An Eastern Orthodox Christian wrote to complain about, or to see how we Catholics explain the Immaculate Conception. He said he had asked many Catholics and none could answer. I find that hard to believe.
After I answered his long and slightly edgy e-mail, I received his response – “Thanks.”
Picture One: Statue of Mary in Nazareth entitled “Mary of Nazareth” which is one of my favorites! Second picture is me falling in the mud in our documentary “Mary, Mother of God” when I explained the Immaculate Conception.
Here are the Eastern Orthodoxes two questions, and my simple answers:
HIS QUESTION: If Mary the Mother of God was born without original sin, and was pure and could not sin, then how could she have possibly said “No” to God’s messenger, the Archangel Gabriel? Why were God and the angels “holding their collective breaths” (as the Basilica of the Annunciation notes in Nazareth) if they knew that she was going to have to say “Yes”, because she could not deny God’s will, which would have been a sin?
MY RESPONSE: REMEMBER THAT THE FIRST EVE WAS ALSO “CONCEIVED IMMACULATELY” — SHE WAS SINLESS, WITHOUT THE STAIN OF ORIGINAL SIN OR ANY ACTUAL SIN. YET, SHE WAS ABLE TO CHOSE SIN. MARY, THE 2ND EVE COULD ALSO HAVE SAID NO TO GOD AND SINNED, JUST LIKE THE FIRST “IMMACULATELY CONCEIVED” EVE. THAT IS WHY MARY IS SO SPECIAL —- SHE RESISTED SIN LIKE THE FIRST EVE DIDN’T DO. EVE TIED THE KNOT OF SIN; MARY UNTIED IT.
HIS QUESTION: By declaring the Immaculate Conception, suddenly, Mary the Mother of God became very unlike us; her purity became unachievable for us mere mortals born with “original sin”; and she became a model of Godliness that we can never achieve on earth. The best human example of humility and obedience that Christians had been able to strive towards for 1,800 years was taken away and transformed into a something different, something suprahuman.
MY RESPONSE: NOTHING HAS BEEN TAKEN AWAY. SHE WAS GIVEN SANCTIFYING GRACE AT THE MOMENT OF CONCEPTION, THE REST OF US NINE MONTHS LATER AT OUR INFANT BAPTISM. SHE COULD HAVE SINNED, BUT DIDN’T. WE CAN AVOID SIN BUT DON’T. THAT IS WHY CATHOLICS LOVE HER. BEING IMMACULATELY CONCEIVED DID NOT MAKE HER SUPERHUMAN; RATHER IT MAKES HER TRULY HUMAN IN THE FULL SENSE OF THE WORD, A MODEL FOR US ALL TO STRIVE FOR.
SHE NEEDED A SAVIOR (“MY SPIRIT REJOICES IN GOD MY SAVIOR”) LIKE WE DO BUT FOR HE PREVENTED HER FROM FALLING INTO THE MUD WHEREAS WE’VE ALL BEEN SAVED BY BEING PULLED OUT AND CLEANED UP.
EVEN THE ORTHODOX REFER TO MARY AS THE ALL HOLY ONE. IT IS REALLY THE SAME THING, JUST CATHOLICS GAVE IT A FORMAL DEFINITION.
HOPE THAT HELPS. HAPPY EASTER.