If Mary was immaculately conceived, is she really human? Did she actually have free will? Today, Dr. Sri explains the dogma of the immaculate conception and helps us understand how we can still relate to Mary even though she was sinless.
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Though Mary was sinless, we can still relate to her because she is completely human. She laughed with her cousin Elizabeth, walked by faith with Joseph, and wept at the foot of the cross.
What does it mean that Mary was immaculately conceived?
Mary was immune to the stain of original sin, she was redeemed from the moment of her conception. God gave this gift to her to prepare her for her role as Jesus’ mother. The immaculate conception ultimately points us to Jesus. Mary was a spotless tabernacle to house the presence of the Holy Son of God. When Mary was born, she was given the life of grace within her.
“Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, 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, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”– CCC 491
And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!”-Luke 1:28
“Gabriel’s second word to Mary-traditionally translated “full of grace”- is also packed with rich meaning. It gives us a window into a profound spiritual gift God gave her. The word in Greek is kecharitomene, which is related to the verb that means “to grace” or “to favor” or even “to make graced” (charitoun). The particular form of this word ( a perfect passive participle) described an action that began in the past and continues to have its effects in the present. As such, kecharitomene, could be translated “you who have been and continue to be graced.” This indicates that Mary already had been graced by God, sometime before the angel appeared to her. Gabriel thus refers not to a grace she is going to possess in the future, but to a grace she has already received and continues to experience.”– Rethinking Mary, by Dr. Edward Sri
Did Mary need to be saved?
Mary is dependent on Christ’s work of redemption. Mary received the gift of redemption in a different way. Unlike any of us, Mary entered this world preserved from original sin. For the rest of us, we come into this world with the stain of original sin inherited from Adam and Eve and we have to let Jesus heal us slowly over time with the grace of the sacraments. Mary received the grace of salvation at the moment of her conception through the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
Did Mary have free will?
Although Mary was free from concupiscence, she still had free will. Adam and Eve were also free from concupiscence at first, they were created with original holiness but they rejected the life of God within them and did not remain faithful to the gift of original holiness. They listened to the temptation of the devil and fell.
Mary still had to cooperate with the graces she was given. Mary was blessed but she still had free will, she chose not to reject the blessings and graces given to her.
If we receive sanctifying grace in the sacraments, how come we not remain sinless and perfect like Mary?
Although we also receive the grace of God through the sacraments, Jesus heals us over time. Our souls are also not perfect vessels of grace, we have holes and wounds in them that prevent us from remaining perfectly in the life of grace. However, the more we cooperate with God’s graces and the more we receive them, the more our souls will be healed and perfected over time.
Is Mary Human?
Though sinless, Mary is still human. While she was on earth, she had to walk in faith as a disciple and daughter of God and experienced all the emotions we experience. She laughed with her cousin Elizabeth, walked by faith with Joseph, and wept at the foot of the cross. She experienced uncertainty and fear but she didn’t let fear control her. In the midst of all her human emotions, she was always faithful to God and responded to trials with great trust and surrender. Although she was sinless we can still relate to her because of her humanity. Mary’s immaculate conception is a sign of what God wants to do in each of us. What God did for Mary in an instant at the moment of her conception, is what God wants to do in us over time.
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Dr. Edward Sri is a theologian, well-known Catholic speaker, and author of several best-selling books. His work with Ascension includes study programs such as A Biblical Walk Through the Mass, No Greater Love: A Biblical Walk Through Christ’s Passion and Mary: A Biblical Walk with the Blessed Mother. Several of Dr. Sri’s programs were filmed on-site in the Holy Land, and feature immersive video explorations of the sacred sites where Jesus, Mary, and the Apostles lived and died.
Dr. Sri is the host of the acclaimed Ascension podcast All Things Catholic with Dr. Edward Sri. Together with Curtis Martin, Dr. Sri is a founding leader of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), of which he serves as senior vice president of Apostolic Outreach.
Dr. Sri lives with his wife Beth and their children in Colorado.
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