Dear friends on Catholic Answers Forums: I am a prospective converts to Catholicism and am trying to learn some Catholic Mariology. Could someone please answer/explain this question with necessary references to authoritative documents?
Mary was not saved on account of her own works, but was freely given the gift of grace from God at her conception. She was saved entirely because it was God’s will and it was only by the grace of God and his action, planned from all eternity, that she could be saved. The redemptive action of the cross was also planned from all eternity, and it was precisely because of this and for this that she was prepared by God to bear the divine child within her. Mary’s Immaculate Conception, this infusion of God’s grace, cannot be separated from the work of Christ on the Cross. God saved Mary because it was his will to do so; she did not save herself. She was not immune from needing to be saved.
I’m posting from my phone now, but I’ll suggest some books on Mariology later.
In the 13th century, the Franciscan theologians William of Ware and Blessed John Duns Scotus developed the idea of “anticipatory redemption” or “preredemption.” The merits of Christ were applied to Mary in anticipation of her future role as the mother of the Word Incarnate. Thus, Mary was redeemed by Christ by being preserved from all stain of original sin. In 1854, Blessed Pius IX defined the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as a truth revealed by God to be believed by all the faithful.
It is not correct to say that “Mary did not need the redemptive death of Jesus”. She did. It is just that God, who is outside time, applied that redemption to her before her conception.
Mary was redeemed/saved by Jesus’ death before she had any chance to sin (at conception) and then, by grace and choice she did not sin. A special grace for the one who is Full of Grace, as proclaimed by the first words from the angel who just left the very thrown of God: “Hail, Full of Grace”. Yes, that is how eternal Heaven saw/sees Mary. She was/is full of grace indeed.
Mary, like Eve, came into the world without sin. Eve sinned. Mary, the New Eve, did not. Adam, like Jesus, came into the world without sin. Adam sinned. The New Adam, Jesus, did not.
And even a human without original sin dies.
In Eden there was a life sustaining tree. This tree was not available since original sin.
So she still needed Christ’s Redemption.
Even if you consider the debate if Mary died or not, she still needed Redemption to be taken to Heaven with her body.
Christ’s Sacrifice involves more than OS.
Mary was saved from sin through the sacrifice of the Cross, which is eternal. In Mary’s case, Jesus’ sacrifice reached back to preserve her from sin at the moment of her conception.
But is Mary, who was conceived without original sin, the only special human (after the fall) that does not need the redemptive death of Jesus and still without original sin?
Though not conceived without Original Sin like Jesus and Mary, from what is said in Luke 1:41 about his leaping in him mother’s womb at Mary’s greeting, St John the Baptist is thought to have been filled with the Holy Spirit and cleansed of the stain of Original Sin at that moment. (source)
Here’s the entire papal document that defines the Immaculate Conception infallibly. I recommend reading the whole thing as it gives some reasons from Scripture and history for why the Church has always believed this teaching.
As for your question, here’s the relevant quote from the document:
“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.”
I bolded the parts that answer your question. Mary was given a unique privilege that no other human being (besides Adam and Eve and Christ obviously) has or will be granted. And it was all in view of Christ’s sacrifice. Meaning Mary WAS saved by Christ’s death on the cross, but since God is outside of time, he was able to apply those graces to Mary before Christ had actually died. (Little time-paradox there for you ;)) But Jesus’ sacrifice was still necessary for Mary, just like it is for us.
If you want to read more, I recommend the paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that deal with Mary and her role in salvation history. Here’s a link to some of them:
Hope that helps! God bless you in your journey.