Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is a wonderful feast that is often misunderstood. The feast does NOT refer to the conception of Jesus, it DOES refer to the conception of Mary, the Mother of God.
Mary was conceived without sin. God’s grace allowed her to be free from impurity in order that she could be a worthy mother to Jesus. Some Protestants argue against this belief because it is not explicitly stated anywhere within Scripture.
Despite this, there is quite a bit of evidence for Mary’s sinlessness found in the Bible. In Exodus, the ark must be built of “incorruptible wood...gilded with pure gold.” It stands to reason that the ark which holds Jesus must also be free of corruption. In the story of the Annunciation, Mary is told that she is full of grace, and that she WILL conceive Jesus by the angel Gabriel. It is important to note that she is already considered full of grace before she has conceived, so the grace Gabriel is speaking of cannot be that wonderful honor of being the mother of God, but something else--her sinlessness.
If we look outside of Scripture, there is more evidence still. In the third century, St. Ephrem, a Church Father, declared, “Thou and thy Mother are the only ones who are totally beautiful in every respect; for in thee O Lord there is no spot and in they Mother, no stain.” (Carmina Nisibena, 27.8) St. Augustine said, “All men must confess themselves as sinners except the Holy Virgin Mary...”
Not only do Catholics believe Mary to be free from sin, but Martin Luther said, “It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary’s soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God’s gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin” (Sermon: “On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God,” 1527). Before the Immaculate Conception was declared a dogma of the Church! In addition to this, Mary is viewed as being sinless within the religion of Islam.
Mary’s sinlessness has evidence in the Bible (both Old and New Testaments), the writings of the Church Fathers, the writings of Martin Luther, and even the Koran. Let us remember Mary today, and ask for her intercession.
O holy mother, conceived without sin, your Son’s faithful bride proclaims you to be blessed, now and forever. O faithful handmaid of the Lord most high, we implore for your intercession. O woman clothed in the sun and crowned with twelve stars, may the Lord establish true devotion to your immaculate heart for the salvation of all souls. Amen.
(Note: this is a repost from last year. I am completely swamped with work--the end of the semester means papers, presentations, and exams. I'll probably be lying pretty low until then. Although, I may have something to say about my experience at Mass today....)