A doctrine of the Catholic Church, which teaches the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BV/BVM) in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne, was released from original sin by virtue of the foreseen merits of her Son, Jesus Christ. The Church teaches that Mary was conceived by normal biological means, but G-d acted upon her soul (keeping her “immaculate”).
The Conception of Mary is known today as Immaculate Conception (IC), which is often mistaken to be the conception of the Child Jesus in her womb and the Virgin Birth of Jesus – this is the Doctrine of Incarnation. The IC deals with the conception of Mary, not that of her Son.
Although the belief that Mary was sinless and conceived without sin since Late Antiquity, the doctrine was not dogmatically defined until 1854 by Pius IX in his papal bull Ineffabilis Deus.
He proclaimed: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty G-d, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”
We celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8; it is considered to be a day of prayer and reflection on G-d’s protection of the BVM.
Many Church Fathers considered Mary the greatest and holiest of the saints, often had difficulty in seeing her as sinless — either at her conception or throughout her life. This doctrine is one of the Church arose more from the piety of the faithful than from the insights of brilliant theologians.
Franciscan monks, William of Ware and Blessed John Duns Scotus, developed the theology by pointing out that Mary’s Immaculate Conception magnifies Jesus’ redemptive work. In Mary, Jesus’ work was so influential as to preclude original sin at the outset.
Reflection: Luke 1:28
The angel Gabriel, speaking on G-d’s behalf, addresses Mary as “full of grace” (or “highly favored”). In that setting, this means that Mary has received all of the special divine help required for the task at hand.
We as the parishioner and the Church itself grow in understanding with the assistance of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit leads us to the insight that Mary had to be perfect for the work of G-d. Mary’s intimate connection with the Incarnation called for the personal engagement of G-d in her whole life.
The philosophy of piety helps us to affirm that Mary was full of grace and free of sin from the first moment of her existence. Moreover, this great privilege of Mary is the highlight of all that G-d has done through Jesus, the Incarnate. The holiness of Mary shows forth the incomparable character of God.