Today, the Church celebrates the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception which indicates that the Blessed Virgin Mary is conceived without original sin. She is conceived under grace.
Her conception is different, because of the work She was created to do. She is like a tabernacle prepared to carry Someone who is divine.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is the womb that will give God flesh and blood to save the world. To be able to do this, she cannot be under the influence and power of sin.
Immaculate literally means something that is clean, unsoiled, pure and without stain. In Catholic Theology, it means when one is free from sin.
So, what we are celebrating today is that Mary was conceived immaculate because of the sacrificial work she is born to do.
The belief of the immaculate conception was said to have resonated among the early Christians who questioned how Jesus can be divine and yet conceived in a sinful womb.
Many Christians then believed that the womb that carried God must not be under the power of original sin because sin has nothing to do with God.
So, the belief in the immaculate conception gathered momentum as times went on.
It was then in 1854, after due scholarly research on this belief from the past, church documents and agreement of the bishops at that time and consultations, Pope Pius IX in His Ineffabilis Deus clarified with finality the long-held belief of the Church that Mary was conceived free from original sin.
In proclaiming the Immaculate Conception of Mary as a dogma of the Church, the pope expresses precisely and clearly that Mary was conceived free from the stain of original sin.
This privilege of Mary derives from God’s having chosen her as Mother of the Savior; thus she received the benefits of salvation in Christ from the very moment of her conception.
Pope Pius IX solemnly declared in 1844: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.” (Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, 1854.)
According to Him “The term Immaculate conception does not mean the active or generative conception by her parents as such. 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. The grace she possesses is full. Original sin could not take effect in her soul”.
Scriptural Proofs from the Readings
The Complete Enmity.
There is an implicit reference from the readings. The first reading contains the promise of the redemption by a seed of a woman.
God tells the serpent “and I will put enmity between you and the woman and her seed; He shall crush your head and you shall lie in wait for his heel” (Genesis 3:15). The only one who can crush the head of the serpent is the seed to be born by a woman.
The enmity is between the devil and the woman, between her seed and the seed of the devil. The conqueror is the seed of the woman, who should crush the serpent’s head, is Christ; the woman at enmity with the serpent is Mary. The seed of Satan is Sin. So, there is complete enmity between Mary and the devil and his seed.
In John 19:26-27, Jesus calls His mother “woman”. He says woman behold your son (John 19:26-27), in reference to the woman prophesied in Genesis 3. But when He wanted to address John, He did not say, John, behold the woman but behold your mother. A pointer that His disciples are hence to take the woman as mother.
This proclamation of enmity by God hence shows there is a total separation between the woman and her seed and between the serpent and his seed. So, Mary has nothing to do with any effect from the serpent. Hence one of the effects of the fall is original Sin.
There is a complete division. So, since sin is an instrument of the devil, it has nothing to do with the woman that will bring forth the seed that will conquer the serpent.
Immaculate Conception is A Divine Privilege
The Second reading of today from Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12, tells us that God blesses us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
The blessings we receive from God is spiritual which is given to us in Jesus Christ. The Blessed Virgin Mary is what she is today because of the salvific work Jesus comes to do.This indicates that this is only a privilege accorded to her by God.
Today, we shout the blood of Jesus and forgets the womb created by God to give Jesus the body and blood. Had it been this blood was stained by sin, do we think it could be this powerful?
God blessed Mary more than any person with every spiritual blessing that is necessary to bear His Son and chose her in Christ to be holy before Him.
God did this because He would not allow His Son to be carried in a sinful womb, subject to the devil and stained by Sin. Hence, She was conceived immaculate. She was specially prepared for this great work.
So, Immaculate Conception was not attained by Mary by the virtue of her very nature nor by her power but by the special grace of God who wishes that His son cannot be conceived in a sinful womb.
Full of Grace.
In the gospel, Angel’s greeting which calls Mary “Full of Grace” indicates that her participation in God’s life is full.
Hence According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Grace is a gift from God, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God and to act by His love.
This greeting which was like a title chaire kecharitomene, Hail, full of grace (Luke 1:28) indicates that the grace God gives to her is complete. There was no space for Sin.
Since it is a sin that gives the devil power over us, Mary has nothing to do with it.
The question we can ask any critical mind here is “How can a Mother of God be conceived in sin? Has sin anything to do with God? It is because of this special role that God accords the Blessed Virgin Mary this special grace.
Proof from Logic.
It will be highly illogical to say that the flesh, from which gives birth to the flesh of the Son of God will be subject to sin. Hence, It will be highly erroneous to say that the body which was crucified on the cross has a direct relation to sin.
It will be more erroneous to say that the blood which washes away sin, has connection with sin or devil, it will be more illogical to say the womb that bears Jesus should belong to one who is the arch-enemy, whose power Jesus came on earth to destroy.
Then, If the body and blood of Jesus was through the flesh of the Blessed Mother Mary, how could one think, Mary would have anything to do sin.
Therefore, she was accorded a special grace from God. It was a special priviledge.
Here Don Scotus says that it was becoming that the Mother of the Redeemer should have been free from the power of sin and from the first moment of her existence.
God specially prepared Mary for the work of salvation Jesus comes to do. Jesus took from her the Body and Blood. So, Jesus cannot take what was under the power of sin from Mary.
There is no connection between God and sin. That womb must be free from every stain of sin. Hence Mary is immaculate. Mary is like the tabernacle that harboured the Son of God. This body and blood can never be subject to sin.
Proof from History.
In 1858, when the Blessed Virgin Mary appears to a 14-year-old girl Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes in Southern France, Bernadette reports that on Her 16th appearance she repeatedly asks her who she is.
After asking her who She is severally. She replies, “I am the Immaculate Conception”. And providentially this happens just four years after Pope Pius proclaimed it a dogma of faith.
People came to believe in that because the little girl has no knowledge of the proclamation by the pope at that time. Many people marveled when she told the people the name given to her through the apparition.
The feast today simply teaches us to seek holiness of life. It encourages us that one can live for God despite the challenges and temptations of this life. But in essence, it prepares to be blameless in everything we do.
Today, the rate of evil in the world increases everyday. Many Christians do not have time for God again. Many souls wander away from God seeking pasture anywhere. The point is that God wants us to be pure and blameless before Him.
God loves purity of heart. Let us always seek that. Let us not rejoice in sin. Sin destroys. Always seek the mercifulness of God. Let us always approach the confessional and confess our sins.
Let us not always glory in sin. Our souls rejoices in purity and not in sin. Let us be immaculate. Let us always keep our hearts clean.
Do not soil your hands nor your heart but in everything live for God and in God.
Be immaculate in your dealings with people.
Let what we present outside be truly what we are inside. And finally in everything let us remain close to God as the Blessed Mary does. Let God be our sole instrument of motivation in all we do.
May God help us to seek the holiness of life. May His grace remain abundant in our lives Amen