Why the Immaculate Conception?

Why the Immaculate Conception?

Let’s be honest: The Feast of the Immaculate Conception makes me uncomfortable. I struggle understanding why Mary being conceived without sin is vital. Perhaps it’s because I am a married woman.

Maybe I struggle because I am a very imperfect mother. Or because I know my own sins.

Yet, off I will go to Mass today to celebrate Mary and further my understanding.

BTW, I will listen to Saint of the Day and read Ask A Franciscan for further clarification about this doctrine. Chapter two, The Immaculate Conception, How God Conceives of His Own Goodness, in Fr. Cameron’s new book Mysteries of the Virgin Mary offers a solid explanation.

What do you do when you struggle with Church doctrine? Do you seek understanding, too?

 
 

About the Author

Barbara Baker works in Marketing in Cincinnati, Ohio.
 
 
 
  • Erik José Steger

    This has nothing to do with the mother being perfect or imperfect. The main focus here is and “a virgin shall conceive …” in Isaiah 7, the scripture, the word of the Lord himself just happened!

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  • Erik José Steger

    American Standard Version: “…a virgin shall conceive…”
    King James Version: “…a virgin shall conceive…”
    New Living Translation: “…the virgin shall conceive a child…”
    Young’s Literal Translation: “…the virgin is conceiving”
    Isaiah 7 (Young’s Literal Translation)
    10And Jehovah addeth to speak unto Ahaz, saying:
    11`Ask for thee a sign from Jehovah thy God, Make deep the request, or make [it] high upwards.’
    12And Ahaz saith, `I do not ask nor try Jehovah.’
    13And he saith, `Hear, I pray you, O house of David, Is it a little thing for you to weary men, That ye weary also my God?
    14Therefore the Lord Himself giveth to you a sign, Lo, the Virgin is conceiving, And is bringing forth a son, And hath called his name Immanuel,
    15Butter and honey he doth eat, When he knoweth to refuse evil, and to fix on good.
    16For before the youth doth know To refuse evil, and to fix on good, Forsaken is the land thou art vexed with, because of her two kings.
    17Jehovah bringeth on thee, and on thy people, And on the house of thy father, Days that have not come, Even from the day of the turning aside of Ephraim from Judah, By the king of Asshur.

  • John Fee

    Hi Erik,

    For a long time I also thought the Immaculate Conception referred to the conception of Jesus. However, it refers to Mary, the Mother of God (Jesus in his incarnation), being conceived herself without original sin. Check this out: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1223

    Mary is the new Eve, the Arc of the New Covenant, pure and sinless.

    • Isaacwnjh

      I wonder why we have much concern about Mary and her work was on only to bring forth Jesus.The Bible gives little coverage on Mary after Jesus starts ministry.Even Paul has greater coverage than Mary.Someone help

      Isaac

  • ag

    This has everything to do with the mother being perfect or imperfect. The Feast of The Immaculate Conception is the idea that Mary herself was conceived without sin.

    God could have chosen any “virgin” to be his mother. Instead he allowed Mary to be conceived without original sin, so that when Jesus was conceived in her by the Holy Spirit, she would be a perfect and holy tabernacle for Him. After all, she is the Mother of God. I don’t think it could have been any other way.

  • Lisa

    Can someone please explain ? Does that me her conception was the same a Jesus’conception? Her parents were not intimate? Thank you for any answers.

    • http://blog.americancatholic.org/who-we-are/ Barbara Baker

      Lisa, this is a great question! I ask our resident scholar, Fr. Hilarion, your question and his response is:

      “Her parents would have had ordinary relations but God preserved Mary from contracting original sin and she was confirmed in holiness and preserved in this holiness throughout her life.”

  • http://philangelus.wordpress.com Jane

    Mary’s parents conceived her in the usual way. But her soul was without Original Sin, making her the perfect mother for Jesus. That’s why she’s the immaculate conception. Jesus was “only” (and I say that knowing I’m referring to a miracle) a virgin birth, although obviously he too is free from original sin.

    It has nothing whatsoever to do with Mary’s virginity at the time of Jesus’s conception.

    To answer the question, I do have emotional problems with one church teaching, and I’ve submitted on that. It’s not something that directly impacts my behavior or daily existence (ie, it’s not about something being sinful or not) so I’ve submitted intellectually to that teaching and just trust that 2000 years of consecutive, consistent teaching on that one subject are correct.

    • Coral

      Awesome summary. You hit the proverbial nail on the head and I do thank you for summing this in a simple way.

  • http://catholic.siekierski.com/ Matthew A. Siekierski

    Lisa,
    I doesn’t mean that Anna and Joachim were not intimate, but that at the moment of her conception she was protected from the stain of Original Sin…hence “Immaculate” and not “Divine” conception. It was a special grace bestowed on Mary by God in order to prepare her to be the mother of Jesus.

  • Greg Collins

    It challenges me because it is not a belief of the universal Church, by which I mean it is not a Dogma that all Catholics AND all Orthodox Christians agree on as being part of the Faith needed for Salvation.

    Whilst the roots of belief in Mary being “spotless” is an ancient one I doubt the Church Fathers would agree with the specifics of how it was and is now defined. The feast was celebrated for centuries, in both traditions, without anyone feeling the need for definition of what was precisely meant and without the need to get all Dogmatic on the faithful.

    Its definition as Dogma is a Roman Catholic innovation and something defined as such very, very, late in the day, in the 1850′s.

    It is an obstacle to many.

    • Eric

      Greg, although it wasn’t established as a Dogma until the 1850′s, there was a definite general understanding of it before then. Dogma means that the Church has called upon God to specially protect a particular teaching. The Immaculate Conception wasn’t just made up in the 1850′s. Besides, theology studies God’s revelations and tries to define them. This is found in scripture and tradition. If this is a stumbling block for some, how did “some” come to have faith in the Holy Trinity?

  • Lisa

    Thank you everyone for your very helpful answers.

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  • Jean

    I also had problems with some of the Marian doctrines but when I took the time to find out where they came from and what kind of thought and scholarship went in them it became much easier to understand. newadvent.org is a great place to start if you are looking for explanations on just about anything. I was surprised to find that they are actually based on scripture tho not necessarily expressed explicitly.

    What helped me tremendously with this particular doctrine was understanding the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament was a type and foreshadowing of the Blessed Mother in the New Testament. If you know anything about the construction and handling of the Ark of the Covenant, which held stone tablets (the words of God) and the manna (the bread from heaven), it is not difficult to accept the Immaculate Conception – the grace with which Mary was endowed from the moment of her conception, preparing her to carry in her womb THE Word of God and THE Bread of Life.

  • Nightingale

    NO, I would say not really-
    1. Immaculate Mary was concieved without the original sin which we inherited from AdAMand EVE following anspecial preparation by God that she would be born the usual way by her parents Joaachim and ANNA. However, it is said that this couple spent some time praying for a child in their marriage and because of that long prayerful time together God gives them the Immaculate Mary.
    Jesus was concieved in a special way, i.e the Arch angel Gabriel was sent by God to the Immaculate Mary who had been already been prepared by God during her conception. The angel declared to Mary that she would concieve and later bear a son….. this son of God was concieved through supernatural powers sent by God through the HOLY SPIRIT.
    YES IT IS TRUE THAT BOTH WERE FREE OF ORIGINAL SIN BUT they were not concived the same way. Thanks
    Nightingale Kampala

  • Becca

    I grew up Protestant and became a Roman Catholic as an adult. I have trouble understanding and believing Marian Theology. What works for me is to put it into God’s hands. I believe that he will guide me into understanding when he feels it is important for my faith. Until then I remain open to his teaching. Becca

  • Lori Smith

    I struggle with the Catholic devotions , praise, & honor to the Virgin Mary. The Catholic church recognizes the appartitions at Fatima. I’ve researched these Fatima apparitions and find that visions of hell were revealed to children 7-9. What loving mother would reveal such horrific details to children? My sister taught her children about the Fatima apparitions and even had her children dress up for Halloween as Lucia, Jacinta, & Francisco.

    I can only explain that the devil would reveal such horrible things to children.

    I’ve never felt any devotion to the Vigin Mary. I treasure my Catholic faith, but feel embarased by the church’s teaching that Mary is our Mother and we should give our devotion to Mary and ask for her intercession. I pray to Jesus and the Saints for their intercession.

    Jesus is the way, the truth, & the light.

    Lori

    • http://KolbeMarket.com BarbaraKB

      Lori, I struggle with Marian apparitions as well but I do not see them as from the devil. And neither does Mother Church. Perhaps you might find more wisdom about apparitions here: http://www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Oct2002/Wiseman.asp#F3

      Blessings as you search with me for better understanding about Mary!

    • Don Hennen

      Sometimes, the revelation of “horrific details” is the loving thing to do.  When I was a child, my dad showed my brothers and me a road killed squirrel so we would know the real meaning of “stay out of the road.”  Would it have been more loving to keep us in ignorance so we could end up like the squirrel?  The Fatima visionaries were living in a time and a place that was really flirting with Hell.  Portugal was communist and the Church and the Faith were persecuted.  As messengers of a revelation to Portugal and the world, they were just being shown what is at stake.  So why not show it to someone other than children?  Can you think of anyone who would not find Hell traumatic?  On God’s level, we’re all just a bunch of children.

  • Isaac wanjohi

    I dont understand Marys current role in our salvation.Isnt Jesus enough.Wasnt she just a servant of God and shall get her reward for the work she did just as each one of us has been given a particuler assignment and God is not a respector of persons? .
     
    Isaac

  • Joseph

    For some of the below commentary…to heal ignorence…the Immaculate conception isnt the VIRGIN birth of Christ.
    by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own: “We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”
    Mary at conception was protected by the importation of the sin of Adam. Since the very flesh of Christ was to be the cost of our salvation from sin…that same flesh and blood that was drawn from the Flesh and Blood of Mary couldnt possibly be marred by any sinfulness at all.

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  • Bill

    In regards to this matter of Mary having perfect human flesh so that her Son, Jesus Christ, would also have perfect human flesh, I am intrigued by statements made by St. Paul in the 2nd chapter of Hebrews in which he states emphatically that Christ was made “like his brethren” and that he suffered all of the temptations that all human beings suffer. If Christ had perfect flesh, then how could He have been tempted at all? A perfect God cannot be tempted to sin. God is above all taints of sin, therefore it would not make any sense whatsoever to tempt Him to any sin. The same can also be said of the Son of God who was always One with the Father. St. John in his gospel makes this point abundantly clear. But at the same time Christ was also fully human. As a human, He was constantly being tempted by the devil as well as all of the devil’s advocates. If He could be tempted just as all of us are, then should that not mean that Christ’s humanity was fully equivalent to ours? St. Paul concludes his discourse in Hebrews by saying that, in consequence of His humanity, Christ is able to represent us before the Father in heaven in full sympathy with our human condition. I think it would behoove us to study further into this matter of Christ’s human nature.