A next step in the plan

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. It is a very Catholic celebration that is often misunderstood outside Catholicism (and to be fair sometimes among Catholics). In popular culture there are lots of misconceptions about the Immaculate Conception. In TV and movies when the woman wonders how her pregnancy is possible, “it just can’t be…” there is some character who comments, “Oh, another Immaculate Conception?”  But the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb by the power of the Holy Spirit is referred to as the Virgin Birth. In correctly-expressed Catholic theology, our celebration, the Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Mary, the one we honor with the title the Blessed Virgin Mary. If you would like to read about the development of the celebration and the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, you can find that information here. Continue reading

A History: The Immaculate Conception

The Immaculate Conception of the Venerable One...It’s important to understand what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is and what it is not. Some people think the term refers to Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb without the intervention of a human father; but that is the Virgin Birth. Others think the Immaculate Conception means Mary was conceived “by the power of the Holy Spirit,” in the way Jesus was, but that, too, is incorrect. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived without original sin or its stain—that’s what “immaculate” means: without stain. The essence of original sin consists in the deprivation of sanctifying grace, and its stain is a corrupt nature. Mary was preserved from these defects by God’s grace; from the first instant of her existence she was in the state of sanctifying grace and was free from the corrupt nature original sin brings. Continue reading

A Willing Role

This solemnity, although formally declared dogma in 1854, has a long history of belief and celebration in Christianity since the 4th century and perhaps earlier – the records only go back so far. What this means is that what happened in 1854 was formally stating what was already believed. It was not new. But here’s the question for you… what does this Solemnity mean to you. That is not a question to explain “what” it celebrates – that part is clear. The 1854 papal encyclical stressed that Mary’s sinlessness was not due to her own merits, but truly, by the merits of her son, Jesus. I quote: Continue reading

The Immaculate Conception

The Immaculate Conception of the Venerable One...It’s important to understand what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is and what it is not. Some people think the term refers to Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb without the intervention of a human father; but that is the Virgin Birth. Others think the Immaculate Conception means Mary was conceived “by the power of the Holy Spirit,” in the way Jesus was, but that, too, is incorrect. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived without original sin or its stain—that’s what “immaculate” means: without stain. The essence of original sin consists in the deprivation of sanctifying grace, and its stain is a corrupt nature. Mary was preserved from these defects by God’s grace; from the first instant of her existence she was in the state of sanctifying grace and was free from the corrupt nature original sin brings. Continue reading

The arc of holiness

There are more than a few Catholics, life-long Catholics, that think this solemnity celebrates the conception of Jesus, immaculately conceived. While all things Marian ultimately point to Jesus, the Immaculate Conception means that Mary from the first moment of her existence was totally free from the influence of that universal sinfulness which touches us all from the time we are born. The reason behind this belief (which is not explicitly contained in Scripture and was only infallibly defined in 1854) has been traditionally offered as only a totally sinless environment was fitting for the Son of God in his becoming a human being. True. Some have offered it was Jesus honoring his mother in fulfillment of the commandments. The Franciscan scholar John Duns Scotus was the first to offer a theological explanation which is the basis of 1854 declaration of the belief as dogma. But I like his final comment in which Scotus basically said: He is God, he could do it, and he did it.

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Ineffabilis Deus

The Immaculate Conception of the Venerable One...It’s important to understand what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is and what it is not. Some people think the term refers to Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb without the intervention of a human father; but that is the Virgin Birth. Others think the Immaculate Conception means Mary was conceived “by the power of the Holy Spirit,” in the way Jesus was, but that, too, is incorrect. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived without original sin or its stain—that’s what “immaculate” means: without stain. The essence of original sin consists in the deprivation of sanctifying grace, and its stain is a corrupt nature. Mary was preserved from these defects by God’s grace; from the first instant of her existence she was in the state of sanctifying grace and was free from the corrupt nature original sin brings. Continue reading

The Immaculate Conception

The Immaculate Conception of the Venerable One...It’s important to understand what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is and what it is not. Some people think the term refers to Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb without the intervention of a human father; but that is the Virgin Birth. Others think the Immaculate Conception means Mary was conceived “by the power of the Holy Spirit,” in the way Jesus was, but that, too, is incorrect. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived without original sin or its stain—that’s what “immaculate” means: without stain. The essence of original sin consists in the deprivation of sanctifying grace, and its stain is a corrupt nature. Mary was preserved from these defects by God’s grace; from the first instant of her existence she was in the state of sanctifying grace and was free from the corrupt nature original sin brings. Continue reading

The Immaculate Conception: celebration and theology

The Immaculate Conception – Francis of Assisi, Bonaventure, Anthony of Padua, and John Duns Scotus

It’s important to understand what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is and what it is not. Some people think the term refers to Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb without the intervention of a human father; but that is the Virgin Birth. Others think the Immaculate Conception means Mary was conceived “by the power of the Holy Spirit,” in the way Jesus was, but that, too, is incorrect. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived without original sin or its stain—that’s what “immaculate” means: without stain. The essence of original sin consists in the deprivation of sanctifying grace, and its stain is a corrupt nature. Mary was preserved from these defects by God’s grace; from the first instant of her existence she was in the state of sanctifying grace and was free from the corrupt nature original sin brings. Continue reading

The Immaculate Conception: celebration and theology

    immaculate-conception-franciscansThe Immaculate Conception – Francis of Assisi, Bonaventure, Anthony of Padua, and John Duns Scotus

It’s important to understand what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is and what it is not. Some people think the term refers to Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb without the intervention of a human father; but that is the Virgin Birth. Others think the Immaculate Conception means Mary was conceived “by the power of the Holy Spirit,” in the way Jesus was, but that, too, is incorrect. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived without original sin or its stain—that’s what “immaculate” means: without stain. The essence of original sin consists in the deprivation of sanctifying grace, and its stain is a corrupt nature. Mary was preserved from these defects by God’s grace; from the first instant of her existence she was in the state of sanctifying grace and was free from the corrupt nature original sin brings. Continue reading

The Immaculate Conception

The Immaculate Conception of the Venerable One...It’s important to understand what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is and what it is not. Some people think the term refers to Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb without the intervention of a human father; but that is the Virgin Birth. Others think the Immaculate Conception means Mary was conceived “by the power of the Holy Spirit,” in the way Jesus was, but that, too, is incorrect. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived without original sin or its stain—that’s what “immaculate” means: without stain. The essence of original sin consists in the deprivation of sanctifying grace, and its stain is a corrupt nature. Mary was preserved from these defects by God’s grace; from the first instant of her existence she was in the state of sanctifying grace and was free from the corrupt nature original sin brings. Continue reading