Catholic Christians and the Mother of God

Mary Mother Of Jesus Vector Illustration
Image by Vectorportal via Flickr

Today, December 8, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  To those of us who are Roman Catholic, this is a high point of Advent, as we are reminded that Mary, the humble servant of God and first “living temple” of our Lord Jesus Christ, was conceived sinlessly.

Ah, you say…that is proof that Catholicism is false!!! The smoking gun indeed.  Romans 3:23 teaches clearly that “all have sinned.” To which we say, yes it does. As the theology of Mary developed over the centuries, this issue was bantered about numerous times.  We know that Mary, a created human being like all of us, needed a Savior, and in fact calls God her “Savior” during her famous Magnificat in Luke 1:46-56.  How or in what way  does this seeming contradiction fit together then?

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, section 491, we are told, quoting from the solemn dogma of Pope Pius IX of 1854 (although the Church had more or less officially taught this for centuries by this time) the following words: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”

Mary’s salvation then was in the form of preservation from sin, but still accomplished by what Jesus her Son and Savior would one day accomplish on the Cross.  She was saved by Him as we are.  Without going deeply into the theology here, suffice it to say that, even in the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was built with painstakingly care, covered with ornate gold and designed with other costly materials and literally was the best that humans could make. Why?  Because it signified and in a very real sense “carried” the presence of God.  Yet Hebrews 9: 1-14 clearly teaches us that even this Ark was only a sign, a foreshadowing of the future presence of Jesus physically on this earth, and of His life, death, and resurrection.

Mary however, as the “New Ark of the Covenant,” carried within her womb the actual second person of the Trinity, clothed in human flesh, for 9 full months, and his earthly flesh was literally formed from her own body!  If simply touching the Ark indiscriminately could cause death under the Old Law, and it did in some cases do so, then Mary indeed needed to be an absolutely pure vessel to carry our Lord as she did. We believe that God accomplished this purification within her at the moment of her conception.  Hence we celebrate and honor (not worship!) this amazing woman of God, the very first Christian, the one called “full of grace” by the angel Gabriel (see Luke 1: 28), and the Theotokos (Greek for “God bearer“).  To think that God could or did singularly preserve her from sin rather than saving her from it later is not such a leap when thought of in this way.

Jumping back to Romans 3:23 for just a moment, most Christians of all persuasions believe that children dying before the age of accountability go to heaven, as well as those with severe learning disabilities such that they cannot discern right from wrong.  Catholics agree. Although not mysteriously preserved from the sin nature as Mary was, these have passed into eternity without ever having committed what we would call “actual sin,” that is they do not ever consciously disobey God by personal choice. We also believe that Adam and Eve were not created as sinners–they only became so after tasting of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, so they too were in a very real sense “immaculately formed” (in their case not conceived) and at least for a time were perfect in the sight of God. Even Romans 3:23 thus has a context.

Taylor Marshall has written a wonderful article on his “Canterbury Tales” page about this topic, and  I would strongly suggest starting there for more information on this topic.  The link is:

http://cantuar.blogspot.com/2011/12/church-fathers-on-immaculate-conception.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+taylormarshall+%28Canterbury+Tales+by+Taylor+Marshall%29&utm_content=FaceBook

Even if you do not fully accept this teaching, you will at very least learn why we who are Roman and Eastern Catholic believe in it.  And why, this day, we honor Jesus’ Mother and ours, Mary the Mother of God.

 O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Catholic Christians and the Mother of God

  1. Lidia

    Just found your blog, and love it! But, any chance you would consider dropping the word “Roman” when talking about us Catholics? It was a titled dubbed us by the English protestants, I believe. We’re Catholic, Roman Rite, Eastern Rite, Byzantine etc… we’re all in union with the Pope. I have run into so many protestants who only hate the “Roman” Catholic Church (and think the other Catholic Churches don’t submit to Rome, and are somehow different and less evil).

    Like

    1. catholicboyrichard

      Hi Lidia and welcome!

      Thanks for the kind words as well. Now as to your concerns. You might notice that I am “catholicboyrichard” not “Romancatholicboyrichard,” and towards the end of the article I specifiallly mentioned those of us who are “Roman and Eastern Catholics.” I very purposefully included both. I however do not happen to be Eastern, although I have been to several beautiful Byzantine Liturgies and thought that they were majestic.

      However I feel that dropping the use of “Roman” altogether would possibly cause its own confusion as to my particular spiritual direction. For example if I call myself a “Western Catholic” I think people might suddenly expect me to show up to Mass on a horse and be shooting the pistol I do not own hehe.

      So I am not comfortable identifying myself as something other than what I am, which is indeed a “Roman Catholic Christian.” You might also note that even the word “Christian” began as an offense and insult to believers according to the book of Acts, but eventually became the main identifier for those who worship our Lord Jesus Christ. What I therefore would much prefer to do is to see us take back our language, no matter how it began or with whom, and then show our common Faith by reaching out to all, Eastern, Western, Orthodox and Protestant believers in our Lord. I do appreciate your contact, and hope you will continue to stay in touch. God bless.

      I will always respect our “Eastern lung” and publicly try to show that respect.

      Like

    2. Great post, Richard. Insightful and spiritually deep–keep up the great work. In terms of the term “Roman Catholic,” Richard, I agree with your thoughts on the matter. The Catholic Church is composed of 23 different Churches that are in Communion with each other.

      Lidia, it is frequently interpreted as slighting the 22 Eastern Catholic Churches if one just says “Catholic” when one means “Roman Catholic.” The terms “Roman Catholic” and “Greek Catholic” began to be commonly used in the Austrian (Hapsburg) Empire by the Empress Marie Theresa as a way of protecting the interests and rights of the Greek Catholics in her domain. She was officially recognizing their existence and individuality, and admitting that the Roman Catholics were not to be seen as superior or more authentic than the Eastern Catholics. Also, when the Anglicans began to refer to the Roman Catholics as Roman Catholics, there were, perhaps, only one or two Eastern Catholic Churches in existence…so most R.C.s would probably not have seen a reason to make the distinction, but since we have 22 Eastern Catholic Churches now, it makes total sense to say Roman Catholic when one means Roman Catholic. 🙂

      Like

Comments are closed.