What is the Immaculate Conception?
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is ranked at the level of a solemnity and recognized by the Church as a Holy Day of Obligation. Meaning, all Catholics are obliged to attend Mass on this great feast day. It is quite clear that this teaching about the Blessed Virgin Mary is of utmost importance. So, what exactly is the Immaculate Conception?
The Immaculate Conception is a declared dogma of the Catholic Church, proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854, that confesses:
“[T]he 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” (Ineffabilis Deus).
…yes, this means that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is not about the conception of Jesus in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but about the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, St. Anne. So, be sure to do your part and remind everyone each year on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception that it is about Mary’s conception, not Jesus’!
But what does it mean to say that Mary, at the moment of her conception, was “preserved free from all stain of original sin”?
It means that Mary was conceived in a state that did not lack the gift of sanctifying grace in her soul.
Unlike Mary, at the moment of our conceptions our souls lack the gift of sanctifying grace, which is the life of God in the soul.
This is because we have inherited the nature of our first parents, Adam and Eve, who lost this gift in their disobedience of God in the Fall. And very simply, they couldn’t give what they no longer had.
This is the very reason why we are in need of the salvation won for us by Jesus Christ. And it is in the Sacrament of Baptism which the fruits of our salvation are applied to us and we are restored to this state of grace.
Though we are saved by being restored to a state of sanctifying grace, our Blessed Mother has been saved by preserving her from ever falling.
Freedom and the Meaning of Our Lady’s “Yes”
What significance does the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary have in the plan of salvation?
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it states that in regards to the means of the Son of God becoming man, “[God] wanted the free cooperation of a creature” (CCC 488).
Meaning, God did not want to force salvation on the human race. He wanted the free cooperation of his creation in the work of their own redemption.
No matter how piously a sinful creature turns to God they are still unable to give Him a complete “yes”.
This is because our sin enslaves us. The more we sin, the less control we have of our wills. And every time we sin, we forfeit our freedom. Even the most holy of sinners are still unable to give all of themselves.
RELATED: Praying to the Virgin Mary
Therefore, if God desires to not force our salvation upon us, He must will into being a creature that is capable of giving their entire “yes” on behalf of the human race. A creature that is not held back by their sin, but rather free because of a lack thereof.
And so, just as Eve’s completely free “yes” (Eve was also, in a sense, immaculately conceived in a state of original holiness) to the serpent, a fallen angel, led to the fall of man, God made Mary, whose “yes” to Gabriel, an archangel, would be capable of leading to the salvation of man.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Thus, giving her consent to God’s word, Mary becomes the mother of Jesus. Espousing the divine will for salvation wholeheartedly, without a single sin to restrain her, she gave herself entirely to the person and to the work of her Son” (CCC 494).
What Does This Teaching Mean For Us Today?
Though God did not immaculately conceive you in the womb of your mother, He still desires your so-called “immaculate conception” in the Spirit.
If you have received the Sacrament of Baptism, you have been restored to such a state that God’s life dwells in your soul.
Of course it is possible that you have committed a mortal sin since your Baptism, and therefore forfeited this state. If you are aware that you have, don’t despair! Run to the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a spirit of repentance where God is longing to forgive you of your sins and, once again, restore you to a life of grace!
That said, the Immaculate Conception is a powerful teaching of our faith that reminds us of the beautiful role our Blessed Mother has in the plan of salvation.
First, she is our model. A blueprint for the faith of a disciple.
How are we to be Church, the Body of Christ? Look to Mary.
How are we to pray faithfully? Look to Mary.
How are we to act in response to God’s plan for our lives? Look to Mary.
Second, the Blessed Virgin is our Mother. Due to our Baptism, we are now in Christ.
Just as God called Mary to cooperate with Him in the conception and formation of Christ, He has called her to cooperate with Him in the conception and formation of the members of Christ’s Body.
Therefore, if we want to become saints and fulfill our vocation as Christians, we must turn to our Blessed Mother. We must increase our devotion to her and ask her to form us in her Son’s image.
Queen conceived without original sin, pray for us!
A Prayer to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception
O Mary, our Immaculate Mother,
On your feast day I come to you,
And I come not alone:
I bring with me all those with whom your Son entrusted to me,
In this city of Rome and in the entire world,
That you may bless them and preserve them from harm.
I bring to you, Mother, children,
Especially those who are alone, abandoned,
And for this reason are tricked and exploited.
I bring to you, Mother, families,
Who carry forward life and society
With their daily and hidden efforts;
In a special way the families who struggle the most
For their many internal and external problems.
I bring to you, Mother, all workers, both men and women,
And I entrust to you especially those who, out of need,
Are forced to work in an unworthy profession
And those who have lost work or are unable to find it.
We are in need of your immaculate gaze,
To rediscover the ability to look upon persons and things
With respect and awareness,
Without egotistical or hypocritical interests.
We are in need of your immaculate heart,
To love freely,
Without secondary aims but seeking the good of the other,
With simplicity and sincerity, renouncing masks and tricks.
We are in need of your immaculate hands,
To caress with tenderness,
To touch the flesh of Jesus
In our poor, sick, or despised brethren,
To raise up those who have fallen and support those who waver.
We are in need of your immaculate feet,
To go toward those who know not how to make the first step,
To walk on the paths of those who are lost,
To find those who feel alone.
We thank you, O Mother, because in showing yourself to us
You free us of all stain of sin;
You remind us that what comes first is the grace of God,
The love of Jesus Christ who gave his life for us,
The strength of the Holy Spirit which renews all things.
Let us not give in to discouragement,
But, trusting in your constant help,
Let us engage ourselves fully in renewal of self,
Of this city and of the entire world.
Pray for us, Holy Mother of God!
Has the teaching of the Immaculate Conception ever confused you?
Let me know below in the comment box!