Friday, December 7, 2012

God's grace in the Immaculate Conception of Mary

It is only by God's grace that we can follow Mary the perfect disciple of Christ. May we strive to live the life that she lived, open to the will of God, that she felt in her heart from the very beginning of her life. 
The Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is the belief that God preserved Mary from any inclination to sin, the inheritance of original sin passed on to all mankind from our first parents, Adam and Eve. The belief of the Immaculate Conception of Mary says nothing about Mary and personal sin (Rom 3:23). Christian belief holds that every human being through faith and through baptism is freed from sin – original sin and personal sin – through the grace of Jesus Christ. Roman Catholic Christians simply claim that Mary was the first one to whom this was done. The basis for the belief in the Immaculate Conception of Mary can be found in the Biblical revelation of holiness and the opposite of that state, sinfulness. God is revealed as perfect interior holiness. Is 6:3 “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!” they (the Seraphim) cried one to the other. No sin or anything tainted with sin can stand in the face of the holiness of God. “Enmity” is that mutual hatred between Mary and sin, between Christ and sin. Gen 3:15 I will put enmity between you (the serpent, Satan) and the woman (Mary), and between your offspring (minions of Satan) and hers (Jesus); He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel. For the birth of God as a human being, God was interested in the condition of the mother’s womb. For even a great, but imperfect, judge of Israel, Samson, God was directive about the state of the mother during the pregnancy. The request for the mother to be pure is repeated for emphasis. Judges 13:3-4 An angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Though you are barren and have had no children, yet you will conceive and bear a son. Now, then, be careful to take no wine or strong drink and to eat nothing unclean.” Judges 13:7 “But he (the angel) said to me, ‘You will be with child and will bear a son. So take neither wine nor strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. For the boy shall be consecrated to God from the womb, until the day of his death.’ ” Judges 13:13-14 The angel of the LORD answered Manoah, “Your wife is to abstain from all the things of which I spoke to her. She must not eat anything that comes from the vine, nor take wine or strong drink, nor eat anything unclean. Let her observe all that I have commanded her.” How much more would God be interested in the state of His own mother’s womb! The salutation of the Angel Gabriel is different from the usual angelic greeting. It indicates that Mary was exceptionally “highly favored with grace” (Greek: charitoo, used twice in the New Testament, in Lk 1:28 for Mary – before Christ’s redemption; and Eph 1:6 for Christ’s grace to us – after Christ’s redemption). Lk 1:28 And coming to her (Mary), he (the angel Gabriel) said, “Hail, favored one (kecharitomene)” Eph 1:4-6 (God) chose us in him (Jesus), before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace (echaritosen) that he granted us in the beloved. Note that the angel’s salutation preceded Mary’s acquiescence. Mary was already highly favored. God’s grace was not given in time after Mary accepted the angel’s word. The Church believes that this grace was given from the very beginning of Mary’s life. It is clearly grace because at the time of Mary’s conception she could have done nothing to earn it.

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