Feast Of The Immaculate Conception

Immaculate Conception

"We declare , pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds 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, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful". ("Ineffabilis Deus", Apostolic Constitution issued by Pope Pius IX on December 1854).
The Immaculate Conception is a Roman Catholic doctrine asserting that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was preserved from the effects of Original Sin from the first moment of her conception; this doctrine is not to be confused with that of the Virgin Birth, which holds that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin mother. The doctrine was defined as a dogma binding on Catholics by Pope Pius IX in the papal bull Ineffabilis Deus (1854). It is based on the biblical idea of Mary's holiness (Luke 1:28), early church teachings on Mary as the "new Eve," and the belief that Mary is the mother of God (Theotokos, or "God-bearer"), articulated at the Council of Ephesus (431). The feast of the Immaculate Conception is observed on Dec. 8.

The Immaculate Conception is the Virgin Mary’s glorious privilege of being preserved by a special grace of God from Original Sin through the future merits of Jesus Christ.

Protestants assert that the Virgin Mary could not have been immaculately conceived for then She would not have needed redemption. This is evidenced by Her own words in the Magnificat: "my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour" (St. Luke 1, 47). Further, St. John clearly states that "If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us?" (1 St. John 1, 8). How can Catholics therefore claim that the Virgin Mary was sinless?"

The Catholic Church does not deny that the Virgin Mary needed redemption, for She was a child of Adam together with the rest of humanity. Yet, Her redemption was effected in another, "more sublime manner", namely, "redemption by pre-emption." One can be cured of a disease after having contracted it, or one can be spared of that same disease by being inoculated against it in advance. The Virgin Mary’s redemption was effected in this latter manner, thus sparing Her from ever being under Satan's domination.

In his Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus (8 December 1854), which officially defined the Immaculate Conception as dogma for the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Pius IX primarily appealed to the text of Genesis 3:15, where the serpent was told by God, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed". According to the Roman Catholic understanding, this was a prophecy that foretold of a "woman" who would always be at enmity with the serpent—that is, a woman who would never be under the power of sin, nor in bondage to the serpent. Some Roman Catholic theologians have also claimed the angel Gabriel's salutation to Mary at the Annunciation (Luke 1:28) as scriptural evidence for the Immaculate Conception. The verse "Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee", "Tota pulchra es, amica mea, et macula non est in te" (Vulgate), from the Song of Solomon (4.7) was also regarded as a scriptural confirmation of the doctrine, and as macula is Latin for "spot" or "stain", is probably responsible for its name.

The early Church Fathers compared Mary to Eve. St. Justin Martyr said that Mary was a kind of New Eve, "in order that the disobedience which proceeded from the serpent might receive its destruction in the same manner in which it derived its origin". (Dialogue with Trypho, 100) Tertullian argued in a similar manner: "As Eve had believed the serpent, so Mary believed the angel. The delinquency which the one occasioned by believing, the other by believing effaced". (On the Flesh of Christ, 17) St. Irenaeus declared that Mary became "the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race", because "what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith". (Against Heresies, Book III, cap. 22, 4) St. Jerome coined the phrase, "Death came through Eve, but life has come through Mary", (Letter XXII, To Eustochium, 21). This may well be inspired by the original explanation in the Bible, in Romans chapter 5, that while death came through one man (Adam), life and grace have been brought through one man (Jesus Christ).

The Immaculate Conception has always been the belief of the Church, being implicitly contained in the Church’s teaching of the Virgin Mary’s absolute purity and sinlessness. Just as Our Lord "grew in grace and wisdom," that is, manifested increasing signs of wisdom as He increased in age, so the Church, which possesses the wisdom of God from Her origin, manifests it only according to the order of Providence and Her children’s needs.

The Church finds support for the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in the words of the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women" (St. Luke 1, 28). She, who was to conceive the Son of God, the Holy of holies, must Herself be supremely holy, and therefore be preserved, not only from actual sin, but also from all stain of Original Sin. The Angel’s words would not have been entirely truthful had the Virgin Mary, for even one instant, been deprived of grace.

St. Luke 1, 28 continues to be a source of much controversy. Most Protestants would prefer to render the original Greek kecharitomene as "highly favoured" rather than "full of grace." In fact, a strict translation of kecharitomene is "thou who hast been graced." Of the two options, "full of grace" is a more clear and definite rendering of the angel’s words than "favour." For this conclusion there exists the authority of the Latin Fathers; the Codices of Alexandrinus and Ephrem; the Syriac and Arabic versions of the Bible; and even the writings of Protestants such as Wycliffe, Tyndale, and Beza.

The Church, furthermore, asserts that God, immediately after Adam’s fall, cursed Satan and said, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head" (Gen. 3, 15). It was by the Virgin Mary's seed, that is, Jesus Christ, that the kingdom of Satan was demolished. It was not fitting that She, who was to co-operate in the defeat of Satan, should ever be infected by his breath or a slave to his kingdom of sin. The enmity between the Virgin Mary and the serpent placed by God was Her triumph over sin, Her Immaculate Conception.

To the contrary, however, it is asserted that the Virgin Mary again admitted that She was a sinner when She presented herself in the Temple for purification in accordance with the Law of Moses: "she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement on her behalf, and she shall be clean'" (Lev. 12, 8). The Virgin Mary observed this Law not because She believed Herself to be defiled by giving birth to Christ, but to give an example of humility and obedience by fulfilling all outward observances. For the Virgin Mary was not subject to this particular law by virtue of what God Himself had laid down in prefacing it: "If a woman having received seed shall bear a man child, she shall be unclean seven days..." (v. 2). The conception and birth of Christ was not due to the reception of male seed but rather to the power of the Holy Spirit. In no way can it be claimed that in conceiving, bearing and delivering Christ the Virgin Mary was made "unclean." In fact, the opposite would have occurred, that is, She would have received an augmentation of grace.

That God should have created the Virgin Mary in a state of holiness as He had formed Eve and the angels is also befitting the honour of God: of the Father, whose daughter She is; of the Son, whose mother She is; and of the Holy Spirit, who, in the incarnation, took the Virgin Mary to be His spouse. Further, as the "new Eve" and mother of the new Adam, the Virgin Mary cannot appropriately be anything less than the original Eve; on the contrary, as Christ excelled Adam, so the Virgin Mary (though to a lesser degree) should excel Eve. Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church has consistently and universally proclaimed the sinlessness of the Virgin Mary:

"Our most holy, immaculate, and most glorious Lady, Mother of God and ever Virgin Mary."

"It was meet that the God of all purity should spring from the greatest purity, from the most pure bosom."

"Most holy Lady, Mother of God, alone most pure in soul and body, alone exceeding all perfection of purity...my Lady most holy, all-pure, all-immaculate, all-stainless, all-undefiled, all-incorrupt, all-inviolate."

Finally, for Catholics, the infallible pronouncement of Pius IX was given heavenly ratification by the Virgin Mary Herself when She appeared at Lourdes in southern France in 1858 and announced to St. Bernadette Soubirous that She was "the Immaculate Conception." The subsequent flow of thousands of miracles stemming from the waters of the Lourdes grotto attest to the authenticity of the Virgin Mary’s apparitions and are a matter of public record for all to examine.



THE FOLLOWING WORDS ARE TAKEN FROM THE REVELATIONS OF ST. BRIDGET OF SWEDEN AND DEALS WITH THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF MARY AND MORE.



The words of the Queen of Heaven to her beloved daughter about the wonderful love the Son had for His Virgin Mother, and about how the Mother of Christ was conceived within the most chaste marriage and sanctified in the womb. She tells how she was assumed, body and soul, into Heaven, and about the power of her name, and about the good and evil angels assigned to men for their protection or trial.

Book 1 - Chapter 9
The Prophecies and Revelations of St. Bridget of Sweden


“I am the Queen of Heaven. Love my Son, for he is most worthy; when you have him, you have all that is worthwhile. He is also most desirable; when you have him, you have all that is desirable. Love him, too, for he is most virtuous; when you have him, you have every virtue. I want to tell you how wonderful his love for my body and soul was and how much he honored my name. My Son loved me before I loved him, since he is my Creator.

He united my father and mother in a marriage so chaste that there could not be found a more chaste marriage at that time. They never wanted to come together except in accordance with the Law, and only then with the intention to bring forth offspring.

When an angel revealed to them that they would give birth to the Virgin from whom the salvation of the world would come, they would rather have died than to come together in carnal love; lust was dead in them. I assure you that when they did come together, it was because of divine love and because of the angel’s message, not out of carnal desire, but against their will and out of a holy love for God. In this way, my flesh was put together by their seed and through divine love. Then, when my body had been made and formed, God infused the created soul into it from his divinity, and the soul was immediately sanctified along with the body, and the angels guarded and served it day and night. When my soul was sanctified and joined to its body, my mother felt such great joy that it would have been impossible to describe it!

Afterwards, when my lifetime had been accomplished, my Son first raised up my soul - for it was the mistress of the body - to a more excellent place than others in heaven, right next to his Divinity. Later, he also raised up my body in such a manner that no other creature’s body is so close to God as mine. See how much my Son loved my soul and body! Yet, there are some people with a malevolent spirit who deny that I was assumed into Heaven, body and soul, and also others who simply do not know any better. But this is a most certain truth: I, with body and soul, was assumed to the Divinity!

Hear now how much my Son honored my name! My name is Mary, as it is said in the Gospel. When the angels hear this name, they rejoice in their mind and thank God for the great mercy that he worked through me and with me and because they see my Son’s Humanity glorified in his Divinity. Those within the fire of purgatory rejoice exceedingly, just like a sick and bedridden man does if he receives a word of comfort that pleases his soul: he is suddenly overjoyed! When the good angels hear my name, they immediately move closer to the righteous for whom they are guardians, and rejoice over their progress in good deeds and virtues.

All humans have been given both good angels for their protection, and bad angels to test them. The good angels are not separated from God; they serve the soul without leaving God. They are constantly in his sight. Yet they work to inflame and incite the soul to do good. All the demons, however, shudder with fear at the name of Mary! When they hear the name, “Mary”, they immediately release a soul out of the claws with which they had held her. Just as a bird or hawk, with its claws and beak embedded into its prey, releases it immediately if it hears a sound, but soon returns when it sees that no action follows, so do the demons - frightened when they hear my name – release the soul. But they return and fly back as fast as an arrow if no improvement follows.

No one is so cold in his love of God (unless he is damned) that he will not experience the devil releasing him from his habitual sins if only he invokes my name with the true intention of never returning to his evil deeds. The devil will never return to him unless he resumes the will to commit mortal sins. Sometimes, though, the devil is allowed to trouble him for the sake of his greater reward. However, the devil shall never own him.” The Revelations of St. Bridget


Related article: The Bible teaches Mary's Immaculate Conception, Perpetual Virginity, Bodily Assumption and more

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