The Immaculate Conception
Origen (A.D. 244)"This Virgin Mother of the Only-begotten of God, is called Mary, worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one." (Homily 1in ULL,94)
In the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December, 1854, Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."
PROOF FROM SACRED SCRIPTURE;
"And I WILL PUT ENMITY BETWEEN YOU AND THE WOMAN (Note: This is singular, meaning one and only one special woman, Mary), and BETWEEN YOUR OFFSPRING AND HERS (I.E. Christ); IT (THE SEED) SHALL BRUISE THY (SATAN) head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."
"And the GOD OF PEACE SHALL BRUISE SATAN...: (Romans 16:20)
Moses tell us THE SEED shall bruise Satan. St Paul tell us IT IS GOD (CHRIST ) who shall BRUISE SATAN, Therefor the seed HAD to be Christ (God) and the woman his Mother. Hence the prophecy promises a singular woman(Our Blessed Lady) who will be the enemy of the serpent to a marked degree. If Mary were a fallen creature who had sinned or was under the influence of original sin how could she be the enemy of the devil?
"Jesus answered them: Amen, amen I say unto you: that whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin."(John viii. 34)
"For, speaking proud words of vanity, they allure by the desires of fleshly riotousness, those who for a little while escape, such as converse in error: Promising them liberty, whereas they themselves are the slaves of corruption. For by whom a man is overcome, of the same also he is the slave." (2 Peter ii.18-19)
"He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." (1 John 3:8)
Obviously, she could not. Therefore in order for there to be true enmity between the Mary and the evil one the woman must be free from all bounds of his control. This Scripture goes on to tells us this is THE SAME ENMITY that will be between Satins offspring and Maryís offspring Christ (God) who was without argument sinless.
Genesis 3:16 To the woman(Eve) he (God) said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.
Numerous early works discuss the fact that Mary gave birth to Jesus without pain (below I list two first century examples). But pain in childbearing is part of the penalty of original sin (Gen. 3:16). Thus clearly Mary was not under penalty of original sin. She was immaculate by God's grace in anticipation of the redeeming death her Son would die on the cross. Thus the Church describes Mary as "the most excellent fruit of redemption"The Ascension of Isaiah [A.D. 70]The Odes of Solomon [A.D. 80]
"[T]he report concerning the child was noised abroad in Bethlehem. Some said, 'The Virgin Mary has given birth before she was married two months.' And many said, 'She has not given birth; the midwife has not gone up to her, and we heard no cries of pain.'" (Ascension of Isaiah 11).
"So the Virgin became a mother with great mercies. And she labored and bore the Son, but without pain, because it did not occur without purpose. And she did not seek a midwife, because he caused her to give life. She bore as a strong man, with will . . . " (Odes of Solomon 19).
Next, we see that sacred scripture tells us;
"And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, FULL OF GRACE, the LORD IS WITH THEE..."(Luke 1:28) Note: The translation "Full of Grace" instead of "Highly Favored" is far more acerate to the Greek., the Ancient Syriac, Arabic and Latin versions. It was also approved by the early Christian fathers.(for more on this see the appendix)
Luke chapter one verse twenty eight indicates a unique abundance of grace (Gk.: "charis"), a supernatural, godlike state of soul, even before Christ's redemption; which finds its explanation only in the Immaculate Conception of Mary. How can a soul enslaved by sin of any kind be full of the Divine Grace of God? The answer should be obvious, it CANíT, God HATES ALL SIN.
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and injustice of those men that detain the truth of God in injustice." (Rom. i. 18)
"Therefore, ye men of understanding, hear me: far from God be wickedness, and iniquity from the Almighty." (Job xxxiv. 10)
"I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me". (Ex. xx. 5)
"The Lord hateth all abomination of error, and they that fear him shall not love it...He hath commanded not man to do wickedly, and he hath given no man license to sin." (Ecclus. xv. 13, 21)
"But to God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful alike." (Wis. xiv. 9)
Clearly, here we have Gabriel the angle of God declaring Mary free of all Sin.This is also verified by the angles next words "...the Lord is with thee". St. Augustine in A.D. 415 wrote:
"We must except the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honour to the Lord; 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." (,Nature and Grace,36:42,in NPNF1,V:135)
Next, we see that sacred scripture tells us;
"And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for THOU HAST FOUND FAVOR WITH GOD. And, behold, THOU SHALT CONCEIVE IN THY WOMB, AND BRING FORTH A SON, AND SHALT CALL HIS NAME JESUS. HE SHALL BE GREAT, AND SHALL BE CALLED THE SON OF THE HIGHEST: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:"(Luke 1:30-32)
Again, we see the angle of the lord single Mary out as having "Found FAVOR With God". Then he goes on to tell Mary she was to become the mother of God ("The mother of my Lord" Luke 1:43). Understanding godís justifiable hatred for sin, would God chouse to spend nine months in a sin stained temple (womb)? To the Christian there is only one answer NO, there is an incongruity in the supposition that the flesh, from which the flesh of the Son of God was to be formed, should ever have belonged to one who was the slave of that arch-enemy, whose power He came on earth to destroy. as Jacob of Sarug in A.D. 521 tells us:
"[T]he 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."(ante,in CE)
What kind of son (Christ who was God was the perfect son) would allow his own mother to become a SLAVE to sin and the Devil, if he could preserve her from it? To the Christian there is only one answer, NONE.
"And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, BLESSED ART THOU AMONG WOMEN, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb(Christ)And whence is this to me, that THE MOTHER OF MY LORD should come to me?...And Mary said, MY SOUL DOTH MAGNIFY THE LORD, And my SPIRIT HATH REJOICED (Note: this is in the past tense) IN GOD MY SAVIOUR. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth ALL GENERATIONS SHALL CALL ME BLESSED."(Luke 1:41-43,46-48)
These four are incredible revelation of sacred scripture first, St. Elisabeth who was filled with the Holy Ghost declares Mary Special among all Women. This coincides with the angelís greeting to Mary "...The Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women."(Luke 1:28).
Second, Maryís soul magnifies the lord. Can is soul which has sin or is sinful a glory (I.E. magnify) to god? Of course not as we have already seen GOD HATES sin, therefor Mary must have been exempt or preserved from sin.God is revealed as perfect interior holiness.
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!" they (the Seraphim) cried one to the other.---(Is 6:3)
Third, Scripture declares that all generations shall praise Mary as blessed, this is very high praise indeed. As Ephraim, in A.D. 370 tells us;
"Let woman praise Her, the pure Mary." (in Hymns on the Nativity,15:23 NPNF2,XIII:254)
Fourth, Mary says "My spirit hath rejoiced in god my saviour" This is in the PAST TENSE meaning Mary was ALREADY SAVED, even before CHRIST WAS BORN. Some Fundamentalists' will try to agrue, "Mary said her 'my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior' (Luke 1:47), and only a sinner needs a Savior. Since Mary was a sinner, she couldn't have been immaculately conceived."
It is this: Mary, too, required a Savior. Like all other descendants of Adam, by her nature she was subject to the necessity of contracting original sin. But by a special intervention of God, undertaken at the instant she was conceived, she was preserved from the stain of original sin and its consequences. She was therefore redeemed by the grace of Christ, but in a special way, by anticipation. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception thus does not contradict Luke 1:47.
Consider an analogy: Suppose a man falls into a deep pit, he cries out for help, and someone hears his plea, reaches down, and pulls him out. The man has been "saved" from the pit (cf. Psalm 40:2-3). Now imagine a woman walking along, and she too is about to topple into the pit, but at the very moment that she is falling in, someone reaches out, holds her back, and prevents her from falling in. She too has been saved from the pit, but in an even better way: she was not simply taken out of the pit, she was prevented from getting defiled in the mud in the first place. This is the illustration Christians have used for a thousand years to explain how Mary was saved by Christ. By receiving Christ's grace at the exact instant of her conception, she had his grace applied to her before she was able to become mired in original sin and its stain, and so she was saved in an even more immanent manner than we are. Fundamentalists will often try to use Romans 3:23, "all have sinned" to attack the concept of the Immaculate Conception, for the answer to this objection please see appendix B
PROOF FROM TRADITION;
- 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 natur‚ et grati‚ 36).
- Mary was pledged to Christ (Peter Chrysologus, "Sermo cxl de Annunt. B.M.V.");
- it is evident and notorious 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.
FULL OF GRACE;
Word Pictures in the New Testament, by the renowned Protestant Greek scholar A.T. Robertson, expounds Luke 1:28 as follows:
"Highly favoured" (kecharitomene). Perfect passive participle of charitoo and means endowed with grace ("charis"), enriched with grace as in Ephesians. 1:6, . . . The Vulgate gratiae plena "is right, if it means 'full of grace which thou hast received'; (Plummer).[Robertson, Archibald T., Word Pictures in the New Testament, Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930, 6 volumes, vol. 2, p.13]
It is certain that kecharitomene is directly concerned with the idea of "grace," since, as Vine noted, it is derived from the root word charis, whose literal meaning is "grace." Charis is translated by the King James Version, for example, 129 times (out of 150 total appearances) as "grace."
"It is permissible, on Greek grammatical and linguistic grounds, to paraphrase kecharitomene as completely, perfectly, enduringly endowed with grace." (Blass & DeBrunner, Greek Grammar of the New Testament, Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1961, p.166; Smyth, H.W., Greek Grammar, Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1968, sec. 1852:b. ) Thus, in just this one verse, pregnant with meaning and far-reaching implications, the uniqueness of Mary is strongly indicated, and the Immaculate Conception can rightly be deemed entirely consistent with the meaning of this passage.
"ALL HAVE SINNED"
But what about Romans 3:23, "all HAVE sinned"? first, let's look at this verse in its proper context. Let us look at the context in which this verse is written, who was St. Paul referring to? What was the purpose behind the verse? St. Paul was attempting to eradicate the division between the Jewish converts and those of the Gentiles. St. Paul was specifically talking to those Jews and Jewish converts who felt themselves spiritually better than the Gentiles. It is this error that St. Paul wishes to dispel "What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;"(3:9). St. Paul goes on to explain that even the Law states that they by themselves and are not righteous (3:10-18) he explains that those outside the law are just as equally accountable to God is those inside the law. "...So that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God." (3:19) St. Paul explains, observance of the Jewish law is not enough to bring righteousness, but knowledge the Law does bring consciousness of sin(3:20). And that we can achieve the righteousness of God apart from the Jewish law (3:21). This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew or gentile (3:22). For both Jew and gentile are in need a salvation "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God"(3:23) but that true justification comes freely by Godís grace through the redemption of Christ Jesus (3:24-26) St. Paul teaches that those of Jewish dissent should not be "boasting" and explains On what principle justification is achieved, On that of observing the Jewish law? No, but on that of faith.(3:27)and that we as Christians maintain that a man is justified by faith in Christ apart from observing the Jewish law.(3:28) "Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law."(29-31)
So we see the true reason behind Romans chapter three verse twenty three was to promote Christian unity and not to denounce every single solitary human beings (including Christís mother Mary) as having sinned and offended God, as many Protestants attempt to distort the verse as meaning. Some Fundamentalists think this verse means more than that everyone is subject to original sin. The problem with this line of thinking should be obvious, the word "have" shows distinct action on the part of the person, therefore St. Paul could not have been referring to original sin in this verse. The Fundamentalists also think it means everyone commits actual sins. They conclude it means Mary must have sinned during her life, and that certainly would speak against an Immaculate Conception. But is the Fundamentalists' reasoning solid? No.
Think about a child below the age of reason. By definition he can't sin, since sinning requires the ability to reason and the ability to intend to sin. If the child dies before ever committing an actual sin, because he isn't mature enough to know what he is doing, what act of his brings him under their interpretation of Romans 3:23? None, of course.
This is indicated by Paul elsewhere in the epistle to the Romans when he speaks of the time when Jacob and Esau were unborn babies as a time when they "had done nothing either good or bad" (Rom. 9:11). Thus there is a time in people's lives before they have sinned, meaning Paul's statement earlier in Romans must be a general rather than an exceptionless principle.
We also know of another very prominent exception to the rule: Jesus (Heb. 4:15). So Paul's statement in Romans 3 must also include an exception for Jesus. But if it includes an exception for Jesus, the Second Adam, then it also includes an exception for Mary, the Second Eve.
Paul's comment to the Christians in Rome thus would seem to have only one meaning. It refers not to absolutely everyone, but just to mankind as a whole (Note: the term ALL can be defined "the whole of." [The World Book Dictionary, copyright 1999] ). which means unborn babies (at a time when they "had done nothing either good or bad" [Rom. 9:11]), young children and other special cases, like Jesus and Mary, would be excluded without having to be singled out.