The Virgin Mary and the Feast of the Immaculate ConceptionPAMELA LUTHER
In the Roman Catholic Church, December 8, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Pamela Luther
It is what is called a holy day of obligation, when Catholics are expected to go to mass. The Church teaches that the Virgin Mary was born without sin. This special feast has been celebrated since the 7th century.
This is a huge stumbling block for Protestants, mainly because of the scripture passage in Romans 3:23 that states "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". The word "all" in Greek, pas, doesn't necessarily "every single one without exception". For example, St. Paul also writes in Romans 11:26 that "all Israel will be saved."One would suspect that not every single Jewish person will be saved.
St. Paul also says in Romans "All have gone astray/all alike are perverse. Not one does what is right/not even one." He is quoting Psalm 14:3. It is literary hyperbole where he is bemoaning the state of the world. We know that the exaggeration of the lament is not literal… there are people who do right and are not perverse. We all know that special person who truly is a gentle, kind and giving person who puts God first in his or her life.
Jesus, Himself, was fully human as well as fully God. Yet He was, even as a human, without sin.
What about Mary? When she was visited by the Angel Gabriel, he declared, "Hail, favored one, [full of grace] the Lord is with you. " The Greek word used here (kecharitomene) is found nowhere else in scripture, referring to no other human being. It is a very deferential term, and that young woman in Israel is the only one who has been referred to with this word
Being full of grace means that one is so filled with God's favor that there is no room for anything else but God's grace. Her immaculate conception means that she was given God's grace before birth and not afterward such as we do through baptism.
Did she need Christ as her savior? Of course she did. She wasn't saved out of sin but saved from sin. In the Magnificat, she states that her soul rejoiced in the Lord her Savior.
There are two other people that were sanctified before birth: Jeremiah and John the Baptist. Both were heralds of the coming Messiah and had a special commission given to them even before they were born.
If you know anything about the Tabernacle of the Old Testament, you know that it was the object that physically held Our Holy God. The directions to make it, given in the Old Testament, were very specific, and it was made of the purest materials.
Doesn't it then make sense that Our Lord would be housed in the purest human tabernacle, Mary? She is referred to as the Second Eve; the one about whom God was referring to after the fall. He told Eve, "Your seed shall crush the head of the serpent." This is why, in many Catholic churches, one can find statues of the Blessed Virgin with her foot on the head of a snake.
The mystery of the Immaculate Conception is a very deep, theological truth that needs far more room to investigate than this venue allows. For further reading, read the Immaculate Conception at New Advent.org. There you will find a plethora of background, references and history.
In the meantime, as we approach the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us ever be mindful of the woman who was so obedient to God, that He bestowed upon her the highest honor a woman has ever had... to be the mother of the long awaited Messiah.
We can learn from her. Take the time during Advent to be quiet and listen to Our Lord speak to you. And stay open to say "Yes" to Him when He calls your name. Peace be with you.
Pamela Luther. "The Virgin Mary and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception." The Roman Catholic Examiner (December 7, 2009).
Reprinted with permission of the author, Pamela Luther.
THE AUTHORHaving journeyed into the Catholic Church in 2000, Pamela Luther has immersed herself in Catholic studies, apologetics, and parish life. Her passion is for God, the church, her husband and family. She has a master's degree in counseling. Formerly an English teacher, she is an admitted bibliophile. E-mail her at: email@example.com.
Copyright © 2009 Pamela Luther
Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.