The Immaculate Conception
The mother of our Lord, Mary, was conceived by natural reproduction, but Catholics teach that God intervened in a special way and kept her from the stain of original sin. She was preserved from a corrupt nature with a unique gift of God's grace.
Why? What would be the purpose of Mary being sinless?
Being chosen to be the bearer of God is the highest honor ever bestowed upon a human. Mary held God within her. She contributed half of Jesus' chromosomes. When we see Jesus, we are seeing the genetics of Mary. Her face is in His. Divinity within Mary's humanity and Mary's humanity within His Divinity. Mary was part of the greatest miracle of cosmic history: God becoming man. She was not only created for this purpose, she was given the grace needed to be able to hold within her body the Holy God. A sinful human body could never have been impregnated by the Holy Spirit and held God.
Mary was given the grace of sinlessness not because of a willful act on her part but a gift for Christ. Mary being immaculately conceived was not to elevate her to divinity, but was for Christ.
So if she was sinless she was like God and didn't need a Savior!
Adam and Eve were born without original sin and that didn't make them like God. Most angels are without sin and they are not divinity. Christians would not claim that the perfect souls now in heaven are in competition with God.
Mary was born as all of us were originally created to be born if we had not sinned. Mary is our hope. Mary shows us what Christ meant for us and what He plans for us. When we look at Mary we are seeing a prophecy of the future of each of God's faithful. With God's grace we, like Mary, will be perfect.
The Catholics teach that Mary was "redeemed in a more exalted fashion by reason of the merits of her Son." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 492.) Being saved from ever sinning by God's redemptive blood is just as much being saved as those who fall and must seek repentance. It is still God's merits not Mary's and she still required a Savior for if God's miraculous intervention had been withheld she would not have been "full of grace."
My Bible translation says Mary was "highly favored" not "full of grace." (Luke 1:28)
The Greek perfect tense verb that is translated in these phrases is Kecharitomene. It would have been understood by the reader in Christ's day as a permanent grace beginning in the past and continuing into the future. The archangel wasn't at this point bestowing God's grace on her, but addressing her as queen and recognizing her gift of grace.
The texts that support the Catholic belief can be found in this video:
But Mary being sinless is against scripture?
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:22-23
How strange for a Protestants to believe the Bible could be immaculately conceived--a book be saved from stain of sin and corruption--and yet God wouldn't do that for His Mother? If God kept the book who held the written Word infallible, could He not also making the woman who held the physical Word infallible?
Do not hate Mary because she is beautiful. She is the blessed mother of God and Jesus is showing us through Mary, who we are, who His church is. We are to be exalted and glorified just as Mary. And because the Trinity, the very Godhead addressed her with the title of queen when they said "Hail" through the angle Gabriel, so should we treat her with utter respect. Mary prophesied that "all generations will call me blessed." And so we do, Blessed Mary.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The papal encyclical on Mary:
The Catholic Encyclopedia on Mary:
Catholic encyclopedia about the Immaculate Conception:
List of recommended books about the Catholic Dogmas of Mary:
Hail, Holy Queen by Scott Hahn
From the New Advent website (under: Immaculate Conception). Here is a list of Church Fathers and early Christian writers who helped develop the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception from what Christ and the Apostles taught.
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 (Dialogue with Trypho 100),
- Irenaeus (Against Heresies III.22.4),
- Tertullian (On the Flesh of Christ 17),
- Julius Firmicus Maternus (De errore profan. relig xxvi),
- 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);
- Maximus 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" (On Nature and Grace 36).
- 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);
- 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.