I am writing this because I just discovered it. It may be common knowledge to others, but I am excited by my own discovery, so I want to post something about it. I thought the earliest testimony to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was the 4th century, with St. Ephraem of Syria. But here we have a father from the third century directly giving testimony to the doctrine. The following quotes are from St. Gregory’s homilies on the Annunciation:
Meekly, then, did grace make election of the pure Virgin Mary alone of all the generations. For she proved herself prudent truly in all things; neither has any woman been born like her in all generations.
Appropriately, therefore, did the angel say to mary the holy virgin first of all, “Hail, though that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee”; inasmuch as with her was laid up the full treasure of grace. For of all generations she alone has risen as a virgin pure in body and in spirit…Nor is it only the beauty of of this holy one in body that calls forth our admiration, but also the innate virtue of her soul.
Note here that St. Gregory states that Mary was greeted in such wise because she had “the full treasure of grace.”
Come, then, and let us chant the melody which has been taught us by the inspired harp of David, and say, “Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest; Thou and the ark of Thy sanctuary.” For the holy Virgin is in truth an ark, wrought with gold both within and without, that has received the whole treasure of the sanctuary.
For since the holy Virgin, in the life of the flesh, was in possession of the incorruptible citizenship, and walked as such in all manner of irtues, and lived a life more excellent than man’s common standard; therefore the Word that cometh from God the Father thought it meet to assume the flesh and endue the perfect man from her…
Here, St. Gregory says that even before she became Theotokos, she was “in possession of the incorruptible citizenship.”
Since of all the race of man thou art by birth the holy one, and the more honorable, and the purer, and the more pious than any other; and though has a mind whiter than the snow, and a body made purer than any gold, however fine, and a womb such as the object which Ezekiel saw…
In the future, I hope to discover new things from the Fathers that help solidify my Catholic Faith.