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Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary—8 December AD 2018
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    On this very day in 1854, Pope Pius IX declared that:

It is an article of faith that the Blessed Virgin Mary by a special grace and privilege of God, on account of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, was from the first instant of her conception protected and preserved from every stain of original sin."

    To be clear about this article of faith, we are talking about the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the natural human manner, by her parents Joachim and Anne.  The conception of our Lord is quite a different matter.  Sometimes people confuse the two, so please understand that we are saying that it was Mary who was conceived—and that she was the first human being since Adam and Eve to be conceived without original sin.

    The Immaculate Conception has been the general teaching of the Church—taught by many of the Doctors of the Church and by many Pope's and theologians.  Mary was fee from sin and “full of Grace” from the very first instant of her existence.  When the Council of Trent explained the concept of original sin, it clearly stated that Mary was never touched by this condition.[1]  In the very beginning (in the book of Genesis) Mary was the one promised by God to Adam and Eve to be “at enmities” with the devil, the one who would “crush his head.”[2]  “At enmities” means to be the polar opposite.  In order to oppose Satan's evil, Mary would be completely holy throughout her entire life.

    Now, in our time it has been claimed that dogmatic truth and moral laws are subject to change.  It is claimed, for example, that the Pope can declare adultery permissible or declare capital punishment to be totally unacceptable.  Both of these (and any similar claims) are totally false.  Dogmatic truth and moral law emanate from God who never changes and never changes His mind.  Only modernists claim that faith and morals are evolving.  Quite perversely these modernists sometime point to the 1854 definition of the Immaculate Conception as an example of a Pope making a new doctrine.  This is a blatant modernist error—Mary was just as Immaculate on December seventh as she was after the definition on the eighth!

    The modernists point to the relatively late date (1854) of the definition, and to the debate of certain theologians before the definition.  Actually, the relatively late date is more of a sign that the Immaculate Conception was so well accepted by Catholics that a definition was not very necessary.  The Church has never issued a dogmatic decree that God exists—but that is clearly Her universal teaching. The Bodily Assumption of Mary into heaven was not defined until about a century later (1950), but it had been celebrated on August 15 in all the Churches of the East and West—even those that have been separated from Rome for centuries.

    Any argument about the Immaculate Conception before 1854 was about how such a thing could be possible.  Some theologians suggested that the Sacrifice of the Cross had to take place before anyone could be free from sin.  Others speculated that holding Mary to be Immaculate was to say that she had no need of redemption—which all of Adam’s descendants need, absolutely.  Over time there were, perhaps, a half dozen mistaken ideas of how Mary could be Immaculate from the first moment of life.  Mistaken ideas are, of course, challenged by orthodox theologians. Modernists historians of theology like to portray these challenges to mistakes about the doctrine as though they were arguments against the doctrine itself.

    Saint Thomas Aquinas is widely acknowledged as the Church's greatest theologians.  To be so great, Aquinas was very careful not to agree with any statement that contained even a tiny degree of error.  That means that he often disagreed in writing with people who said the right thing for the wrong reasons.  Modernists try to claim that Aquinas' rejection of incorrect theories about the Immaculate Conception was a rejection of the doctrine itself!

    In fact, we have piece of Saint Thomas' writing that very clearly teaches the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (although it does not use that term).  It is from a work called the Commentary on the Book of Sentences.  (The Sentences were four volumes by an earlier theologian named Peter Lombard.)

    Saint Thomas wrote:

Purity is constituted by a recession from impurity, and therefore it is possible to find some creature purer than all the rest, namely one not contaminated by any taint of sin; such was the purity of the Blessed Virgin, who was immune from original and actual sin, yet under God, inasmuch as there was in her the potentiality of sin.”[3]

    There is a lesson to be learned from today's doctrine.  And that lesson stands in evidence that the doctrine is true, and not a modern innovation:  God abhors sin.  Sin is completely contrary to the Divine Will—one might even say contrary to the Divine Nature.  God was unwilling to redeem the world by means of someone who had even briefly been the subject of sin.  The Holy Ghost was unwilling to overshadow a woman who was anything other than totally pure.  God the Son was unwilling to take His pure flesh and precious blood from a body that had once been tainted with sin.  For the Incarnation to take place, God—Who is not bound by constraints of time or space—allowed the mother to benefit in advance from the Redemption to be effected by their Son.

    This same lesson should be a constant reminder to us.  At the moment of Baptism we were freed from original sin.  God Who detests sins wants us to be like His Blessed Virgin Mother.  We should strive to be like her.  That may sound impossible—but if we strive for less we are bound to make ourselves detestable to God.  We must look at ourselves as God looks at us!  Only when we can truthfully say that we are striving mightily to be like Mary can we say that we are on the straight path.


[1]   Trent, Session V, First Decree, closing note

[3]   From the Commentary on the Book of Sentences, I Sent., c. 44 Q. i, ad. 3
     found at



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