Since we just celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I thought I would explain what we believe about it. Sometimes the doctrine of the “Immaculate Conception” is wrongly refered to as Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb (the Virgin Birth). It’s not about Jesus’ birth, but the doctrine states that Mary, unlike the rest of humanity, was concieved in her mothers womb without the stain of original sin so that she could be the spotless vessel to bring the sinless Lamb of God (Jesus Christ) into the world.
What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
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.
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, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin (CCC #490-491).
There are some Christians who object with this doctrine. They will state that “Nowhere in the Bible does it use the words ‘Immaculate Conception.'” Their assumption is that for something to be considered authentic Christian teaching, it has to be found directly in the Bible. But as we all know, if that were to be true, then we need to also throw out Christian belief on the Trinity and on the Incarnation – because neither of those words is directly mentioned in the Bible either. But, someone might then say, “Well, even though the words ‘Trinity’ and ‘Incarnation’ are not found directly in the Bible, there is a lot of Scripture that directly addresses those beliefs. However, there is nothing in the Bible that speaks of Mary’s Immaculate Conception either directly or indirectly.” Well, let’s take a look.
Let’s look at some Scripture verses that do, in fact, indirectly support the Church’s teaching on the Immaculate Conception. First, let us go back to the Old Testament, Genesis 3:14-15: ““The Lord said to the serpent…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.”
This passage is a clear reference to Jesus Christ conquering Satan, bruising Satan’s head – dealing a death blow to Satan. And Jesus is the seed of what woman? This Scripture passage mentions the woman’s seed, and not the man’s seed. We normally associate the seed with the man, not the woman. And, the reason we know why it says “her seed” here in Genesis, is because Mary conceived Jesus of the Holy Spirit – not of man. The Virgin Birth. So, if “her seed” refers to Jesus, then who does “her” refer to? Obviously, “the woman” spoken of here in Gen 3:15 is Mary.
God Himself tells Satan that He (God), will put hostility between Satan and Mary. That He (God), will make Satan and Mary enemies. If you have sin in you, can you say that there is enmity between you and Satan? So, if God Himself put enmity between Satan and Mary, how can anyone say that she was conceived in sin, or that she ever committed a personal sin? We must ask ourselves, did God not do what He said He would do? Or, was it that God put enmity between Satan and Mary, but Satan was stronger than God and occasionally overcame what God had done? Of course not.
Another implicit reference to the Immaculate Conception can be found in the angel’s greeting to Mary in Luke 1:28. The angel Gabriel said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” The Greek word kecharitomene is translation of the phrase “full of grace” It expresses a characteristic quality of Mary.
“The traditional translation, ‘full of grace,’ is better than the one found in many recent versions of the New Testament, which give something along the lines of “highly favored daughter.” Mary was indeed a highly favored daughter of God, but the Greek implies more than that (and it never mentions the word for “daughter”). The grace given to Mary is at once permanent and of a unique kind. 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 that Mary was graced in the past but with continuing effects in the present. So, the grace Mary enjoyed was not a result of the angel’s visit. In fact, Catholics hold, 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 (The Essential Catholic survival guide, Pg 127).”
Until next time, God bless.