Skip to comments."Tota pulchra es, Maria, et macula originalis non est in te" (The Immaculate Conception)
Posted on 12/08/2005 10:31:55 AM PST by Pyro7480
["Thou art all fair, O Mary, and the original stain (of sin) is not in thee" - Antiphon from the First Vespers for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, pre-Vatican II Breviary]
The Catholic Church, and all Her faithful, owe a particular debt to the Franciscans. It was this "seraphic order," as Dom Guéranger called them, that propagated and defended the teaching that the Blessed Mother of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was preserved from original sin from the first moment of her life. This ministry of theirs started with their founder, St. Francis of Assisi (I will write on St. Francis' defense of this doctrine later).
"[It is] unjust to pass over the immense share which... the Order of St. Francis of Assisi, has had in the earthly triumph of our blessed Mother, the Queen of heaven and earth. As often as this feast [of the Immaculate Conception] comes round, is it not just that we should think with reverence and gratitude on him, who was the first theologian that showed how closely connected with the divine mystery of the Incarnation is this dogma of the Immaculate Conception? First, then, all honour to the name of the pious and learned [Blessed] John Duns Scotus!" [from Dom Guéranger's entry in "The Liturgical Year" for December 8th, "The Immaculate Conception"]
The Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate wrote a short biography of Blessed John, in which is mentioned an occasion when the Immaculate Conception herself appeared to the theologian. "During the night of Christmas, 1299 at the Oxford Convent... [t]he Blessed Mother appeared to him and placed on his arms the Child Jesus who kissed and embraced him fondly. This was perhaps the occasion which inspired Bl. John to write so profoundly and fluently on the absolute primacy of Christ and the reason for the Incarnation."
Of course, my entry on these important contributions of Franciscans to the history of the devotion to the Immaculate Conception wouldn't be complete without mentioning one of my spiritual fathers, St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, who founded the Militia Immaculatae (which I joined more than 2 years ago, on the occasion of my total consecration to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary). It was he who wrote:
"The Immaculate One appears in this world without the least stain of sin, the masterpiece of God's hands, full of grace. God, the Most Holy Trinity, beholds the lowliness (that is, the humility, the root of all Her other virtues) of His Handmaid, and does great things for Her, He the Almighty (cfr. Lk. 1,49). God the Father gives Her His own Son to be Her Son; God the Son descends into Her womb; and God the Holy Spirit forms the body of Christ in the womb of this pure Virgin. And the Word was made flesh (Jn. 1,14). The Immaculate One becomes the Mother of God. The fruit of the love of God in his Trinitarian life and of Mary the Immaculate One is Christ the God-Man."
St. Maximilian also made an excellent point about our relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is our Queen and our Mother. He wrote, "True knowledge of the Immaculate One can only be acquired in prayer. The purer a soul is, the greater efforts it makes to avoid sin; and if it does happen to sin, it tries its best to rise from sin and to make up for its fault by love. The more humble it is, and the more spirit of penance it shows, the more and better it will get to know the Immaculate" (both quotes of St. Maximilian Kolbe are taken from Excerpts from the Writings of St. Maximilian).
Let us pray then, as she taught us to pray at Rue de Bac: "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us, who have recouse to thee!"
[Special thanks to AnAmericanMother" of Free Republic.com for posting the above painting of Our Lady on a FR thread. It was painted by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione in 1649-1650. It shows St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua venerating the Immaculate Conception, who is portrayed as the Woman from Revelation, chapter 12. What I find interesting about the painting is that she is shown with these two Franciscan saints, who tried to convert the Muslims to Christianity. Of course, the symbol for this "faith" is the crescent moon, and look who's standing atop such a moon in the painting! When I first saw this painting, I thought of the liturgical text that says that Our Lady will crush all heresies (Gaude Maria Virgo, cunctas haereses sola interemisti), and certainly, Islam is the biggest such "heresy" in the world at the moment! You can read about this painting at Restoring a Masterwork.]
Catholic ping! Special thanks to AnAmericanMother for her inspiration. :-)
Yes, the teaching of the Immaculate Conception came to fruition during the Middle Ages through the Franciscans. It was something that wasn't always believed by the Church and debated fiercely in the Middle Ages. The Eastern Church never took Mary's sinlessness that far. It believed and still does, that the Virgin Mary---Theotokos was free from all personal sin. This belief is an outgrowth of Augustinian theology, & Scholasticism. Augustine overconcentrated on man's sinfulness (In a way he had to--because he was combating Pelagianism, which the East really didn't have to face---they had their hands full with other Christological heresies). The East believes that if you espouse belief in an Immaculate Conception of the BVM, her humanness is somewhat compromised. These points are still argued between East and West. Actually a Mariology developed in the West that basically took on a life of it's own. I am not saying that RC's have divorced Mary from the saving actions of Christ, but somehow Roman Catholicism has produced a Mary on steroids as compared with Eastern Orthodoxy which gives her great honor and devotion.
If you read the Fathers, in particular St. Ephrem, the Immaculate Conception is the logical conclusion of their teaching on the Panagia.
St. Ephrem the Syrian was definitely in the minority among the Eastern fathers. When you use the words logical conclusion---that's the heart of Scholasticism----trying to insert too much logic into the mystical. Aristotleianism v. Platonism. To the Eastern Church it was sufficient that Mary was sinless in her personal life-- Mary's being or not being immaculately conceived did not add or detract from Christ's divinity.
That's the heart of the difference between East and West. God did indeed give us reason, and many Eastern Christians are wary of using it in theological endeavours. What is the reason for this?
In the records of the twelve tribes of Israel was Joachim, a man rich exceedingly; and he brought his offerings double, saying: There shall be of my superabundance to all the people, and there shall be the offering for my forgiveness to the Lord for a propitiation for me. For the great day of the Lord was at hand, and the sons of Israel were bringing their offerings. And there stood over against him Rubim, saying: It is not meet for thee first to bring thine offerings, because thou hast not made seed in Israel. And Joachim was exceedingly grieved, and went away to the registers of the twelve tribes of the people, saying: I shall see the registers of the twelve tribes of Israel, as to whether I alone have not made seed in Israel. And he searched, and found that all the righteous had raised up seed in Israel. And he called to mind the patriach Abraham, that in the last day God gave him a son Isaac. And Joachim was exceedingly grieved, and did not come into the presence of his wife; but he retired to the desert, and there pitched his tent, and fasted forty days and forty nights, saying in himself: I will not go down either for food or for drink until the Lord my God shall look upon me, and prayer shall be my food and drink.
2. And his wife Anna mourned in two mournings, and lamented in two lamentations, saying: I shall bewail my widowhood; I shall bewail my childlessness. And the great day of the Lord was at hand; and Judith her maid-servant said: How long dost thou humiliate thy soul? Behold, the great day of the Lord is at hand, and it is unlawful for thee to mourn. But take this head-band, which the woman that made it gave to me; for it is not proper that I should wear it, because I am a maid-servant, and it has a royal appearance. And Anna said: Depart from me; for I have not done such things, and the Lord has brought me very low. I fear that some wicked person has given it to thee, and thou hast come to make me a sharer in thy sin. And Judith said: Why should I curse thee, seeing that the Lord hath shut thy womb, so as not to give thee fruit in Israel? And Anna was grieved exceedingly, and put off her garments of mourning, and cleaned her head, and put on her wedding garments, and about the ninth hour went down to the garden to walk. And she saw a laurel, and sat under it, and prayed to the Lord, saying: O God of our fathers, bless me and hear my prayer, as Thou didst bless the womb of Sarah, and didst give her a son Isaac.
3. And gazing towards the heaven, she saw a sparrow's nest in the laurel, and made a lamentation in herself, saying: Alas! who begot me? and what womb produced me? because I have become a curse in the presence of the sons of Israel, and I have been reproached, and they have driven me in derision out of the temple of the Lord. Alas! to what have I been likened? I am not like the fowls of the heaven, because even the fowls of the heaven are productive before Thee, O Lord. Alas! to what have I been likened? I am not like the beasts of the earth, because even the beasts of the earth are productive before Thee, O Lord. Alas! to what have I been likened? I am not like these waters, because even these waters are productive before Thee, O Lord. Alas! to what have I been likened? I am not like this earth, because even the earth bringeth forth its fruits in season, and blesseth Thee, O Lord.
4. And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood by, saying: Anna, Anna, the Lord hath heard thy prayer, and thou shalt conceive, and shall bring forth; and thy seed shall be spoken of in all the world. And Anna said: As the Lord my God liveth, if I beget either male or female, I will bring it as a gift to the Lord my God; and it shall minister to Him in holy things all the days of its life. And, behold, two angels came, saying to her: Behold, Joachim thy husband is coming with his flocks. For an angel of the Lord went down to him, saying: Joachim, Joachim, the Lord God hath heard thy prayer Go down hence; for, behold, thy wife Anna shall conceive. And Joachim went down and called his shepherds, saying: Bring me hither ten she-lambs without spot or blemish, and they shall be for the Lord my God; and bring me twelve tender calves, and they shall be for the priests and the elders; and a hundred goats for all the people. And, behold, Joachim came with his flocks; and Anna stood by the gate, and saw Joachim coming, and she ran anti hung upon his neck, saying: Now I know that the Lord God hath blessed me exceedingly; for, behold the widow no longer a widow, and I the childless shall conceive. And Joachim rested the first day in his house.
5. And on the following day he brought his offerings, saying in himself: If the Lord God has been rendered gracious to me, the plate on the priest's forehead will make it manifest to me. And Joachim brought his offerings, and observed attentively the priest's plate when he went up to the altar of the Lord, and he saw no sin in himself. And Joachim said: Now I know that the Lord has been gracious unto me, and has remitted all my sins. And he went down from the temple of the Lord justified, and departed to his own house. And her months were fulfilled, and in the ninth month Anna brought forth. And she said to the midwife: What have I brought forth? and she said: A girl. And said Anna: My soul has been magnified this day. And she laid her down. And the days having been fulfilled, Anna was purified, and gave the breast to the child, and called her name Mary.
6. And the child grew strong day by day; and when she was six months old, her mother set her on the ground to try whether she could stand, and she walked seven steps and came into her bosom; and she snatched her up, saying: As the Lord my God liveth, thou shall not walk on this earth until I bring thee into the temple of the Lord. And she made a sanctuary in her bed-chamber, and allowed nothing common or unclean to pass through her. And she called the undefiled daughters of the Hebrews, and they led her astray. And when she was a year old, Joachim made a great feast, and invited the priests, and the scribes, and the elders, and all the people of Israel. And Joachim brought the child to the priests; and they blessed her, saying: O God of our fathers, bless this child, and give her an everlasting name to be named in all generations. And all the people said: So be it, so be it, amen. And he brought her to the chief priests; and they blessed her, saying: O God most high, look upon this child, and bless her with the utmost blessing, which shall be for ever. And her mother snatched her up, and took her into the sanctuary of her bed-chamber, and gave her the breast. And Anna made a song to the Lord God, saying: I will sing a song to the Lord my God, for He hath looked upon me, and hath taken away the reproach of mine enemies; and the Lord hath given the the fruit of His righteousness, singular in its kind, and richly endowed before Him. Who will tell the sons of Rubim that Anna gives suck? Hear, hear, ye twelve tribes of Israel, that Anna gives suck. And she laid her to rest in the bed-chamber of her sanctuary, and went out and ministered unto them. And when the supper was ended, they went down rejoicing, and glorifying the God of Israel.
7. And her months were added to the child. And the child was two years old, and Joachim said: Let us take her up to the temple of the Lord, that we may pay the vow that we have vowed, lest perchance the Lord send to us, and our offering be not received. And Anna said: Let us wait for the third year, in order that the child may not seek for father or mother. And Joachim said: So let us wait. And the child was three years old, and Joachim said: Invite the daughters of the Hebrews that are undefiled, and let them take each a lamp, and let them stand with the lamps burning, that the child may not turn back, and her heart be captivated from the temple of the Lord. And they did so until they went up into the temple of the Lord. And the priest received her, and kissed her, and blessed her, saying: The Lord has magnified thy name in all generations. In thee, on the last of the days, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of Israel. And he set her down upon the third step of the altar, and the Lord God sent grace upon her; and she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her.
8. And her parents went down marvelling, and praising the Lord God, because the child had not turned back. And Mary was in the temple of the Lord as if she were a dove that dwelt there, and she received food from the hand of an angel. And when she was twelve years old there was held a council of the priests, saying: Behold, Mary has reached the age of twelve years in the temple of the Lord. What then shall we do with her, test perchance she defile the sanctuary of the Lord? And they said to the high priest: Thou standest by the altar of the Lord; go in, and pray concerning her; and whatever the Lord shall manifest unto thee, that also will we do. And the high priest went in, taking the robe with the twelve bells into the holy of holies; and he prayed concerning her. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by him, saying unto him: Zacharias, Zacharias, go out and assemble the widowers of the people, and let them bring each his rod; and to whomsoever the Lord shall show a sign, his wife shall she be. And the heralds went out through all the circuit of Judaea, and the trumpet of the Lord sounded, and all ran.
9. And Joseph, throwing away his axe, went out to meet them; and when they had assembled, they went away to the high priest, taking with them their rods. And he, taking the rods of all of them, entered into the temple, and prayed; and having ended his prayer, he took the rods and came out, and gave them to them: but there was no sign in them, and Joseph took his rod last; and, behold, a dove came out of the rod, and flew upon Joseph's head. And the priest said to Joseph, Thou hast been chosen by lot to take into thy keeping the virgin of the Lord. But Joseph refused, saying: I have children, and I am an old man, and she is a young girl. I am afraid lest I become a laughing-stock to the sons of Israel. And the priest said to Joseph: Fear the Lord thy God, and remember what the Lord did to Dathan, and Abiram, and Korah; how the earth opened, and they were swallowed up on account of their contradiction. And now fear, O Joseph, lest the same things happen in thy house. And Joseph was afraid, and took her into his keeping. And Joseph said to Mary: Behold, I have received thee from the temple of the Lord; and now I leave thee in my house, and go away to build my buildings, and I shall come to thee. The Lord will protect thee.
10. And there was a council of the priests, saying: Let us make a veil for the temple of the Lord. And the priest said: Call to me the undefiled virgins of the family of David. And the officers went away, and sought, and found seven virgins. And the priest remembered the child Mary, that she was of the family of David, and undefiled before God. And the officers went away and brought her. And they brought them into the temple of the Lord. And the priest said: Choose for me by lot who shall spin the gold, and the white, and the fine linen, and the silk, and the blue, and the scarlet, and the true purple. And the true purple and the scarlet fell to the lot of Mary, and she took them, and went away to her house. And at that time Zacharias was dumb, and Samuel was in his place until the time that Zacharias spake. And Mary took the scarlet, and span it.
11. And she took the pitcher, and went out to fill it with water. And, behold, a voice saying: Hail, thou who hast received grace; the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women! And she looked round, on the right hand and on the left, to see whence this voice came. And she went away, trembling, to her house, and put down the pitcher; and taking the purple, she sat down on her seat, and drew it out. And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood before her, saying: Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found grace before the Lord of all, and thou shalt conceive, according to His word. And she hearing, reasoned with herself, saying: Shall I conceive by the Lord, the living God? and shall I bring forth as every woman brings forth? And the angel of the Lord said: Not so, Mary; for the power of the Lord shall overshadow thee: wherefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of the Most High. And thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins. And Mary said: Behold, the servant of the Lord before His face: let it be unto me according to thy word.
12. And she made the purple and the scarlet, and took them to the priest. And the priest blessed her, and said: Mary, the Lord God hath magnified thy name, and thou shall be blessed in all the generations of the earth. And Mary, with great joy, went away to Elizabeth her kinswoman, and knocked at the door. And when Elizabeth heard her, she threw away the scarlet, and ran to the door, and opened it; and seeing Mary, she blessed her, and said: Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? for, behold, that which is in me leaped and blessed thee. But Mary had forgotten the mysteries of which the archangel Gabriel had spoken, and gazed up into heaven, and said: Who am I, O Lord, that all the generations of the earth should bless me? And she remained three months with Elizabeth; and day by day she grew bigger. And Mary being afraid, went away to her own house, and hid herself from the sons of Israel. And she was sixteen years old when these mysteries happened.
13. And she was in her sixth month; and, behold, Joseph came back from his building, and, entering into his house, he discovered that she was big with child. And he smote his face, and threw himself on the ground upon the sackcloth, and wept bitterly, saying: With what face shall I look upon the Lord my God? and what prayer shall I make about this maiden? because I received her a virgin out of the temple of the Lord, and I have not watched over her. Who is it that has hunted me down? Who has done this evil thing in my house, and defiled the virgin? Has not the history of Adam been repeated in me? For just as Adam was in the hour of his singing praise, and the serpent came, and found Eve alone, and completely deceived her, so it has happened to me also. And Joseph stood up from the sackcloth, and called Mary, and said to her: O thou who hast been cared for by God, why hast thou done this and forgotten the Lord thy God? Why hast thou brought low thy soul, thou that wast brought up in the holy of holies, and that didst receive food from the hand of an angel? And she wept bitterly, saying: I am innocent, and have known no man. And Joseph said to her: Whence then is that which is in thy womb? And she said: As the Lord my God liveth, I do not know whence it is to me.
14. And Joseph was greatly afraid, and retired from her, and considered what he should do in regard to her. And Joseph said: If I conceal her sin, I find myself fighting against the law of the Lord; and if I expose her to the sons of Israel, I am afraid lest that which is in her be from an angel, and I shall be found giving up innocent blood to the doom of death. What then shall I do with her? I will put her away from me secretly. And night came upon him; and, behold, an angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream, saying: Be not afraid for this maiden, for that which is in her is of the Holy Spirit; and she will bring forth a Son, and thou shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. And Joseph arose from sleep, and glorified the God of Israel, who had given him this grace; and he kept her.
15. And Annas the scribe came to him, and said: Why hast thou not appeared in our assembly? And Joseph said to him: Because I was weary from my journey, and rested the first day. And he turned, and saw that Mary was with child. And he ran away to the priest? and said to him: Joseph, whom thou didst vouch for, has committed a grievous crime. And the priest said: How so? And he said: He has defiled the virgin whom he received out of the temple of the Lord, and has married her by stealth, and has not revealed it to the sons of Israel. And the priest answering, said: Has Joseph done this? Then said Annas the scribe: Send officers, and thou wilt find the virgin with child. And the officers went away, and found it as he had said; and they brought her along with Joseph to the tribunal. And the priest said: Mary, why hast thou done this? and why hast thou brought thy soul low, and forgotten the Lord thy God? Thou that wast reared in the holy of holies, and that didst receive food from the hand of an angel, and didst hear the hymns, and didst dance before Him, why hast thou done this? And she wept bitterly, saying: As the Lord my God liveth, I am pure before Him, and know not a man. And the priest said to Joseph: Why hast thou done this? And Joseph said: As the Lord liveth, I am pure concerning her. Then said the priest: Bear not false witness, but speak the truth. Thou hast married her by stealth, and hast not revealed it to the sons of Israel, and hast not bowed thy head under the strong hand, that thy seed might be blessed. And Joseph was silent.
16. And the priest said: Give up the virgin whom thou didst receive out of the temple of the Lord. And Joseph burst into tears. And the priest said: I will give you to drink of the water of the ordeal of the Lord, and He shall make manifest your sins in your eyes. And the priest took the water, and gave Joseph to drink and sent him away to the hill-country; and he returned unhurt. And he gave to Mary also to drink, and sent her away to the hill-country; and she returned unhurt. And all the people wondered that sin did not appear in them. And the priest said: If the Lord God has not made manifest your sins, neither do I judge you. And he sent them away. And Joseph took Mary, and went away to his own house, rejoicing and glorifying the God of Israel.
17. And there was an order from the Emperor Augustus, that all in Bethlehem of Judaea should be enrolled. And Joseph said: I shall enrol my sons, but what shall I do with this maiden? How shall I enrol her? As my wife? I am ashamed. As my daughter then? But all the sons of Israel know that she is not my daughter. The day of the Lord shall itself bring it to pass as the Lord will. And he saddled the ass, and set her upon it; and his son led it, and Joseph followed. And when they had come within three miles, Joseph turned and saw her sorrowful; and he said to himself: Likely that which is in her distresses her. And again Joseph turned and saw her laughing. And he said to her: Mary, how is it that I see in thy face at one time laughter, at another sorrow? And Mary said to Joseph: Because I see two peoples with my eyes; the one weeping and lamenting, and the other rejoicing and exulting. And they came into the middle of the road, and Mary said to him: Take me down from off the ass, for that which is in me presses to come forth. And he took her down from off the ass, and said to her: Whither shall I lead thee, and cover thy disgrace? for the place is desert.
18. And he found a cave there, and led her into it; and leaving his two sons beside her, he went out to seek a widwife in the district of Bethlehem. And I Joseph was walking, and was not walking; and I looked up into the sky, and saw the sky astonished; and I looked up to the pole of the heavens, and saw it standing, and the birds of the air keeping still. And I looked down upon the earth, and saw a trough lying, and work-people reclining: and their hands were in the trough. And those that were eating did not eat, and those that were rising did not carry it up, and those that were conveying anything to their mouths did not convey it; but the faces of all were looking upwards. And I saw the sheep walking, and the sheep stood still; and the shepherd raised his hand to strike them, and his hand remained up. And I looked upon the current of the river, and I saw the mouths of the kids resting on the water and not drinking, and all things in a moment were driven from their course.
19. And I saw a woman coming down from the hill-country, and she said to me: O man, whither art thou going? And I said: I am seeking an Hebrew midwife. And she answered and said unto me: Art thou of Israel? And I said to her: Yes. And she said: And who is it that is bringing forth in the cave? And I said: A woman betrothed to me. And she said to me: Is she not thy wife? And I said to her: It is Mary that was reared in the temple of the Lord, and I obtained her by lot as my wife. And yet she is not my wife, but has conceived of the Holy Spirit. And the widwife said to him: Is this true? And Joseph said to her: Come and see. And the midwife went away with him. And they stood in the place of the cave, and behold a luminous cloud overshadowed the cave. And the midwife said: My soul has been magnified this day, because mine eyes have seen strange things -- because salvation has been brought forth to Israel. And immediately the cloud disappeared out of the cave, and a great light shone in the cave, so that the eyes could not bear it. And in a little that light gradually decreased, until the infant appeared, and went and took the breast from His mother Mary. And the midwife cried out, and said: This is a great day to me, because I have seen this strange sight. And the midwife went forth out of the cave, and Salome met her. And she said to her: Salome, Salome, I have a strange sight to relate to thee: a virgin has brought forth -- a thing which her nature admits not of. Then said Salome: As the Lord my God liveth, unless I thrust in my finger, and search the parts, I will not believe that a virgin has brought forth.
20. And the midwife went in, and said to Mary: Show thyself; for no small controversy has arisen about thee. And Salome put in her finger, and cried out, and said: Woe is me for mine iniquity and mine unbelief, because I have tempted the living God; and, behold, my hand is dropping off as if burned with fire. And she bent her knees before the Lord, saying: O God of my fathers, remember that I am the seed of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; do not make a show of me to the sons of Israel, but restore me to the poor; for Thou knowest, O Lord, that in Thy name I have performed my services, and that I have received my reward at Thy hand. And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood by her, saying to her: Salome, Salome, the Lord hath heard thee. Put thy hand to the infant, and carry it, and thou wilt have safety and joy. And Salome went and carried it, saying: I will worship Him, because a great King has been born to Israel. And, behold, Salome was immediately cured, and she went forth out of the cave justified. And behold a voice saying: Salome, Salome, tell not the strange things thou hast seen, until the child has come into Jerusalem.
21. And, behold, Joseph was ready to go into Judaea. And there was a great commotion in Bethlehem of Judaea, for Magi came, saying: Where is he that is born king of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and have come to worship him. And when Herod heard, he was much disturbed, and sent officers to the Magi. And he sent for the priests, and examined them, saying: How is it written about the Christ? where is He to be born? And they said: In Bethlehem of Judaea, for so it is written. And he sent them away. And he examined the Magi, saying to them: What sign have you seen in reference to the king that has been born? And the Magi said: We have seen a star of great size shining among these stars, and obscuring their light, so that the stars did not appear; and we thus knew that a king has been born to Israel, and we have come to worship him. And Herod said: Go and seek him; and if you find him, let me know, in order that I also may go and worship him. And the Magi went out. And, behold, the star which they had seen in the east went before them until they came to the cave, and it stood over the top of the cave. And the Magi saw the infant with His mother Mary; and they brought forth from their bag gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by the angel not to go into Judaea, they went into their own country by another road.
22. And when Herod knew that he had been mocked by the Magi, in a rage he sent murderers, saying to them: Slay the children from two years old and under. And Mary, having heard that the children were being killed, was afraid, and took the infant and swaddled Him, and put Him into an ox-stall. And Elizabeth, having heard that they were searching for John, took him and went up into the hill-country, and kept looking where to conceal him. And there was no place of concealment. And Elizabeth, groaning with a loud voice, says: O mountain of God, receive mother and child. And immediately the mountain was cleft, and received her. And a light shone about them, for an angel of the Lord was with them, watching over them.
23. And Herod searched for John, and sent officers to Zacharias, saying: Where hast thou hid thy son? And he, answering, said to them: I am the servant of God in holy things, and I sit constantly in the temple of the Lord: I do not know where my son is. And the officers went away, and reported all these things to Herod. And Herod was enraged, and said: His son is destined to be king over Israel. And he sent to him again, saying: Tell the truth; where is thy son? for thou knowest that thy life is in my hand. And Zacharias said: I am God's martyr, if thou sheddest my blood; for the Lord will receive my spirit, because thou sheddest innocent blood at the vestibule of the temple of the Lord. And Zacharias was murdered about daybreak. And the sons of Israel did not know that he had been murdered.
24. But at the hour of the salutation the priests went away, and Zacharias did not come forth to meet them with a blessing, according to his custom. And the priests stood waiting for Zacharias to salute him at the prayer, and to glorify the Most High. And he still delaying, they were all afraid. But one of them ventured to go in, and he saw clotted blood beside the altar; and he heard a voice saying: Zacharias has been murdered, and his blood shall not be wiped up until his avenger come. And hearing this saying, he was afraid, and went out and told it to the priests. And they ventured in, and saw what had happened; and the fretwork of the temple made a wailing noise, and they rent their clothes from the top even to the bottom. And they found not his body, but they found his blood turned into stone. And they were afraid, and went out and reported to the people that Zacharias had been murdered. And all the tribes of the people heard, and mourned, and lamented for him three days and three nights. And after the three days, the priests consulted as to whom they should put in his place; and the lot fell upon Simeon. For it was he who had been warned by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death until he should see the Christ in the flesh.
And I James that wrote this history in Jerusalem, a commotion having arisen when Herod died, withdrew myself to the wilderness until the commotion in Jerusalem ceased, glorifying the Lord God, who had given me the gift and the wisdom to write this history. And grace shall be with them that fear our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory to ages of ages. Amen.
I suggest you look up Martin Jugie's masterful study: L'immaculee Conception dans l'Ecriture Sainte et dans la tradition orientale, Rome: Officium Libri Catholici, 1952, 489 pp.
The Eastern Orthodox (including Photius and Gregory Palamas) held generally to the belief in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin from the ninth century until about the fifteenth. Afterwards, it became a disputed issue until the nineteenth century when the party opposing the doctrine won out.
Let every creature dance for joy. Let all the earth cry out and rejoice with exultation, that the medicine for the primal sorrow has just now sprouted, that, by the great solicitude of God for us, the destruction of the hereditary curse (THS PROGONIKHS ARAS) - in which the whole mortal race had sunk - is made present. And today, a heavenly gift such as this is asked for us, that not only that curse may be removed from us, but also that the whole nature be blessed for us, and that on the one hand that the partition-wall of ancient hatred may be abolished, and that on the other that the love of God be in the midst of men, and peace may rise.
Nicetas David Paphlago, Bishop of the Dadybrians in Paphlagonia (890-900 AD), Oration I - On the Natal Day of Saint Mary, Patrologiae Graecae vol. 105, col. 17B. My translation.
This was a different guy named Gregory Palamas (Patriarch of Constantinople from 1446 to 1452), not the Pillar of Orthodoxy. My apology for the confusion of names.
As a Protestant, I naturally approach the Immaculate Conception with caution. Most people I know (including most Catholics, by the way) think the IC is the conception of Jesus.
It is important to understand why "Theotokos" and related terms came to be. In an effort to combat the heresy that Jesus wasn't really God, just a really good person upon whom God bestowed special blessings (sort of a super prophet) the Fathers pointed out the virgin birth and that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Ghost. They said that the BVM was indeed the "bearer of God" or in Greek "Theotokos". Nestor wished not to go that far and used the term "Christokos" meaning "bearer of the Christ". He was of course, condemned as a heretic, but not before he warned in a sermon to "Beware least you make the virgin a goddess". In the ancient church, Mariology was driven not by the desire to heap honor on the BVM herself (as it was in the Middle Ages and is now), but by the desire to defend Orthodox Christology against heresy.
My understanding of the IC is that the Lord in His Grace preserved Mary from the stain of original sin (i.e. the consequences of the Fall of Man). Combine that with the widespread belief that she was endowed with the grace to live a life without sin and we have someone who had no need of a Savior on a cross. If the Lord could do that for Mary, could He have done that for Joseph or John the Baptist or anyone else? I don't see why not.
Jesus desperately prayed in the garden that there would be "another way" but because there wasn't, He had to go to the Cross. The Apostles teach us that the Cross is the only way to salvation and that all are in need of a savior, for "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". Mary acknolwedges her own need of a savior in Luke 1:47.
It was by the merits of her Son's Passion, Death, and Resurrection that she was preserved without sin. God applied them to her without any problem, since He is eternal, and omnipotent.
Could He then have also applied them to everyone else and spared his Son the Cross?
Thanks for this.
Thanks for a reasoned and charitable post on a delicate topic. :) The analogy I have always heard and that works best for me is as follows.
1. I fall into a pit and can't get out. You come by, and see me in there, and pull me out of it. You have saved me from the pit.
2. As I leave, a girl walks up to the pit unawares, and since you see that she is about to meet the same fate you reach out and stop her at the edge.
You have saved both of us from the pit. But me you saved by pulling me out of certain doom, and her you saved by preventing that doom from befalling her in the first place.
It is the *second* kind of salvation that Our Lord employed with Our Lady. Anticipating the merits of the Cross, He saved her by preserving her by a special unmerited act from original sin, and he did so in order to have a pure vessel, a pure Ark, in which to be incarnated in the world. It was a singular privelege of hers by virtue of her being the mother of the Redeemer. But if there were no Cross, there would be no Immaculate Conception; Mary earned nothing on her own merits but was given all she had by her Son.
He has the capability as God, but according to His Will, only His Mother was spared, so that she would be a fitting tabernacle for His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. If the Ark of Covenant, which containted the written Word of God had to be built according to God's specifications, how much more important that the tabernacle of the Word Himself be built pure!
Those merits were purchased at the Cross and because of it. However, since God exists outside time, he is not bound to apply Christ's merits only temporally after the Crucifixion. He can apply them to Mary beforehand.
Far from asserting that Mary somehow did not need a Savior, the I.C. asserts that Mary is the perfect example of redeemed humanity. We are not celebrating Mary's holiness apart from Christ's work, we are instead celebrating Christ's work in Mary to accomplish that holiness.
The general understanding of original that I have is like a couple exiled from glorious America to a place such as Canada for committing a most grievous offense (such as doing a remake of the song "American Pie"). After moving to Canada, they have son who is Canadian, by birth. He marries and has a son, who also marries and has a son. The great-grandson is Canadian not by any fault of his own but because of the crime committed by his ancestor. He has inherited the consequences of his great-grandfather's sin. That consequence is, of course, citizenship in Canada rather than in America. The only way for him to enter into America is to be adopted by an American. The only way for an American to come to Canada and adopt him is to be born in Canada.
This is why Jesus came down from heaven and was born of a woman who was a citizen of this world (Canada). He came to be one of us, take on our Canadian citizenship and adopt us as citizens of America.
Adam and Eve were cast into the pit you described and there they procreated the human race. Mary was just as much in that pit as Matthew the tax collector.
She was in the "valley of tears," like everyone else, but as we keep on saying, she was preserved by a specific act of the Holy Trinity.
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