A newly-ordained deacon was given the faculty to baptize. In the baptisms that he administers, thinking that it is an opportune time to teach a group of people (parent and godparents) who may not be frequently going to church, he always gives a short homily about the sacrament of baptism and its implications on their lives. The topic of original sin always goes up, especially because most baptisms are given to infants or children. The deacon explains, “All of us, men and women, inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve, what we call the original sin. All of us born from the womb.”
As the deacon continues to write this present reflection, someone seems to be presenting herself, “Hey! I’m here!” And the deacon, covering his lips, said, “Oops!”
It was the Blessed Mother! She was presenting herself and trying to correct the deacon. She, of all men and women–with the exception of Jesus, of course–did not inherit the original sin.
Original sin is that state of loss of grace of original holiness. And what is original holiness? Original holiness is the life that mankind–Adam and Eve, for that matter–had with God, in communion with God, in a place called Garden of Eden where they had everything they needed. It is a state of living and being with God face-to-face, a holy state of life with incomparable innocence!
In the Garden, God commanded them not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Man and woman had a very good life (original holiness) until they fell to the temptation of the Devil (original sin). The serpent tricked them into eating the forbidden fruit. “You will be like gods!” was the temptation. And man fell. The woman and the man fell. They ate of the fruit that God forbade them to eat.
A result of this is that man and woman were expelled from the Garden. God punished the serpent, “On your belly shall you crawl, and dust you shall eat.” God also punished the woman, “I will intensify your toil in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth your children.” God also punished the man, “In toil you shall eat [the yield of the ground]… By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread.” These were the results of the first sin of Adam and Eve, our first parents. And the punishment remains for every man and woman. And the state of loss of original grace also remains, thus original sin is passed on from generation to generation since the time of Adam and Eve. Every human being inherits this original sin from the moment of conception. All human beings receive this stain.
But, oops! Mary says, “Hey! I’m here!” Mary is exempted. Of course, Jesus is. But of all creatures, Mary is the exception. She doesn’t have to live a life without grace, a life of estrangement from God, because of one thing… Immaculate Conception! And what is Immaculate Conception?
Mary’ Immaculate Conception refers to her conception in the womb of her mother Anne, a conception that is free from the stain of original sin. Mary was not contaminated with original sin from the first moment of her conception.
As a dogma, immaculate conception is proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854 in Ineffabilis Deus: “We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”
Immaculate conception. This does not refer to Jesus’ conception in the womb of Mary. It refers to Mary’s conception in Jesus’ grandmother Anne.
Singular grace and privilege. This means that this grace and privilege was given to one person only and no other. This was given to Mary only in view of her role to be the Mother of Jesus, true God and true Man.
In view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race. Note that Jesus was not yet born, nor yet died, to redeem the world. But Mary’s redemption happened through the merits of Jesus Christ the Savior and none else. Mary was not redeemed through her own power or any other’s. Only through Jesus Christ’s redeeming love on the cross. “Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, ‘full of grace’ through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception.” (CCC 491) Mary received the grace called prevenient grace.
First instance of her conception. Mary’s redemption happened from the first moment of her conception (December 8) and not later. She was redeemed already even before being born (September 8) and not even during the Annunciation when she was described as “full of grace” by the archangel Gabriel. When she began to exist, she was already free of any sin, including original sin.
Is this even possible? Can she be conceived without original sin? Yes. With God, nothing is impossible. Adam and Eve are actual proof that God can create a human being without original sin. God originally created human beings living in the state of original grace. So, if God wanted too, He can do it! Immaculate Conception is possible. God chose to do it so that Jesus would be born of an immaculate sinless woman.
Immaculate Conception is God’s active intervention in the world without man’s knowledge of the upcoming redemption brought about by Christ. In the hiddenness of Anne’s womb, God was already preparing a vessel for the Lord–well not only a vessel, but the Mother of the Savior. A creature exempted from the usual course of things. An obedient woman who would reverse the first woman’s disobedience.
Immaculate Conception is a reminder of God’s concern for us, even if we do not feel it, even if we do not feel it yet.
To correct the deacon, Mary says, “Hey! I’m here!” Now we learn that Immaculate Conception is God’s way of telling us, “Hey! I’m here!”
Written By: Rowel Allan A. Rocaberte