The most common question students got wrong in my catechism class was related to the teaching of the Immaculate Conception. Nearly all the students thought the Church is referring to Jesus. Instead, the Immaculate Conception is referring to the Blessed Virgin Mary!
According to Pope Pius IX in his encyclical Ineffabilis Deus, “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.”
The angel Gabriel testifies to the holiness of Mary in Luke 1:28 by greeting her, “Hail, favored one full of grace.” Mary’s perfect obedience to God’s will of selecting her to bear the Son of God is another instance of her holiness.
How was Mary Saved
I once heard a priest describe Mary’s salvation this way. Imagine that humanity fell into a muddy pit. This caused our first parents (Adam and Eve) to get dirty with the stain of sin.
In order for mankind to be purified or washed from this imperfection God instituted the sacrament of Baptism. Mary did not need Baptism (and the other sacraments) for salvation because God saved her from falling into the pit (of sin) in the first place!
Mary is not a deity to be worshiped. Her role as in salvation history is that of Jesus Christ’s Mother. The Son of God is still the focal point of our hearts, mind, and soul.
To Jesus through Mary
We can look to Our Blessed Mother as a guide, a signpost, and a beacon that orients us toward God. Throughout Church Tradition, the Old Testament signs of Noah’s ark and Jacob’s ladder are interpreted as symbols of Mary. The Blessed Virgin acts as a bridge or intercessor between us and Christ. She is NOT a replacement for Christ.
The Immaculate Conception is evidence that she is a holy and exemplar model of virtue. Mary is the handmaiden of the Lord and most humble servant of God. According to the great French priest, St. Louis de Montfort in his work True Devotion to the Mary, “[The] Blessed Mother… is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus”. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is assurance for Catholics that Mary is united with God.
Like how the moon reflects the light of the sun, so too, Mary reflects the light of truth and grace from Her Son Jesus Christ. The beauty and grandeur of Mary exists because she is the perfect mirror. Immaculately conceived and without sin. That was the mysterious plan of God. She reflects God’s love outward toward all of humanity. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is truly an epic solemnity to celebrate. May we continue to grow closer to God and learn from the humble example of Mary to obey God in all things!
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