View of the Immaculate Conception
The Immaculate Conception celebrated on December 8th, is a
doctrine that's sometimes misunderstood. It is also a belief that has
relevance to certain problems of today.
It helps to place the Immaculate Conception in the context of
human history. God created us to know, love and serve Him, and be
happy with Him hereafter. At the dawn of human existence, Adam and Eve
had it made. They were happy in the Garden of Paradise, had great
knowledge, did not have to suffer sickness nor death, and had harmony
within their beings. In addition, beyond their natural life as humans,
they had a supernatural life called sanctifying grace, which somehow is
a sharing in the life of God. This grace enabled them to go to heaven.
All they had to do was obey.
The story of the fall of man and the loss of Paradise is a
familiar one. They also lost their other special gifts which we
would've inherited. Here we have a man representing the race whose
action was decisive for all humans to come after him, and a woman,
though she acted only for herself and did not directly cause our plight,
was yet instrumental in it. The devil instigated the bitterness of the
fall, but it was Adam's choice that brought it about.
That we are born deprived of this sanctifying grace is
essentially what is known as original sin.
In the course of time Christ would redeem us, acting on behalf of
the race. His mother would be instrumental in our Redemption. We see
a parallel here developing. Whereas the Fall of Man took place in the
Garden of Paradise, by the taking of a fruit from a certain tree after
Eve was tempted by a fallen angel, the Redemption by Christ would begin
with a good angel approaching Mary and end with the sufferings of her
Son: first, in the Garden of Gethsemane and finally upon the tree of the
cross. The Gospel of Luke refers to Him as the fruit of the womb.
Whereas in the Fall, the fruit was taken off the tree, in the redemptive
reversal of man's misfortune, the Fruit of Mary's womb was put upon the
It is Catholic belief that sanctifying grace is imparted to us in
Baptism, which washes away the stain of original sin. We still have to
deal, however, with the punishments that we inherit through this sin:
suffering, ignorance, death and a strong inclination to sin.
Even though Mary was immaculately conceived, she was still subject
to suffering and to Redemption. In light of the merits of her Son, the
Savior of the race, and by a grace and privilege of God, she was
preserved from "all stain of original sin." This extraordinary
intervention by God happened "in the first instant of her conception."
This is known as her Immaculate Conception. She also fully possessed
sanctifying grace at this moment.
I read something along this line which helps us understand
this. Think of a pitfall concealed on a footpath in the woods. We come
along and fall into it and need to be rescued. Mary came along, and was
pulled back before she fell in. She was saved beforehand.
The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception redounds to God's
glory. Never could the devil cackle in hell and say to Christ that He
was born of a woman who was once under the shadow of the sin that he
instigated. Christ is holy and perfect, and in the womb, He was
wrapped in the holiness and perfection of His mother. She was untouched
by sin. This is fitting for the glory of God. To take away Mary's
Immaculate Conception, is to take away from God.
Her Immaculate Conception has relevance to certain problems of
today. When Mary appeared at Lourdes to Bernadette in 1858, Bernadette
sought to know who she was, and Mary responded by saying, "I am the
Here she was, appearing to 14-year-old Bernadette and said to be
about same age as this visionary, identifying herself as she was at the
first moment of her existence, her conception in the womb of her
mother. Mary did not say "I was the Immaculate Conception," she said
It is at and from the time of conception that a new life must be
respected, and that is at the union of the reproductive cells, even
before implantation occurs. Whatever destroys the unborn's life from
conception on, is killing a human being and is wrong, whether by
surgical or chemical abortion, or whether by so-called birth control
pills that interfere with implantation and cause the death of the tiny
one. It is why embryonic stem cell research is so wrong. No matter how
tiny or undeveloped it is, it destroys a human life. These practices
and anything akin to them, cry to heaven.
Scripture tells us our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.
Sadly some destroy that temple a-building. They sacrifice the little
one and spill its blood where it should be safe, in the temple of its
mother and desecrate the temple.
While we are not immaculately conceived as the Blessed Virgin Mary
was, we've been treated as rather privileged creatures ourselves. In
the presence of her cousin Elizabeth, Mary said of God, "...he that is
mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is His name." We may
join her in saying this, for God does great things for us as well. He
does so, by not only creating us in the first place, but also by making
our bodies temples of the Holy Spirit and sharing His life with us
Her Immaculate Conception was the way the latter two of these were
accomplished in us. We should be grateful for this
privilege of hers. It was and is our AVEnue to sharing in greatness.