The Immaculate Conception of Mary

Immaculate Conception is not understood by many and therefore the answer to the question “What is the Immaculate Conception?” cannot be written in just one single sentence without understanding the concept, or better the doctrine from the Catholic Church.

What is the Immaculate Conception?

Many Christians believe that the term, Immaculate Conception, refers to Jesus but this is incorrect. The term is a view of the Catholic Church which declares that the Virgin Mary was without original sin from the moment of her conception.

Immaculate Conception


Pope Pius IX Explains the Doctrine

“… the Blessed Virgin was through grace, entirely free from every stain of sin, and from all corruption of the body, soul and mind: she was always united with God and joined by him to an eternal covenant; she was never in darkness but always in the light; and therefore she was entirely a fit habitation for Christ, not because of the state of her body, but because of her original grace.”
Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX


The Doctrine

Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX

On 8 December 1854, Pope Pius IX, speaking from Saint Peter’s Chair, or his Seat of Infallibility, declared the Immaculate Conception of Mary an article of faith.

According to his pronouncement in Ineffabilis Deus, Mary was given the grace to be sinless at the instant of her conception.

Sin was shut out of her. The teaching was controversial among Christians at large. Neither Protestant nor Orthodox accepts it.


The Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception

God preserved the Virgin Mary from the stain of original sin from the moment she was conceived.

This was defined as a dogma until, in 1854, Pope Pius IX, declared ex-cathedra (using papal infallibility,) the Immaculate Conception to be doctrine.

The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8. It is, in most Catholic countries, a holy day of obligation.

Because of this Grace, Mary is sometimes called the Immaculata (the Immaculate One).


The Beginning ~ The Protevangelium Account

Immaculate Conception
Immaculate Conception

The Protevangelium Account is a legend about the birth of Mary which was written about 150 A.D.

This legend tells us that Joachim was fasting in the wilderness while Anne was in her garden mourning her barrenness.

Heartbroken, as she lamented her childlessness, an angel appeared to Anne and promised her that she would conceive.

So great was her faith that Anne believed in the angel’s words and went to her husband to share this promise. In this, they joyfully embraced.
Anne did conceive and they named their daughter Mary (In Hebrew the meaning of the name Mary is: Wished-for child).

These faithful parents dedicated their children to God and kept her from evil. When Mary was three years old, she was presented in the temple where she danced on the third step of the altar.

The legend tells that “all of the House of Israel loved her.” Joseph was named as her protector and was chosen as her betrothed.

A life of continual, devoted service to the Lord at the Temple meant that Mary would not be able to live the ordinary life of a child-rearing mother. Rather, she was vowed to a life of perpetual virginity.

A life of continual, devoted service to the Lord at the Temple meant that Mary would not be able to live the ordinary life of a child-rearing mother. Rather, she was vowed to a life of perpetual virginity.


Explanation of the Dogma in Catholic Teachings

  • The essence of Original Sin consists formally in the lack of sanctifying grace. Being preserved from Original Sin, Mary entered existence in a state of sanctifying grace.
  • Mary’s freedom from Original Sin was an unmerited gift of God’s grace.
  • The efficient cause of the Immaculate Conception was Almighty God.
  • The meritorious cause was the Redemption by Jesus Christ. It follows from this that even Mary needed redemption, and was, in fact, redeemed “by the grace of Christ,” in a more perfect way than other human beings. Christ’s redemption frees all humanity from Original Sin. The uniqueness of what Christ has done for Mary is that she was freed from Original Sin before ever inheriting it, while the rest of humanity is freed after it has been inherited from Adam and Eve. (Thus, this dogma in no way contradicts the dogma that all children of Adam are subject to Original Sin and in need of a savior.)

In 1854, Pope Pius IX, with the support of the overwhelming majority of Roman Catholic Bishops, whom he had consulted between 1851–1853, proclaimed the doctrine in accordance with the conditions of papal infallibility that would be defined in 1870 by the First Vatican Council.

Pope Pius IX defined ex-cathedra as the dogma of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December 1854.

The Pope stressed that Mary’s sinlessness was not due to her own merits, but truly, by the merits of her Son, Jesus.

“We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful.”

Prayer to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

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