Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr. G. Peter Irving III

12/8/2012 (4 years ago)

Catholic Online (

In our own struggle to be 'holy and without blemish before [God]' we have no greater aide than Mary

In our own struggle to be "holy and without blemish before God" we have no greater aide than Mary Most Holy who by her free and total "yes" to God crushed the head of the ancient serpent, the devil, and opened the door of the world to the Word made flesh, our Redeemer.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Rome

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Rome


By Fr. G. Peter Irving III

Catholic Online (

12/8/2012 (4 years ago)

Published in Year of Faith

Keywords: Fr. G. Peter Irving III, Holy Innocents Long Beach, Immaculate Conception, Blessed Virgin Mary, Patroness of the United States of America, Marian, rosary,

LONG BEACH, CA (Catholic Online) Today we celebrate with profound joy the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

At the outset, I hasten to stipulate what the Immaculate Conception is not because, for whatever reason, people, even Catholics, often confuse the Immaculate Conception with the Incarnation.

The Immaculate Conception does not refer to the conception of Jesus in the womb of His mother, Mary. That exceedingly momentous event, 'when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us," in the virginal and spotless womb of His mother is solemnly commemorated by the Church nine months before Christmas on March 25 (Solemnity of the Annunciation).

The Immaculate Conception, in contrast, refers to the conception of Mary as the fruit of the pure, marital embrace of her holy parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne. The Church has solemnly defined that "from the first instant" of Our Lady's conception God mightily intervened and by a singular grace and privilege, and in view of the foreseen merits of her Son's saving Death, preserved her from every stain of sin.

This means that the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived without original sin and furthermore that she never committed any sin, not even a venial sin, throughout her whole life, until the day she was gloriously assumed into heaven body and soul.

The Collect from today's Mass expresses this sublime truth in succinct, precise and accessible language:

"O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin prepared a worthy dwelling for your Son, grant, we pray, that, as you preserved her from every stain by virtue of the Death of your Son, which you foresaw, so, through her intercession, we, too, may be cleansed and admitted to your presence ." (Collect from the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

Many modern Protestant Christians reject this teaching and see it as one fraught with serious flaws. They argue that it is a Catholic invention that has no basis in Scripture. They further contend that if Mary never sinned then she did not need a savior and this is not only wrong but an affront to Christ Himself who shed His blood on the cross for the redemption of all mankind.

Before I give a brief response to these objections, I think it is illustrative to point out that the Protestant reformers of the 16th century would not exactly agree with many of their modern Protestant counterparts, especially some in the Evangelical wing who tend to be more pronounced in their denial of Catholic Marian doctrines.

The German reformer, Martin Luther, was profuse in his praise of Mary and defended not only her sinlessness but also her Divine Maternity, her Perpetual Virginity, her Assumption into heaven and Marian devotions. Most Evangelical Christians, for whom I have the utmost respect (they are our allies in the defense of life, marriage and religious freedom), would be shocked to know this. But it is true and easy enough to find out but not so easy to explain away.

One of the scriptural sources of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is Luke 1:28. Tons of ink has been spilt over this verse alone and one could go on endlessly examining it. The key element of this verse is the Greek word, kecharitômenç. Some translations render this word, "highly favored." Indeed, the Blessed Virgin Mary was "highly favored" by God but the original Greek conveys something more.

Without going into a long, detailed word analysis, suffice it to say that, kecharitômenç, translated properly, "full of grace," implies a permanent quality of utter holiness that embraced Mary's whole life, from beginning to end, and that this perduring sinlessness was not of her own making but rather one which was received as a free gift from God, a grace (in Greek, charis, a word which is contained in the very word kecharitômenç). 

This is, in Biblical terms, what is meant by the theological term, Immaculate Conception. Immaculate comes from the Latin, sine and macula, literally, without stain. Mary is, by God's grace, full of grace from beginning to end.

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception, far from indicating that Mary had no need of a savior, teaches that she was redeemed, but in a most lavish way.

We are redeemed by the grace of Christ after the fact of our sins. Mary was redeemed by the grace of Christ before sin could even get near her. This was so God could "prepare a worthy Mother for [His] Son" (Preface of today's Mass).

Here's how the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains it:

"The 'splendor of an entirely unique holiness' by which Mary is 'enriched from the first instant of her conception' comes wholly from Christ: she is 'redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son'" (492).

We might say, tweaking the lyrics of a popular Protestant hymn, that the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary was wrought by a "most amazing grace."

Sin makes us enemies of God. The name "Satan" means "adversary" or "enemy." We may not think of it in these terms but every sin, even the smallest of sins, makes us, in some sense, adversaries or enemies of God. When one sins, one is opposing God and His divine will.

God chose Our Lady and made her Immaculate so that He would have a most faithful ally in carrying out His plan of redemption. She was not, as some might be tempted to think, a mere passive instrument in the hands of God, a kind of disposable incubator for the Word Incarnate. On the contrary, she was a real, flesh and blood, human being, who cooperated freely with God's plan of salvation.

In the prayers of today's Mass we ask God our Lord through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary that we may be "cleansed" and "delivered from all our faults," and "healed" of the wounds caused by our sins. In the Preface, she is called an "advocate of grace and a model of holiness."

In our own struggle to be "holy and without blemish before God" we have no greater aide than Mary Most Holy who by her free and total "yes" to God crushed the head of the ancient serpent, the devil, and opened the door of the world to the Word made flesh, our Redeemer.

In closing, let us turn to Immaculate Mary, our Mother, in the words of the ancient prayer, Alma Mater Redemptoris, and say to her:

Loving mother of the Redeemer, gate of heaven, star of the sea, assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again. To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator, yet remained a virgin after as before. You who received Gabriel's joyful greeting, have pity on us poor sinners. Amen.


'Help give every student and teacher Free resources for a world-class moral Catholic education'

Copyright 2017 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for DECEMBER 2016
End to Child-Soldiers: That the scandal of child-soldiers may be eliminated the world over.
Evangelization: Europe: That the peoples of Europe may rediscover the beauty, goodness, and truth of the Gospel which gives joy and hope to life.


More Year of Faith

The Happy Priest on the Baptism of the Lord and our own Baptism Watch

Image of

By Fr. James Farfaglia

The consideration of Jesus' baptism, gives us an opportunity to remember our own baptism.  If you do not know the date of your own baptism, it is a good idea to go through your personal files and find out when it occurred.  CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic ... continue reading

Regret of Judas or Repentance of Peter?

Image of

By Fr Samuel Medley, SOLT

I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. HYTHE, KENT, UK (Catholic Online) - I didn't steal any cookies mommy! says a little boy whose mother asked him if he was hungry, wiping the ... continue reading

Pentecost: St Cyril of Jerusalem on The Living Water of the Holy Spirit Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online

The Spirit makes one man a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one man's self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches ... continue reading

The Wedding Invitation of Jesus: We are Called to Live the Nuptial Mystery Watch

Image of There will be no giving or taking in marriage in the kingdom to come because the very purpose and meaning of marriage itself will be fulfilled. (See, e.g. Mk. 12:18-27) We will be living in the fullness of the Communion of Love with the Trinity. The symbol will give way to the eternal reality, the Sacrament will be fulfilled in the fullness of communion. All of human love will be completed in the Love which lasts forever.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

It is not accidental that the Bible, from beginning to the end, uses marriage as a metaphor and a symbol to reveal the plan of God for the whole human race.  Marriage was God's plan from the beginning as we see in the first book of Genesis. Throughout the Old ... continue reading

The Sower. The Seed. The Field. Understanding the Christian Mission Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

"A sower went out to sow. And, as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for ... continue reading

Reflection on the Catholic Catechism: Understanding the Bible Watch

Image of

By Michael Terheyden

How we interpret the Bible is of immense importance! It directly affects what we believe about Christ, the Church, and our faith, but it is also related to many of the grave problems in our society and the world. Yet, despite the gravity of this situation, we have good ... continue reading

Christ the King, the Year of Faith and the Catholic Counterculture Watch

Image of On this Solemnity of the Feast of Christ the King, the Year of Faith inaugurated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI comes to a ceremonial end. However, in reality, it cannot and will not end, because Jesus Christ is King! The Year of Faith was only the beginning for those who choose to live the Life of Faith.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

We celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. It is one of many opportunities the Catholic Church year offers to each one of us to consider the creature called time, receive it as a gift, and begin to really live our lives differently.  This is one of ... continue reading

The Bones of Peter, the Successor of Peter: Close of the Year of Faith Watch

Image of The bones of St. Peter the Apostle

By Deacon Keith Fournier

On the Solemnity of the Feast of Christ the King, the Sunday which marks both the end of the Church Year and the end of the Year of Faith, inaugurated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope Francis greeted thousands of the faithful and presided over Holy Mass and the ... continue reading

Fr Randy Sly on Becoming a House of Prayer Watch

Image of Jesus drives the money changers from the temple. 

With hearts clear and focused on our Lord, we can follow the advice of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Everything starts with prayer. Love to pray--feel the need to pray often during the day and take the trouble to pray. If you want to pray better, you must pray more. The more you pray, the easier it becomes. Perfect prayer does not consist of many words but in the fervor of the desire which raises the heart to Jesus. (Fr. Randy Sly)

By Father Randy Sly

Becoming a House of Prayer is the best discipline we can take on. St. Ephraem of Syria states that Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy ... continue reading

Jesus Weeps and Offers the Path to Peace Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

If this day you only knew what makes for peace- but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your ... continue reading

All Year of Faith News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Hebrews 7:1-3, 15-17
1 Melchizedek, king of Salem, a priest of God Most High, came to meet ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 110:1, 2, 3, 4
1 [Of David Psalm] Yahweh declared to my Lord, 'Take your seat at my ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 3:1-6
1 Another time he went into the synagogue, and there was a man present ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for January 18th, 2017 Image

St. Volusian
January 18: Bishop of Tours, France. A senator at Tours, he ... Read More