Help: Explaining the "Why" of the Immaculate Conception


#1

I am having problems explaining the “why” of the Immaculate Conception to a dear friend. He understands what the Immaculate Conception is, and that it is possible, but doesn’t understand why it was necessary.

He says that Jesus wanted to have the “full human experience” when he became man, and that this would include being born to a fully human mother, human in every way including the effects of original sin. My friend says that Christ needed to have parents who could sin in order to experience full humanity.

This man listens to logical arguments and reasoning. What should I be saying to him?


#2

catholic.com/library/Immaculate_Conception_and_Assum.asp

Look under the heading “Complement to the Immaculate Conception”


#3

First off, it was not strictly necessary in the sense that God was forced to do it and there was no other way for Him to acheive His will. However it was fitting and one might be able to say that it was morally necessary in that it conforms to the biblical revelation regarding the Fall, the ark of the New Covenant, etc.

Scott


#4

The “full human experience” would include things that even Protestants don’t accept, such as Christ having sex. If you know much about the Ark of the New Covenant type, that might be a way to intrigue someone who listens to logic and reason. Start out by asking if he is in agreement that every word of the Old Testament is written to lead us to an understanding of the New, and then ask him why God, through the evangelist Luke, made such a strong parallel? In addition, a fun thing I always like to point out is that, after Mary gave birth (and anyone who has given birth can surely appreciate this), you would think she would be in terrible pain and a mess on top of that and that her good husband Joseph would have taken the baby from her to help out. BUT, look at what happens - Mary pushes a baby out of herself without the help of any anesthetic or medical assistance, and then SHE goes and lays it in the manger??? Remembering that one of the consequences of original sin is pains of childbirth, her immaculate conception would definitely explain how she was able to do so (and would help explain why Joseph wasn’t a jerk by not offering). I can just imagine the conversation.

“Oh, Mary, he’s a beautiful boy. Let me wipe him clean and place him in his bed so I can help you.”

“Nope. I’m good,” she says, hopping off the table where she delivered and walking past the dumbfounded Joseph.


#5

[quote=awfulthings9]If you know much about the Ark of the New Covenant type, that might be a way to intrigue someone who listens to logic and reason. Start out by asking if he is in agreement that every word of the Old Testament is written to lead us to an understanding of the New, and then ask him why God, through the evangelist Luke, made such a strong parallel?
[/quote]

I think this is an excellent suggestion. Like all Marian dogmas, the Immaculate Conception is more about Jesus than it is about Mary. As the Ark of the covenant was an awesome and fitting repository for the God of Israel, so it was fitting that Mary be a fitting vessel for Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity. The amazing parallels between 2 Samuel 6 and Luke 1, among others, are undeniable.

If your friend is open to it, have them read “Hail, Holy Queen” by Scott Hahn, or check out Hahn’s Bible study on the Mother of God in Scripture, found here:
salvationhistory.com//online/intermediate/intermedcourse2_home.cfm


#6

Courtneyjo you wrote
"He says that Jesus wanted to have the “full human experience” when he became man, and that this would include being born to a fully human mother, human in every way including the effects of original sin. My friend says that Christ needed to have parents who could sin in order to experience full humanity."

Do you imply that Mary and Joseph could not sin?
Last night I know our Pastor stated that Mary could have sinned. She undoubtably had been tempted as Christ had, but she chose GOD at all times. Correct me if I’m wrong but does the Catholic Church teach that Joeseph and Mary could NOT sin. Now I don’t know about the whole experience of humanity thing. I agree with other posters that I don’t think that is necessary


#7

[quote=Courtneyjo]I am having problems explaining the “why” of the Immaculate Conception to a dear friend. He understands what the Immaculate Conception is, and that it is possible, but doesn’t understand why it was necessary.

He says that Jesus wanted to have the “full human experience” when he became man, and that this would include being born to a fully human mother, human in every way including the effects of original sin. My friend says that Christ needed to have parents who could sin in order to experience full humanity.

This man listens to logical arguments and reasoning. What should I be saying to him?
[/quote]

If your friend is bible-literate, you may want to point out to him that in all places where God “dwells” found in the Old Testiment, those places were fully sanctified. Consider these OT examples: Heaven, The Garden of Eden, the Tabernacle, The Temple, and most importantly, The Ark of the Old Covenant. Each of these dwelling places were either ritually sancitified as per God’s instruction (Tabernacle, Ark, Temple), purged of uncleanliness by God himself (Heaven, The Garden), or abandoned by God following its defilement (The Temple).

That God could not otherwise dwell in such places, or would not dwell in them may be open to debate. But the obvious fact from the Old Testiment is that God did not dwell within unsanctified or defiled places. These examples serve as yet another parallel to the gospel message that God is “pleased as man with men to dwell,” or rather, indwell within the hearts of sanctified believers. This sanctification is made possible only by that Christ incurred the wrath of God for our sins on the Cross, and that by his blood our souls are clensed of all sin. Our sinfulness is no longer an obstacle to this indwelling, since justice was met before hand.

Enter Mary, whom Catholic theologians refer to as the Ark of the New Covenant, and with good reason, for it was within her womb that God chose to “indwell” as Jesus. The difference between His indwelling in Mary and of our hearts today is that Mary lived prior to the final Atonement before justice was met. So there was, in fact, a “need” for Mary to be fully sanctified prior to Christ’s sacrifice so that he may find the dwelling place of her womb “fitting” for the divine presence. The OT examples serve as sound biblical foreshadowing for Mary’s sinlessness, or what scholars call parallelism.

If your friend rebutes with Rom 3:23 “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” just point out that Christ did not sin. Therefore, Paul was not speaking universally here, but only generally. If there is room for Christ’s exception for sin in this verse, then there is also room for others like Mary. I hope this helps.

Mike


#8

Here was the ahandout given at RCIA at our parish regarding the I.C.

December 8 The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

In the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December, 1854, Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Maryin the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin.

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception brings us to Jesus and is important to our faith because it shows God’s the power of God’s promise of redemption through Christ.

Through the Immaculate Conception, we see God’s promise in action with Mary that brings us back to innocence and communion with God, what we lost at the Garden of Eden.

The power of the cross is so strong that Jesus’ merits are applied to Mary in an anticipatory way.

  • The example of falling into the pit. We can be saved from falling into the pit (Sin) in two ways.
  1. Someone can pull us out after we have fallen into the pit and save us.

  2. Someone can grab us just as we are about to fall into the pit, saving us from falling in.

Our redemption is of the first kind. Mary’s redemption is of the second kind and it is this redemption that we celebrate, as this grace was singular and unique.

Why is it fitting that God would do this?

  1. Scripture tells us that Jesus is the new Adam (Rom 5:12-17), the one who redeems mankind from the sin and death that entered the world through Adam. So too, Scripture indicates that Mary is the New Eve in that she cooperated with Christ’s saving work in a unique way (by saying YES (Lk 1:38), just as the first Eve cooperated in Adam’s sin (Gen 3:5-6). (More on this on the 12-18 B.O.W. session).

  2. Mary is the Mother of Jesus, and is rightly called the Mother of God (cf. Lk 1:43) since she gave birth to Christ, who is fully God and fully man. As such, she is seen as the New Ark of the Covenent, for in her womb, she bore the New Covenent of God, Jesus who died on the cross for our sins.

Why do we call Mary the Ark of the New Covenant?

Because of the parallels we see between Mary and the Ark of the Covenant of the Old Testament.

A) The ark of the Covenant held the tablets of the 10 commandments, the word of God in stone (Deut 10:3-5), the manna from the desert that came down from heaven (Exo 16:10-18), and the staff of Aaron (Heb 9:14) the sign of the priesthood.

In Mary, she held the word of God in the flesh (John 1:1-5), Jesus is the bread of life in the Eucharist (John 6:41), and Jesus is the true high priest (Heb 8:1; 10:12).

B) The ark of the covenant was called the mercy seat (Exo 25:10-22). Mary is the fountain of mercy in that she bore Jesus, who is mercy himself.

C) When Moses had finished making the Ark and the tabernacle, the glory cloud of the Lord (the Shekinah Glory) covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle (Ex 40:34-35; Num 9:18, 22). This glory cloud is the Holy Spirit that rested upon the Ark. In the same way, we see that the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and remained with her (Lk 1:35)


So what does it all mean?

These things we see about Mary point us to God through Jesus. God’s work in Mary’s life, is our promise as heirs of God’s covenant through faith and baptism. The grace and privilege that God gave to Mary is now ours in Christ. We celebrate this feast because it is a celebration of what we all posses in Christ and is the Hope of what is to come as God completes his work in us.


#9

Courtneyjo you wrote
"He says that Jesus wanted to have the “full human experience” when he became man, and that this would include being born to a fully human mother, human in every way including the effects of original sin. My friend says that Christ needed to have parents who could sin in order to experience full humanity."

Do you imply that Mary and Joseph could not sin?
Last night I know our Pastor stated that Mary could have sinned. She undoubtably had been tempted as Christ had, but she chose GOD at all times. Correct me if I’m wrong but does the Catholic Church teach that Joeseph and Mary could NOT sin. Now I don’t know about the whole experience of humanity thing. I agree with other posters that I don’t think that is necessary


#10

[quote=hilde the dog] My friend says that Christ needed to have parents who could sin in order to experience full humanity."
[/quote]

Jesus parents “could” have sinned. The fact is, is that while Mary could have. She didn’t.
And sin is not the human experience. It is the lot we have thrown ourselves into. And on the Cross Jesus became sin, so yes, he did fully experience the human condition, suffering and death.


#11

[quote=Courtneyjo]I amHe says that Jesus wanted to have the “full human experience” when he became man, and that this would include being born to a fully human mother, human in every way including the effects of original sin. My friend says that Christ needed to have parents who could sin in order to experience full humanity.
?
[/quote]

the full complete experience of humanity, to be all that humans are created to be, is to be free from sin, as were Jesus and Mary, and the way Adam and Eve were before the Fall. The rest of us sinful humans are imperfect, and fail to experience the fullness of humanity and the full realization of our human potential as the creator designed it.

Your friend’s statement is illogical because based on a false premise, that sin represents a fuller humanity than perfection.

Jesus himself did experience the full effects of sin, the lack of humanity, the degradation of humanity, on the Cross.


#12

[quote=Courtneyjo]I am having problems explaining the “why” of the Immaculate Conception to a dear friend. He understands what the Immaculate Conception is, and that it is possible, but doesn’t understand why it was necessary.

He says that Jesus wanted to have the “full human experience” when he became man, and that this would include being born to a fully human mother, human in every way including the effects of original sin. My friend says that Christ needed to have parents who could sin in order to experience full humanity.

This man listens to logical arguments and reasoning. What should I be saying to him?
[/quote]

By the same argument your friend is using, Christ would have to have been born in original sin Himself in order to experience full humanity. We know this isn’t true, so why would He have needed both parents to be born in original sin?

I was born of baptized parents, meaning that both my parents were cleansed of original sin. I don’t think I’m not experiencing full humanity because of it.

Also, no one is saying that Jesus’ earthly surrogate father, Joseph, was without original sin. If, for some reason, it’s really necessary to have parents born with original sin, wouldn’t that suffice?


#13

[quote=hilde the dog]Courtneyjo you wrote
"He says that Jesus wanted to have the “full human experience” when he became man, and that this would include being born to a fully human mother, human in every way including the effects of original sin. My friend says that Christ needed to have parents who could sin in order to experience full humanity."

Do you imply that Mary and Joseph could not sin?
Last night I know our Pastor stated that Mary could have sinned. She undoubtably had been tempted as Christ had, but she chose GOD at all times. Correct me if I’m wrong but does the Catholic Church teach that Joeseph and Mary could NOT sin. Now I don’t know about the whole experience of humanity thing. I agree with other posters that I don’t think that is necessary
[/quote]

You’re absolutely right, Hilde. I completely missed that in the original post. It seems CourtneyJo’s friend could use a better understanding of the Immaculate Conception. It’s harder to understand than a lot of people think at first. Yes, Mary could have sinned, but, thanks to God’s grace, she could also choose not to sin. The same wonderful freedom to choose is granted us at baptism, when the taint of original sin is washed away. We are now “dead to sin and alive in Christ.” Praise God that we have the example of Mary, who always made the right choice!


#14

[quote=Dan-Man916]Here was the ahandout given at RCIA at our parish regarding the I.C. …

[/quote]

Can I join your RCIA group? :stuck_out_tongue: I love my church and its RCIA leaders, but they’re not very good at getting into the theological nitty-gritty of it all, unless they’re forced into it by relentless questions from us former Baptists.


#15

[quote=awfulthings9]The “full human experience” would include things that even Protestants don’t accept, such as Christ having sex. If you know much about the Ark of the New Covenant type, that might be a way to intrigue someone who listens to logic and reason. Start out by asking if he is in agreement that every word of the Old Testament is written to lead us to an understanding of the New, and then ask him why God, through the evangelist Luke, made such a strong parallel? In addition, a fun thing I always like to point out is that, after Mary gave birth (and anyone who has given birth can surely appreciate this), you would think she would be in terrible pain and a mess on top of that and that her good husband Joseph would have taken the baby from her to help out. BUT, look at what happens - Mary pushes a baby out of herself without the help of any anesthetic or medical assistance, and then SHE goes and lays it in the manger??? Remembering that one of the consequences of original sin is pains of childbirth, her immaculate conception would definitely explain how she was able to do so (and would help explain why Joseph wasn’t a jerk by not offering). I can just imagine the conversation.

“Oh, Mary, he’s a beautiful boy. Let me wipe him clean and place him in his bed so I can help you.”

“Nope. I’m good,” she says, hopping off the table where she delivered and walking past the dumbfounded Joseph.
[/quote]

I’m not sure I agree with this, although I know it’s a view held by a lot of people I respect. Why would Mary be free from the consequences of original sin? A woman who is baptized is cleansed from original sin but still feels pain in childbirth. Pain in general is one of the consequences of original sin, and we know Mary felt pain at the foot of the Cross. I think it’s fine to believe that Mary didn’t feel pain in childbirth, but I don’t think it works as an argument to convince someone of the Immaculate Conception.


#16

Hi Kristina,

Come on over!
www.ourladyofmtcarmel.org

:smiley:


#17

[quote=Kristina P.]I’m not sure I agree with this, although I know it’s a view held by a lot of people I respect. Why would Mary be free from the consequences of original sin? A woman who is baptized is cleansed from original sin but still feels pain in childbirth. Pain in general is one of the consequences of original sin, and we know Mary felt pain at the foot of the Cross. I think it’s fine to believe that Mary didn’t feel pain in childbirth, but I don’t think it works as an argument to convince someone of the Immaculate Conception.
[/quote]

Hey Kristina, I appreciate your respectful disagreement with me, but you would also be in disagreement with the Church, which teaches that, not only did Mary give birth without pain, Christ miraculously passed through without damage to her virginal integrity. Here’s from the council of Trent: “To Eve it was said: In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children. Mary was exempt from this law, for preserving her virginal integrity inviolate she brought forth Jesus the Son of God without experiencing, as we have already said, any sense of pain.”

The trouble is that by your same logic, we should doubt the assumption. Mary felt pain at the foot of the cross and later in life died, the Church teaches, because she chose to cooperate in the sufferings of Christ - not because they were consequences of original sin. However, because of her immaculate conception, her body is not subject to decay, which is also a symptom of original sin. If her body was not subject to decay (a consequence of original sin) then it follows that the other natural consequences of original sin (such as childbirth pains) would be avoided too, especially when combined with the logic from my earlier post. Baptism washes away the stain of original sin, but does not negate the temporal consequences of it. To equate a woman having received baptism and Mary’s immaculate state is to say that Mary was conceived in a state that is no different than any of us find ourselves in after our baptism, which isn’t true. She was conceived in a state identical to Eve, who was also free from original sin (not just washed of it), and Eve would not have had pains in childbirth or decay of the body had she not sinned. Since Mary never did, she was preserved from these things.

Anyway, I don’t think either of wanted a debate - just wanted to point out the Church’s stand so we don’t go in circles. God bless.


#18

[quote=awfulthings9]Hey Kristina, I appreciate your respectful disagreement with me, but you would also be in disagreement with the Church, which teaches that, not only did Mary give birth without pain, Christ miraculously passed through without damage to her virginal integrity. Here’s from the council of Trent: “To Eve it was said: In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children. Mary was exempt from this law, for preserving her virginal integrity inviolate she brought forth Jesus the Son of God without experiencing, as we have already said, any sense of pain.”

The trouble is that by your same logic, we should doubt the assumption. Mary felt pain at the foot of the cross and later in life died, the Church teaches, because she chose to cooperate in the sufferings of Christ - not because they were consequences of original sin. However, because of her immaculate conception, her body is not subject to decay, which is also a symptom of original sin. If her body was not subject to decay (a consequence of original sin) then it follows that the other natural consequences of original sin (such as childbirth pains) would be avoided too, especially when combined with the logic from my earlier post. Baptism washes away the stain of original sin, but does not negate the temporal consequences of it. To equate a woman having received baptism and Mary’s immaculate state is to say that Mary was conceived in a state that is no different than any of us find ourselves in after our baptism, which isn’t true. She was conceived in a state identical to Eve, who was also free from original sin (not just washed of it), and Eve would not have had pains in childbirth or decay of the body had she not sinned. Since Mary never did, she was preserved from these things.

Anyway, I don’t think either of wanted a debate - just wanted to point out the Church’s stand so we don’t go in circles. God bless.
[/quote]

I was under the impression that Mary’s lack of pain in childbirth was not something that the Church had defined as dogma. I’ll look further into it. Also, the way the Immaculate Conception had been explained to me by a number of different people led me to believe what I posted earlier. Thanks for encouraging me to investigate this further. If the Church teaches what you say, then I’ll believe it and do my best to understand it.


#19

[quote=Kristina P.]I was under the impression that Mary’s lack of pain in childbirth was not something that the Church had defined as dogma. I’ll look further into it. Also, the way the Immaculate Conception had been explained to me by a number of different people led me to believe what I posted earlier. Thanks for encouraging me to investigate this further. If the Church teaches what you say, then I’ll believe it and do my best to understand it.
[/quote]

I actually agree with you to an extent in that our baptism makes us like Mary in that our stain is removed. It’s just that Mary was preserved from both a) the stain of original sin and b) the effects of it. So the “number of different people” who have explained it to you earlier weren’t incorrect - they were just defining one aspect of it. Anyway, thanks for challenging me anyway - a sign of good critical thinking skills in our forum apologists - your original point was very well stated.


#20

Wow, these have been awesome replies. There are many good suggestions to present to my friend.

Hilde, I do not imply anything about Mary and Joseph, but it seems that my friend’s understanding (or rather misunderstanding) implies a denial of their free will.

Keep up the good work, brothers and sisters in Christ. :thumbsup:


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