Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Immaculate Conception

This is a half-formed thought I'm jotting down so I don't forget it.

So, in Catholicism, when you hear the term the Immaculate Conception, they're talking about the Virgin Mary's conception, not Christs. (Though His, too, would be termed Immaculate, but the whole Virgin Birth thing takes precedence, I suppose...)

Anyway. The concept is that, at her conception, Mary was free from all sin, which would have to be Original Sin, since at that point, she was incapable of having committed personal sins. Not a lot of opportunity in the womb, one supposes.

So later on, at the Annunciation, Mary was already perfect and sinless when she said yes to God, through Gabriel. She was at a pre-Fall state of being.

However, it is my understanding, though I could be wrong here, that in Orthodoxy, the 'stain' of Original Sin doesn't....doesn't exist, for lack of a better word, here. There are consequences of Original Sin - death and the propensity for personal sins, but like, an infant who dies isn't going to be stuck in limbo/hell because of the stain of Original Sin, right?

So, because of that, there's no doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in Orthodoxy. Rather, and again, my understanding, it was only at Mary's acceptance, at her 'yes', that she was cleansed, I'm assuming because she'd accepted Christ, even if she maybe didn't understand the details at the moment? I don't know, but she was made immaculate and sinless at that point, and never sinned for the rest of her life.

The point is- the *point* is, mind, that I think the second makes more sense. If Mary was *already* perfect and sinless, then *of course* she was going to say yes. However, if she was just like everybody else, then her yes was a free choice, see? She was at the same state of being as all the rest of us, and in that flawed state, chose God. Which makes the choice more important and meaningful, see?


  1. Interesting! See, I always learn from you! I didn't know the Orthodox or Catholic position on this. I'd heard rumors, but didn't know for sure. Glad you share such things! Enjoyed it.

  2. One of the reasons I am now Orthodox and formerly Roman Catholic!

  3. Yes, I think you captured it. Also, my understanding is that the Immaculate conception is simply redundant from the Orthodox POV because NONE of us have the "stain" of original sin. We sin AS Adam sinned, and we are born into a fallen world, but we do NOT bear the guilt for Adam's sin...only for our own sins. I like to think that the vision at Fatima was a corrective, but that the Roman Catholics did not take it far enough, kwim?

  4. I don't think either position makes sense. Mary was a human being like the rest of us, and the mere fact of having said yes to God's plan for her to give birth to Messiah as a virgin did nothing to change that.

    The Bible teaches that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3). There is only one human being who is said to be perfect in the Bible, and that is Jesus. And the only reason He is perfect is that He is God incarnate.

  5. Susanne,

    I like how you phrase it. 'I've heard *rumors*'. *grin* I don't know why that amuses me, but it does. :)

  6. mamajuliana,

    It's a good reason, too. :)

  7. Alana,

    Right, that was one of the bits I couldn't quite put my finger on when the thought occurred to me. I get these random ideas when I'm doing other things, and sometimes all the different bits don't come together right at once. :)

    We live with the consequences of Adam's sin, but not the guilt. Which makes so much more sense, given how often we're told that you can't place the sin of the parents on the children, etc.

  8. caraboska,

    'I don't think either position makes sense.'

    Behold my shock! ;-)

    'Mary was a human being like the rest of us, and the mere fact of having said yes to God's plan for her to give birth to Messiah as a virgin did nothing to change that.'

    Hmmm. I don't know that anyone is saying any different, except maybe the Catholic position, which claims she was conceived without sin, which in my understanding, is actually the Orthodox position on everyone. Mary was just like everyone else, however, and I think part of the problem is the way I stated it in the original post, unlike everyone else, Mary 'simply' always chose not to sin. She always chose God. So, like all other humans, she could have sinned, she had the free will and everything else. She lived in the same world as us. But she made the right choice, every single time.

    And I realize that you're still going to disagree with me. I'm okay with that. :)


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