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Mea Culpa: Correcting Misunderstood Mariology

Mea Culpa Correcting Misunderstood Mariology Pinterest

This past December I wrote a reflection on  the Nativity using a painting I’d fallen in love with.  The aspect of the painting I so loved was that the Blessed Mother was depicted in a collapsed pose, appearing to be completely spent after laboring and giving birth to Christ.  She appeared as any mother would—exhausted and relieved after going through great suffering in delivering a child. 

As a convert, I mentioned my appreciation for this depiction because I had always found Mary and Mariology so very difficult to swallow. In this particular post I also gave lip service to the pious devotion in the belief Mary did not labor in pain. To me it seemed a sweet thought, but I needed to be able to identify with Mary and so I waved off the idea that she was preserved from arduous labor and instead bore Christ just as any woman would bear a child.  Fortunately, my mistaken idea was completely dismantled after listening to a Podcast this past Lent. Mea culpa.

[Mary] indeed conceived without shame, gave birth without pain, and went hence without corruption, according to the word of the angel, or rather (the word) of God through the angel, so that she should be proved to be full, not merely half filled, with grace and (so that) God her Son should faithfully fulfill the ancient commandment that he had formerly given, namely, to treat one’s father and mother with honor.

—Pope Alexander III

Corrected

Father Dave Nix, known as Padre Peregrino, featured noted convert and die-hard Thomist, Dr. Taylor Marshall on his recent Podcast series “Glad Trad”.  During the interview one of the topics discussed was traditional Mariology; covering topics from the Immaculate Conception to Mary’s perpetual virginity. Drawing on scripture, Church Fathers, Popes, and Councils, Father Nix and Dr. Marshall convincingly laid out the argument that Mary was spared from experiencing labor pains. Mea culpa.

Why this makes sense

Of course this all makes sense to me now. First of all, the Marian dogma of the Immaculate Conception dictates Mary was accorded the singular Grace of being conceived without the stain of Original Sin. Because of this gift, she would have been spared the punishment of Eve—an aspect of which was to bear children in great pain and suffering.

“Before she was in labor, she gave birth;

before her pain came upon her

she was delivered of a son.

Who has heard such a thing?

Who has seen such things?”

—Isaiah 66:7-8

Secondly, to bear a child in the conventional sense would have marred her perpetual virginity. It is Catholic dogma that the Blessed Mother’s virginity was left completely intact before, during, and after bearing Christ. I believed this but had not honestly connected the dots between the nature of Christ’s birth and Mary’s perpetual virginity.  In my mind, I justified my attempt at identifying with Mary as a mother by believing her perpetual virginity was more spiritual than physical. How very wrong I was. My mistaken thinking was indicative of a serious error we moderns are prone to making in searching for natural explanations for supernatural events. Mea maxima culpa.

If one takes a good look at Catholicism, most every aspect of our Theology has spiritual and material components—just as we are made up of spiritual and material components. Take for example the sacraments.  Each has a physical, material, natural sign integral to it which conveys something of the supernatural in the way of grace: water for baptism, verbal confession and absolution for penance, bread and wine for the Eucharist, holy oils for confirmation and anointing of the sick, laying on of hands for Holy Orders, the exchanging of vows and consummation for marriage.  

Consider further the Holy Eucharist and the doctrine of the Real Presence. Not only is Christ supernaturally, spiritually present when we receive him. He is truly physically present in His body and His blood when we receive Him. It becomes increasingly clear how important the connection between natural realities and supernatural realities truly are to our faith. Of course Mary’s virginity must be both natural and supernatural.  Following this truth to a natural conclusion; Mary could not have born Christ like all other women in suffering and pain.  Church Father’s describe His birth much like light passing through glass. His birth was painless, peaceful, and miraculous.

Dear Sistas, I ask pardon for my mistaken thinking; my desire to make Mary into my own image as a mother who bore her child arduously. I hope I have remedied my error and brought clarity to an interesting and uniquely Catholic teaching.

As you’ve grown in understanding of the faith have you ever discovered a mistaken belief? Tell us about it and how you came to a new and corrected understanding of Church teaching in the comments.

Resources:

http://padreperegrino.org/2019/03/gt1/

https://taylormarshall.com/2010/12/marys-painless-delivery-of-christ.html

https://catholicexchange.com/did-mary-experience-labor-pains

https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/was-mary-free-from-labor-pain

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Catechism Confirmation Doctrine Faith Formation Ink Slingers Mary Mary P. Sacraments

Four Myths About Catholicism Even Catholics Believe

As Catholics, we encounter a lot of misunderstanding about our beliefs from people outside the faith. Many think we worship statues, see Mary as a deity, and try to buy our way in Heaven (etc.). But additionally, there are some myths about Catholicism that even many Catholics believe. Let’s face it – catechesis over the last 60 years or so has been sorely lacking. This has created a situation wherein faithful, well-meaning Catholics believe things that are contrary to Church teaching without knowing it. I know first-hand that it can be jarring to realize that something you believe to be authentic Catholic teaching is not quite true. But learning what is true helps us to grow in our faith, and evangelize more effectively. 

The following are some of the frequent myths I’ve heard Catholics espousing, and the corresponding truths of the faith. (I can’t do justice to any of these teachings in this amount of space. So, I encourage you to read more on each topic yourself, including following the included links).  

 
Myth: We can get to heaven by being “good people”/doing good works.
Truth: The Catholic Church teaches that we are saved by grace, through both faith and good works.

This means we do participate in our own salvation! Good works are very important! Yet, we cannot earn heaven by being or doing good on our own. Without the help of grace – which is God’s very life within us — nothing we do could ever be good enough to get us into heaven. (The idea that we can get to heaven on our own merit apart from grace is a heresy called Semi-Pelagianism). This is what makes the sacraments of Baptism and Confession so very important. Baptism initiates us into a life of grace. Confession restores us to a life of a grace when we have cut ourselves off from it via mortal sin.

I once had a disagreement with another Catholic over Matt Maher’s song, “Your Grace is Enough.”  She believed it was heretical. But, Scripture says God’s grace is sufficient (enough) for us. It is His grace that transforms our souls, and his grace that enables us to participate in the Christian life. Our faith and good works both result directly from that grace, and dispose us to receive more grace. And the grace itself is what enables us to go to Heaven. Without grace, faith is impossible, and good works are meaningless. 

This means that our beliefs about salvation don’t differ quite as drastically from Protestant beliefs as we often think. We all believe God’s grace is what saves us, and that we can’t work our way into heaven.

(Learn more about this topic here, here, and here).

Myth: The Sacrament of Confirmation is for a child to choose for him/herself to be Catholic, and become an adult in the Church.
Truth: The Church teaches that Confirmation is for completing baptismal grace and being sealed with the Holy Spirit.

Confirmation is a Sacrament of Initiation along with Baptism and the Eucharist, thus belonging close to the beginning of our faith journey. When we receive Confirmation, the Holy Spirit marks us as ones belonging totally to Christ. The Spirit pours Himself out over us in a special way, and bonds us to the Church more perfectly. It does not exist because a child needs a chance to officially agree to what his parents chose for him at Baptism. 

At Baptism, we are changed metaphysically. This change cannot be undone. We don’t need to receive another Sacrament to accept the change or make it permanent. A person can choose to stop practicing the Catholic faith, but they cannot choose to stop being a Catholic. The Catechism says, “Although Confirmation is sometimes called the ‘sacrament of Christian maturity,’ we must not confuse adult faith with the adult age of natural growth, nor forget that the baptismal grace is a grace of free, unmerited election and does not need ‘ratification’ to become effective.” (1308)

Many Catholics are confused about this topic because even Church leaders have been perpetuating the above myth for years. One way they do this is by withholding the sacrament until the teen years. Canon law says that the normal age for Confirmation is the age of reason (around 7), and even babies can be confirmed if there is a danger of death. (Eastern Rite Catholics receive Confirmation as babies). 

Myth: The Immaculate Conception refers to Jesus’s conception by a virgin through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Truth: The Immaculate Conception refers to Mary’s conception without sin.

“Immaculate” means very clean. Mary was conceived with a soul that was spotless, unlike our souls that are stained with original sin. This is what we celebrate on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Of course Jesus was also conceived without sin. However, his conception by a virgin is “miraculous,” not “immaculate.”

A few years ago, I realized that the Gospel reading for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is the account of the Annunciation. No wonder people are confused about the meaning of this feast! But, I think we read the Annunciation story because it talks about Mary being “full of grace,” or “highly favored.” This points to her status as one who was preserved from any type of sin.

While we’re on the topic, it’s important to realize that Christ was still Mary’s savior (as she herself proclaims). As God is outside of time, he could apply the salvific work of the crucifixion to Mary before it happened in history.

Myth: The pope speaks authoritatively every time he speaks publicly, and we must give unquestioned assent and support to all of his statements.
Truth: The Church teaches that the pope is infallible in very limited circumstances.

The pope can make mistakes in his conduct and his theology. Of course, as the highest Church authority and Christ’s chief representative on Earth, the pope deserves our allegiance and respect. We should be very humble and cautious when we evaluate and discuss his words. However, we don’t have to agree with or defend everything he says.

 Sometimes, popes are expressing mere opinions, which might differ from our own. Sometimes, they sincerely believe they are expressing Church teaching, but are actually in error. There have even been popes who were wicked men not living according to the teaching of the Church. The Holy Spirit prevents the pope from authoritatively teaching a falsehood as truth. However, he does not prevent the pope from all errors in thought, word, judgment, or conduct. We always should evaluate and understand all of the pope’s words in light of the constant and historic teaching of the Church. 

On a related note, some believe that the Holy Spirit actively chooses every pope. But as Pope Benedict XVI said, this isn’t quite correct. The Holy Spirit guides the process of papal election, but it’s up to the College of Cardinals to listen to him. They could ignore that guidance in favor of their own human judgment. Luckily, if that happened, the gates of hell still would not prevail against the Church. 

 

Catholic Sistas foundress, Martina, often says that learning about Catholicism “is like eating an elephant.” There is so much to consume and digest that it can only happen fully over a long period of time. What’s more important than knowing the ins and outs of every teaching of the Church is having a heart and a mind that are open to the truth when it is presented to us.

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The Immaculate Conception: Christ’s First Gift to Mary His Mother

One of the most beautiful scenes that God, through nature, provides us with are sunrises.  At the distant horizon you see before arising a soft and radiant light, the aurora of the sun.  This beautiful and perfect light foreshadows the beauty which is to come; the daily gift of the sunrise.  Each day we are able to witness this perfect birth of the sun.  God, all-knowing and all-powerful at the moment of creation, in His infinite wisdom was aware of all that was to come.  This rising sun and it’s beautiful beginning at dusk is no coincidence and definitely not a thoughtless act or purpose, for we are sensory beings.  As this beautiful light at dusk announces the perfection that is to come, the sun, so too Our Blessed Lady foreshadows the redemption that is to come, God made man.  So as the sun shines through glass without changing it in matter, Mary is the window of heaven, through which the true Light came into the world.

In old times, as well as in places where it still exists today, monarchs are granted special privileges to the cities or towns of their birth or coronation.  In this same way, the King of Heaven gives special privileges and prerogatives to the Mother who bore Him, the Queen-Mother.  Mary is selected by God the Father to be the Mother of His Son; therefore He too is able to create and grant her preservation from the stain of original sin.  No other mere human, angel, or even a saint can say to God, “You are my Son,” but Mary.  He who was the author of her being was born of the blessed woman who is the wonder of wonders and nothing in the entire of creation, God is the only exception, is more glorious than she.  Due to his own infinite sanctity, God suspends, in this instance, the law which His divine justice had passed upon the children of Adam and Eve.

Early on in Genesis 3:15 God proclaims her spotless purity and her sinlessness in paradise, and afterwards in Luke 1:28 by the Archangel Gabriel himself when he refers to her as “full of grace” and “blessed among women.”  Her response to him announces her determination to preserve her virginity, “I am the handmaiden of the Lord, let it be done according to His will.”  God also said, “She shall crush thy head,” to the serpent; had she been conquered by sin like the rest of us, she could not possibly be his conqueror.   The dignity of Christ alone demanded that He be born of a woman free from sin; for she was the first tabernacle of Our Lord.

Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches us that when God raises anyone to a high post (think Peter, Augustine, etc.) He gifts that person for the job at hand.  God gives each of us the graces needed for the vocation we are called for.  Therefore, God exalted Mary above all men and angels and was free from original and actual sin (Trent 6:23)  In Canticles 2:2, she is described as the “lily among thorns,” and in Wisdom 7:26 as “a mirror without flaw.”  God had a plan for her from long ago and in both tradition and scripture this dogma, a sovereign and universal decree, is supported.  Elizabeth is the first to call Mary, the “Mother of God,” and later in the year 431, in the Council of Ephesus the title “Dei Genitrix” is given to her in order to condemn the heresy of Nestorius.  Christ did not however, derive from her His Divine nature and just as any other child who does not receive its soul from its mother, but instead from God.  In Isaiah 7:14, the prophet foretells of a virgin that will conceive and bear a son.  At her conception in the womb of Saint Anne, in child-bearing, and even after the painless birth of Jesus, the Blessed Mother remained a pure virgin.  Just as Our Lord appeared to the Apostles through shut doors, so too he came into the world and her virginity remained intact.  The Blessed Mother herself says in Luke 1:48, “from henceforth all generations shall call me Blessed.”

Appropriately at the beginning of our liturgical year and during the Advent season, we honor her with the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the most solemn during this time of preparation.  There was none other that would better harmonize with the spirit of the Church in this mystic season of expectation.  We celebrate this solemnity with joy, for the Immaculate Conception of Mary foreshadows the coming birth of Our Savior.  Some wonder about dogmas of the Church, others criticize them as if they were inventions of men.  Dogmas are believed amongst the faithful throughout the history of the Church; the Immaculate Conception is a fine example of this.  Even though, it was not formally defined until 1854 by Pope Pius IX in Ineffabilis Deus, belief in Mary’s Immaculate Conception stretches back in time to the Early Church fathers.  The Church with her infallible authority, declared, by the lips of Pope Pius IX, that this article of faith had been revealed by God himself.

“He [God], therefore, filled her, far more than all the angelic spirits and all the saints, with an abundance of all heavenly gifts from the treasury of His divinity, in such a wonderful manner that she would always be free from absolutely every stain of sin, and that, all beautiful and perfect, she might display such fullness of innocence and holiness that under God none greater is known, and which, God excepted, no one can attain even in thought.” (Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, 12/8/1854)

 

So whomever truly loves God should also honor the Mother of God far above the saints. Catholics honor the Queen-Mother as a reflection upon the King of Heaven and Earth, her Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.  We see this in the lives of the saints; the greater the saint, the greater their love for Mother Mary.  Jesus told us in John 19:27,  that she was actually our mother when he tells Saint John, the beloved, “behold thy mother.”  The disobedience of Eve brought upon the human race the misery of original sin, yet the obedience of Mary, the new Eve, restored it to a state of grace.  Through one woman death entered into the world, through another, eternal life.

Just like any good mother our salvation is of her utmost concern.  So just as a dutiful child delights in the presence of his mother, we as practicing and devout Christians rejoice in addressing Mary in loving supplications as well as her majestic titles of Mother of God, the Immaculate Conception, the first Tabernacle of God.

 

***In discussing this topic with my friend, Brian Francis Hudon, he surprised me with this beautiful poem (he suggested you listen to this beautiful piece while reading it), entitled The Ark at Dawn:

“Woman, the new Ark, pure and immaculate,
the new Eve, for a redeemer, the dawn of man.
Holy one of Grace, touched by the Paraclete,
the Queen of Heaven, awaiting the end of night.
Thus breaks providence, His long awaited plan,
her Star rising in the East, the breaking of light.
 
End of the eclipse, Mary, daughter, mother,
a wealth of hope, long dark night of the soul.
Grace awaits, free of every stain, for another,
that He might enter unto the world the same.
Making every woman, thus in grace and whole,
so too that every man might know His name.
 
Her prayer into the night, obedient and mild,
a child in womb and in turn her womb of grace.
Thus the greeting then known for every child,
waiting, waiting for her greeting and to Rejoice.
We wait and consider, no stranger to her face,
her yes; but not before her temperate choice.
 
Her hope from God; the darkest of the dark,
always she was known, considered from the fall.
The Tabernacle, the Tent of God, and the Ark,
awaiting the Sword that would pierce her soul.
Hearts now revealed, only waiting on their call
for the fruit of her womb to make them whole.
 
More than all the storms of the weary world,
her birth tells the time of day and it is the morn.
For she was before time, her colors unfurled,
loved in the heart of God and loved by her Son.
And with the Spirit, by their Love she is born,
beyond the mountains, the stars and rising sun.”
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40 Days to Pray for The USA {Prayer Campaign}

It’s that time again for our Prayer Campaign and this time, as promised, we are going to pray for the USA. We invite you to help us promote this next prayer campaign that will start on Saturday, September 1. This prayer campaign is of particular importance, in that we will be focusing heavily on praying for our country; especially now as we go into the election. We feel we will need the prayers of many and rely on your help to spread the word. Please feel free to share this event and promote it on your Facebook walls, your blogs, G+, Twitter, any any media outlets you may have a connection with, please and thank you.

Why are we doing this? Pillars of a nation crumble when the “metal is mixed with clay”. Already our institutions of education, religion, government and finance have suffered this mix and are beginning to crumble. Help to rebuild our nation and bring in men and women who believe in our founding fathers to do so. Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have in this spiritual war. Make this a daily prayer for our nation; to come back to God via Godly leaders. The opposition is great and satan never sleeps, so we have an obligation and an opportunity to use our weapon of war for the love of God and country.

40 Days of Prayers for the U.S.A. is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, patroness of the United States of America.

There are two easy ways for you to participate:

1. Join us on our Facebook Event page. You can RSVP to let us know you are joining us in prayer. If you don’t use FB, you can just leave us a comment under this post.

2. You can join us by downloading the flyer with all 40 days of prayer (don’t forget to leave us a comment as well):

View this document on Scribd

The prayers:

Day 1: Today we pray for all politicians: the president, cabinet, parliament, diplomats,
ambassadors, mayors, and the members of Congress.

Day 2: The real power in our universe is God and we seek help from Him. God, please help this nation return to You; if in these men is Your will, let it be done, and protect them along the way.

Day 3: Today we pray for all governmental leaders that they come into contact with the Gospel of Christ and experience the love of God.

Day 4: Every nation shall be under the rule of the Almighty God one day, so let’s prepare the way in the USA and lead other nations back to God. Lord guide us.

Day 5: Today we pray that corrupt and impure leaders become convicted and they seek the forgiveness of God. Help us appoint Godly men to lead our nation and protect the righteous ones.

Day 6: Today we pray for the families of all politicians and government officials, that You protect them and allow them to be a positive influence in all their decisions.

Day 7: Mary, Our Battlequeen, intercede for us now. The church militant desires to bring back the Holy Name of God in our schools, our courts, and our public places.

Day 8: Today we pray for all officials to execute their duties in a fair and humane manner and with insight.

Day 9: Oh Beautiful America, we have bathed your fruited planes with innocent blood! Remember the innocence of our youth, and God made us a great nation. Bring back that power, real and just, and consider the future of America with God as our friend, not as our enemy.

Day 10: Today we pray that leaders do that which is merciful, unselfish and sensitive to the people’s needs.

Day 11: Today we pray for citizens and government leaders to humble themselves and pray and seek the Lord’s will.

Day 12: You have told us the prayers of a righteous man avails much. Hear the prayers of your faithful for the sake of Your name and our nation, we pray these men will do what they can to put God in America again.

Day 13: Today we pray You help all governing authorities understand that all authority comes from God.

Day 14: Today we pray for our nation’s financial struggles and those suffering economic crisis. Bring them comfort and peace, oh Lord.

Day 15: Lord you use the weak, small, hopeful and the childlike to do Your work and show Your Power. Your faithful people are putting their hope in You to rescue us from the corruption in our nations leaders. Hear our prayers!

Day 16: Today we pray that You promote Godly influence in our government in our schools and to remove ungodly influence in the same.

Day 17: Today we pray our country to have an honest and honorable government.

Day 18: Today we pray that God gives us courage and guidance to overcome the evil that is running rampant in our country.

Day 19: Today we pray that citizens and government leaders turn from their wicked ways so that we may be forgiven for our sins and receive healing.

Day 20: Today we pray for the hungry, homeless, unloved, and unwanted citizens in our country.

Day 21: Today we pray that You use us, the citizens of this country, to bring it back to peace.

Day 22: Today we pray that leaders be humble and realize that they will have to give account to God because he/she was appointed by God.

Day 23: Today we pray for unfair and godless leaders, that they make “mistakes” that will be to the advantage of the Gospel.

Day 24: Today we pray that bad rulers and leaders be removed by the Lord, and that God-fearing persons may be appointed in their places.

Day 25: Today we pray that the Lord disrupts the advice of evil advisers and that He will give the leader wisdom and discernment.

Day 26: Today we pray that the plans of those who are involved in plots and unholy conspiracies will be broken and their plans be demolished.

Day 27: Today we pray for the Lord to break the stronghold of the demons and devils in politics and their individual lives.

Day 28: Today we pray that politicians be humble and realize that they will have to give account to God because they were appointed by God.

Day 29: Today we pray You break the plans of satan in the hearts of people of authority which are not in accordance with the laws of our country and of God.

Day 30: Today we pray for the volunteers and workers at the polls this election, that they follow all rules and be honest and keep others under these same standards.

Day 31: Today we pray for the citizens of our nation, that they open their mind and heart to the Word of the Lord to protect and honor our constitution and laws as they decide which candidate is the best one to vote for.

Day 32: Today we pray for our supreme court justices, that they make decisions according to Your will and that they judge morally and justly.

Day 33: Today we pray in thanksgiving for giving our forefathers the wisdom of establishing the division of powers so that our nation does not rest in the hands of one person.

Day 34: Today we pray that You bring healing to the culture of death mentality in our country, open eyes and soften hearts of those promulgating this evil agenda of killing innocent babies and our elderly.

Day 35: Today we pray that You take away the self-centered, indulgence, pride, and lack of shame over sin that plagues our nation.

Day 36: Today we thank You for making us citizens of this land of the free; help us make the right choices to please You, dear Lord, come voting day.

Day 37: Today we pray that You look with mercy on those who rule and lead the citizens of our country; help them see Your Holy Face, give them Faith.

Day 38: Today we pray that You grant to all our leaders the grace to know and do your Holy Will.

Day 39: Today we pray that You inspire Congressmen with the courage to make laws for the good of all and that they are pleasing to Thee.

Day 40: At America’s founding, our forefathers knew that our rights come from nature and God and not from government; pray that men in power realize this truth.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

St. Michael, the Archangel, Defend these men and their families in battle. Be their defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke the devil, I humbly pray; and do thou, Oh Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the Power of God, cast into hell satan** and all his evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

 

** yes, we are well aware that the prince of darkness should be capitalized but we choose not to.

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Abortion Amelia Doctrine Faith Formation Holy Days of Obligation Ink Slingers Mary Motherhood NFP and contraceptives Respect Life Saints Vocations

No MisConception, Here!

Imagine for a moment that you could choose your mother. Unrestricted by time, out of all the women in the world, you can handpick the woman who will carry you, nurture you, and raise you to adulthood. Additionally, you know that, because of a hereditary disorder, she is marked for sickness and death. You have the power to save her from that and, in so doing, you can give her what she needs in order for her to cope with the sorrow you know will pierce her heart. If she were your mother and you had the power to do all of that, wouldn’t you do it?
Why is it so difficult to imagine that God has done that very thing for one very special woman,

His Own Mother?

Another Catholic Sista explained why Mary needed to be sinless as Jesus’ Mother and as witness to the Crucifixion of Christ. I will attempt to explain how it’s possible that she was conceived without sin, why it’s necessary, and why this is important to us all.
God is sovereign King of the Universe and as such is not bound by any laws. If He were subject to laws, He would not be GOD. God can create however He wills. He spoke, and there was light. God lovingly crafted Adam and Eve, sharing His own nature with them. He gave them many gifts – the most important of which was the gift of sanctifying grace, allowing His love (the Holy Spirit) to flow directly into them. God required only one thing from them in order for their children to inherit this gift as their birthright: a free act of the will. Adam and Eve had to choose all on their own to love God and to demonstrate this in obedience to Him alone. It was with complete clarity of mind, for there was no ignorance or weakness before the Fall, that they chose themselves over God. They were punished with suffering and death. As their descendants, we are born with the stain of that first sin, Original Sin.

Since God created Adam and Eve, only one human being (besides Christ!) has possessed a perfectly balanced human nature:

The Blessed Virgin Mary

 The stain of Original Sin would have been on Mary as well had Jesus not saved her.  From the instant she was conceived, Mary was in spiritual union with God. We call this her Immaculate Conception.

 

“He selected and purified a tabernacle for Himself, becoming the immaculate seed of the woman, forming His body miraculously from the substance of the Virgin Mary” (John Henry Cardinal Newman)

Mary’s Immaculate Conception was a special gift from God, a privilege He bestowed upon the Woman chosen to be His mother. Does this mean that Mary had no need for a Savior?

Absolutely not!

 

She did need a Savior. In fact, she has greater cause to praise Him than anyone, for she was rescued from the pit of sin before she ever fell in.
Mary, most blessed among women, being always free from original sin, was from the start filled with the sanctifying grace that usually comes with baptism after birth. She was so “full of grace” that she became defined by it and was troubled by the Angel’s greeting at the Annunciation. She had found favor with God and was destined to be the Mother of Our Lord. But note: predestination does not mean predetermination. She could have, at any moment, said “No”…but she didn’t. The Heavens waited with bated breath, and she said Yes.

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.”

God took great care in describing to the tiniest detail how He was to be worshipped. One can go cross-eyed reading about blue, scarlet, and purple stuff in the Old Testament. He designed the Ark of the Covenant and required that it be exactly the way He wanted it and placed in the Holy of Holies where no one might look upon it with irreverence. The point is: God is Holy. He cannot be treated as any common thing. We cannot use our everyday dishes during Mass. We go in our Sunday best to church. He is to be worshipped and adored with the very best we can offer, because He is God. Therefore, it stands to reason that not just any Tabernacle would do for the Son of the Living God. Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant because she carried within her the Word of God made flesh.  God’s eyes are too pure to look upon evil. His perfect Son could only be born of a virgin, pure, stainless, set apart. But just because one is a virgin, it does not mean that one is without sin. Mary was both, because God made her that way.

Some would argue that all of this about Mary is not explicitly mentioned in Scripture.  Just because something is not spelled out in the Bible in a straightforward way does not necessarily mean it did not happen, only that the author chose not to tell us about it. For example, if I tell you a story about my day yesterday, I might tell you that I got up, went to Mass, and then came home. You know that in order for me to go to Mass, I have to get dressed (you would hope!) and go out my door. I don’t have to tell you every detail. You know, without my having to say so, that I need to walk out of the church in order to come back home and that I need to walk through my door in order to get into my house. Now imagine that I wrote all of this down and gave it to a Catholic friend with whom I go to Mass. If you are a practicing Catholic, you know what happens during Mass and I don’t need to explain to you that I crossed myself with holy water upon entering the sanctuary, that I genuflected before sitting down, and that I received Our Lord in the Eucharist. The same can be said about Holy Scripture in that God’s Word is not contained in one book, but in fact it includes and is complemented by Sacred Tradition. St. Paul commends the keeping and passing down of oral tradition in 1 Corinthians 11:2 where we read, “I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold fast to the traditions, just as I handed them on to you.” In 2 Thessalonians 2:14 we read, “Therefore, brethren, stand firm; and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or letter from us.”
Scripture was not written in a bubble outside of history, but goes hand-in-hand with Sacred Tradition and cannot be separated from it if it is to be rightly understood. Just as the Bible cannot be understood without Sacred Tradition to set it in context, so must one look to Tradition and the Church Fathers to understand that the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary was upheld before she herself declared it to a young Basque virgin near Lourdes, France, and way before it was ever formally declared and defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854:
“…in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin.”

In honoring Mother Mary, we obey our Lord, who gave her to us all on Calvary as our spiritual mother.

The Catholic Church has us pause in the middle of Advent to celebrate the Mother of God’s conception (We celebrate her birthday nine months later on September 8.), not only because Mary’s identity is inextricably linked to Jesus’ identity, but also because the Church must obey God in valuing life and life begins at conception. We are each of us knit in our mother’s womb. Each of us is personally known and loved by God. A fertilized egg does not at some point become a human being, it IS human. And, as a human being with a soul, he or she has dignity and a right to live.

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Mary, like Jesus, is prefigured in the Old Testament. She is the New Ark of the Covenant, the New Eve, the Gebirah or Queen Mother of the Davidic Kingdom. I am human, and I err…a lot. I encourage you to put my words to the test. Read the Bible, read the Catechism, research Sacred Tradition and the Church Fathers. If you need further assistance, there are several excellent Catholic sites in addition to this one that can explain further, such as Catholic Answers(www.catholic.com) and NewAdvent (www.newadvent.org). They are apologists; I am not. I am just a mom who has stayed up way too late to write about her Mother whom she loves dearly and talks to every day.