So I’m reading through the CCC as a born and raised Protestant who is certain God is leading to the Catholic Church, much to my fighting and refusing (due to family security–I’m a Youth Pastor and full of fear about making the transition, see the Vocations forum for that).
I’m loving the CCC and have not yet disagreed, but I’m having a hard time with Mary. I’m now a believer in the perpetual virginity of Mary after research and reading (prior to I was not), but I’m having a hard time with the idea that Mary remained sinless in life and the bodily taking up to heaven at the end of her life (assumption).
Can anyone point me to a good resource that will spell this out in a convincingly Biblical and/or reasonable manner? Or, if you are able to articulate the position for a Protestant here, that would be greatly appreciated!
I had similar problems when converting. So, let’s tackleMary being sinless perpetually.
My experience with conversion and having an active prayer life is: you pretty much stop sinning. Life is all full of God and things of God and I didn’t even want to get close to that old behavior because, ew. Just ew.
So, God creates Mary full of Grace, so as to have this perfect vessel to whom He entrusts His then-helpless Son. Picture Mary now, devoting her life to her child, Who is also God. This is Jesus. The actual Jesus. She has the closest relationship with Him a human can have. (Maybe this is clearer for a mom than a man, but anyway…)
I don’t know, it feels to me like even the barest thought of sin might make her explode or something, I just cannot possibly imagine being one with Jesus Christ in this way and there be any kind of room or way to sin. We needed not just a perfect Savior, we needed a perfect Disciple. God made her this way, and she chose to accept it all, even though at the beginning it could have gotten her stoned to death. She gave up her life before Jesus ever got here. At the end of her life, so filled with God, I really don’t understand but have no problem accepting she was so close to Heaven by then she just… stepped from one state of being into the next… Jesus just holds out His arms and takes her Home.
Enoch and Elijah were both taken up instead of dying. Genesis 5:21-24 (Enoch walked with God); Hebrews 11:5 (Enoch did not see death); 2 Kings 2:11 (Elijah was taken up to heaven). So Catholic tradition regarding the Assumption of Mary is not exactly invented out of whole cloth (recall that assumption means to be taken up by God, not to ascend under one’s own power; Mary was taken by God, while Jesus arose on His own).
As for her sinlessness, we know that God can create totally innocent people; He did so at the beginning with Adam and Eve. We also know that the angel called her “full of grace” (which is a statement of blessedness received from God, not merit earned on one’s own). And doesn’t it make sense that God would use a sinless vessel to carry Jesus Himself to term?
Think about how it’s so much easier to sin away from the Eucharist and so much harder to sin its presence – not because of any weird magic or what have you, but because of the constant reminder of God and the independent effects of God’s grace. How much harder would it be to sin while carrying God?
Hello Ryan, I do not have an answer however I would like to make a suggestion. I am a Catholic, a convert from being protestant and had some of the same concerns and questions you are now having. One thing I can say about the The Church is that they do not make decisions lightly and for no good reason. What I did was kept an open mind and prayed that the Holy Spirit would guide me. God bless you and I am praying for you.
Mary is good enough for Jesus so what’s your excuse? lol I mean that in a lighthearted way of course but ultimately its true. And know that if you do convert to Catholicism there’s nothing saying you have to pray with mary or saints for intercession. You can simply pray how you always have. It’s not required to believe that Mary and the Saints intercede for us though it is STRONGLY encouraged since millions upon millions would attest to the graces they received by Christ through some of the Saints and Mary
Here’s my “reasonable” explanation for Mary’s sinlessness.
Jesus is the perfect union of God and Man. He has a perfect Divine Father. Would he not also have a perfect human mother?
A few more points - many Protestants think that “the flesh” is what brings about sin, but of course the fallen angels had no such excuse, so Mary being human doesn’t automatically require her to be sinful (Jesus was/is human and he didn’t sin either). And we know that nobody in heaven sins. So with God’s special grace, avoiding sin doesn’t seem to be a problem at all. And why would he not grant that special grace to the woman who agreed to his request to become his mother?
Finally, if Mary had sinned, she would have been responsible for the murder of her own child. This is a creepy concept.
I second Scott’s “Hail Holy Queen”. His book was a big help to my husband and I when we were wrestling with the same. Before we began to understand, I thought surely it would be a big mountain to climb over but it wasn’t at all. Even though we were still very much sola scriptura minded
The writings of Steve Ray helped us also. Here’s a huge pdf on the subject of Assumption and also about Queenship.
One thing that puzzles me though–if God can create perfect, sinless people–even after the Fall–why did He not just begin to create us ALL sinless, like Mary, rather than sending His Son to die on the cross?
Also–did Mary–like Eve–have the ABILITY to sin, but just chose not to, or was she unable to sin?
And then that leads me to–if babies are born innocent and have yet to sin–but sin as they grow older because of the fallen nature of man–why, then did Eve sin, and Adam? They were different from us in some way when created as they had no fallen nature starting out, yet they “fell” pretty easily, so the story goes. Yet, Mary did not. She did not even commit the little sins of childhood. She was able to refrain, even as a young child, from sinning, yet Adam and Eve were hardly able to resist it for a minute. I guess I just don’t really understand it.
I’m not sure if the scriptural basis I’m using is correct and I’m sure there are much better theologians than me who could answer but this thought jumped into my head when reading your post.
The woman who gave birth to the child in the book of revelations was taken to a desert oasis and tended to by angels. Would it be reasonable to see this scripture alluding to the state of grace Mary was in that she was in a way shielded and protected?
Also the angel Gabrielle says she is full of grace upon speaking to Mary. This is before she has accepted her role to be the mother of our Lord. So we know she was in a state of perfect grace prior to the incarnation after the incarnation well
Being a man I relate to explosions
But if sin can taint us in such a way that we step away from things that are good and holy then I could only imagine that for Our Lady being in a state of perfect grace would be reviled by sin. The Son was also her son and she would never want to be apart from her son.
He did create perfect, sinless people, in Adam and Eve. They sinned, and the stain of their sin is on their descendants, so even though we have not actually sinned ourselves, our condition is not what it was meant to be.
I can’t answer the question why Mary could be created without the stain of Original Sin. That bit I don’t know. Anyone??
Mary had the ability to sin, but she stayed close to God and resisted all temptation. Even Jesus himself was tempted.
Not sure how easily they fell. The story in the bible is short and “just the facts”. I often wonder how they could have disobeyed God, but I know that even if they were perfect, they still had free will.
Little children do bad things because of the stain of Original Sin, even if they are not yet at the age of reason (therefore the bad things are not sins). If a little child (Mary) was free from that stain, then she would be more inclined to be good than bad. In our fallen state, our bodies are drawn towards worldly things, not spiritual things. Mary was always drawn towards God.
I disagree that Adam and Eve couldn’t resist for even a minute. We don’t know how long Satan tempted them, or what exactly happened to cause them to fall. Perhaps Mary had extra protection from Satan’s attacks, or perhaps she was a very strong, faithful woman who deserved to be the mother of God. Perhaps all credit is truly deserved by her because she was able to stay perfect for her whole life, where others were not able.
Whatever the case, I thank God for giving us our Heavenly Mother.
We are given the gift of free will by God. He will never force us to do His bidding. We are all born, except for Mary, with a weakness towards sin. This is due to the original sin that we inherited from Adam and Eve. Mary was saved from the stain of original sin before her conception, so she had less, or no pull toward sin. It was possible for Mary to sin, but the inclination towards sin wasn’t there. And could you sin if you were in the presence of God? I doubt it. Mary spent the majority of her life in the presence of God. Mary was called to a special station in life – mother of God, and so was given the special graces needed to fulfill the duties of that position.
My understanding is that her soul was made exempt from original sin so that it would not pass to Jesus. There is no scriptural basis for this but the Bible never mentions a sin committed by Mary either. Ultimately, this doctrine is the end result of centuries of theological debate to reconcile the doctrine of original sin with the sinless perfection of Jesus. Why they decided upon, for lack of a better term, a middleman (Mary) rather than just declaring Jesus exempt I don’t know. I think it might be best to consult a priest on this one.