The Immaculate Conception
Question: How could Mary have been conceived without sin -- her conception took place before the Redemption, didn't it?
Answer: One of the essential beliefs of our Catholic Faith, defined officially by Pope Pius IX, is that "the most blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege granted her by God, was preserved from any stain of original sin." From the very beginning of time, Almighty God foresaw that Mary would come into being, a model of humility, obedience, and chastity. To this He added absolute sinless from the first moment of her conception in the womb of St. Anne.
In sacred scripture, we find the angel Gabriel addressing Mary as a sinless being even prior to the Incarnation of Christ. At a time when all human beings should have been in the state of original (and, very likely, actual) sin, Mary is addressed: "Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with thee...." She hears this first from the archangel, and then a second time from the lips of her kinswoman Elizabeth. Her answer to Elizabeth, known as the Magnificat, helps us to understand the reason for this favor. "My soul magnifies the Lord..." Mary is to serve as a lens to focus the grace of God on to mankind; an apparatus for our salvation. "My spirit rejoices in God my Savior..." Somehow, many years before His sacrifice on the Cross, Jesus has brought salvation to Mary. "For he has regarded the humility of His handmaid..." God has been attracted and drawn down to earth by the appeal of Mary's humility. "Behold, henceforth, all generations shall call me blessed..." Her great favor with the Lord is not simply a private thing, but, rather, an essential element of God's plan for the redemption of the human race, making her Mother of all mankind, and co-redemptrix with our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Collect for this feast serves as a brief summary of the doctrine and its
implications for us: