Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Immaculate Misconception

(I was hoping to get this post up in time for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, but it was not to be.  This has been a crazy-busy week, the most important event being the birth of my new nephew, "Baby E!"  Many blessings  to my brother and sister-in-law as they start the journey of parenthood.  They live an hour away and we haven't had a chance to meet the little one yet; we'll see him next weekend for sure, Lord willing! 

Oh, and the statue in the photo above adorns the lovely Immaculate Conception Church in Fairbanks, Alaska.  For more photos of this beautiful little church, click here.)

I remember when Joe and I were dating and I was still a Baptist, we had many in-depth conversations about Mary.  I had always known that Catholics gave Mary special honor, even naming churches after her and reciting prayers to her.  I never really understood why this was.  Joe explained to me that Catholics honor and venerate Mary because she is the mother of Our Lord, and the Church teaches that Mary was preserved from sin--and never sinned-- so that Christ would have a pure vessel to enter this world through. In fact, he was surprised to learn that other Christian faiths did not teach this.   I dismissed this concept at first, saying that I did not believe that at all; Mary was no different from you and me, and she was a sinner just like everyone else.  I figured God must have chosen her because she was particularly faithful and holy--after all, some sinners are more faithful than holy than others. 

One night during a get-together with some of Joe's high school friends, many of whom were Catholic, someone brought up the subject of the Immaculate Conception.  I had heard this term before, and never thought much of it; I assumed it referred to Christ's conception by the Holy Spirit in Mary's womb.  That was one thing all Christian faiths taught, and I could wrap my head around it.  Someone asked the group if they knew what the Immaculate Conception referred to.  Several people said, "why, it's Jesus' conception in the womb of Mary, of course."  The person then explained that even though many Catholics have this notion, it actually means that Mary was preserved from original sin at the moment of her conception.  (I'm pretty sure Joe knew the right answer, by the way.)  This REALLY confused me, because now I'm like, "WHAT??  The Church teaches that Mary was conceived in her mother's womb in the same way that Jesus was?  Like without sex??"  Well, no, I was assured; Mary was conceived in the usual manner, but God protected her from the sin of Adam and Eve.  (I later learned that many Protestants hold the mistaken view that Catholic Church teaches a virginal conception of Mary.  This is not the case.)  Surprisingly, this made perfect sense to me, even though I had earlier pooh-poohed the idea of a sinless Mary.  Why, after all, would God not want a pure vessel for His Son?  Why wouldn't he make a sinless mother to bear Him?  Over the years, since becoming Catholic, I have come to a better understanding of it.  Some ask, "Why does Mary refer to God as her savior in the Magnificat?  That proves she's a sinner."  Remember, Christ is beyond space and time.  Mary was saved by the merits of her divine Son on the Cross at the moment of her conception.  I sometimes think of it as if Mary was baptized at the moment she was conceived--thus having the stain of original sin removed--but an even more powerful one because she lived a completely sinless life. 

I found this wonderful video by Scott Hahn, who explains beautifully why Catholics celebrate Mary's Immaculate Conception.

I have no idea when you'll hear from me again, on this blog anyway (although I expect I'll be around on Facebook and Twitter).  This week, with what little free time I have, I'm hoping to get a good chunk of Christmas shopping done, start sending out Christmas cards, and spend some quality time with little E. and his mommy and daddy.  I might try to see what I can do about moving my blog over to Wordpress, or at least clean up my web albums to make room for more photos to post here, although that might not happen for a while.  Have a great week, and happy Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

Here's Moe when he dressed up as Saint Juan Diego for the All Saints Day parade at school last year.

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