John Lilburne's journal about the Immaculate Conception, predestination, predetermination, and the movie Jesus of Nazareth.



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1043 L Sat 8 Dec 2001

Today is the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.

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 1:3-4 .]"

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 long.
'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 these matters.

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, 1648).

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.