Did Church Fathers believe in immaculate conception?


#1

I am an Anglican (from a more evangelical background) and am being very drawn to the Catholic Church. I’ve talked to my (Anglo-Catholic) priest about my search and my questions. One thing he mentioned was that the doctrine of Immaculate Conception wasn’t believed by Church Fathers and only recently embraced. Is this true? He also says that it’s problematic regarding redemption because if Jesus didn’t receive a fallen nature from His mother, then He wasn’t really “human like us” and had nothing to heal. My priest rather believes that Mary became spotless when she conceived Jesus. Can anyone clear this up?

Victoria


#2

If you look at the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception, I don’t have it in front of me at the moment however, it says that the Immaculate Conception has been believed since the beginnings of the Church. Being declared the Immaculate Conception was only reaffirming something that had always been believed, but had come under recent attack from Protestant theologians.

It comes from Ineffabilis Deus declared on December 8th 1854

“And indeed, illustrious documents of venerable antiquity, of both the Eastern and the Western Church, very forcibly testify that this doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the most Blessed Virgin, which was daily more and more splendidly explained, stated and confirmed by the highest authority, teaching, zeal, knowledge, and wisdom of the Church, and which was disseminated among all peoples and nations of the Catholic world in a marvelous manner–this doctrine always existed in the Church as a doctrine that has been received from our ancestors, and that has been stamped with the character of revealed doctrine.”

note: editing is the addition of the text from the document.


#3

Is there a source I could look to that would have quotes from Church Fathers about this?


#4

Did the Church Fathers unanimously believe the Virgin Mary was spared from Original Sin? No.

Does this lack of uniformity mean the Virgin Mary wasn’t spared from Original Sin? No.

– Mark L. Chance.


#5

See my unfinished article:

bringyou.to/apologetics/a95.htm


#6

[quote=Victoria Lannon]I am an Anglican (from a more evangelical background) and am being very drawn to the Catholic Church. I’ve talked to my (Anglo-Catholic) priest about my search and my questions. One thing he mentioned was that the doctrine of Immaculate Conception wasn’t believed by Church Fathers and only recently embraced. Is this true? He also says that it’s problematic regarding redemption because if Jesus didn’t receive a fallen nature from His mother, then He wasn’t really “human like us” and had nothing to heal. My priest rather believes that Mary became spotless when she conceived Jesus. Can anyone clear this up?

Victoria
[/quote]

Whoa. The Bible says that Christ was like us in all ways but sin. He couldn’t have received a fallen human nature. Christ allowed his incarnate body to die, but that doesn’t imply that assumed our sinful nature.

If Mary was spotless only when she conceived Jesus, your pastor needs to explain how he knows this and by what authority he says this. After all, the angel called Mary “Full of grace” before Mary said “let it be done unto me”.

These quotes about spotlessness and painless birth seem relevant:
catholic.com/library/Mary_Full_of_Grace.asp

If the time frame between when Mary was saved from the stain of original sin and her conception is the only thing between you and the Church, you can’t get much closer! :slight_smile:


#7

The dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception is closely tied to and developed out of, the concept, first described by the early Church, of Mary as the New Eve (corresponding to Jesus as the new Adam in 1 Corinthians 15:22-28, 45-50). Just as the Woman Eve (Genesis 3:15) was a sinless virgin when she took part in the Fall, so it was fitting that the Woman who took part in our Redemption by cooperating with God, should also be a sinless Virgin. This fittingness is coupled with that of Mary being written about by the early Church as the new “Ark of the Covenant,” a pure vessel worthy to carry and bear the Lord of the Universe (Revelation 11:19–12:1-2).

It is all very scriptural and written of at length by the early Church, including those who knew the Apostles. I can’t do the entire subject justice here, but if you sincerely want a definitive answer to your question, I highly recommend “Hail, Holy Queen” by Scott Hahn. In the meantime, here’s those quotes you asked fo, plus a couple of (hopefully) helpful articles:

Mary: "Full of Grace"
catholic.com/library/Mary_Full_of_Grace.asp

How Can You Say That Mary Is the ‘New Eve’?
catholic.com/thisrock/2003/0312sbs.asp

Ark of the new covenant
catholic.com/thisrock/1991/9112fea1.asp


#8

As Apolonio points out in his article above, the Church Fathers could not “explicitly” believe in the Immaculate Conception until the Church worked out its belief in Original Sin. Virtually all the Fathers accepted that Mary was very holy and “free from sin” from birth, it was just a matter of working out the Original Sin belief, and therefore that Mary must have been “free from original sin” as well.

My article deals with some of the Fathers who had doubts about Mary’s complete sinlessness (they were few), and most who had no doubts. You’ll also want to read the article in the Catholic Encyclopedia and the discussions / debates with John Duns Scotus who eventually solved the difficulty, but then of course it took another 500 years or so for the explicit definition in 1854. Truth takes time sometimes.

Phil P


#9

[list=1]*] “This Virgin Mother of the Only-begotten of God, is called Mary, worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one.” Origen, Homily 1(A.D. 244).

*] “Let woman praise Her, the pure Mary.” Ephraim, Hymns on the Nativity, 15:23 (A.D. 370).

*] “Thou alone and thy Mother are in all things fair, there is no flaw in thee and no stain in thy Mother.” Ephraem, Nisibene Hymns, 27:8 (A.D. 370).

*] “O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all O Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides.” Athanasius, Homily of the Papyrus of Turin, 71:216 (ante AD 373).

*] “Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free of every stain of sin.” Ambrose, Sermon 22:30 (A.D. 388).

*] “We must except the Holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honour to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin.” Augustine, Nature and Grace,4 2[36] (A.D.415).

*] “As he formed her without my stain of her own, so He proceeded from her contracting no stain.” Proclus of Constantinople, Homily 1 (ante A.D. 446).

*] “A virgin, innocent, spotless, free of all defect, untouched, unsullied, holy in soul and body, like a lily sprouting among thorns.” Theodotus of Ancrya, Homily VI:11(ante A.D. 446).

*] “The angel took not the Virgin from Joseph, but gave her to Christ, to whom she was pledged from Joseph, but gave her to Christ, to whom she was pledged in the womb, when she was made.” Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 140 (A.D. 449).

*] “[T]he very fact that God has elected her proves that none was ever holier than Mary, if any stain had disfigured her soul, if any other virgin had been purer and holier, God would have selected her and rejected Mary.” Jacob of Sarug (ante A.D. 521).

*] “She is born like the cherubim, she who is of a pure, immaculate clay.” Theotokos of Livias, Panegyric for the feast of the Assumption, 5:6 (ante A.D. 650).

*] “Today humanity, in all the radiance of her immaculate nobility, receives its ancient beauty. The shame of sin had darkened the splendour and attraction of human nature; but when the Mother of the Fair One par excellence is born, this nature regains in her person its ancient privileges and is fashioned according to a perfect model truly worthy of God… The reform of our nature begins today and the aged world, subjected to a wholly divine transformation, receives the first fruits of the second creation.” Andrew of Crete, Sermon I, On the Birth of Mary (A.D. 733).

*] “[T]ruly elect, and superior to all, not by the altitude of lofty structures, but as excelling all in the greatness and purity of sublime and divine virtues, and having no affinity with sin whatever.” Germanus of Constantinople, Marracci in S. Germani Mariali (ante A.D. 733).

*] “O most blessed loins of Joachim from which came forth a spotless seed! O glorious womb of Anne in which a most holy offspring grew.” John of Damascus, Homily I (ante A.D. 749). [/list]


#10

I came across the following from St. Ephriam, dated app. 350, which would imply a sinless state:

You alone and your Mother
are more beautiful than any others;
there is no blemish in you,
nor any stains upon your Mother.
Who of my children
can compare in beauty to these.

(Faith of the Early Church Fathers, Vol.1, ital. added).

Mike


#11

Wow! Thank you everyone who responded. I can’t wait to read the links and articles. Sir Knight, the quotes were so compelling. Thank you for taking the time to write them out. It’s a matter of letting the heart catch up with the evidence.

Victoria


#12

Not all the fathers believed Mary was born without sin. There were some that believed only Christ was born without sin and not Mary.


#13

[quote=justcatholic]Not all the fathers believed Mary was born without sin. There were some that believed only Christ was born without sin and not Mary.
[/quote]

Yes, but the majority did support the immaculate conception and almost all would contend that Mary was sinless.


#14

Yes, the majority did.


#15

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