Mary or Jesus crush Satan’s head in Gen 3:15?
Argument #3 Mary as Ark of the Covenant
In the Old Covenant the Ark of the Covenant contained the Word of God on stone. In the New Covenant, the Word made Flesh was also contained – and that in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. The Catholic Church has therefore understood Mary as the mystical Ark of the New Covenant. This connection is made in the book of Revelation.
Rev 11:19-12:2 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child.
The Ark of the Covenant appears in Heaven and then in the next breath (and next verse) St John describes a pregnant woman appearing in Heaven. This Woman “contains” the Messiah.
The thinking goes that if Mary is the fulfillment of the Ark of the Covenant, then she must be “all holy”. Remember that in the Old Covenant a man was killed for touching the ark. It was holy. If the box that held stone tablets was so restricted – so also would be the woman who actually carried God Himself. And so she is all pure and all holy, without the stain of sin.
- Luke 1:28 “perfect passive participle of kecharitomene,” rinse and repeat
- Gen 3:15 “Why does Satan have a perfect “enmity” with a woman and who is she?
- Rev 11-12 Mark as New Ark of New Covenant
Related Articles/ Videos click below:
Our Lady of the Rosary, October 7,2016 http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/10/06/readings-reflections-friday-of-the-twenty-seventh-week-in-ordinary-time-our-lady-of-the-rosary-october-72016/
THE DOWNLOAD—OUR LADY, HELP OF EXORCISTS, TERROR OF DEMONS http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/03/22/the-download-our-lady-help-of-exorcists-terror-of-demons/
Has Christianity Become a Coward’s Religion? http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/01/09/has-christianity-become-a-cowards-religion/
Praying the Hail Mary for Spiritual Warfare http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/04/14/praying-the-hail-mary-for-spiritual-warfare/
Why the angel showed reverence to Mary? St. Thomas Aquinas examines the reasons why the angel Gabriel showed such reverence to Mary, saying, “Hail!” http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/02/04/why-the-angel-showed-reverence-to-mary-st-thomas-aquinas-examines-the-reasons-why-the-angel-gabriel-showed-such-reverence-to-mary-saying-hail/
The miracles of Lourdes: What criteria are used by the Church to recognize them? http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/02/08/the-miracles-of-lourdes-what-criteria-are-used-by-the-church-to-recognize-them/
THE DOWNLOAD—THE HISTORY OF THE BROWN SCAPULAR AND THE ROSARY http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/03/22/the-download-the-history-of-the-brown-scapular-and-the-rosary/
OUR LADY AND THE SERPENT: A burning hatred exists between the two http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/04/24/our-lady-and-the-serpent-a-burning-hatred-exists-between-the-two/
MICHAEL VORIS: THE CHURCH AND HER SACRAMENTS (VIDEO) http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/05/01/michael-voris-the-church-and-her-sacraments-video/
Why is May the Month of Mary? http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/05/02/why-is-may-the-month-of-mary/
THE VORTEX: MARY IS MOTHER AND GENERAL – Hell cannot long bear confronting the glory of Mary http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/05/03/the-vortex-mary-is-mother-and-general-hell-cannot-long-bear-confronting-the-glory-of-mary/
Pope Francis’ special devotion for the Virgin Mary http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/05/03/pope-francis-special-devotion-for-the-virgin-mary/
Mary is Perfectly United With Her Son in the Work of Salvation http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/05/24/mary-is-perfectly-united-with-her-son-in-the-work-of-salvation/
OUR LADY IN THE MODERN WORLD http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/06/05/our-lady-in-the-modern-world-2/
THE VORTEX: THE ASSUMPTION – Sweet Mary, assumed body and soul into Heaven, pray for us http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/08/15/the-vortex-the-assumption-sweet-mary-assumed-body-and-soul-into-heaven-pray-for-us/
WATCH THE FULL SHOW: ‘THE DOWNLOAD—MARY, GATE OF HEAVEN’ http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/08/15/watch-the-full-show-the-download-mary-gate-of-heaven/
Who is Mary according to Scripture?
Anglican Priest Smears the Virgin Mary http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2015/12/27/anglican-priest-smears-the-virgin-mary/
4 Biblical Reasons Mary Is The New Ark of the Covenant http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2015/12/10/4-biblical-reasons-mary-is-the-new-ark-of-the-covenant/
The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
How We Know Mary Was a Perpetual Virgin? http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/06/11/how-we-know-mary-was-a-perpetual-virgin/
Readings & Reflections: Thursday after Ash Wednesday & Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11,2016 http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/02/10/readings-reflections-thursday-after-ash-wednesday-our-lady-of-lourdes-february-112016/
Why do Catholics call Mary “Queen”? The answer click this link: Why do Catholics call Mary “Queen”?
The Woman I Love, the Blessed Virgin Mary by Archbishop Fulton Sheen click below:
This video presentations show about the Woman we love, Our Lady of the Blessed Virgin Mary. “She is acknowledged and honored as being truly the mother of God and of the redeemer…. She is clearly the mother of the members of Christ … since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head. Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church” (CCC:963).
Mary’s prayer is revealed to us at the dawning of the fullness of time. Before the incarnation of the Son of God, and before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, her prayer cooperates in a unique way with the Father’s plan of loving kindness: at the Annunciation, for Christ’s conception; at Pentecost, for the formation of the Church, his body (cf. Lk 1:38; Acts 1:14). In the faith of his humble handmaid, the Gift of God found the acceptance he had awaited from the beginning of time. She whom the Almighty made “full of grace” responds by offering her whole being: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” “Fiat”: this is Christian prayer: to be wholly God’s, because he is wholly ours. The Gospel reveals to us how Mary prays and intercedes in faith. At Cana, the mother of Jesus asks her son for the needs of a wedding feast (Jn 2:1-12); this is the sign of another feast – that of the wedding of the Lamb where he gives his body and blood at the request of the Church, his Bride. It is at the hour of the New Covenant, at the foot of the cross (cf. Jn 19:25-27), that Mary is heard as the Woman, the new Eve, the true “Mother of all the living” (CCC: 2617-2618).