Skip to comments.The Immaculate Conception --- Essential to the Faith (Devotional Thread)
Posted on 12/08/2005 7:01:13 AM PST by NYer
One of our basic beliefs as Catholics is that Mary, in a curious way, always referred to Jesus. Her own words at the wedding in Cana (John 2) stand as a sort of emblem of all that she has to say to us: "Do whatever He tells you." She directs us to her Son. Lose Mary and You Lose Integrity Sin is Contrary to Human Nature Without Mary You Have
And yet, in the text of Scripture, her recorded words constitute such a tiny bit of documentation that it is understandable many Christians get the impression Catholic piety concerning Mary is a vast exegetical mountain built on a minuscule textual molehill. Not surprisingly then, many non-Catholics (and, alas, not a few Catholics) believe that Catholic Marian teaching can be eliminated or ignored with little consequence for the integrity of the Gospel.
I used to believe the same thing. "How is the Gospel improved," I used to wonder, "by tacking on these Marian teachings?" What I eventually came to realize was that I was asking the wrong question. The real question is, "What happens to the coherence of the Gospel if these teachings are rejected from the seamless weave of the Tradition?"
Take the Immaculate Conception. Even after it is clarified that the Church only believes Mary was sinless because of the grace of God and "not on her own steam," it is still often argued that she must have been a sinner because "all have sinned" (Rom 3:23). But if we press St. Paul into rigorously meaning by this "every last human being on earth, especially Mary" there is no way to keep that steam roller from running over Jesus too, since Paul does not say "all have sinned except for Jesus." In short, Paul assumes his readers will know he has exceptions in mind to his general rule. If we try to soften the objection by saying she was only human and not divine like Jesus and that's why she's sinful, we may seem to make progress, but we are, in fact, no nearer the mark. For, at bottom, we are really taking a biblical teaching ("sin is normal") and using it as a platform from which to lead to an unbiblical conclusion ("sin and humanness are identical").
In light of the Incarnation, it is profoundly mistaken to think that humanity is necessarily or naturally sinful. It isn't. Sin is normal, but never natural. Nature is not corrupt; corruption is corrupt. Sin is precisely what is contrary to our human nature. It is damage to nature, not nature itself, which constitutes sin. Thus, sin (which we all inherit in Adam) is always a warping and a deformation of our nature. In Christian understanding, nature is essentially good since it and grace (not sin) have the same author: God. Grace does not build on sin. It heals sin, eradicates sin, repairs the effects of sin, forgives sin. When that process is complete (as it shall be for the saints in heaven) those saints shall no longer be afflicted by sin in any way. That would be impossible if sin and humanness were identical.
Very well then, if there is nothing intrinsically impossible with the idea of sinless humanness in heaven for people who don't happen to be Jesus, there is also nothing intrinsically impossible with Mary being preserved from sin right here on earth by the same God who gets people to heaven. It is true that, apart from the authority of the Church, there is no way we could know this about Mary. But then again, apart from the authority of the Church, there is no way we would know that the Holy Spirit is God either. All that means is that Scripture is intended to be read in light of the full teaching of the Church. When we do, we find that to deny the sinlessness of Mary on the mere ground that she's human and therefore must be sinful has the surprising effect of messing up our understanding of the Incarnation.
And there is an understandable reason for that. Mary is the source of the Incarnation. Christianity is not merely a religion of the Word. It is a relationship with the Word made flesh. But the Word gets His flesh from somewhere. All Christians believe in the blood of Christ shed on the Cross. But God the Son, in His divine nature, had no blood to shed till He received it in purity from His mother. No Mary, no Incarnation; no Incarnation, no death on the Cross; no death on the Cross, no Resurrection; no Resurrection, no salvation for the world. Get rid of Mary and you don't get a purified faith: you get nothing. That is the consequence of overlooking this often neglected truth.
Lose Mary and You Lose Integrity
Sin is Contrary to Human Nature
Without Mary You Have
Like a whisper
behind a wall of noise,
like a rose
hidden in a forgotten garden,
like a pearl
there you lived your life, Mary,
letting us see
your smiling face,
hear your soft voice,
witness your faith,
one long yes
to the call of the Father,
to the actions of the Son,
to the promptings of the Spirit.
pray for me
that in the daily
I may find God,
that in my weariness
I may say yes,
and in the end,
I will be willing
to give my God my all.
As I study the mysteries of the rosary, the two which really grabbed me were the marriage at Cana - "Do whatever he tells you." and the Annunciation - Gabrial waits for her consent.... the Supreme Being offers the most perfect gift of grace to Mary and then, waits for her to consent. Wow!!
Perhaps looking at the whole thought would be helpful. There is a clear exception. Rom. 3:23-24 -
"...23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."
Paul gives the reader credit for knowing that Jesus did not need to redeem himself.
Forest Keeper, this is a very special day for catholics. This is a catholic devotional thread and not a theology discussion thread. Politely, I ask you to find another thread to argue on. Your witness won't convince those who want to be here. You don't want to believe our reasoning, either. Therefore, we have nothing to discuss on this particular thread with you.
Oh Mary, Immaculate mother of Our Lord, , who still reaches out to her child ren one by one across this wide and sin-torn world as a mother to each of us, thank you for being there.
Thank you for telling the Father Yes.
Thank you for the precious gift of the rosary, which is
like a life-line you throw to us in the tempetuous sea
of our sin and sorrow.
Help us learn to pray we ought, to ponder in our hearts the truth and glory of your Son Jesus, the joy of being united to his Sorrowful and your Immaculate hearts, and come to us who love you at the hour of our deaths.
O Blessed Mother,
Impossible for me to imagine, really,
all those years with him who was love incarnate,
growing up straight and tall ,
a graceful sapling
turnng into a man.
I can imagine him
playing games through the streets of Nazareth,
sitting at Joseph's feet among the wood shavings,
watching you sewing.
Yet, to be with him all that time -
Did not the villagers notice
about the youth
growing in their midst?
And you -
impossible to imagine
a lifetime spent
tending and caring,
loving and fixing for
God on earth -
Amazing that the glory invisible in your home
did not shatter your walls -
Indelible the brightness
it left upon your soul!
Thank you, and God bless.
The Blessed Virgin Mary . . ." The subject of this immunity from original sin is the person of Mary at the moment of the creation of her soul and its infusion into her body.
". . .in the first instance of her conception . . ." The term conception does not mean the active or generative conception by her parents. Her body was formed in the womb of the mother, and the father had the usual share in its formation. The question does not concern the immaculateness of the generative activity of her parents. Neither does it concern the passive conception absolutely and simply (conceptio seminis carnis, inchoata), which, according to the order of nature, precedes the infusion of the rational soul. The person is truly conceived when the soul is created and infused into the body. Mary was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin at the first moment of her animation, and sanctifying grace was given to her before sin could have taken effect in her soul.
". . .was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin. . ." The formal active essence of original sin was not removed from her soul, as it is removed from others by baptism; it was excluded, it never was in her soul. Simultaneously with the exclusion of sin. The state of original sanctity, innocence, and justice, as opposed to original sin, was conferred upon her, by which gift every stain and fault, all depraved emotions, passions, and debilities, essentially pertaining to original sin, were excluded. But she was not made exempt from the temporal penalties of Adam -- from sorrow, bodily infirmities, and death.
". . .by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race." The immunity from original sin was given to Mary by a singular exemption from a universal law through the same merits of Christ, by which other men are cleansed from sin by baptism. Mary needed the redeeming Saviour to obtain this exemption, and to be delivered from the universal necessity and debt (debitum) of being subject to original sin. The person of Mary, in consequence of her origin from Adam, should have been subject to sin, but, being the new Eve who was to be the mother of the new Adam, she was, by the eternal counsel of God and by the merits of Christ, withdrawn from the general law of original sin. Her redemption was the very masterpiece of Christ's redeeming wisdom. He is a greater redeemer who pays the debt that it may not be incurred than he who pays after it has fallen on the debtor.
Such is the meaning of the term "Immaculate Conception."
PROOF FROM SCRIPTURE
No direct or categorical and stringent proof of the dogma can be brought forward from Scripture. But the first scriptural passage which contains the promise of the redemption, mentions also the Mother of the Redeemer. The sentence against the first parents was accompanied by the Earliest Gospel (Proto-evangelium), which put enmity between the serpent and the woman: "and I will put enmity between thee and the woman and her seed; she (he) shall crush thy head and thou shalt lie in wait for her (his) heel" (Genesis 3:15). The translation "she" of the Vulgate is interpretative; it originated after the fourth century, and cannot be defended critically. The conqueror from the seed of the woman, who should crush the serpent's head, is Christ; the woman at enmity with the serpent is Mary. God puts enmity between her and Satan in the same manner and measure, as there is enmity between Christ and the seed of the serpent. Mary was ever to be in that exalted state of soul which the serpent had destroyed in man, i.e. in sanctifying grace. Only the continual union of Mary with grace explains sufficiently the enmity between her and Satan. The Proto-evangelium, therefore, in the original text contains a direct promise of the Redeemer, and in conjunction therewith the manifestation of the masterpiece of His Redemption, the perfect preservation of His virginal Mother from original sin.
The salutation of the angel Gabriel -- chaire kecharitomene, Hail, full of grace (Luke 1:28) indicates a unique abundance of grace, a supernatural, godlike state of soul, which finds its explanation only in the Immaculate Conception of Mary. But the term kecharitomene (full of grace) serves only as an illustration, not as a proof of the dogma.
From the texts Proverbs 8 and Ecclesiasticus 24 (which exalt the Wisdom of God and which in the liturgy are applied to Mary, the most beautiful work of God's Wisdom), or from the Canticle of Canticles (4:7, "Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee"), no theological conclusion can be drawn. These passages, applied to the Mother of God, may be readily understood by those who know the privilege of Mary, but do not avail to prove the doctrine dogmatically, and are therefore omitted from the Constitution "Ineffabilis Deus". For the theologian it is a matter of conscience not to take an extreme position by applying to a creature texts which might imply the prerogatives of God.
PROOF FROM TRADITION
In regard to the sinlessness of Mary the older Fathers are very cautious: some of them even seem to have been in error on this matter.
* Origen, although he ascribed to Mary high spiritual prerogatives, thought that, at the time of Christ's passion, the sword of disbelief pierced Mary's soul; that she was struck by the poniard of doubt; and that for her sins also Christ died (Origen, "In Luc. hom. xvii").
* In the same manner St. Basil writes in the fourth century: he sees in the sword, of which Simeon speaks, the doubt which pierced Mary's soul (Epistle 259).
* St. Chrysostom accuses her of ambition, and of putting herself forward unduly when she sought to speak to Jesus at Capharnaum (Matthew 12:46; Chrysostom, Hom. xliv; cf. also "In Matt.", hom. 4).
But these stray private opinions merely serve to show that theology is a progressive science. If we were to attempt to set forth the full doctrine of the Fathers on the sanctity of the Blessed Virgin, which includes particularly the implicit belief in the immaculateness of her conception, we should be forced to transcribe a multitude of passages. In the testimony of the Fathers two points are insisted upon: her absolute purity and her position as the second Eve (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:22).
Mary as the second Eve
This celebrated comparison between Eve, while yet immaculate and incorrupt -- that is to say, not subject to original sin -- and the Blessed Virgin is developed by:
* Justin (Dialog. cum Tryphone, 100),
* Irenaeus (Contra Haereses, III, xxii, 4),
* Tertullian (De carne Christi, xvii),
* Julius Firm cus Maternus (De errore profan. relig xxvi),
* Cyril of Jerusalem (Catecheses, xii, 29),
* Epiphanius (Hæres., lxxviii, 18),
* Theodotus of Ancyra (Or. in S. Deip n. 11), and
* Sedulius (Carmen paschale, II, 28).
The absolute purity of Mary
Patristic writings on Mary's purity abound.
* The Fathers call Mary the tabernacle exempt from defilement and corruption (Hippolytus, "Ontt. in illud, Dominus pascit me");
* Origen calls her worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, most complete sanctity, perfect justice, neither deceived by the persuasion of the serpent, nor infected with his poisonous breathings ("Hom. i in diversa");
* Ambrose says she is incorrupt, a virgin immune through grace from every stain of sin ("Sermo xxii in Ps. cxviii);
* Maximum of Turin calls her a dwelling fit for Christ, not because of her habit of body, but because of original grace ("Nom. viii de Natali Domini");
* Theodotus of Ancyra terms her a virgin innocent, without spot, void of culpability, holy in body and in soul, a lily springing among thorns, untaught the ills of Eve nor was there any communion in her of light with darkness, and, when not yet born, she was consecrated to God ("Orat. in S. Dei Genitr.").
* In refuting Pelagius St. Augustine declares that all the just have truly known of sin "except the Holy Virgin Mary, of whom, for the honour of the Lord, I will have no question whatever where sin is concerned" (De naturâ et gratiâ 36).
* Mary was pledged to Christ (Peter Chrysologus, "Sermo cxl de Annunt. B.M.V.");
* it is evident and notorious that she was pure from eternity, exempt from every defect (Typicon S. Sabae);
* she was formed without any stain (St. Proclus, "Laudatio in S. Dei Gen. ort.", I, 3);
* she was created in a condition more sublime and glorious than all other natures (Theodorus of Jerusalem in Mansi, XII, 1140);
* when the Virgin Mother of God was to be born of Anne, nature did not dare to anticipate the germ of grace, but remained devoid of fruit (John Damascene, "Hom. i in B. V. Nativ.", ii).
* The Syrian Fathers never tire of extolling the sinlessness of Mary. St. Ephraem considers no terms of eulogy too high to describe the excellence of Mary's grace and sanctity: "Most holy Lady, Mother of God, alone most pure in soul and body, alone exceeding all perfection of purity ...., alone made in thy entirety the home of all the graces of the Most Holy Spirit, and hence exceeding beyond all compare even the angelic virtues in purity and sanctity of soul and body . . . . my Lady most holy, all-pure, all-immaculate, all-stainless, all-undefiled, all-incorrupt, all-inviolate spotless robe of Him Who clothes Himself with light as with a garment . ... flower unfading, purple woven by God, alone most immaculate" ("Precationes ad Deiparam" in Opp. Graec. Lat., III, 524-37).
* To St. Ephraem she was as innocent as Eve before her fall, a virgin most estranged from every stain of sin, more holy than the Seraphim, the sealed fountain of the Holy Ghost, the pure seed of God, ever in body and in mind intact and immaculate ("Carmina Nisibena").
* Jacob of Sarug says that "the very fact that God has elected her proves that none was ever holier than Mary; if any stain had disfigured her soul, if any other virgin had been purer and holier, God would have selected her and rejected Mary". It seems, however, that Jacob of Sarug, if he had any clear idea of the doctrine of sin, held that Mary was perfectly pure from original sin ("the sentence against Adam and Eve") at the Annunciation.
St. John Damascene (Or. i Nativ. Deip., n. 2) esteems the supernatural influence of God at the generation of Mary to be so comprehensive that he extends it also to her parents. He says of them that, during the generation, they were filled and purified by the Holy Ghost, and freed from sexual concupiscence. Consequently according to the Damascene, even the human element of her origin, the material of which she was formed, was pure and holy. This opinion of an immaculate active generation and the sanctity of the "conceptio carnis" was taken up by some Western authors; it was put forward by Petrus Comestor in his treatise against St. Bernard and by others. Some writers even taught that Mary was born of a virgin and that she was conceived in a miraculous manner when Joachim and Anne met at the golden gate of the temple (Trombelli, "Mari SS. Vita", Sect. V, ii, 8; Summa aurea, II, 948. Cf. also the "Revelations" of Catherine Emmerich which contain the entire apocryphal legend of the miraculous conception of Mary.
From this summary it appears that the belief in Mary's immunity from sin in her conception was prevalent amongst the Fathers, especially those of the Greek Church. The rhetorical character, however, of many of these and similar passages prevents us from laying too much stress on them, and interpreting them in a strictly literal sense. The Greek Fathers never formally or explicitly discussed the question of the Immaculate Conception.
(beautiful icons on this page, as well as musical setting for this song)
ALL OF CREATION
In You, O Woman, Full of Grace,
the angelic choirs and the human race -
all creation rejoices! All creation rejoices! (1)
O Sanctified Temple, Mystical Paradise and
Glory of Virgins, He, Who is our God, from
before all ages, took flesh from You and became
a child! He made Your womb a throne! A throne
greater than the heavens! In You, O Woman,
Full of Grace, In You, O Woman, Full of Grace,
all creation rejoices, all creation rejoices! All
praise be to You! All praise be to You! All
praise be to you!
The above hymn known variously as ALL OF CREATION REJOICES IN YOU, O FULL OF GRACE or IN YOU, O WOMAN FULL OF GRACE in English, as O TEBYE RADUYETSYA in Slavonic, and as EPI SOI HAIRI in Greek, is sung by all Eastern Christians of the Byzantine liturgical tradition throughout Great Lent during the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great following the consecration of the Holy Gifts. This liturgy is celebrated on Sunday in Great Lent and several other feasts throughout the year. Its authorship is attributed to the 8th century Saint John Damascene. (2) It reached central and eastern Europeans and Middle Easterners who follow the Byzantine rite through the Greek Irmologion (hymnal). The hymn is one of the great tributes of the Eastern Church to the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, (3 & 4). Found throughout the liturgies and service books, it serves as the theme of this Web page.
Icon - St. John Damascene
ST. JOHN DAMASCENE
The veneration of the Eastern Church for the Mother of God did not spring full grown from the New Testament scripture, nor is it readily apparent in the writings of the early Church Fathers. The Eastern Church, however, does rely heavily upon the non-canonical Protoevangelion of St. James for some information about the Holy Virgin. The Church's veneration for the Virgin evolved primarily from the growing awareness among early theologians that the role of the Virgin Mary in the economy of salvation was a logical and necessary consequence of the developing Christology of the Early Church. This notion did not pass unchallenged. In the 5th century AD the unity of the Universal or Catholic Church came under attack in the form of the Nestorian heresy.
During the late 4th and early 5th centuries the theological debates in the Church shifted from Trinitarian concerns to the very nature of Christ. Eventually the dispute over the nature of Christ was brought to a head by Nestorius, Archbishop of Constantinople, who championed the cause of those who claimed that the two natures of Christ, human and divine, were separate, distinct and independent. Nestorius declared that there existed between the two natures only a moral union, i. e. the two natures were united in love but separated in essence. This meant, of course, that there was no room for the divine maternity of Mary. If there are two distinct persons in Jesus Christ, Mary would be the mother of the human person only. Thus the reference to Mary as Mother of God (Theotokos) was anathema to the Nestorians who preferred to refer to Her as "Christotokos" (Mother of Christ).
The orthodox party led by St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria, moved quickly to resolve the issue. Unable to convince Nestorius of his errors, St. Cyril appealed to Pope Celestine I who condemned the teachings of Nestorius at a Roman Council held in August, 430. Nestorius remain adamant , whereupon the Emperor Theodosius II summoned an ecumenical council of the Universal Church which met in Ephesus in Asia Minor in 431. The Council of Ephesus, the Third Ecumenical Council of the Church (see account thereof in OTHER SITES herein) was not a happy event; it was rife with real controversy and chicanery, but orthodoxy eventually triumphed with the Edict of Union in 433. This rested upon the principle that there is in Christ a union of two natures in one Lord and that the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God (Theotokos) (For text of decree, see footnote 5).
Yes it was, although you may not interpret it that way, and I ask you the same favor.
And I will mark it like you suggest on threads that I start, but I didn't get my fingers working fast enough to do it here!
"0 most blessed and sweet Virgin Mary,
Mother of God, filled with all tenderness,
Daughter of the most high King,
Lady of the Angels,
Mother of all the faithful,
On this day and all the days of my life,
I entrust to your merciful heart my body and my soul,
all my acts, thoughts, choices,
desires, words, deeds,
my entire life and death,
So that, with your assistance,
all may be ordered to the good
according to the will of your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. ...
From your beloved Son. ..
request for me the grace to resist firmly
the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil. ..
My most holy Lady,
I also beseech you to obtain for me
true obedience and true humility of heart
So that I may recognize myself truly
as a sinner--wretched and weak--
without the grace and help of my Creator
and without your holy prayers. ..
Obtain for me as well,
O most sweet Lady,
true charity with which
from the depths of my heart
I may love your most holy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
and, after Him,
love you above all other things. ..
Grant, O Queen of Heaven,
that ever in my heart
I may have fear and love alike
for your most sweet Son. ..
I pray also that, at the end of my life,
Mother without compare,
Gate of Heaven and Advocate of sinners. ..
will protect me with your great piety and mercy. ..
and obtain for me, through the blessed and glorious Passion of your Son
and through your own intercession,
received in hope,
the forgiveness of all my sins.
When I die in your love and His love,
may you direct me
into the way of salvation and blessedness.
"Hail Mary, full of grace"
How could the Blessed Virgin Mary be spotted with sin, since the angel, Gabriel greeted her with the saluation, "Hail Mary, full of grace"?
Your Catholic and Marian bashing arguments do not hold water when it comes to the direct translation from the Bible!!!!
Sister Ann Marie Harrison, IHM
O Mary graced immaculate,
Belov'd of Trinity you are
Mother of God's Incarnate Son
With holiness beyond all saints.
A woman holy you were made
To bear the Son whose merits saved.
He named you Mother of us all,
"Belov'd of Trinity" our name.
Companion us through life's journey
On our return to Trinity
That one in prayer and faithfulness
Our lives will mirror your full "Yes."
To Father, Son, and Spirit praise
For Your Love that moves as grace
and forms us in discipleship
To live Your Love as Mary did.
Boy, I can't win. I was told to get lost, I did, and now I get attacked. Real nice on your special day. If you take my comments as gratuitous bashing then you must be pretty insecure about your own."
Free Republic is
a discussion forum. If
Freepers want to talk
threads is where they talk.
Shouldn't Catholics pray in
church if they want quiet?
Is this a discussion thread or not? I think Forest Keeper was very respectful, and did not further engage. This looks suspiciously unlike a devotional comment. Please be consistent.
There's a great utility to having these threads posted here...especially the daily Mass readings. This is an important day for us Catholics and, as a Catholic, I never stop learning more about my Faith. These threads often provide nuggets of knowledge that deepen my understanding.
the two which really grabbed me were the marriage at Cana - "Do whatever he tells you." and the Annunciation - Gabrial waits for her consent.... the Supreme Being offers the most perfect gift of grace to Mary and then, waits for her to consent. Wow!!
Yes! Me too! I also ponder the flight into Egypt. The last place any Jew would want to go is into the country from which they had fled from slavery. Such total trust! And what about the 18 years between when Jesus was found preaching in the temple and the beginning of His ministry. Mary must have pondered, wondered and reflected on the angel's announcement, the 3 Magi, the shepherds, the old man standing outside the Temple when she and Joseph presented Jesus. She kept all these things in her heart, never doubting.
Thanks for your posts from the Fathers on Mary the Immaculate.
I'm not attacking you, just pointing out what the Bible says.
I am being consistent with the rules of Free Republic. All are free to post.
Perhaps the original poster and Salvation could work this out between them. As I said, Forest Keeper was polite.
I am however, going to point out the contradiction. KAC asked for this to be devotional. An RC acted as a provocateur, well within his rights as this is a discussion thread. However, those who do not subscribe to Marian beliefs were leaving this alone as was requested.
OK, and under normal circumstances I would be delighted to have a pleasant Christian to Christian discussion about it with you. I was told this is not the thread to do that, though. I have no desire at all to spoil anything for my Catholic brothers and sisters.
You are very kind and at this point, a better Christian than I am.
Here is a little prayer I just found:
Lord, may I refrain from all violent words and deeds, and help make my part of this world a more peaceful place.
It is now labed as a devotional thread. Please let it go.