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DefenderOfTheFaith wrote:

Hi, guys —

I want to start off by saying that I am 16 and I try to be the most dedicated Catholic that I can be.

  • If Mary had to be sinless to conceive Jesus, then wouldn't St. Anne, the mother of Mary,
    also have to be sinless, as well as all the mothers in St. Anne's genealogy?

DefenderOfTheFaith

  { If Mary had to be sinless to conceive Jesus, then wouldn't St. Anne had to have been sinless? }

Mary Ann replied:

Dear DefenderOfTheFaith,

The person begins at conception, not before. With the union of sperm and egg come a unique human configuration of genes that is, with the soul enlivening it from the beginning, a new human person.

That soul was free from sin, even from the state of being estranged from God that we call original sin. God filled the soul of Mary with His divine life from its first moment of existence.

The Immaculate Conception does not mean that Mary was perfect, only that she did not share original sin. Only God is absolutely perfect. Mary was sinless from the beginning. As for actual sins, she could have sinned, but did not, even under the most grievous suffering.

Mary Ann

Mike replied:

Hi Defender,

Thanks for the question.

My colleagues and I, admire your willingness to be faithful to the Church at such a young age and we would encourage other to follow in your path. For those interested, this posting may help:

I sense questions like these may also be on the minds of other Christians and fellow Catholics you talk with so I've drawn some related questions and answers from two radio priests; the Rev. Dr. Leslie Rumble, M.S.C. and Rev. Charles Carty. Their work was the result of five years of answering questions during a one-hour Question Box Program over a radio station in Australia.

All 1588 questions have been complied in a 3-volume set of books called, Radio Replies, well worth the money for any wannabe Catholic apologist of any age.

It's understandable for people to think that:

  • Mary's mother, St. Anne
  • St. Anne's mother, and
  • the mother, of the mother, of St. Anne
    etc., etc. would have to be immaculate, for Mary to be conceived immaculate because we inherit many of the physical attributes of who we are, from our parents.

The key is distinguishing the physical, from the spiritual. This first question should answer the question you posed.

Volume 1 — Question # 763.
Does not the Catholic Church insist also upon the biologically impossible dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary herself?

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary has nothing to do with biology.
It does not mean that she was conceived miraculously in the physical sense.
She was normally conceived and born of her parents, Joachim and Ann. But in her very conception her soul was preserved immaculate in the sense that she inherited no stain of original sin, derived from our first parents.

Volume 1 — Question # 764.
According to Catholic doctrine the Sacrament of Baptism destroys original sin.
Would you say that Mary did not need Baptism?

Mary did not need Baptism in so far as that Sacrament was instituted for the destruction of original sin. She received that Sacrament in order to participate in its other effects, and chiefly in order to receive the Christian character which that Sacrament impresses upon the soul.

Volume 1 — Question # 765.
If Mary was sinless, she could not have needed redemption! Yet is not Christ the Redeemer of every child of Adam?

In so far as the sin of Adam involved the whole human race in condemnation Mary needed redeeming. But there are two ways of redeeming.

God could allow one to be born in sin and then purify the soul by subsequent application of the merits of Christ, or He could, by an anticipation of the merits of Christ, exempt a soul from any actual contraction of original sin. Thus He exempted Mary from any actual inheritance of the sin, and she owes her exemption to the anticipated merits of Christ. In other words, she was redeemed by Christ by prevention rather than by subsequent purification.

Volume 1 — Question # 766.
Is there any evidence in Scripture that Mary was indeed never actually subject to original sin?
 

Yes! In Genesis 3:15, God said to Satan, "I will put enmities between thee and the woman ... thou shalt lie in wait for her heel." The radical enmity between Satan and that second Eve, the Mother of Christ, forbids her having been under the dominion of Satan, as she would have been had she ever contracted original sin in actual fact.

In Luke 1:28, we read how the Angel was sent by God to salute Mary with the words, "Hail, full of grace." Grace excludes sin, and had there been any sin at all in Mary she could not have been declared to be filled with grace. The Protestant version translates the phrase as "thou that hast been highly favored." But the Greek certainly implies "completely filled with holiness." However, complaints that our doctrine exempts Mary from the contracting of original sin are becoming more and more rare in a world which is tending to deny original sin altogether, and which wishes to exempt everybody from it.

Volume 1 — Question # 767.
St. Paul says that One died for all, and therefore all were dead. (2 Corinthians 10:14)
 

Such texts must be interpreted in the light of other passages where God reveals that Mary was never under the dominion of Satan. Mary is included in these words of St. Paul juridically in so far as she was born of Adam, but she was not allowed to be born in sin to be afterwards redeemed. She was redeemed by prevention.

Volume 2 — Question # 678.
If Mary was free from sin and immaculate, how could she die? Death is the wages of sin.
 

Death is the wages of sin in a very special sense. Sin or no sin, it is natural to man to die. The human body, just as the bodies of animals, has a natural process of growth to maturity followed by age, decay, and death. Naturally, therefore, even Adam and Eve, had they never sinned, would have encountered a natural physical death if no other provision had been made for them. But God promised them a supernatural exemption from any natural process of death if they remained faithful to Him. They fell, forfeited their supernatural immunity from physical death, and nature was allowed to have its way. Therefore death is the wages of sin, not as if death were abnormal, but as a normal conclusion of earthly life from which men had lost their exemption. Since Mary was human, it was not unnatural that she should die. But you will ask, "If she was supernaturally preserved from sin, why was she not supernaturally preserved from death?" That we shall see in the next question.

Volume 2 — Question # 679.
No one except Christ could possibly be without original sin and yet see death, unless he or she were God.

I am afraid your thought is here a little obscure. Christ was without original sin, yet saw death, not because He was God, but because He was man. In His Divine Nature He could not die. In His human nature He could. Keep in mind that death is natural to a human nature, quite apart from original or any other sin. A human nature could not be God, and it could, and normally should die, quite apart from sin. By a special privilege God had exempted man from the normal process of death on the condition that he refrained from sin. Man sinned, and lost the privilege. Mary was preserved from all taint of sin, and by that, at least, deserved to be preserved from the natural process of death. But her life and her vocation were so intimately blended with the life and vocation of Christ, that both she and He endured an undeserved death. As when mankind fell, both sexes were represented in Adam and Eve, so both sexes were represented in our redemption. Mary, the second Eve, shared death with Christ, the second Adam. The death of Christ was our redemption, but included in the redemptive work of Christ, though subordinate to it, was the death of Mary. The primitive traditions which tell us of the assumption also tell us of the "falling asleep of the Virgin Mary," an expression used to denote the transitory character of her death.

Volume 2 — Question # 1004.
At what stage of its development does a child receive its individual soul?

The soul is present the moment the active and passive principles of germination coalesce to form a definite entity.

We therefore say that from the moment of conception, the soul is present. Our very doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary implies that doctrine. For we say that, from the moment of her conception, her soul was preserved immaculate, or free from any taint of original or inherited sin. Her soul, therefore, was created by God at the moment of her conception, and long before human activity in the sense of discernible physical movement. In St. Luke we read that, when Our Blessed Lady visited Elizabeth, the latter cried, "Behold, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy." (Luke 1:44) Even before his birth, St. John the Baptist was able to know by revelation of the presence of the also yet-unborn Christ. And the souls of others are also created at the moment of their conception. The unborn child possesses an "earthly existence" every bit as much as the child lying in a cradle or romping in the streets. It is a living human being from the moment of conception.

Volume 3 — Question # 755.
At what date did the Roman Catholic Church adopt the idea of the Immaculate Conception by Jesus' Mother?
 

I am afraid you are confusing two different doctrines.

The Immaculate Conception is a term referring to the conception of Mary herself by her parents, Joachim and Anne. When Mary herself was conceived, her soul was preserved immaculate, or free from inherited original sin. But when Mary herself conceived Jesus, it was under the influence of the Holy Ghost, and not through any relations with man. This would be called the miraculous conception of the child Jesus. Usually it is referred as the Virgin Birth, since it implies that Mary remained a virgin even though she gave birth to Jesus.

Both the doctrine that:

  • Jesus was born of a virgin, and
  • that the Blessed Virgin Mary was, herself, immaculate from the very moment of her own conception

are taught in the Gospels. But the latter doctrine is not so clearly recorded as the former. That Jesus was born of a virgin Mother has been explicitly taught by the Catholic Church from the very beginning. So in the Apostles' Creed itself we say, "born of the Virgin Mary." That the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary herself is also part of the Christian revelation was defined by the Catholic Church in 1854. The Church did not invent a new doctrine then. She merely defined that such was the original Christian teaching of the New Testament.

Hope this helps,

Mike

Eric replied:

Defender —

Mary did not have to be sinless to conceive Jesus. Jesus was sinless because He was God; God had to be sinless. If God so chose, He could have been born of a prostitute. But Mary was sinless in order to be a fitting vessel to contain the Lord, like the Ark of the Covenant, made of the purest gold and set apart for the Lord.

You have to understand this in terms of the argument made by St. Irenaeus of Lyons in the second century that Mary was the New Eve. We know from Scripture that Jesus was the New Adam
(1 Corinthians 15:45); this implies that there was a New Eve, the mother of all those reborn in Christ. This was Mary (Revelation 12:17,4-5). He compares Genesis to the Annunciation in Luke; each heard the word of an angel:

  • one received the word of Satan and conceived death for the world
  • the other received the word of God and conceived life for the world.

St. Irenaeus proclaimed, "Death through Mary; life through Eve!" Because Eve was created without sin, it would be necessary that her antitype, Mary, also be created without sin. If she had been created with sin, she could not "undo" the knot of disobedience that Eve tied.

Some Fathers also saw the Immaculate Conception in Genesis 3:15, where God says to Satan,

"I will put enmity between you and the Woman"

the Woman being Mary. If there is enmity between Mary and Satan, she is not under his domain, that is, she is free from sin and concupiscence (the tendency to sin).

Eric

DefenderOfTheFaith replied:


Thank you so very much and God Bless!

Defender

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