1043 L Sat 8 Dec 2001
Today is the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the
The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is explained in
the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
The Immaculate Conception
490. "To become the mother of the Saviour, Mary
'was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.'[LG
56.] The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation
salutes her as 'full of grace'.[Lk 1:28 .] In fact,
in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith
to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she
be wholly borne by God's grace."
491. "Through the centuries the Church has become
ever more aware that Mary, 'full of grace' through God,[Lk
1:28 .] was redeemed from the moment of her conception.
That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses,
as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:
The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her
conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God
and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human
race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.[Pius
IX, Ineffabilis Deus (1854): DS 2803.]"
492. "The 'splendour 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'.[LG 53, 56.]
The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person 'in
Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places'
and chose her 'in Christ before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and blameless before him in love'.[Cf. Eph
493. "The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call
the Mother of God 'the All-Holy' (Panagia), and celebrate her
as 'free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy
Spirit and formed as a new creature'.[LG 56.] By the grace
of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life
'Let it be done to me according to your word. . .'"
An aspect of this is predestination: God chose her before
the foundation of the world. The second reading for this solemnity
reflects this: Eph 1:3-6,11-12.
This is a difficult topic. Saint Ignatius of Loyola in The
Spiritual Exercises, lists 18 rules "we ought to maintain
in the Church militant" at the end. This includes:
The Fourteenth. It is granted that there is much truth
in the statement that no one can be saved without being predestined
and without having faith and grace. Nevertheless great caution
is necessary in our manner of speaking and teaching about all
The Fifteenth. We ought not to fall into a habit of
speaking much about predestination. But if somehow the topic
is brought up on occasions, it should be treated in such a way
that the ordinary people do not fall into an error, as sometimes
happens when they say: "It is already determined whether
I shall be saved or damned, and this cannot now be changed by
my doing good or evil." Through this they grow listless
and neglect the works whihc lead to good and to the spiritual
advancement of their souls.
Simon Blackburn writes in the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy:
predestination The doctrine that some people are born
already selected for salvation or damnation, which they cannot
avoid even by good deeds in this life. For *Augustine it is a
divine mystery that God in His perfect justice makes the apparently
gratuitous selection of the elect, while *Calvinism is the form
of Christian belief that celebrates the parallel thought that
He has made a similar selection of the damned: 'others he did
appoint for eternal condemnation, according to the counsel of
his most free, most just and holy will' (The Westminster Confession,
predetermination The idea that events are fixed in
advance; that the apparent open nature of the future, contrasted
with the fixed nature of the past, is in fact illusory. The view
may arise from reflection upon *determinism; from the theological
belief that God foresees the future, which is therefore in some
sense already a fact; or from the view that persons with psychic
powers can do this; or from sheer logic (see sea-battle);
or from the belief that time is fundamentally illusory (see
a-series of time). See also predestination.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: "God predestines
no one to go to hell;" (CCC 1037). In CCC 600 it has:
To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy.
When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of "predestination,"
he includes in it each person's free response to his grace.
I have a video of the movie Jesus of Nazareth. The description
on the back has:
Director FRANCO ZEFFIRELLI'S powerful and compelling epic
traces the life of Jesus of Nazareth from Immaculate Conception
through to Divine Resurrection.
This is an extraordinary mistake. The term "Immaculate
Conception" does not refer to Jesus, but to Mary. As I recall,
the film begins with the Annunciation.
Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 8 December 2001.