Okay, so I know I said I would write about this subject last Thursday, but time got away from me and I got really busy, so I apologize. Well, I guess I’ll dive right in.
There are a lot of people who probably don’t really know what the Immaculate Conception is all about. Many of them think it is about Jesus’ conception and not Mary’s. Perhaps that is because the Gospel reading on this feast day tells the story of the Angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that the Holy Spirit will overshadow her and she will become pregnant with the Son of God. Or perhaps it is because many of us don’t like to talk about the fact that Mary was without sin. She was, by the power of God, saved from sin at her conception. But we don’t want to talk about that with out Protestant brothers and sisters—they disagree with us. That’s understandable. Or is it?
Well, I say we take a look at the first reading.
One might wonder why we have the first reading from Genesis, chapter 3, on this feast day. It’s the one where God confronts Adam about eating fruit from the forbidden tree. Adam explains that Eve gave it to him and Eve, in turn, says the serpent tricked her. God, angry with the serpent, declares, “Because you have done this, you shall be banned from all the animals… I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” (Gen 3:14,15)
So what does this have to do with Mary?
Well, I think there is a hidden message here. First let’s ask some questions. Who is “the woman” in verse 15? Who is the offspring? First off, what does enmity mean? Dictionary.com says enmity is “a feeling or condition of hostility; hatred; ill will; animosity; antagonism.” So if there is enmity between two persons, it would be safe to say that they are enemies. The serpent we know is the devil, and therefore the enemy of the serpent and his offspring is Christ. So the offspring of the woman is Jesus Christ. If Jesus is her offspring, then the woman must, of course, be Mary. Okay, so we get that.
So if “the woman” is Mary, and there is enmity between the serpent (the devil) and Mary, then they are divided, enemies of one another. Mary’s offspring is Jesus Christ, so what is the offspring of the devil? Sin and death. All sin comes from the devil, the serpent, the tempter. (Sin is not from God.) Since Mary is “the woman” there is enmity between her and the devil. She is separate from the devil; she is not of the offspring of the devil, therefore she is not of sin. The devil is the father of all sin and death and she is the Mother of our Redemption—Jesus Christ. She cannot logically be of the offspring of the devil and yet still be the mother of that which fights the offspring of the devil. So she must have no sin (since all sin comes from the devil).
Another way to look at it is this: we are sinners because we are born with Original Sin which gives us a fondness for sin. Or fallen nature causes us to want to sin because it gives us immediate pleasure. We have a tendency to sin. If we grow closer to God then we learn to dislike sin, even to hate it. We get rid of our fondness for sin. In Genesis, God said that there would be enmity, or utter hatred, between the devil and “the woman”—Mary. This hatred of Mary toward the devil and sin demonstrates her complete lack of a fondness for sin. There is enmity between her and sin. She has no desire to sin. Absolutely no desire to sin = no Original Sin.
I’m not saying that Mary has any power of her own. God chose her for a special purpose and therefore saved her “ahead of the game”. It is only through the virtue and merits of Jesus Christ that Mary was conceived immaculately. But all the same, she was conceived without sin. She wasn’t the first woman God created without sin—weren’t we just talking about Eve?
One last thing. Some might argue that saying that Mary had no sin removes her free will. This is most certainly not true. Eve was created without sin and yet she allowed herself to give in to temptation from the serpent. I’m sure Mary was tempted many times in her life, but she remained full of grace and followed God’s will wholeheartedly. She was not without suffering either. She watched them crucify her only Son whom she loved more dearly than we ever could, and her Immaculate Heart was pierced a thousand times. Thank God we have such a strong woman to be our Mother.