The Immaculate Conception


1. What does the Immaculate Conception mean?

The Immaculate Conception means that Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin on her soul. This was a God-given gift to her, and a special privilege for the purpose of preparing her for becoming the Mother of God. The doctrine has been part of the Church's tradition from the beginning, and the Church has defined precisely what it means in the document Ineffabilis Deus: "We declare, pronounce, and define...that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin."

2. Why do Catholics think Mary never sinned?

Because everything the Bible says about Mary indicates that she never did. Scripture calls her "full of grace" and "most blessed of all women," (Luke 1:28, Luke 1:42) titles which certainly exclude sin; and whenever she appears in the Bible she is always seeking the will of God: "Let it be done unto me according to thy word," (Luke 1:38) both for herself and for others: "She said to His servants, Whatsoever He tells you, do it." (John 2:5) Such a person is living in the very perfection of charity, and there is nothing to indicate that at any time she fell short of it.

3. Where in the Bible is the Immaculate Conception?

It is implied by what Scripture says about Mary, and first of all in the first prophecy of the redemption, Genesis 3:15, which tells us something about Jesus' mother: "I will put enmity between thee [Satan] and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Mary is to have enmity with Satan, she is to be against him and an opponent of his works, together with Christ who will crush his head as victor. That in itself implies great virtue, but the context is just after the original sin, Satan's first work: thus God is setting up Jesus and Mary against original sin, the work of the devil, and saying that they will conquer. And this opposition between them and original sin, and between them and the devil, implies their freedom from original sin and from all other sin as well.

Moreover, the early Fathers said Mary was like Eve made new, and what would that mean but Eve before the Fall? The New Testament shows us Mary's virtue and incomparable blessedness, and testifies what wonders God did for her, what high favors He showed her; and that presupposes her sharing the victory of her Son in anticipation, for that would be the greatest gift and most wonderful blessing of all.

4. The Bible says all have sinned. Mary must be included in that or its not "all".

Mary does not have to be included for it to say all, no more than Christ does, for He also is an exception to the "all have sinned" rule. Besides, you can't undo one teaching of Scripture by reference to another, and Scripture does teach that Mary wasn't a sinner. So if any passage says "all have sinned," which is true, you have to allow that in a sense that doesn't apply to Mary and Jesus but is true of everyone else. Ordinary rules about the general fallen condition of Man don't apply to the Mother of God and the Son of God. They were so much under the special care and protection of the Father, and were set apart for such a special and most important task, that they cannot be included in the doctrine of original sin and its universality, true though that doctrine is.

5. The Bible says "There is none righteous; no, not one." That means no exceptions!

It does not mean no exceptions or you have just made Jesus a sinner along with your attempt to make Mary one! For He also is righteous, and righteousness itself. And what is righteousness anyway but opposition to Satan? For Mary has that according to Gen. 3:15, and it shows her incredible virtue; thus Scripture itself shows you that she is not under the scope of this verse. Besides, if you would examine the context of Romans 3:10, which is the passage you are talking about, you would find that it is talking about Jews and pagans prior to conversion, not believers in Christ; and it merely states that no one among them is righteous, and therefore all need to be converted. But Mary was obviously a believer, so it isn't talking about her at all.

6. Mary said she was saved: "I rejoice in God my savior." Only sinners need saved.

There are other reasons she might have said that besides the idea that she needed saved from her supposed sinfulness. Jews called God their Savior, not only because He was their Savior from sin, but also because He had saved them many times in the past from all the many dangers to their nation and from enslavement to other nations. Mary probably called God her savior in this corporate sense of being a member of the people He had saved from destruction by other nations. But even if she meant savior as a reference to the Redemption, we believe it, because it was God who gained for her the grace by which she was immaculately conceived. So God was her savior -- He saved her from falling under the dominion of sin at her conception, just as He saves the rest of us after our conception by a different grace.

7. Mary offered two turtledoves for a sin-offering in Luke 2:24.

Luke 2:22-24 speaks of a purification ceremony for the mother and for the child a while after the birth, because the Jews held that a woman was unclean after bearing a child and needed to offer a sin offering to cleanse herself. It was not that she had sinned, but that there was an unavoidable ritual uncleanness in the bearing of a child, which required both the child and the mother to be purified. The "sin offering" therefore was not for an offense against God, but purely a ritual matter; otherwise we make Jesus a sinner too, because He too was brought to be purified.

The fact is, Mary cannot be held accountable in her soul for bearing a child and becoming unclean. That's simply not a person's fault, it's merely an unavoidable situation under the Old Law. But in order *not* to sin, Mary was required to do what the Law says, and make up for her ritual impurity by offering a sin offering for her uncleanness, and so that's what she did. This passage really affirms how Mary kept the Law, which required her to do what she did, and therefore it does not in the slightest way indicate that she was a sinner.

8. If Mary needed to be immaculate so her child could be, then so did her mother, and her mother, and so on.

Mary did not need to be immaculate in order for her child to be. Jesus could have come to this earth totally without her and taken up a human nature fashioned out of the dust of the earth, and so been immaculate without her. But He chose to take His flesh of Mary, and be born naturally, and therefore He chose to purify her first, in order that she might be a fit vessel for so holy a babe. The same would not need to apply to Mary's mother: Mary was a creature, not the Creator, and thus a pious but otherwise ordinary woman was fit to become her mother.

9. Making Mary sinless equals making Mary God.

Then angels are equal to God, for they are not in sin, and the newly baptized are equal to God, and those who have just got out of Confession, and those who have just got into Heaven! No, your idea is absurd. Nothing about being sinless can make you equal to God because God is so much more than sinlessness. He is the Creator; Mary is still just a creature, and moreover the Immaculate Conception proves that, because she was *conceived* (created) sinless, and was not in existence prior to that event.

10. The Bible says only God is holy.

And it is certainly true in the sense that the Bible intends it. But that certainly does not mean the angels and saints are unholy, merely because it says God is holy in a way that no one else is; and Mary is not less than a saint. She is called by Scripture blessed among women and full of grace, titles which are certainly synonyms of holy. Genesis 3:15 calls her an opponent of Satan, which implies great virtue. But what Scripture means by calling God the only holy one is simply this: that God is holiness itself. Do you see someone holy? What you see is God at work, not man. You see divinity in holiness, not humanity; all human holiness is not human really, but divine. And therefore God alone is truly holy. Man shares it, especially the saints, and they are called holy by their union with God, the only true holy one.