I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again… coming from where I am coming from the focus on Mary sometimes weirds me out. And I’ve kind of been avoiding it for a week or so because I’m concerned this will be the one thing that I can’t come to terms with. But I’m also not afraid to wrestle with it and try and understand.
This post will focus on the Immaculate Conception.
Protestants believe that God chose Mary to have Jesus and used her, a normal person in need of God’s saving grace, in part of His salvation plan, just like he used a lot of other sinful people in his salvation plan. David did a lot of bad stuff, Moses, Paul, etc. The Protestant tradition doesn’t believe that Mary was special outside of being chosen to be Jesus’ mom. I guess that would mean that theoretically God could have chosen any faithful woman to bear His son…
What I have learned is that Catholics believe Mary did, indeed need God’s saving Grace, but that God imparted that grace to her, in anticipation of her role, at the moment of her conception. Hence, Mary was Immaculately Conceived.
Interestingly, it seems as though Martin Luther believed in the Immaculate Conception at least during the early years of his separation from the Catholic Church, but omitted some of those references in later editions of his writings, so his opinion might have changed, or it got edited out somehow. The reason I know this is I was curious to find out what the early Protestants believed on the matter. If you agree with the Reformation, then you would probably be inclined to assume Luther’s change of opinion was due to emerging more accurate theology… or if you are Catholic, you would perhaps say he lost the ability to correctly interpret theology outside of the authority of the Church. Either way, it is thought-provoking.
Also interestingly, I was in a college class on Modernity and Poetry when the professor indicated the Immaculate Conception was in reference to Jesus’ conception, and I knew enough to correct him. I still find that amusing. We engaged in some interesting emails about God after that, but I’ve known this teaching of the Catholic Church for a while now. Just has never made any sense to me.
Here’s the thing that got me tonight to make at least some progress. Hence the Bon Jovi quote. It’s like I’m halfway there and livin’ on a prayer to understand the rest. I’m tired. 🙂
I think that all Christians agree the Holy Spirit, the way that God resides in humanity today, can only reside in a person once they have received the saving grace of Jesus. For Protestants, the belief is that grace comes to you upon a decision to follow Christ, for Lutherans and Catholics, at least part of that saving grace is given to you at your baptism. The moment when the stain of Original Sin is wiped away.
Ok, so if God can’t spiritually reside in us while we bear the stain of Original Sin, it does make sense that Jesus (both God and Man) could not reside in Mary while she bore the stain of Original Sin inside herself. And the Catholic teaching that saving grace was given to Mary ahead of Jesus’ actual life on earth makes sense.
However, I’m only halfway there because I’m not sure why that grace had to be given to Mary upon her conception, instead of upon Jesus’ conception. And that is my current question, one I will have to work through at a later time.