Mary’s prophecy, given in her Magnificat, “Behold all generations will call me blessed,” was fulfilled when the Catholic Church declared four dogmas of faith about her: 1-Immaculate Conception, 2-Perpetual Virginity, 3-Divine Maternity, and 4-Assumption. The Immaculate Conception is a dogma based mainly on Christian tradition and theological reasoning. It was defined in 1854 by Pope Pius IX through Ineffabilis Deus: “From the first moment of her conception, Mary was preserved immune from original sin by the singular grace of God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, savior of the human race.” (CCC). This declaration means that original sanctity, innocence and justice were conferred upon her, and that she was exempted from the evil effects of original sin, excluding sorrow, pain, disease and death, the temporal penalties given to Adam.(Catholic Encyclopedia). “God freely chose Mary from all eternity to be the Mother of his Son. In order to carry out her mission she herself was conceived immaculate. This means that, thanks to the grace of God and in anticipation of the merits of Jesus Christ, Mary was preserved from original sin from the first instant of her conception.” – Compendium of the CCC. The Fathers of the Church from the fourth century believed and taught that the Blessed Virgin Mary had been kept free of all traces of sin by the grace of God because she was to become the Mother of the Lord Jesus. This belief kept company with the other beliefs about Mary: the perpetual virginity of Mary, her sinlessness, and her Divine motherhood. Church history makes known to us that, as early as the seventh century, there was a liturgical observance that proclaimed the Blessed Virgin Mary to be free from sin.
Proofs: (A) From tradition:
The Immaculate Conception is a dogma originating from sound Christian tradition. Monks in Palestinian monasteries started celebrating the “Feast of Conception of Our Lady” by the end of 7th century. The feast spread as the Feast of Immaculate Conception in Italy (9th century), England (11th century), and France (12th century). Pope Leo VI propagated the celebration and Pope Sixtus IV approved it as a feast. Finally, in 1854 Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception to be a dogma of faith. Mary herself approved it four years later by declaring to Bernadette at Lourdes: “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
(B) Proofs from Holy Scripture:
1- God purified the prophet Jeremiah in the womb of his mother and anointed John the Baptist with His Holy Spirit before John’s birth. (Jer. 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb of your mother I knew you and before you were born, I consecrated you”). Hence, it is reasonable that God kept the mother of His Son free from all sin from the first moment of her origin.
2- The angel saluted Mary as “full of grace”. This greeting means that she was never, even for a moment, a slave of sin and the devil.
3- Gen. 3:15: “I will put enmity between you and the woman and her seed shall crush your head.” The woman stands for Mary, and the promise would not be true if Mary had original sin.
(C)-Argument from reason:
1-If we were allowed to select our mother, we would select the most beautiful, healthy and saintly lady. So did God.
2- The All-holy God cannot be born from a woman who was a slave of the devil, even for a moment in her life.
Message: 1) We need to be pure and holy like our heavenly mother. Every mother wants her children to inherit or acquire all her good qualities. Hence, our immaculate and holy mother wants us to be holy and pure children. The original sin from which Mary was preserved is the original sin from which we, too, have been freed. The grace of Christ that was hers is the same grace of Christ that is ours. Mary is significant for us because the central factors in her life are the central factors in our own. Perhaps the lesson is that, no matter in which direction we may be facing, we need Mary Immaculate in our lives in order to remember who Christ is and who we ourselves are.
2) We need to be thankful and humble. Mary’s sinlessness was a gift from God, given to her right from the very moment of her conception. Equally, it is by the grace of God that we have received a new heart, a new spirit and the indwelling Holy Spirit to raise us to the level of holiness that the Blessed Virgin Mary enjoyed during her earthly life. Through faith in Jesus and through the Sacrament of Baptism, having been born again of water and Spirit, we have been adopted into the Body of Christ in the living hope of receiving our salvation. Through our living faith, including the reception of the Sacrament of Confession, we receive the righteousness of our souls. Through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we abide in Jesus and Jesus in us, this leading towards our salvation. [Jn. 6:56]. Hence those of us who happen to be holy, who sin less than the average sinner, should regard our holiness as basically a gift of God and not our own achievement. Our attitude should then be characterized by two basic attitudes, thankfulness to God, and humility before those who are naturally and spiritually less-gifted than we are.
3) Like Mary, we need to say “’Yes” to God: God invites each one of us to continue Mary’s “Yes” by welcoming Jesus and making room for him in our lives. Let us ask her to obtain for us the grace to respond as generously to God's call as she did, and to be as faithful in discipleship to her Son as she was. On this feast day, let us ask her to be with us, to guide us, to protect us through her prayers of intercession with her Son, and to share her privilege with us, making our bodies worthy resting places for her son.