Last Saturday was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception; one of the most controversial Catholic doctrines among fellow Christians (there are two categories of ‘controversial’ Catholic doctrines: those that the secular world has a problem with and those that other Christians have a problem with).
The doctrine, simply put, is that God, foreseeing Mary’s role as bearer of Jesus, preserved her by a special grace from Original Sin from the moment of her conception: the guilt that is passed down from Adam to all men and the accompanying inclination to sin. In other words, Mary was the first totally innocent human being since the creation of Eve.
The reason this is so controversial is because this seems to be saying that Mary didn’t need to be saved by Jesus’ redemptive death and resurrection. If she was totally sinless, then she was exempt from the saving work of Christ, right?
Wrong. That might be the case if she were sinless of her own accord (somehow). But consider: if Jesus had never came and never died and rose again, would Mary still have been sinless? Of course not! The only reason for that special grace was to make her a fitting vessel to bring Jesus into the world. Her preservation from original sin was as dependent upon the saving works of Christ as our redemption from it is.
The difference is that this special grace is anticipatory; you might think of it as a kind of “retroactive Baptism.” Remember, all time is present to God, so the fact that Christ’s saving works were still forty-some years in the future wouldn’t prevent Him from applying the results of those works to someone living beforehand.
That’s one half of the equation. The other half is the fact that we know that God grants His people grace to different degrees and in different forms: one man might be preserved from all but the most insignificant sins his whole life, another might only repent at the last minute and be saved by the skin of his teeth as it were.
Now, if we take these two factors – God’s timelessness and the “division of Grace” – we can see that there is nothing theologically wrong with the Immaculate Conception; it fits in with what we know God can and does do. So the only thing left is the question of whether it seems like something appropriate for Him to do.
Quite clearly, it was very appropriate. This is the means God uses to enter the world as man. This is the woman whose flesh and blood will form His Sacred Flesh and Precious Blood. This is the woman who will raise Him, who will be responsible for Him (and He for her), and whom He will have to be obedient too. This isn’t just appropriate; this is the only way the situation is even remotely tolerable.
How could “Mary, whom God kissed in Galilee” be anything but sinless?
Vive Christus Rex!
Vive Christus Rex!