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The Immaculate Conception Revisited

The necessity of the Immaculate Conception does not demand an infinite regress of sinless ancestors, nor does the dogma’s necessity involve ecclesiastical voluntarism. Rather, it’s a necessary part of the Catholic conception of the economy of salvation.

Detail from "The Immaculate Conception" (1767-69) by by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, in the Museo del Prado, Spain. (Wikipedia)

In December 2018, I wrote an article for Catholic World Report on the Immaculate Conception: “Why I came to believe that Mary was conceived without sin.” I argued that it was (1) a matter of typology, that Mary had to be sinless so that she could be in Eve’s original state to undo through her obedience what Eve did through her disobedience, and showed how the stories of Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary suggested Mary’s sinlessness. I also pointed out (2) how Marian teachings are a reflex of Christology; we Catholics believe what we do about Mary because of what we believe about Jesus.

I received some correspondence from faithful, thoughtful Catholics concerned that I had described the Immaculate Conception as “necessary” and not merely fitting. Claiming the Immaculate Conception is necessary (so my interlocutors assert) involves a necessary infinite regress, that St. Anne and her mother and her mother before her would need to be sinless for Mary to be sinless, and, further, that by using the word “necessary” I had given Protestants ammunition to deride the doctrine as absurd (thanks to the infinite regress needing to make even Eve sinless at the time of the delivery of her children, which of course is not the biblical case) and also ammunition for them to deride the doctrine as a raw exercise of authoritarian power.

Neither follows. The necessity of the Immaculate Conception does not demand an infinite regress of sinless ancestors, which would absurdly negate the very Original Sin for which it’s supposed to be a remedy. Nor does the dogma’s necessity involve ecclesiastical voluntarism. Rather, it’s a necessary part of the Catholic conception of the economy of salvation.

I’ve given a lot of thought to the questions, and thought it would be worthwhile to share my reflections in hopes of giving readers a deeper understanding of the logic of this Marian dogma. Above all, the Catechism itself uses the strong word “necessary” (“In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace,” §490), so we are obligated (if we would be thinking Catholics for whom the truths of the faith nourish devotion) to understand just how that necessity comes about in the economy of salvation. We will find that Mary needed to be sinless from conception, not a moment after, and that no one in her line needed to be sinless before her.

Some assert that since Christ alone needed to be protected from Mary’s sin, God could simply have “zapped” Jesus himself from his conception in utero Mariae Virginis. The problem here is that Christ would not be fully human, for to be human is to share the very flesh of one’s mother. Jesus inherits human nature from his mother, not abstract human nature separated from his mother. (As then-Cardinal Ratzinger once put it, “If Mary no longer finds a place in many theologies and ecclesiologies, the reason is obvious: they have reduced faith to an abstraction. And an abstraction does not need a Mother.”) So Mary needs to be sinless so that Jesus can be sinless (and he needs to be; God’s presence cannot abide sin, and so the Incarnation requires Jesus’s sinlessness). In short, if God zaps only Jesus, we wind up with a docetic, even Gnostic conception of Christ who hasn’t assumed true human nature, and what is not assumed is not saved. We would be left to die in our sins.

I think that my interlocutors were willing to rely simply on the authority of the Church’s magisterium and find the doctrine merely “fitting,” not necessary, but in doing so they were operating with the implicit, unrecognized understanding that the necessity of Mary’s Immaculate Conception would be a sort of voluntarism, in which the Church simply declares it to be true because it’s fitting, even though it need not be true. That’s the sort of thing that, in my experience, Protestants (ironically, being voluntarists) really don’t like because it smacks of authoritarianism. It sounds like the Church idolized Mary so much it declared her Immaculate even though she didn’t have to be. And so even though my interlocutors were concerned to avoid the language of necessity for interconfessional apologetic reasons, they wound up with the same authoritarian voluntarism they wished to avoid.

For God “zapping” or just fixing things ad hoc with Jesus himself would be a much more Protestant way of thinking given the idea’s inherent voluntarism (which, God being conceived of as pure will but not intellect, means there’s no rhyme or reason to God, and so theology becomes il-logical, irrational). Part of the reason the immaculate conception seems convoluted to Protestants and others is because Catholics, not being voluntarists, believe there’s a theo-logic to how God works; he’s rational, logical (the Divine Word, the Son of God, is the logos, after all), not random. It’s voluntarism, which Protestantism ran amok with, in which God is random, arbitrary. So if we speak of God “zapping” Mary at her conception, it’s a matter of (theo)logical necessity, not rank voluntarism in the fashion of a Deus ex machina.

What of infinite regress? One answer is that God likes to be efficient, or better, that the economy of salvation history is indeed economical. All that needs to be done is for Christ to have a (1) true and (2) sinless human nature, so only Mary herself needs to be sinless. Therefore, God “zaps” her proleptically with the retroactive merits of Christ (as Pius IX’s declaration quoted in the Catechism asserts, Mary was preserved from original sin “by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ,” §491). Important here is the fact that Jesus has two natures, Mary one.

Because of this qualitative difference in Mary’s and Jesus’s Persons, then, a series of sinless parents is not necessary. Mary has only one nature, a human one, and thus it is only necessary that she be kept from the stain of original sin. But Jesus Christ, having both a human and a divine nature, needed a sinless human parent, for divinity cannot abide sin. He needed to assume true, sinless human flesh and unite the two natures human and divine without separation and confusion in one Person. So Christ is qualitatively different from Mary and from us, even while he shares his humanity with us (by the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist) that ours might be made sinless like his.

Put perhaps more simply, from Jesus’s conception there is the perfect Chalcedonian unity of divine and human natures. The human nature needs to be true and sinless so Mary needs to be sinless, but only Mary had to be sinless from conception so as to pass on that true, sinless human nature to her Son.

A few other considerations have come to me, which I think are important for delving deeper into the dogma. First, only Mary needs the preservation provided by the Immaculate Conception—and not her parents behind her—because as a normal non-divine human she’s a potential sinner before conception. She’s saved by grace, again proleptically, but still really and truly saved by the merits of Christ applied graciously to her. She can be sanctified from conception, but Ss. Anne and Joachim don’t have to be. If it helps by way of analogy, some people, regardless of parentage, are touched by God’s grace and cooperate to the point that they are saints on earth, while other people aren’t, and remain sinners. So too with Mary’s line.

But second, this also means that for Mary that preservation needs to be from conception and not an instant after—one could argue that God could have zapped her in utero sanctae Annae after animation (as I believe St. Thomas wrongly held; see ST III.27.2), or as a teenager, for instance, and sanctified her flesh at some later point. But that would mean she’d have had sin in her flesh for a time, even if for an instant, and even after zapping concupiscence would have remained (assuming Mary is a regular human, and after contracting Original Sin with its concupiscence, she certainly would have been), as with Baptism in the case of others saved by Christ’s grace. Christ’s human nature, then, would have been infected by concupiscence.

A third consideration flows from this second: The immaculate conception of Mary recognizes and affirms a distinction between Mary and Jesus. She’s not a superhuman or some sort of deity, but needs sanctification because she was liable to sin in principle before conception; she is truly saved. Christ, however, is the Savior, not one in need of being saved. Precisely because of the Immaculate Conception, the flesh of Jesus Christ could never have been liable to the possibility of Original Sin, and, conversely, the sinless human nature of Jesus Christ requires he never be liable even to the possibility of contracting Original Sin in the Incarnation. (Of course, it was possible for him to sin actively, as he was in the position of the New Adam, with real free will, and was tempted by sin; see of course Matthew 4:1–11, the Temptation, and Hebrews 4:15.)

And that, I think, is something those who deny the Immaculate Conception who would otherwise be orthodox Christian believers need to answer: Exactly how does Christ get sinless flesh, if not by the mechanism spelled out in the Catholic economy of salvation? Protestant Christology ends up breaking down, I think, precisely because the original Reformers (for all their esteem of Mary) saw Mariology as a potential obstacle to Christ, not a gateway, as if the two were in theological competition, not cooperation. Substitutionary, vicarious atonement appropriated by means of justification through faith alone means Christ’s person is cut off from us. There is no sacramental connection either to Jesus’s sinless nature or his divine nature since all is by faith, Protestants having downplayed the necessity and efficacy of sacraments for salvation.

Later Protestants who have tried to explain the importance of Christ’s humanity for our salvation have fallen into the error of asserting that Christ’s humanity was fallen (if not sinful, assuming that the distinction between fallen and sinful could even be meaningful); Christ enters into our fallen condition to redeem it from within. Karl Barth writes,

There must be no weakening or obscuring of the saving truth that the nature which God assumed in Christ is identical with our nature as we see it in the light of Fall. If it were otherwise, how could Christ be really like us? What concern would we have with him? We stand before God characterized by the Fall. God’s Son not only assumed our nature but he entered the concrete form of our nature, under which we stand before God as men damned and lost. (Church Dogmatics I.2, p. 153)

The answer to Barth’s rhetorical question is that we weren’t meant to be fallen. Instead of stooping all the way into fallen human nature, the divine Son of God stoops down into perfect sinless humanity to bring us up to that level, and beyond, as being also divine the Son of God infuses us with God’s very life (see John 1:4, “In him was life,” zōē, divine life, God’s own life, and 10:10, “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly”).

Protestants often operate theologically with two levels or states of humanity, Edenic or paradisal (and thus unfallen) and postlapsarian (thus fallen). The point of salvation is to restore fallen humans to an Edenic, paradisal state. Endzeit (the end time) recapitulates Urzeit (the primordial, Edenic time), paradise lost (as Milton poeticized so elegantly) becomes paradise regained. So for Christ to enter time as a man, he has to take on fallen human nature or he takes no human nature at all, for Protestant theology sees no other option. But limiting theology to two levels or states is a mistake, for there are actually three levels, three states of humanity, and Endzeit does not merely restore or recapitulate Urzeit. Paradise regained is actually paradise transformed.

Level/State 2 (yes, 2; this is the middle state between fallen and divinized): Before the Fall, Adam and Eve were normal humans, but sinless. They weren’t yet divinized, and (I believe, with certain Church Fathers) they were mortal but meant to be raised to immortality. (God tells Adam not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil, for “in the day you eat of it you shall die,” Genesis 2:17, but when Adam and Eve eat the fruit, they do not in fact die literally, leading some Fathers to opine they must have died spiritually.) The point may be immaterial, for whether mortal or immortal at their creation, they were normal human beings (unless one adopts the earlier St. Augustine’s radical, hyper-Platonist, nearly Gnostic allegorical reading of Genesis, in which they are souls and don’t even have bodies until God gives them “garments of skin” well after the Fall, Genesis 3:21); Adam and Eve in Eden do not resemble Christ in his resurrected state as we see it in the Gospels.

Level/State 1 (the lowest): Although made normal as body and soul composites, if not mortal, Adam and Eve were intended by God to go from level/state 2 to divinization, that is, to level/state 3 (as St. Irenaeus teaches), but their sin intervened, knocking them down to level/state 1. And so after the Fall, Adam and Eve and their descendants are tainted by Original Sin with its concupiscence, and have a longer and harder road to divinization.

Level/State 3: (the highest): This is the state of humanity in heaven (and it is experienced even now on earth). If we use the example of Jesus’s risen body as depicted in the Gospels, and consider his Transfiguration, which is a proleptic disclosure of resurrection glory, and think about what St. Paul is getting at with his theologizing regarding his conception of a “spiritual body” in 1 Corinthians 15, we get an idea of what resurrected life looks like. The resurrected, now spiritual body of Jesus Christ walks through walls (John 20:26–29). It’s unrecognizable unless God enables one to perceive it (Luke 24:16, 31). It seems to eat fish, though it need not (John 21:9–14). It’s not a normal body. It’s beyond the normal bodies that Adam and Eve had in Eden. This is the sort of glorified body given believers at the end of time.

So we see three levels or states of human nature in the biblical story, not two: sinless human nature, fallen human nature, and resurrected and divinized human nature. In the Incarnation, the Son of God takes on sinless human nature because of his own divine nature. Christ does not need to enter into fallen human nature; rather, he takes fallen humans up from that state towards and to an unfallen state and finally to a divinized state. And that begins even now not only through faith as trusting love but also through the sacraments, which unite us to Christ and purge us of sin and ultimately give us resurrection life, zōē, even in the here and now (see Romans 6:1–11).

Modern Protestant theology, then, is stuck having to come to the point where it asserts Jesus must take on sinful human flesh if he is to save us. Catholic theology observes that we don’t go merely from sinful to sinless, but ultimately to divinization. The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary thus provides the middle level/state of a sinless human nature for Christ to bridge the gap between our sinful mortality on one hand and sinless immortality on the other. We come to share in his sinless humanity and move thereby into also sharing his divinity, and become eventually immortal ourselves.

(Editor’s note: This essay was originally posted on July 30, 2019.)

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About Dr. Leroy Huizenga 48 Articles
Dr. Leroy Huizenga has a B.A. in Religion from Jamestown College (N.D.), a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in New Testament from Duke University. During his doctoral studies he received a Fulbright Grant to study and teach at Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt, Germany. After teaching at Wheaton College (Ill.) for five years, Dr. Huizenga was reconciled with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil of 2011. Dr. Huizenga is the author of The New Isaac: Tradition and Intertextuality in the Gospel of Matthew (Brill, 2012), co-editor of Reading the Bible Intertextually (Baylor, 2009), and is currently writing a major theological commentary on the Gospel of Mark for Bloomsbury T&T Clark’s International Theological Commentary series. A shorter work on the Gospel of Mark keyed to the lectionary for Year B, Loosing the Lion: Proclaiming the Gospel of Mark, was published by Emmaus Road (2017), as was a similar work on the Gospel of Matthew, Behold the Christ: Proclaiming the Gospel of Matthew (Emmaus Road, 2019).


  1. The necessity for the Immaculate Conception might be from the simple truth that Mary’s parents , having lived a life of abstinence and prayer, having been prepared to be from a holy line, were ready to accept the grace to conceive in the holiness that Adam and Eve too would have had , with total gratitude and joy for their human nature may be .
    Fallen man, afflicted by the spirits of envy , fear and greed etc : , likely could not have same to the extent we were meant to have , until in The Lord we were set free again , through The Cross .
    Hoping that the writings of the visions of Bl.Emmerich would find more room in more lives, the scene she is shown of the occasion of the meeting of Sts Anne and Joachim , at the temple gate . She goes on to say that O.T is about God preparing a holy line , to bring forth The Woman , destined to be the New Eve, enemy too hard at work , to destroy that line .
    The importance given to this event , in our times, through events such as the Lourdes apparitions, Miraculous Medal etc ; are to likely point to us the importance of the graces God wants us to invoke , to help us too to be set free , from the enemy lies that want to make us see life as a burden , depriving us of occasions to thank God , along with our Lord, for the gift of our lives, to thus deliver and protect us from the lies and fears against life , the deeper unity in the same gratitude that others too have , of whatever faith .
    Good to see more efforts in these realms, to thus deepen the gratitude we owe for our lives , to thus set us free from the holds of carnality and related evils and divisions –
    O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us all .

  2. This is an excellent commentary on the necessity of the Immaculate Conception. Huizenga unveils a significant related truth, that if Mary were purified “in utero sanctae Annae” God’s presence would then abide in sinful flesh, to wit purified and that is not possible [even though Aquinas presumed as much]. We can come to that conclusion today due to the revealed Dogma of the Immaculate Conception that opened a wider spectrum of truth for us. That premise that God could not abide in sinful flesh [although purified] repudiates the “Gnostic conception of Christ who hasn’t assumed true human nature, and what is not assumed is not saved. We would be left to die in our sins”. Arius adopted the Gnostic conception as did Constantinople Patriarch Nestorius both presuming the Word dwelt within a human body. Thence Nestorius would hold that the flesh and blood that Jesus received from Mary did not convey the divinity. Consequently the Holy Eucharist would be bread, not the Real Presence. And consequently Nestorius was anathematized by fellow Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria. What Dr Huizenga wonderfully unveils therefore is that unless Jesus was truly Man as well as true God we could not be saved. The mystery defined by Cyril of Alexandria of two complete natures divine and human in Christ affirms that reality. That Man had to be saved, reconciled to the Father by Man, the perfect, obedient servant Jesus of Nazareth. That perfect obedience and sacrifice of self could only be accomplished by the Son of Man who is also the Son of God.

  3. Try explaining this to a well-educated, STEM-fluent, contemporary American teenager and then you will understand why they are leaving the church. For them it’s like so many other Catholic traditions and minutiae that make as much sense as cutting water with a knife. What the Catholicism today needs is another Blaise Pascal; Mathematician, physicist and Catholic Apologist.

    • Nonsense.

      One could not even touch the Ark of the Covenant. How in the world could the New Ark be other than a sinless cradle for absolute Divinity? If a sinful body can envelop Divinity, Heaven could then accommodate sinners. Without a sinless Mary, the whole Incarnation makes no sense.

      If it is so ‘logical’ that Christ be born of a sinful nature, why didn’t He do so?? Throughout the New Testament, He worked and healed through many a sinner.

      But He wouldn’t be born of a sinner.

      Why not?

    • Blaise Pascal’s Jansenist Catholicism was ultimately condemned by the Church. It’s insistence on a Calvin-like predetermined automatic acceptance on Grace was in conflict with the free-will of every individual in the Church.

    • The problem is that those “well-educated, STEM-fluent, comtemporary American teenagers” are *not* well-educated – in the Faith. And if they’re not well-educated in the Faith, they’re not well-educated at all.

      As to another Blaise Pascal, perhaps those “STEM-fluent” teenagers should spend some time studying Blaise Pascal himself.

    • Try explaining this to a well-educated, STEM-fluent, contemporary American teenager and then you will understand why they are leaving the church.

      Your mistake is assuming that STEM fluent contemporary American teenagers are all well educated, which we know they aren’t. The two intrinsically disordered, sexually deviant, atheist shooters – Devon Erickson and Maya McKinney – responsible for the murder of Immaculate Conception believing STEM fluent Kendrick Castillo in Highlands Ranch, Colorado in May of 2019 prove that you know not that on which you foolishly opine.

      Perhaps those two evil mushheads will surrender to Divine Providence and come to believe in the Immaculate Conception as they spend the remainder of their pathetic lives in cold cells paying for the murder their “educated” minds convinced them they could commit without consequence.

    • Unfortunately well educated now means in most cases be subject to years of secularist propaganda. This along with the drastic reduction in the catholic school system, and poor overall catechesis in general each succeeding generation will have increasingly poor understanding of catholic teaching.

    • “Pensées forms one of the most unique and powerful defenses of the Christian faith ever written. It does not reflect a systematic or scientific approach to apologetics, but ‘owes its force to the wealth of psychological perception which it embodies.’ (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church). Instead of using Thomistic proofs, which were oriented to readers who accepted at least generally a common worldview and approach to knowledge, Pascal addresses the condition of mankind without God: wretched, lonely, corrupt, and lost. He recognized that people of his time were turning their backs on objective truth and could not be approached on the basis of shared cultural beliefs or naked logic alone. This is why Peter Kreeft explains in Christianity for Modern Pagans (Ignatius, 1993), his excellent guide to the Pensées, that ‘Pascal is the first postmedieval apologist. He is “for today” because he speaks to modern pagans, not to medieval Christians. He is the first to realize the new dechristianized, desacramentalized world and to address it.’ (~Catholic

      We note that Pascal’s approach to apologetics is neither scientific, systematic, or logical, but the notes of faith-reality he strikes are exactly those which the typical STEM-student-pagans of today sorely need.

    • I am a physicist. And such doctrines as the Immaculate Conception are what helped cure my prior atheism and led me into the Church. If you believe that sociological trends, especially among the young, reflect human wisdom rather than herd stupidity than you might want to take a retreat to consider whether you’ve ever taken the first significant steps towards wisdom, which always begins in parodox, which always cuts across the grain of pride. Grace is not “minutiae.”

    • Clearly you have no respect for Scripture to use it smugly as a bludgeon to reinforce your vapid thesis of rationalist trivialization of transcendent sacred mysteries.

  4. This piece is an embarrassingly poorly-argued string of non-sequitors. Every single consideration he gives for Mary’s immaculate conception is, at the end of the day, still only an argument for fittingness. It simply is not true that Christ could not have been born of a sinner; it does not logically follow from Christ’s own divinity that His Mother must be sinless, nor does it logically follow that He would have inherited original sin if His Mother hadn’t. If God could preserve Mary free from original sin without so preserving her mother, than God the Son could have done the same for Himself.

    • Your concept of God is lowly, poor and limited and it shows. I see you are projecting yourself as you see God as very limited, who supposedly needs an excuse of “fittingness” to his Holy Works. You continually say, “…it does not logically follow…” God is the Creator of all things and also the Creator of Logic but, as with everything He has ever created, he is not absolutely bound to it or a slave to it or a slave to anything, especially narrow, limited human expectations and “logic”: “As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts..”, (Isaiah 55:9) The Holy Bible and all of the Catholic 2,000 years Tradition and all Saints of all time testify to this.

      “It does not logically follow”, as you say, that God would call humans, much lower than Angels, to be divinized. Yet He intends it through Jesus. “It does not logically follow” that God would incarnate in a human and not an Angel. “It does not logically follow” that Satan a Seraphim, the most beautiful and powerful order of Angels, was challenged and defeated by Michael, and Archangel, a lower order of Angels. “It does not logically follow” that God would use a stutterer, Moses, to lead His People out of Egypt and, likewise, other very defective and, by His Power, very effective instruments all through the Old and New Testaments. I could go on and on for days like this. Glory be to God!!

      God’s Original Design to divinize us lowly humans has not changed. It was indeed a call to humility to the Angels and a third rejected it and failed to obey. For the rebel angels “it didn’t logically follow” for God would do that. They were damned by limited logic. It follows GOD’S Highest Most Holy Logic that His Son be born of an Immaculate Mother, lifting the human race again like never ever before. At the end, it is your choice to rebel and be damned against God’s Higher Purpose like the fallen angels or respond to God’s Infinitely Higher Logic and be humble before God’s Glory and live in eternal praise and accept being divinized here and now through a love and peace “that surpasses understanding” (Philippians 4:7), inspired by His Most Amazing Grace in Mary’s Immaculate Conception.

      It’s your choice and your call, brother, choose carefully and wisely. Human “logic” will always trap you, God’s Wisdom will always liberate you. I already made my choice and I’m not looking back after having been a hard Protestant myself long ago. God bless you!!

  5. Enjoyed, thank you.

    With regard to, ‘…the Immaculate Conception…is a necessary part of the Catholic conception of the economy of salvation’, three things:

    1) I think we should always give witness in this and so many things we write and say, to the real and primary truth: the Immaculate Conception…is a necessary part of the Living God’s Revelation and Reality of His [,and therefore His Spouse’s,] economy of salvation.

    2) It is not so much, or really a conception, but the Revelation and Reality.

    3) being the Foundational nature and part, it is fundamentally necessary

    Blessings and mercies of the Beloved

  6. One question I’ve always had is how the Immaculate Conception relates to and potentially affects the Annunciation. If Mary was without sin from conception, then would that not negate her free will in her response to Archangel Gabriel, “Ecce ancilla Domini, fiat mihi…?” If she was truly free and had said “no” to Gabriel, would that have retro-actively negated her Immaculate Conception? Conversely, if her Immaculate Conception meant she could do nothing other than say “yes,” then whither free will? Or are we to understand that the Annunciation was in effect only the earthly re-enactment of a sort-of cosmic, eternal “yes” that Mary had already given before her own earthly (immaculate) conception and birth (but if that were the case, then are we not getting dangerously close to positing Mary as a sort of eternal 4th hypostasis, who was not truly conceived in normal human fashion, but instead incarnated at a particular time and place like the Word himself made flesh)?

    • No. Filled with grace Immaculately Conceived does not eliminate free will it strengthens the will to act freely in favor of truth. Choosing sin is contrary to a will with natural predilection toward the good as ordained by God. That is why choosing sin is a perversion or our will, intellect, and nature. Adam and Eve were born sinless and had grace and freely chose to subvert what conscience told them was wrong. After their disobedience they were fully aware and filled with shame and guilt.

  7. The 3 states of humanity postulated by this article make sense in the economy of earth and heaven, but fail to deal with hell. The author seems to say humans become divinized and hence immortal, but that would imply that somehow God is in hell.

  8. I stood amongst the stars, as a child with Guardian of great age
    With face like a Buddha or a babe
    No hair, eyes gentle shone, two pools of delight tenderness bright
    No word was uttered; he stood near, in right hand, test tube with seed
    My heart did read, it all started here I did perceive
    Then in garden of delight, tap of eternity running crystal clear
    He took me close and I did fear
    I was in ancient land amongst clamor, dust and sand
    In spirit approaching from the rear, He turned;
    His sight stooped me in my flight
    Rabbi! two pools of delight, held me tight
    I entered cool room, within maid and future groom
    Pitcher pouring water, in hand, her beauty *shone from within*
    As if she had never seen sin

    “It must have happened when you touched my hand” (The Betrothal ?)

    I saw the goodness in his manly face, no doubt did take place
    He was a true lover, who new goodness in another
    A holy family did take place in trust, love, gentleness and grace
    There was no duty here; this was love in highest sphere
    The room grows dark; from two lovers I do depart
    Now on gloomy hill, all nature still, approaching the Cross,
    Shock! nakedness, such suffering
    All nature seemed to groin with pain, I was home again
    Numb with shock, such suffering cannot be forgot
    This in truth is what I saw, I make no comment I open a door.

    *It is fair to say that this same light shone from the Groom also.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  9. With regards to the Immaculate conception.— Since Mary was born without original sin, it also follows that she in her life time on earth never committed sin. Two aspects of being born with original sin, is not only the possibility of sinning but death to the body. Thus the need for the Assumption; the taking of Mary’s body into heaven. For had not God assumed Mary’s live body into heaven, she would then have lived forever on earth.

  10. An incredibly instructive essay fruitful on multiple topics. This is what theological reflection is suppose to be. Thank you.

  11. Perhaps, it is possible, that I am too simplistic in my faith and beliefs of the Divine power of God being above our human belief and ability to fully comprehend. I seriously believe, one minute iota of of God’s power and agenda, is far above our mere human ability to reason and/or comprehend. I further believe, that all of the intelligence of mankind since the time of Adam and Eve, is but a mere speck of sand in the desert of God’s. Nothing is impossible for God for God to accomplish, even the Supreme act of love for us His human creations to be absolved from Original Sin, which He could have done with a snap of His fingers. He did better than that, by creating Mary as a pure vessel of love and Holiness, in order that His Son would would enter into this sinful world from God’s pure vessel and Mother. Only God through the power of His human Son can use His Son as the human vessel of Salvation for all mankind. For me it is that simple and I believe that God mend it to be, rather that bogging our already overworked, minds, hearts and souls down with words and theories, most of will and can never absorb much less comprehend. Perhaps, even God is scratching His Head and wondering why we are making Hid plan so difficult to believe. Peace, Bob Fallon

  12. Perhaps, as a Protestant, I don’t see the “logic” of Mary’s sinless conception since we, apparently, find God to be illogical and arbitrary. The entire issue is explained in that original sin is passed through the paternal nature. In order to sidestep this problem, one doesn’t need to make a sunless vessel, but only to not impart the father’s nature to the child. One way to do this is to have a woman become pregnant through nonsexual means. And this is EXACTLY the method explained in Scripture. Why is she the 2nd Eve? Because the 1st Eve was the mother of the sinners and the 2nd Eve was the mother of the sinless.

    • As a rationale for the Immaculate Conception we may review the controversy between Cyril Patiarch of Alexandria and Nestorius Patriarch of Constantinople. Nestorius influenced by Arianism held that the flesh [body and blood] of Christ received from the Virgin Mary did not convey the divinity, consequently the Holy Eucharist could not be understood as Christ’s real presence in the flesh and blood. Jesus to Nestorius was simply a human person with a unique relation with the Word. Cyril addresses this heresy in his 11th anathema levelled at Nestorius at the Council of Ephersus 431 AD. In holding this position Nestorius would deny Mary the title of Theotokos.
      The theology underlying the Immaculate Conception and Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is that the eternal Word sinless by nature would by nature of his divinity exclusively assume the sinless flesh of his mother.

    • Futhermore, Jesus possessed two natures, human and divine. If the incarnation were exclusively a paternal event then Christ would have been born from whithin [his flesh created], the Virgin Mother rather than from. Birth from the Virgin means Jesus also possessing a human nature [received from the Virgin’s flesh] was truly the Son of Man [a necessity for our reconciliation with the Father and our salvation] as well as Son of God.

  13. The Psalm that has been asked to be read 3 times, with out stretched arms , at noon, in observation of the I.C Feast – Psalm 50, in the Douay Rheims bible , can help to shed more light into the mystery of I.C , the whole saga of the hold of carnality and its effects in the affairs of persons and nations as the background , in the related chapters in the Books of Samuel –

    Thus , one is brought to the bittersweet occasions of good and evil , involving the Ark and all .. David’s sin is mentioned , in Sam. 2/11 – Bl.Mother appears as The Immaculate Conception , on 2/11 .
    Man alone , having the freedom in the will to sacrifice carnal appetites ,for glory of God , to thus help bring good out of same , to be more holy and gentle and patient and trusting in God and His goodness – we thus get to also see why there is the push for the carnality , its related contraceptive mentality and the related family of evils .
    ‘ Rebuild the walls of Jerusalem ..then shall calves be laid upon your altar ..’ –
    May our trust in the Motherly love and help , strengthen many , to be more open to The Spirit , to offer up the fleshly appetites to be burned away, as the offerings of calves .. as we can also thank the many holy souls in The Church , who are doing just that , through holy , consecrated lives .

  14. Huizenga writes: “So we see three levels or states of human nature in the biblical story, not two: sinless human nature, fallen human nature, and resurrected and divinized human nature.”

    This comment triggers thoughts about a fourth (mutant) derailment. Opposite the particularly Lutheran notion of a depraved human nature after the fall (totally corrupted in its very nature, not the more nuanced Catholic insight/doctrine: tending to “concupiscence”) is an opposite bookend offered/ imposed by Islam—which does not accept ORIGINAL SIN by any definition (the cancel-culture with a vengeance)…

    Instead of the incarnate/redemptive Christ entering human history to deify human nature, Islam observes a decadent West (post-Christian!), and sees our post-Enlightenment human “autonomy” as a blasphemy against the only and supreme AUTONOMY of Allah.

    Muslims do have a point, but then the Islamic alternative to the Triune One—and to the “eternity” of the Son and to the begotten Christ—is the QUR’AN which is held to be of the divine essence, that is, “uncreated [!].” Instead of God’s conversation with mankind within human history (and as testified in the “inspired” Old and then New Testaments), we have borrowed elements (e.g., parts of the Pentateuch) grafted into a divinely “dictated” Qur’an—which therefore is correctly compared/contrasted not with the Bible as a book, but with the divinity of Christ.

    And, instead of salvation history, we have DETERMINISM—the permanent border (ever above history) between the House of Islam (dar al-Islam) and the House of War (dar al-harb). Resurrection, perhaps, but no Redemption from the fall which is off the table. If the middle ground of “fraternity”—and we must work to see that it does—might it rest in appealing most clearly to the universal human nature/natural law and to the interior lives of the individual and yes-pious “followers of Islam,” rather than to the added natural religion of Islam as such, and “pluralistic” alongside the Faith of “witnesses to Christ” (as St. John Paul II reminds us of the Faith: “proposed, not imposed”).

    The Muslim religion highly reveres Mary, but only as the mother of Jesus, not the Mother of God (Theotokos). The IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, as a reality within both human and divine history, is the bridge between our fallen selves and the divinity of Christ, enabling our divinization with-in-through the Christ/Logos who gives honor to the “Father” (no such word anywhere in the Qur’an).

    Mary’s later “fiat” contrasts with any less-than-free Islamic “submission” to a, yes, monotheistic but also monolithic and willful/deterministic Allah (not Triune/not Logos)—singled out by a syncretic Mohammad (570-632 A.D.) from the polytheistic menu he found in Mecca.

  15. Thank you for representing the article , as an occasion for apologies , as having been one who had less of love than fear for the word – ‘ will of God ‘ . 🙂

    The struggle needed for our so called self will to serve The Divine Will , with all its glories and power and goodness , so that the self will be more like the little dog that follows Tobias and the angel Rafael , to hep bring forth goodness and holiness – glad to have come across same , through prayers of many and books such as the one below –

    The Immaculate Conception , from the very beginning , bathed in glory and joy , receiving from The Holy Trinity , oceans of power , wisdom and love and sending back waves of same as their little endearing child ..she , in turn loving each of us and loving the Trinity , on behalf of each of us too – our responsibility , in love , to requite The Love , with ‘ love You and thank You ‘ – from every cell of our bodies too ..

    Our times blessed with the knowledge as to how the universe originates in a mustard seed size matter , thus the above truths too not to be that difficult for us to grasp .
    Same might help our young too , to find the concordance of the glory of the Divine Will with the created world to be a source of joy and gratitude as well .

    Blessings !

  16. You are wrong in regards to the impeccability of Christ. The church pronounced the doctrine of the impeccability of Christ at the council of Constantinople 2.

  17. In our finite minds, linear thinking is too much with us…

    Instead, before Jesus Christ was conceived in Mary, Mary (like all things) was first created by the Second Person (Nicene Creed: “through Him all things were made”). God said to Moses, I AM, and Mary said at Lourdes “I AM the Immaculate Conception.” (Not “I am the product of the Immaculate Conception.”)

    It is in our minds that we separate the material world from creation and spiritual reality. The Incarnation is above and yet contains all things, already including Mary as being the Immaculate Conception. Comments?

    • As matter and spirit, we cannot help but reason from one thought to another, unlike divine Omniscience in one act of existence (“I AM”).Borrowing from Sheed, “God meets man right where he created him”, in matter and spirit (Jn 1:14), grace being communicated through matter (sacramentalism).
      “A cause cannot give what it does not have” (Aristotelian-Thomism), and so the perfection of grace in Mary, and the whole divine economy is of course present in the eternal mind of God, which we can only attempt to grasp incrementally and partially.

      • Bart,
        On second thought, I do get your point, but find it both correct and gratuitous.

        All of us are destined for “deification,” certainly including the unimpaired Mary, but she is still a creation (a “conception” uniquely “immaculate,” not a Goddess). And, because “in the image and likeness of God,” still invested with the freewill to say either “no”, or “fiat.” Just as God creates not by necessity (or as a determined emanation as with the pagans), but as a free act of divine generosity.

        Now, lest “deification” be misconstrued, Blessed Isaac of Stella defines deification only by participation and adoption, and NOT by our nature (that is, not as God or even Goddess):

        “…those who by faith are spiritual members of Christ can truly say that they are what he is: the Son of God and God himself. BUT what Christ is by his nature [!] we are as his partners; what he is of himself in all fullness [!], we are [only] as participants. Finally, what the Son of God is by generation, his members are by [only] adoption, according to the text: As sons you have received the Spirit of adoption, enabling you to cry, Abba, Father” (Liturgy of the Hours, Fifth Week of Easter, Friday).

        Great mysteries of the Faith, our (eventual) “deification” and Mary as the Immaculate Conception even in time.

  18. Although I accept the dogma, I do not consider it central to my union with Jesus. I do thank Mary, however, for saying YES to the role she was asked to play in the story of our redemption. When Mary said “yes”, Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit descended on her, the Most High overshadowed her and in her womb the Son of God became the son of man when He assumed human nature. He was a new Adam from heaven. This is what thrills me these days at Christmas time.

    • If there’s no spotless vessel in which the Word can become incarnate, there is no Incarnation, no proclamation of the Kingdon, no revelation of the Father’s love for us, no Atonement, no Resurrection, and no conquering of sin and death. Aquinas posits that God could have repaired the fatal rupture caused by Adam and Eve in an alternate way but this was the way in which He could most fully demonstrate His love for us. So while I may not think about the Immaculate Conception every time I pray to Jesus or receive Him in the Eucharist, I do ponder it quite often and am in wonder of how God in His radical freedom chose to reconcile us with Himself.

      • Frank, I do believe that the Son of God assumed the form of a human soul – the heavenly Adam – to redeem us, the descendants of the earthly Adam because of the bad decision made by our first parents. I also believe in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception because Jesus told Peter – the rock – whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. Earthly wisdom cannot unravel a divine plan.

  19. “Paradise regained is actually paradise transformed.” The Sinless One took on the flesh of the Immaculate Conception to be born into mankind’s history, to live, suffer and die leaving humanity with the gifts of the sacraments. He makes Himself available to the posterity of Adam and gives his very SELF to the repentant. Indeed, “Paradise regained is actually paradise transformed.” “Oh, happy fault!”

  20. God’s word is a lamp of insight and righteousness. We pray for divine wisdom to ascertain what what He is saying.

    A simple explanation would be that the sin nature is in the seed of the man. Woman though sinful as man is, never the less her egg is not blemished with the original sin. God has protected that. It is at conception (when the sinful sperm enters the undefiled egg) that the problems begin.

    To avoid that, the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary so that Jesus was undefiled and perfect. He was perfect in the womb and perfect throughout his life. He fulfilled the law that he had given, thereby the perfect sacrifice for the redemption of man.

    Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. [David speaking of himself].

    Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

    Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, [Speaking of natural man, ie you and I]

    Psalm 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.

    John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

    Jeremiah 1:4-5 Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

    Job 19:25 Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

    Luke 1:30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.

  21. For such an important consideration, Holy Scripture should provide a fulsome endorsement of the theory! Never the less, there seems to be some pondering against the premise too! However, it is not a tenet of faith, but rather an attempt to explain a mystery.

    Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

    Luke 1:47 And my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,

    Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

    2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

    1 Corinthians 4:1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

    1 Timothy 3:16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

    Colossians 2:2 That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,

    This is offered in the spirit of understanding and homage to God.

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