Pope Leo the Great on the Immaculate Conception


#1

Post 1 of 3

The dogma of the Immaculate Concpetion states that “the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin.”

I’ve been reading the letters and sermons of Pope Leo the Great and found some interesting quotes bearing indirectly on the dogma of the Immaculate Conception:

Letter 31:2 – “For if the New Man had not been made in the likeness of sinful flesh, and taken on Him our old nature, and being consubstantial with the Father, had deigned to be consubstantial with His mother also, and being alone free from sin, had united our nature to Him the whole human race would be held in bondage beneath the Devil’s yoke, and we should not be able to make use of the Conqueror’s victory, if it had been won outside our nature.”

Letter 35:3 – “For although the Lord’s nativity according to the flesh has certain characteristics wherein it transcends the ordinary beginnings of man’s being, both because He alone was conceived and born without concupiscence of a pure Virgin, and because He was so brought forth of His mother’s womb that her fecundity bare Him without loss of virginity: yet His flesh was not of another nature to ours: nor was the soul breathed into Him from another source to that of all other men, and it excelled others not in difference of kind but in superiority of power. For He had no opposition in His flesh [nor did the strife of desires give rise to a conflict of wishes]. His bodily senses were active without the law of sin, and the reality of His emotions being under the control of His Godhead and His mind, was neither assaulted by temptations nor yielded to injurious influences.”

1st Sermon on the Nativity – “…the Almighty Lord enters the lists with His savage foe not in His own majesty but in our humility, opposing him with the same form and the same nature, which shares indeed our mortality, though it is free from all sin. Truly foreign to this nativity is that which we read of all others, ‘no one is clean from stain, not even the infant who has lived but one day upon earth.’ Nothing therefore of the lust of the flesh has passed into that peerless nativity, nothing of the law of sin has entered. A royal Virgin of the stem of David is chosen, to be impregnated with the sacred seed and to conceive the Divinely-human offspring in mind first and then in body.”


#2

Post 2 of 3

2nd Sermon on the Nativity – “For God the almighty and merciful…foretold…that Christ would come in the flesh, God and man, Who born of a Virgin should by His uncorrupt birth condemn the despoiler of the human stock. Thus in the whole and perfect nature of true man was true God born, complete in what was His own, complete in what was ours. And ‘ours’ we call what the Creator formed in us from the beginning and what He undertook to repair. For what the deceiver brought in and the deceived admitted had no trace in the Saviour. Nor because He partook of man’s weaknesses, did He therefore share our faults. He took the form of a slave without stain of sin, increasing the human and not diminishing the Divine…And by a new nativity He was begotten, conceived by a Virgin, born of a Virgin, without paternal desire, without injury to the mother’s chastity: because such a birth as knew no taint of human flesh, became One who was to be the Saviour of men, while it possessed in itself the nature of human substance. For when God was born in the flesh, God Himself was the Father, as the archangel witnessed to the Blessed Virgin Mary: ‘because the Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee: and therefore, that which shall be born of thee shall be called holy, the Son of God.’ The origin is different but the nature like: not by intercourse with man but by the power of God was it brought about: for a Virgin conceived, a Virgin bare, and a Virgin she remained. Consider here not the condition of her that bare but the will of Him that was born; for He was born Man as He willed and was able…For the Lord Jesus Christ came to do away with not to endure our pollutions: not to succumb to our faults but to heal them. He came that He might cure every weakness of our corruptness and all the sores of our defiled souls: for which reason it behoved Him to be born by a new order, who brought to men’s bodies the new gift of unsullied purity. For the uncorrupt nature of Him that was born had to guard the primal virginity of the Mother, and the infused power of the Divine Spirit had to preserve in spotlessness and holiness that sanctuary which He had chosen for Himself…And, dearly beloved, this very fact that Christ chose to be born of a Virgin does it not appear to be part of the deepest design? I mean, that the devil should not be aware that Salvation had been born for the human race, and through the obscurity of that spiritual conception, when he saw Him no different to others, should believe Him born in no different way to others. For when he observed that His nature was like that of all others, he thought that He had the same origin as all had: and did not understand that He was free from the bonds of transgression because he did not find Him a stranger to the weakness of mortality…And to this end, without male seed Christ was conceived of a Virgin, who was fecundated not by human intercourse but by the Holy Spirit. And whereas in all mothers conception does not take place without stain of sin, this one received purification from the Source of her conception. For no taint of sin penetrated, where no intercourse occurred. Her unsullied virginity knew no lust when it ministered the substance. The Lord took from His mother our nature, not our fault. The slave’s form is created without the slave’s estate, because the New Man is so commingled with the old, as both to assume the reality of our race and to remove its ancient flaw. When, therefore, the merciful and almighty Saviour so arranged the commencement of His human course as to hide the power of His Godhead which was inseparable from His manhood under the veil of our weakness, the crafty foe was taken off his guard and he thought that the nativity of the Child, Who was born for the salvation of mankind, was as much subject to himself as all others are at their birth…and knowing how he had poisoned man’s nature, had no conception that He had no share in the first transgression Whose mortality he had ascertained by so many proofs. The unscrupulous thief and greedy robber persisted in assaulting Him Who had nothing of His own, and in carrying out the general sentence on original sin, went beyond the bond on which he rested, and required the punishment of iniquity from Him in Whom he found no fault.”

4th Sermon on the Nativity – “’The Word became flesh’ by exaltation of the flesh, not by failure of the Godhead: which so tempered its power and goodness as to exalt our nature by taking it, and not to lose His own by imparting it. In this nativity of Christ, according to the prophecy of David, ‘truth sprang out of the earth, and righteousness looked down from heaven.’ In this nativity also, Isaiah’s saying is fulfilled, ‘let the earth produce and bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together.’ For the earth of human flesh, which in the first transgressor, was cursed, in this Offspring of the Blessed Virgin only produced a seed that was blessed and free from the fault of its stock. And each one is a partaker of this spiritual origin in regeneration; and to every one when he is re-born, the water of baptism is like the Virgin’s womb; for the same Holy Spirit fills the font, Who filled the Virgin, that the sin, which that sacred conception overthrew, may be taken away by this mystical washing.”


#3

Post 3 of 3

8th Sermon on the Nativity – “In celebrating therefore the birthday of our Lord and Saviour, dearly beloved, let us entertain pure thoughts of the blessed Virgin’s child-bearing, so as to believe that at no moment of time was the power of the Word wanting to the flesh and soul which she conceived, and that the temple of Christ’s body did not previously receive its form and soul that its Inhabitant might come and take possession but through Himself and in Himself was the beginning given to the New Man, so that in the one Son of God and Man there might be Godhead without a mother, and Manhood without a Father. For her virginity fecundated by the Holy Spirit at one and the same time brought forth without trace of corruption both the offspring and the Maker of her race…the majesty of the Son of God in which He is equal with the Father in its garb of a slave’s humility feared no diminution, required no augmentation: and the very effect of His mercy which He expended on the restitution of man, He was able to bring about solely by the power of His Godhead; so as to rescue the creature that was made in the image of God from the yoke of his cruel oppressor. But because the devil had not shown himself so violent in his attack on the first man as to bring him over to his side without the consent of His free will, man’s voluntary sin and hostile desires had to be destroyed in such wise that the standard of justice should not stand in the way of the gift of Grace. And thereforein the general ruin of the entire human race there was but one remedy in the secret of the Divine plan which could succour the fallen, and that was that one of the sons of Adam should be born free and innocent of original transgression, to prevail for the rest both by His example and His merits. Still further, because this was not permitted by natural generation, and because there could be no offspring from our faulty stock without seed, of which the Scripture saith, ‘Who can make a clean thing conceived of an unclean seed? is it not Thou who art alone?’ David’s Lord was made David’s Son, and from the fruit of the promised branch sprang One without fault, the twofold nature joining together into one Person, that by one and the same conception and birth might spring our Lord Jesus Christ, in Whom was present both true Godhead for the performance of mighty works and true Manhood for the endurance of sufferings.”


After you’re read all these quotes, you may be wondering, “Where exactly is the Immaculate Conception in all of this?” My answer: “Exactly my point.” Each of these excerpts from Pope Leo’s writings explain the unique sinlessness, the unique stainlessness, the unique blamelessness of Christ. And even though the Blessed Virgin is mentioned prominently in each of these quotes by Pope Leo, he never once even suggests that the Blessed Virgin shares in any way in the sinlessness and stainlessness that, in his view, belong uniquely to Christ alone by reason of his miraculous conception. So far as Pope Leo is concerned, the Blessed Virgin is among those of whom it is written, “There is no one righteous; no, not one.”

Now, granted, none of these quotes from Pope Leo are “ex cathedra” statements, so they don’t carry the weight of papal infallibility. Nevertheless, this was a Pope who was extremely concerned with the doctrinal health of the Church and was instrumental in bringing about the victory at Chalcedon over the Eutychean heresy. He took great care in his letters and sermons to make sure that his audience understood the faith properly. Why, then, is the dogma of the Immaculate Conception utterly absent – even explicitly contradicted – where one would expect it to be promoted most prominently? It cannot be said that the Blessed Virgin was not on Pope Leo’s mind, as she is mentioned in each and every context. Could it be that Pope Leo was entirely unaware of the dogma, and if so, how could that be?

I think the only thing that one can reasonably conclude is that Pope Leo made no mention of the Immaculate Conception because it was not a dogma of the Church at the time of his reign. Thus, the Immaculate Conception is a recently-created dogma, and not a part of the original deposit of the faith which the Church has always and everywhere taught.

Unless someone can provide another explanation, that is…


#4

From the Catholic Encyclopedia

As a dogma is a revealed truth, the intellectual character and objective reality of dogma depend on the intellectual character and objective truth of Divine revelation.

Based on this, your phrase “recently-created dogma” is an oxymoron. As revealed truth the IC has existed since its revelation by Jesus Christ to the apostles.

Pope Leo’s silence on the matter does not make any teaching “recent”.


#5

I take it you haven’t read the quotes in full. Pope Leo isn’t “silent” on the matter in all of the above cases. In most cases he is implicitly or explicity denying the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.


#6

That is true I don’t usually read three pages of quotes, taken out of context in an attempt of somehow disprove a constant teaching of the Church.

Pope Leo isn’t “silent” on the matter in all of the above cases. In most cases he is implicitly or explicity denying the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

Cherry picked quotes don’t prove anything.

I stand by my original post.


#7

You didn’t read the quotes, so how do you know that they’re in or out of context? As a matter of fact, my whole point in providing these particular quotes, some of which are quite lengthy, is to show that the immediate context supports rather than debunks my argument.

Of course, you’re perfectly free to go to this link and read the same selection of Pope Leo’s works for yourself:

ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf212.ii.iv.html

If you find that I’ve overlooked anything of Pope Leo’s which supports the Immaculate Conception over and against those statements of his I have collected which clearly deny it, then by all means share it here.


#8

Since the subject of your quotes from St. Pope Leo the Great is the conception and nativity of Christ, it is not surprising that he makes no explicit mention of the conception or nativity of Mary, as that would be off topic.

In The Nisibene Hymns of St. Ephraim (A.D. 370) there is support for an early belief in the Immaculate Conception:
You alone and your Mother
are more beautiful than any other;
For there is no blemish in you,
nor any stains upon your Mother.
Who of my children
can compare in beauty to these? (Hymn 27:8)


#9

I would buy this were it not for Pope Leo’s specific mention of Mary in each quote. Considering all the statements I’ve read from Pope Leo concerning the need for balance in defining the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Trinity, I fail to see how in each and every one of the instances collected above, he not only failed to include Mary under the umbrella of sinlessness but also in some of them explicitly denied the possibility of her being conceived immaculately.

Here’s my “stripped down” version of the quotes (which is all I would have originally presented if “cherry picking” really were my technique):

First: “For if the New Man had not…deigned to be consubstantial with His mother also, and being alone free from sin, had united our nature to Him, the whole human race would be held in bondage…”

Second: “…because He alone was conceived and born without concupiscence of a pure Virgin, and because He was so brought forth of His mother’s womb that her fecundity bare Him without loss of virginity…He had no opposition in His flesh [nor did the strife of desires give rise to a conflict of wishes]. His bodily senses were active without the law of sin, and the reality of His emotions being under the control of His Godhead and His mind, was neither assaulted by temptations nor yielded to injurious influences.”

Third: “Truly foreign to this nativity is that which we read of all others, ‘no one is clean from stain, not even the infant who has lived but one day upon earth.’ Nothing therefore of the lust of the flesh has passed into that peerless nativity, nothing of the law of sin has entered. A royal Virgin of the stem of David is chosen, to be impregnated with the sacred seed and to conceive the Divinely-human offspring in mind first and then in body.”

Fourth: “…without male seed Christ was conceived of a Virgin, who was fecundated not by human intercourse but by the Holy Spirit. And whereas in all mothers conception does not take place without stain of sin, this one received purification from the Source of her conception. For no taint of sin penetrated, where no intercourse occurred. Her unsullied virginity knew no lust when it ministered the substance. The Lord took from His mother our nature, not our fault.”

Fifth: "…the earth of human flesh, which in the first transgressor, was cursed, in this Offspring of the Blessed Virgin only produced a seed that was blessed and free from the fault of its stock…to every one when he is re-born, the water of baptism is like the Virgin’s womb; for the same Holy Spirit fills the font, Who filled the Virgin, that the sin, which that sacred conception overthrew, may be taken away by this mystical washing.”

Sixth: “…there was but one remedy in the secret of the Divine plan which could succour the fallen, and that was that one of the sons of Adam should be born free and innocent of original transgression, to prevail for the rest both by His example and His merits…this was not permitted by natural generation…”

If you take all these quotes together and examine them, Pope Leo’s view on Christ’s unique sinlessness is clear. It was only because Christ was conceived in a miraculous way – one not involving the lust which accompanies the normal mode of conception, namely intercourse – that Christ was able to be born free from the guilt and concupiscence which every other human being – including the Blessed Virgin – inherited from Adam.

In The Nisibene Hymns of St. Ephraim (A.D. 370) there is support for an early belief in the Immaculate Conception

Granted, but it appears that Pope Leo never heard this or any such hymn performed, for his writings contradict it. In any case, let’s be clear: This is taken from a hymn, not a doctrinal treatise or sermon or letter. Songs are prone to hyperbole. Even modern songs knowingly stretch truth here and there when needed. A recent song by Green Day contains the lines, “Here comes the rain again, falling from the stars” – which is nonsense from a scientific perspective, but the rhyme scheme of the song requires it, and so it’s considered “permissible” to fudge facts here. It’s artistic license. Perhaps St. Ephraim was indulging in some artistic license in the instance of this hymn. I certainly can’t believe it holds much weight against the multiple clear statements contained in the letters and sermons of Pope Leo.


#10

EXCUUUUUSE ME! Mpartyka states: "So far as Pope Leo is concerned, the Blessed Virgin is among those of whom it is written, “There is no one righteous; no, not one.”

Isn’t it awesome when someone can call a Pope a heretic? without using the “H” word! I think you need to go back to the party mon!

Peace,

Gail


#11

Well before I get into any discussion, I think, “What is my purpose here, what am I trying to prove?”

So i ask that of you… in very plesant and converstational tones, what point are you trying to make? Are you trying to say that because you dont find enough evidence in Pope Leo’s discussions, that the Sinless nature of the Holy Mother is called into question?

If so, I would suggest re-reading this quote.

Still further, because this was not permitted by natural generation, and because there could be no offspring from our faulty stock without seed, of which the Scripture saith, ‘Who can make a clean thing conceived of an unclean seed? is it not Thou who art alone?’ David’s Lord was made David’s Son, and from the fruit of the promised branch sprang One without fault, the twofold nature joining together into one Person, that by one and the same conception and birth might spring our Lord Jesus Christ, in Whom was present both true Godhead for the performance of mighty works and true Manhood for the endurance of sufferings.”

So From the Fruit of the Promised Branch, sprang One without Fault.

So who is the Branch? Well its not Joseph, as he had no part. Its not the Lord who is not of Mortal decent. So that leaves Mary. Mary is part of that line of David that Leo is discussing. He also says," Who can make a clean thing concieve of an unclean seed." Here again he is not just talking about Christ taking flesh, but also of the vessel that it comes from.

I think this quote actually gives credibility to the sinless nature of Mary.

Just my opinions though. Just because I prayed about it before I wrote a response, does not make my viewpoint any more holy.

Dug


#12

I don’t think that the doctrine of papal infallibility states that the Pope cannot himself be a heretic, does it? It only says that when he is defining dogma in an ex cathedra capacity, he cannot teach heresy. And, none of the quotes I’ve presented here qualify as ex cathedra definitions, so I’m not questioning Pope Leo’s infallibility here. What I’m questioning is whether the doctrine itself is something that was always and everywhere taught by the Church from the very beginning – in which case Pope Leo’s denial of it is rather conspicuous – or something that was perhaps believed only by a few at first and grew popular enough to be believed by the whole Church later on. Given the obvious care that Pope Leo had for the faith of the Church, as evidenced by his writings surrounding the Fourth Ecumenical Council, I tend to think the latter is a better explanation, especially seeing how it is not a doctrine supported by the Orthodox Church, which represents the rest of “apostolic, 7-Council Christendom”.


#13

Actually, I think it makes more sense that David was the “branch”, and Mary was the “fruit of the branch”, and Jesus is the “one without fault”.

He also says, “Who can make a clean thing concieve of an unclean seed.” Here again he is not just talking about Christ taking flesh, but also of the vessel that it comes from.

The quote is actually, “Who can make a clean thing concieved of an unclean seed?” The “clean thing” in this case would be Jesus, if it were possible for a “clean thing” to be “conceived of an unclean seed” (i.e., the seed coming from a man of Adam’s stock).


#14

Dear Partyka - you need to look at your 3rd clip from St. Leo. In it you state:"Third: “Truly foreign to this nativity is that which we read of all others, ‘no one is clean from stain, not even the infant who has lived but one day upon earth.’ Nothing therefore of the lust of the flesh has passed into that peerless nativity, nothing of the law of sin has entered. A royal Virgin of the stem of David is chosen, to be impregnated with the sacred seed and to conceive the Divinely-human offspring in mind first and then in body.”

I’ll go slow…

“Truely foreign to this nativity” – that being the one in which Mary and Jesus are.

“is that which we read of all others” – this means ever other nativity, that is every other childbirth experience of history, not the one the Holy Father is speaking of, that of Jesus and Mary.

“no one is clean from stain” – again meaning all other nativities besides that of Jesus and Mary.

“not even the infant who has lived but one day upon earth.” – meaning the stain of original sin.

“Nothing therefore of the lust of the flesh” – meaning no one bit of sin as in nothing, null, not any, no possible way, original or personal.

“has passed” – preserved from, God prevented, gotten into, completely excluded from.

“into that peerless nativity” – PEERLESS meaning no other PEER, no equal, a singular event in the history of all of mankind, never before nor ever after!

“nothing of the law of sin has entered” – that’s absolute without any doubt clear as a bell there was absolutely no sin, original or personal that entered into the nativity of Jesus and Mary! And that means her’s and His!

“A royal Virgin” – meaning of the King, not just an earthly king, but the actual in the flesh King of Heaven bestowing on her the grace of Queenship!

“of the stem of David” – the royal house of David so as to fulfill the prophecies of old and giving her the queenship of Isreal as in Queen Mother, not queen by marriage.

“is chosen” – what does it mean to be CHOSEN by God Who has all of humanity in His mind, Who holds all things in His hand? THAT means HE picked her! She is SPECIAL to HIM and it also means she is set apart by God from the rest of the human race!

“to be impregnanted with the sacred seed” – the HOLY SPIRIT, that is God Himself wiil take His abode in her flesh that has been singled out from all of the rest of the human race and she will be fully pregnant for the complete course of human time, the nine months it takes for gestation.

(And here’s a punchline I simply love for she IS Wisdom! but that’s my sentiment)

“and to conceive the Divinely-human offspring in mind first and then in body.” – Mary thought on these things before they came into being! Her mind knew the mind of God before her flesh was yielded up to its Divine course! But I think the understanding of that is a little beyond you at this point Partyka.

I really don’t understand how some folks can read this stuff and see things that aren’t there. Perhaps you like trying to place things in the citations that aren’t there. This is not nice! Especially when it comes to a Pope and a Saint! Naughty naughty Partyka! You bad boy!

Peace,

Gail


#15

Exactly. So in the nativity of Anna and Mary, there was original sin involved. After all, Mary’s generation from Joachim and Anna was natural, and “that one of the sons of Adam should be born free and innocent of original transgression…was not permitted by natural generation.” Christ’s generation from Mary was supernatural in that it did not require a man to provide the seed, and it was because of this supernatural generation that original sin was not transmitted to Christ in his conception.

(And here’s a punchline I simply love for she IS Wisdom! but that’s my sentiment)

And here is an excellent example of how sentiment can carry one over into heresy. Christ is the wisdom of God, not Mary.


#16

Whoops I have to whip out my full article on the Immaculate Conception

Pope Leo I is relevant here:

Post-Augustinian patristic thought on the perfection of Mary reveals two conflicting currents. There is a negative, unfavorable trend rooted in Augustine’s anti-Pelagianism; it accentuates the universality of original sin and articulates the connection between inherited sin and any conception consequent upon sinful concupiscence. The root idea is summed up by Pope Leo the Great:

Alone therefore among the sons of men the Lord Jesus was born innocent, because alone conceived without the pollution of carnal concupiscence.” (Leo I [the Great], Serm 25, cap 5; PL 54:211)

The same concept is discoverable in St. Fulgentius (De ceritate praedest et gratiae Dei, lib 2, cap 2; PL 65:605), Bishop of Ruspe in Africa (d. 533), the most significant theologian of his time; although he also contrasts the sinfulness of Eve with the perpetual sanctity of Mary (Sermo 2, De duplici Nativ Christi, No. 6; PL 65:728C). In a commentary on the angelic salutation, he explains with considerable preciseness, the significance of “full of grace,” making it practically equivalent to what is now understood to be immunity from original sin (Sermo 36, De laudibus Mariae ex partu Salvatoris; PL 65:899C).

The statement that Christ alone is sinless (cf. Heb 4:15; 1 John 3:5; 1 Peter 2:22; etc) or was alone conceived without sin is also found in Pope Gregory the Great (Moralia in Job, lib 18, cap 52, n. 84; PL 76:89) at the end of the sixth century; and a century later in Venerable Bede (Hom Gen, lib 1, hom 2; In festo annunt; PL 94:13), a scholar renowned throughout England. It is a concept which leads to the thesis that Mary’s flesh is a flesh-of-sin, because conceived in iniquity (cf. Fulgentius, Epist 17, cap 7, n. 13; PL 65:458). It leads likewise to the theory of a necessary purification of Mary at the hour of the Annunciation (cf. Leo I, Serm 22, cap 3; PL 54:196; Bede ibid; PL 94:12). At best, this manner of speaking is ambiguous; it opened the door to the theological controversies to come.

According to Archbishop Ullathorne (The Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God, page 101-3), there is not a single Father, who, in formal terms, declares Mary was defiled with original sin. Some affirm that God alone, or that Christ alone is sinless, without making any allusion to original sin. In others, it is said in general terms, that the whole human race is infected with sin (cf. Rom 3:23; 5:12; etc), while no direct allusion is made to the Blessed Virgin (e.g. Augustine made her an explicit exception). Another class of passages assert that all men, if we except Christ alone, are infected by original sin.

When we have separated such testimonies that speak like this, we have a few passages that speak of the flesh of the Blessed Virgin as a “flesh of sin” or speak of her as “sanctified,” or as cleansed or otherwise purified. These Fathers are speaking of the flesh of Mary as being conceived in the common way (i.e. she did not have a virginal conception like her Son), and of that concupiscence which is both the daughter and the mother of sin, as St. Augustine says; but in the Blessed Virgin this was cleansed, purified, sanctified by grace, in her true or passive conception, when that flesh was animated (the union of her soul and body).

And thus, the language of these Fathers and Doctors, of St. Augustine, of St. Fulgentius, of St. Leo I, of St. Peter Damian, and of St. Anselm, etc, so far from being opposed to the true and orthodox sense of the Immaculate Conception, is a language which perfectly accords with the doctrine, and describes one of its real and admitted features. There are also Fathers who call even the flesh of our Lord a “flesh of sin” (cf. Galatians 5; Romans 7) by reason of its descent from them who were sinners (e.g. St. Proclus; St. Hilary; St. Gregory Naz). St. Hilary in his work on the Trinity says of Christ: “He received a flesh of sin, that by taking our flesh He might forgive our sins; whilst He was made partaker of it, by assuming it, and not by criminality” (De Trinitate 50:1).

continued in PART 2

Phil P


#17

Let’s try again. Examine your quote number 4 up there.

It clearly says “…this one received purification from the Source of her conception.”

This clearly says that Mary received purification from the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit is the Source of her conception. This is what Catholics have been saying all along about the Immaculate conception.

In your “Fifth” quote up there, you underlined the word “only”. But I think you were tying that in the wrong way, so I underlined it in conjunction with Mary… This passage is saying that “Only the Virgin Mary” can give birth to Jesus. It is not saying that Mary only produced a seed.

Furthermore it equates the waters of Baptism to her womb. The waters of Baptism are a pure thing, and as such so is her womb. i.e. her Immaculate Conception.

Again furthermore it says that “Sacred Conception Overthrew”. That is Her sin was overthrown by the Holy Spirit because of Jesus her savior, again this what Catholics teach about the Immaculate Conception.

Mary needed a Savior just like the rest of us. In this case she was saved before she fell in the Hole, whereas we are usually saved after we fall in the hole.


#18

continued…

Popes Leo and Gregory (the Greats)

In other of his Marian writings, Pope St. Leo praises Christ’s miraculous and “immaculate birth” from the Virgin Mary and said “Christ is born from the body of his unsullied Mother” with an analogy to our baptism where we are “born again” (John 3:3,5; Titus 3:5) and become members of the Church (1 Cor 12:12-13; Acts 2:38; Gal 3:26-27; Eph 4:4-5; etc):

“For we would have been unable to overcome the author of sin and death had Christ not assumed our nature and made it his own. Sin cannot defile him, nor can death hold him. For he was conceived by the Holy Spirit within the womb of a Virgin Mother, who gave birth to him without losing her virginity, just as she had remained a virgin in conceiving him.” (Leo I, Epist 28:2; PL 54:759; Gambero, page 304-5 or 306)

“He foretold to the serpent that the woman’s seed would come and crush his haughty and wicked head with his power (cf. Gen 3:15). The woman’s seed is Christ, who was to come in the flesh as God and as man, born of the Virgin, to condemn the despoiler of the human race by his immaculate birth.” (Leo I, Sermo 22:1; PL 54:194; Gambero, page 307)

“By the Spirit, Christ is born from the body of his unsullied Mother; by this same Spirit, the Christian is reborn from the womb of holy Church.” (Leo I, Sermo 29:1; PL 54:227; Gambero, page 308)

Pope St. Gregory exalts the Virgin Mary as higher than the highest mountains, with several biblical analogies:

"The most blessed and ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of God, can be called by this name, ‘mountain’. Yes, she was a mountain, who by the dignity of her election has completely surpassed the height of every elect creature. Is Mary not a lofty mountain? For God, to achieve the conception of the eternal Word, raised the summit of her merits above the choirs of angels, up to the threshold of the Godhead. Isaiah said in a prophecy, ‘In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house will be made the highest mountain’ (Isa 2:2). And this mountain has been made the highest mountain, because Mary’s height has shined out above all the saints. For, just as a mountain implies height, so the house signifies a dwelling place. Therefore she is called mountain and house, because she, illuminated by incomparable merits, prepared a holy womb for God’s Only-begotten to dwell in.

"On the other hand, Mary would not have become a mountain raised above the peaks of the mountains had not the divine fecundity raised her above the angels. Further, she should not have become the Lord’s house had not the divinity of the Word assumed humanity and come to dwell in her womb. Mary is justly called a mountain rich in fruits, because the best fruit was born from her, namely, a new man. And the prophet, considering how beautiful she is, adorned in the glory of her fruitfulness, cries out: ‘There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow from his roots’ (Isa 11:1).

"David, exulting in the fruits of this mountain, says to God, ‘Let the peoples praise you, O Lord, let all the peoples praise you. The earth has yielded its fruit’ (Psalm 67:6-7). Yes, the earth has yielded its fruit, because the Virgin did not conceive her Son by man’s doing but because the Holy Spirit stretched out his shadow over her. Therefore the Lord says to David, king and prophet, ‘I will place the fruit of your womb upon your throne’ (Psalm 132:11).

So says Isaiah, ‘And the fruit of the earth shall be exalted’ (Isa 4:2). For him whom the Virgin bore was not only a holy man but also the mighty God. Elizabeth refers to this fruit when she greets the Virgin and says, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb’ (Luke 1:42). Mary is rightly called mountain of Ephrem because, while she is raised up by the ineffable dignity of the divine birth, the dry branches of the human condition flower again in the fruit of her womb." (Gregory I [the Great], In I Regum 1:5; PL 79:25-26; Gambero, page 371-2)

Also, by Pope Leo (I) the Great’s time in the west, we have the explicit statements of St. Augustine and St. Ambrose on the matter:

With the exception, therefore, of the holy Virgin Mary, in whose case, out of respect for the Lord, I would have no question raised when there is talk of sin – for how do we know what further grace was conferred on her for absolute victory over sin, she who deserved to conceive and bear Him who obviously had no sin? – with the exception, then, of this Virgin, could we but gather together in their lifetime all those saints, men and women, and ask them whether they were free from sin, what in our opinion would have been their answer? …No matter how remarkable their holiness in this body…they would have cried out with one voice: ‘If we should say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us’ [1 John 1:8].” (Augustine, De natura et gratia, cap 36, n. 42)

“Come, then, and search out Your sheep, not through Your servants or hired men, but do it Yourself. Life me up bodily and in the flesh, which is fallen in Adam. Lift me up not from Sara but from Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free of every stain of sin [Latin: ut incorrupta sit virgo, sed virgo per gratiam ab omni integra labe peccati].” (Ambrose, Commentary on Psalm 118, Jurgens, Faith of the Early Fathers, vol 2, page 166)

The Virgin Mary is an exception to “all have sinned…” (Rom 3:23; 1 John 1:8; etc) according to St. Augustine and St. Ambrose. The debate in later centuries was over whether Mary was “cleansed” from birth, or immaculate from conception. However, everyone knew she was sinless or “fully graced” from birth and throughout her life.

The Immaculate Conception of the Mother God from Juniper Carol

Phil P


#19

(Still waiting for part 2, so I’ll skip ahead.)

It clearly says “…this one received purification from the Source of her conception.” This clearly says that Mary received purification from the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit is the Source of her conception. This is what Catholics have been saying all along about the Immaculate conception.

You’re getting your conceptions confused. Mary conceived Christ by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Source of Mary’s conception of Christ. There is no reference here to Anna’s conception of Mary.

This passage is saying that “Only the Virgin Mary” can give birth to Jesus. It is not saying that Mary only produced a seed.

I didn’t say that Mary produced a seed, either. In the ancient view of conception, the man deposited a seed in the womb of the woman, and the seed took flesh from the woman and grew into a baby. Christ’s embryonic development was no different from anyone’s – it was his conception that differed in that Mary was the recipient not of a man’s seed (which would have been tainted with original sin) but of a seed created directly by the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore it equates the waters of Baptism to her womb.

Correct, “for the same Holy Spirit fills the font” – i.e., it is the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit in the waters that makes them pure and “overthrows sin”, just as it was the presence of the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb that purified her of the sin which she naturally possessed before conceiving Christ in her womb.

Again furthermore it says that “Sacred Conception Overthrew”.

“That sacred conception” of Christ “overthrew” the original sin possessed naturally by Mary, for the Holy Spirit purified her womb before implanting the divine seed there.


#20

I’ve read a little closer and noticed you are Orthodox. Frankly I myself don’t even get involved in debates with Orthodox on here. (I don’t argue with traditionalist Catholics for the same reason). We are so close on virtually everything. The debate post-Augustine was whether Mary was sinless from conception (Immaculate Conception) or sinless (and “cleansed”) from birth. The Orthodox simply don’t have the western idea of “Original Sin” which is why they are hesitant to accept a doctrine (the IC) that involves our understanding of another doctrine (Original Sin).

The great Orthodox theologian John Meyendorff:

“Quotations can easily be multiplied, and they give clear indications that the Mariological piety of the Byzantines would probably have led them to accept the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary as it was defined in 1854 [by Pope Pius IX], IF ONLY they had shared the Western doctrine of original sin.” (Meyendroff, Byzantine Theology, page 148)

However, in later statements from the eastern Fathers and Doctors (e.g. St. John Damascene) they clearly have an understanding that Mary was free from all sin, from conception.

Phil P


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.