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MARY MOTHER OF JESUS, MOTHER OF GOD Part IIIa: Mary’s Immaculate Conception “Rejoice, O highly favored daughter!” (Luke 1: 28)
The Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is the belief that God preserved Mary from any inclination to sin, the inheritance of original sin passed on to all mankind from our first parents, Adam and Eve. The belief of the Immaculate Conception of Mary says nothing about Mary and personal sin (Romans 3: 23). Christian belief holds that every human being through faith and through baptism is freed from sin - original sin and personal sin -through the grace of Jesus Christ. Catholic Christians simply claim that Mary was the first one to whom this was done. What Mary received before her birth, all Christians receive at their baptism.
Catholics also believe that there have been other certain saints who were cleansed of original sin while still in the womb. Jeremiah 1: 5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. Luke 1: 15 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of (the) Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. But, Mary did not need that cleansing. She never had original sin. Catholics also know that the unfallen angels are sinless.
The Privileges of the Mother of God Mary's Immaculate Conception Dogma : Mary was conceived without stain of original sin. (De fide; It must be believed to be Catholic and remain a Catholic) Pope Pius IX, December 8, 1854, Ineffabilis “The Most Holy Virgin Mary was, in the first moment of her conception, by a unique gift of grace and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, preserved free from all stain of original sin. ” D 1641
Explanation of the dogma By conception is to be understood the passive conception. The first moment of the conception is that moment of time in which the soul was created by God and infused into the bodily matter prepared by her parents. The essence of original sin consists in the lack of sanctifying grace, in consequence of the fall of Adam. Mary was preserved from this defect, so that she entered existence in the state of sanctifying grace. Mary's freedom from original sin was an unmerited gift of God (gratia), and an exception from the law which was vouchsafed to her only. The efficient cause of the Immaculate Conception of Mary was Almighty God.
The meritorious cause was the Redemption by Jesus Christ. It follows from this that even Mary was in need of redemption, and was in fact redeemed. By reason of her natural origin, she, like all other children of Adam, was subject to the necessity of contracting original sin but by a special intervention of God, she was preserved from stain of original sin. Thus Mary also was redeemed “by the grace of Christ” but in a more perfect manner than other human beings. While other human beings are freed through baptism from original sin present in their souls, Mary the Mother of the Redeemer, was preserved from the contagion of original sin. Thus the dogma of the lmmaculate Conception of Mary in no way contradicts the dogma that all children of Adam are subject to Original Sin and need redemption. The formal cause of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is her Motherhood of God.
Proof from Holy Scripture and Tradition The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is not explicitly revealed in Scripture. According to many theologians it is contained implicitly in the following passages: Genesis 3: 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He (the seed of the woman) shall crush your head, and you shall crush his heel. The literal sense of the passage is possibly the following: Between Satan and his followers on the one hand, and Eve and her posterity on the other hand, there is to be constant moral warfare. The posterity of Eve wi. II achieve a complete and final victory over Satan and his followers, even if it is wounded in the struggle. The posterity of Eve includes the Messiah, in whose power humanity wi. II win a victory over Satan. Thus the passage is indirectly messianic. (D 2123) The seed of the woman was understood as referring to the Redeemer and thus the Mother of the Redeemer came to be seen in the woman.
Since the second century this direct messianic-marian interpretation has been expounded by individual Fathers St. Irenaeus, St. Epiphanius, Isidor of Pelusium, St. Cyprian, the author of the Epistola ad amicum aegrotum, St. Leo the Great. However, it is not found in the writings of the majority of the Fathers, among them the great teachers of the East and West. According to this interpretation, Mary stands with Christ in a perfect and victorious enmity towards Satan and his following. Many of the later scholastics and a great many modern theologians argue, in the light of this interpretation of the Protoevangelium that: Mary's victory over Satan would not have been perfect if she had ever been under his dominion. Consequently she must have entered this world without the stain of original sin.
The Bull Ineffabilis approves of this messianic-marianic interpretation. It draws from it the inference that Mary, in consequence of her intimate association with Christ, “with Him and through Him had eternal enmity towards the poisonous serpent, triumphed in the most complete fashion over him, and crushed its head with her immaculate foot. ” The Bull does not give any authentic explanation of the passage. It must also be observed that the infallibility of the Papal doctrinal decision extends only to the dogma as such and not to the reasons given as leading up to the dogma.
Luke 1: 28 Hail, full of grace! The expression “full of grace” (kecharitomene) in the angel's salutation, represents the proper name, and must on this account express a characteristic quality of Mary. The principal reason why the pleasure of God rests in special fashion on her is her election to the dignity of the Mother of God. Accordingly. Mary’s endowment with grace proceeding from God’s pleasure must also be of unique perfection. However, it is perfect only if it be perfect not only intensively but also extensively, that is, if it extends over her whole life, beginning with her entry into the world. Luke 1: 41 Blessed are you (eulogemene) among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. The blessing of God which rests upon Mary is made parallel to the blessing of God which rests upon Christ in His humanity. This parallelism suggests that Mary, just like Christ, was from the beginning of her existence, free from all sin.
Neither the Greek nor the Latin Fathers explicitly teach the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Still, they teach it implicitly in two fundamental notions. Mary, most perfect purity and holiness. St. Ephrem (b. ? – 373 AD) “Thou and thy mother are the only ones who are totally beautiful in every respect; for in thee, 0 Lord, there is no spot, and in thy Mother no stain. ” (Carm. Nisib. 27) St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD) says that all men must confess themselves sinners, “except the Holy Virgin Mary, whom I desire, for the sake of the honor of the Lord, to leave entirely out of the question, when the talk is of sin. ” (De natura et gratia 36, 42). According to the context, however, this must be taken as referring to freedom from personal sins. 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000 1100 1200 1300 1400 1500 1600 1700 1800 1900
The similarity and contrast between Mary and Eve. Mary, is on the one hand, a replica of Eve in her purity and integrity before the Fall, on the other hand, the antitype of Eve, in so far as Eve is the cause of corruption, and Mary the cause of salvation. St. Ephrem (b. ? – 373 AD) “Mary and Eve, two people without guilt, two simple people, were identical. Later, however, one became the cause of our death, the other the cause of our life. ” (Op. syr. II 327) Cf. St. Justin, Dial. 100, St. Irenaeus Adv. haer. III 22, 4; Tertulian, de carne Christi, 17. 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000 1100 1200 1300 1400 1500 1600 1700 1800 1900
The Constant Faith and Practice of the Church Since the seventh century (600 s) a Feast of the Conception of St. Anne that is, of the conception of Mary, was celebrated in the Greek Eastern Church. The celebration and the Feast spread later to the West, first to southern Italy, then to Ireland England, under the title, Conceptio Beatae Mariae Virginis. The object of the celebration of the feast was initially the active conception of St. Anne, which, according to the Protoevangelium of St. James, occurred after a long period of childlessness, and was foretold by an angel, as an extraordinary manifestation of God's grace. At the beginning of the twelfth century (1100 s), the British monk Eadmer, (1060 -1124) a pupil of St. Anselm of Canterbury, and Osben of Clare, advocated the Immaculate Conception of Mary, that is, her conception free from original sin. Eadmer wrote the first monograph on this subject. Feast of the Conception of St Anne Eadmer 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000 1100 1200 1300 1400 1500 1600 1700 1800 1900
Under the influence of St. Bernard, the leading theologians of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries (Petrus Lombardus, St. Alexander of Hales, St. Bonaventure, St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas (cf. S. Th III 1, 7, 1), rejected the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Their difficulty was that they had not yet found the way to bring Mary's freedom from original sin into consonance with the universality of original sin, and with the necessity of all men for redemption. On the other hand, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, on the occasion of the institution of the Feast in Lyons (about 1140), warned the faithful that this was an unfounded innovation, and taught that Mary was sanctified after conception only, that is, when she was already in the womb (Ep. 174). The correct approach to the final solution of the problem was first achieved by the Franciscan theologian, William of Ware, and this was perfected by his great pupil John Duns Scotus (d. 1308). The latter taught that the animation need not precede the sanctification in order of time but only in order of concept (ordo naturae). Feast of the Immaculate Conception St Bernard Duns Scotus 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000 1100 1200 1300 1400 1500 1600 1700 1800 1900
Through the introduction of the concept of preredemption, he succeeded in reconciling Mary's freedom from original sin with her necessity for redemption. The preservation from original sin, is, according to Scotus, the most perfect kind of redemption. Thus. it was fitting that Christ should redeem His mother in this manner. The Franciscan Order allied itself with Scotus, and in contrast to the Dominican Order, decisively advocated the doctrine and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. In the year 1439, the Council of Basle, in its thirty-sixth session, which, however, had no ecumenical validity, declared in favor of the Immaculate Conception. COUNCIL OF BASLE 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000 1100 1200 1300 1400 1500 1600 1700 1800 1900
Pope Sixtus IV (1471 -1484) endowed the celebration of the Feast with indulgences, and forbade the mutual censuring of the disputing factions. (D 734 et seq. ) The Council of Trent, in its Decree on original sin, makes the significant declaration “that it was not its intention to involve Mary, the Blessed and Immaculate Virgin and Mother of God in this Decree. ” (D 792) In 1567, Pope Pius V condemned the proposition advanced by Baius, that nobody but Christ had been free from original sin, and that Mary's sorrows and her death were a punishment for actual sin or for original sin. (D 1073) COUNCIL OF TRENT Sixtus IV Pius V 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000 1100 1200 1300 1400 1500 1600 1700 1800 1900
Popes Paul V (1616), Gregory XV (1622) and Alexander VII (1661), advocated the doctrine (cf. D 1100). On the eighth day of December, 1854, Pope Pius IX, having consulted the entire episcopate, and speaking ex cathedra, declared the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception to be a Dogma of the Faith. Alexander VII Gregory XV Paul V Pius IX 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000 1100 1200 1300 1400 1500 1600 1700 1800 1900
Argument from Reason bases the dogma on the Scholastic axiom, which is already found in the writings of Eadmer; potuit, decuit, ergo fecit (God could do it, He ought to do it, therefore He did it). This, it is true, gives no certainty, but still, it rationally establishes for the dogma a high degree of probability.
Mary's Freedom from Evil Concupiscence and from Every Personal Sin Freedom from Concupiscence From her conception Mary was free from all motions of concupiscence. (Sententia communis; common consensus of theologians) Freedom from original sin does not necessarily involve freedom from all defects which came into the world as a punishment for sin. Mary, like Christ Himself, was subject to the general human defects, in so far as these involve no moral imperfection. Concupiscence cannot be reckoned among these because concupiscence excites a person to commit acts which are materially contrary to God's Law, even where, through lack of assent, they are not formal sins. It would be incompatible with Mary’s fullness of grace and her perfect purity and immaculate state to be subject to motions of inordinate desire.
Mary’s merits are no more prejudiced by her freedom from concupiscence than are the merits of Christ, because concupiscence is indeed an occasion, but not an indispensable precondition, of merit. Mary acquired rich merits, not by any struggle against sensual desire, but by her love of God, and by other virtues (faith, humility, obedience). Cf. S. Th. III 27, 3 ad 2. Many of the older theologians, with St. Thomas, distinguish between the binding and the complete removal or extinction of concupiscence. In the sanctification of Mary in the mother’s womb, concupiscence was so bound that every inordinate motion of the senses was excluded. In Christ’s conception, concupiscence was completely removed, so that the powers of the senses were completely subject to the direction of reason (S. Th. III 27, 3). The distinction made by St. Thomas rests on the assumption that Mary was cleansed from original sin. Since she was preserved from original sin, it is logical to assume that she was, from the very beginning, entirely free from concupiscence.
Freedom from Actual Sin In consequence of a Special Privilege of Grace from God, Mary was free from every personal sin during her whole life. (Sententia fidei proxima; a close understanding of faith) Council of Trent (1545 -63) “No justified person can for his whole life avoid all sins, even venial sins, except on the ground of a special privilege from God such as the Church holds was given to the Blessed Virgin” (nisi ex speciali Dei privilegio, quemadmodum de beata Virgine tenet Ecclesia). D 833 Pope Pius XII Mystici Corporis , June 29, 1943 “She (Mary) was immune from all sin, personal or inherited. ” Mary's sinlessness may be deduced from the text: Luke 1, 28 Hail, full of grace! Personal moral defects are irreconcilable with fullness of grace.
While individual Greek Fathers (Origen, St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, St. Cyril of Alexandria) taught that Mary suffered from venial personal faults, such as ambition and vanity, doubt about the message of the Angel Gabriel, and lack of faith under the Cross, the Latin Patristic authors unanimously teach the doctrine of the sinlessness of Mary. St. Augustine teaches that every personal sin must be excluded from the Blessed Virgin Mary for the sake of the honor of God. (De natura et gratia, 36, 42. ) St. Ephrem the Syrian puts Mary, in her immaculateness, on the same plane as Christ ( Par. 3). According to the teaching of St. Thomas, the fullness of grace which Mary received in implied confirmation in grace and therefore sinlessness. S. Th. III ; 27, 5 ad 2.
A Biblical Argument A basis for the belief in the Immaculate Conception of Mary can be found in the Biblical revelation of holiness and the opposite of that state, sinfulness. God is revealed as perfect interior holiness. Isaiah 6: 3 “Holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!” they (the Seraphim) cried one to the other. No sin or anything tainted with sin can stand in the face of the holiness of God. “Enmity” is that mutual hatred between Mary and sin, between Christ and sin. Genesis 3: 15 I will put enmity between you (the serpent, Satan) and the woman (Mary), and between your offspring (minions of Satan) and hers (Jesus); He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.
The salutation of the Angel Gabriel indicates that Mary was exceptionally “highly favored with grace” (Gk. charitoo, used only twice in the New Testament; in (1) Luke 1: 28 for Mary - before Christ's redemption; and (2) Ephesians 1: 6 for Christ's grace to us – after Christ's redemption). Luke 1: 28 And coming to her (Mary), he (the angel Gabriel) said, “Hail, favored one (kecharitomene). ” Ephesians 1: 4 -6 (God) chose us in him (Jesus), before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace (echaritosen) that he granted us in the beloved.
End of Mary the Series: The Immaculate Conception, Part IIIa Go to Mary the Series: The Immaculate Conception, Part IIIb