8TH DECEMBER 2021
SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE
BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
Gen 3: 9‐15, 20; Ps 98: 1‐4; Eph 1: 3‐6, 11‐12; Lk 1: 26‐38
MARY’S IMMACULATE CONCEPTION IS FITTING AS WELL AS
FAITHFUL TO SCRIPTURE
Mary received this gift from God on account of the merits of Jesus Christ. Hence, we do not teach that Mary was not in need of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, for it is only by His merits that she was able to receive this gift.
Why does the Church teach this? Let’s look at it from four perspectives:
1. Fittingness – When we consider the fittingness of something we do not deny that God could have done things otherwise. We argue only that what He did makes sense and is in accord with what seems best. For example, Jesus could have chosen to appear on earth as a full‐grown man, never having been born, never having been a child, never having learned to be a carpenter. It was surely possible for God to have done this. He could have created a human nature for himself from nothing. However, it seems fitting that instead the Lord Jesus lived life as we do: being conceived, born, raised, and nurtured; coming to manhood, labouring, and finally, ministering. So, the Lord chose to have for Himself a mother, and from her to draw His humanity and be tabernacled within her for nine months. As such, it is fitting that Mary was the uncorrupted ark of his dwelling.
2. Fairness – It is also fair that Mary was preserved from Original Sin, due to her status as the new Eve. Mary fulfilled the text of Genesis 3:15: And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. Mary was the woman, the new Eve, spoken of in this text. Because the first Eve was created sinless, it is fair that the second Eve was also created sinless. In effect, God revisited the original scenario in which we were harmed by a man, a woman, and a tree. Hence God decreed that we would be restored in the same way: via a man (Christ), a woman (Mary), and a tree (the cross). Christ saved us by the wood of the cross and by His obedience. The original scenario featured a sinless woman who disobeyed, but this second time a different sinless woman obeyed. It is thus both fair and fitting that Mary, as the new Eve, was created sinless.
3. Faithfulness to Scripture – The gospel chosen for today may confuse some people because it refers to Christ’s conception. However, it is chosen because of what the angel Gabriel said to Mary: And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). Gabriel, in using the words full of grace, was confessing that Mary had already been graced. The action of her being made full of grace was in the past, though its effects were present then and continue forward. So, Gabriel was greeting her in this condition.
The Catholic teaching on Mary’s freedom from Original Sin is most faithful to the Scriptural text here. The angel’s greeting was significant and Catholic teaching best connects the dots. It takes the greeting at its word and respects its plain meaning: Mary, having been made full of grace, was created free from Original Sin.
4. Fathers of the Church – The Church Fathers did not use the term Immaculate Conception, but they did teach on Mary’s holiness and sinlessness.
St. Augustine (4th century) – All men must confess themselves as sinners except the Holy Virgin Mary, whom I desire for the sake of the honour of the Lord to leave entirely out of the question when the talk is of sin. 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
St Ambrose (4th century) – Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free of every stain of sin (Sermon 22:30).
In the end, Mary received this honour to be free of Original Sin due to her relationship with and for Christ her Son. All the great Marian doctrines refer back to Christ. Mary, as the perfect disciple and Mother of the Church, also prefigured the gifts that we will one day enjoy. In Heaven, having been freed of all our sins and purified by the blood of Christ, we too will be rightfully called immaculate (without stain). Mary’s feast is ours, too, by way of promise.