I went to the vigil Mass last night, and Fr. Belli was fantastic in explaining what the Immaculate Conception is, and why we celebrate it. I don’t have much time today, so let me just say that it’s the feast celebrating the conception of Mary without Original Sin. The reason that we believe that God did this was so that God the Son, Jesus Christ, could enjoy a sinless tabernacle. Remember that Revelation 21:27 says that nothing impure will ever enter Heaven. This suggests something of God’s disgust with sin, and His inability to fully commune with the sinful — that is, you and God will necessarily have a barrier as long as sin is within you. This is almost certainly the reason that Jesus never married: to become one flesh with a sinful woman (and here, I mean even someone who simply periodically sinned) would disgrace His Deity.
Jesus and Mary had no barrier. First, she had a perfect Faith, reflected in her readiness to take the angel Gabriel at his word when he promised her the Holy Spirit; second, she and Jesus were literally attached. He breathed her oxygen, He ate her food, and so on and so forth. She enjoyed a physical bond with Jesus Christ that no one, before or since, has ever experienced.
Three answers to questions I’ve heard:
- Does this mean that Mary had no free will? This doesn’t mean that Mary was without free will. On the contrary, we think that she had a freer will than you or I. Think about it: who is more free to use or not use drugs, the addict or the non-addict? Four people in history: Jesus, Mary, Adam, and Eve, were created or conceived without original sin. They’re like children who grow up without exposure to drugs. Adam and Eve dabbled, and got addicted . All of their children (which is to say, all of us) are “crack babies,” so to speak, in that we’re born with a craving towards sin. Both Jesus (because He is God) and Mary (by the power of the Holy Spirit, through a singular grace) were freed from that craving. It’s possible that Mary would have wandered into sin anyways, as Eve did, but she didn’t.
The Church Fathers thought of Mary as the New Eve, the reverse Eve. Eve took the fruit of sin from the tree to give to the first Adam. Mary took the fruit of her womb (Luke 1:42), the “last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45), and allowed Him to be made sin, and put upon a tree (Gal. 3:13). She’s also paralleled with the Ark of the (Old) Covenant in Scripture (see Rev. 11:19-12:5). Eve was without original sin, and but for her transgression, would have been sinless; the Ark was made wholly pure.
- Doesn’t this make Mary into a goddess? Nope. Eve wasn’t a goddess, and we won’t be gods and goddesses in Heaven, even when we’re without sin and partaking in the Divine nature. Just because someone shares in the Divine nature and is without sin doesn’t mean that they’re worthy of worship — in fact, once perfected, we won’t desire worship for ourselves.
- Did Mary need a Savior? Absolutely, and in Luke 1:46 she says as much. But there are two ways of being saved from a pit: you can be pulled out (as we are), or you can be caught before you fall in (as Mary was). She rightly deserved to inherit original sin: God saved her from it. To take an example I read about yesterday: there are antiretroviral drugs now which can help ensure that HIV-positive mothers give birth to HIV-negative babies. Are those babies saved from AIDS? Of course! They’re saved not through the normal way we imagine (being cured), but being prevented from getting a disease which they, but for the drugs, would have contracted.