Was Mary an immaculate conception?

[ WordBytes on FAQs & Teachings of the Faith ]

Question:

I am not a Catholic but I feel God is leading me to the Catholic Church. I am seeking God’s will and love the Catholic Church; I have always been interested in it. I have a couple of questions to ask you. I met a Protestant minister who told me that the Roman Catholics believe that Mary was an immaculate conception. Is that true?

He also said that Jesus’ brother James was older than Jesus, so therefore Jesus couldn’t be from an immaculate conception. Now I do not know James’ age, but I do know that Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit born of the virgin Mary, I know that much because my Bible tells me that.

Answer:

Mary the Immaculate ConceptionHow wonderful that you are following God’s leading into the fullness of faith in the Catholic Church!

I cannot answer your questions thoroughly on this page; it’s best you set up an appointment with a priest at your nearby parish to get answers, or join RCIA sessions there (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults; it’s a program that should explain the faith well). But here’s a brief answer:

We believe that Mary was conceived immaculately, meaning that she was conceived in her mother’s womb without the stain of original sin — as a special grace from God — so that later her body could be a holy temple for the unborn baby Jesus. Since God’s perfect holiness cannot reside in a sinful person, Mary’s womb would not have been able to hold Jesus if she was still corrupted by original sin. It’s a theological answer to how Mary could become the mother of God-Jesus.

James was a cousin of Jesus. If you look for every reference of James in the Gospels, you’ll see that Mary the mother of Jesus is not his mother. Matt. 27:55-56 shows us three women watching Jesus die on the cross from a distance: “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.” We know that Mary the mother of Jesus was at the foot of the cross, not with these other ladies standing at a distance.

Note that the theology of the Immaculate Conception is not about Jesus being conceived immaculately. We refer to His conception as a “virgin birth”. Mary remained a virgin because her Spouse was the Holy Spirit. She married Joseph because it was God’s plan that Jesus be raised in a holy family, but Mary remained faithful to her unity with her Spouse.

We also know that Jesus was Mary’s first child (not James), because the scriptures tell us that when the angel announced her role in the coming of the Messiah, Mary told the angel she didn’t understand how she could become a mother, since she had not had relations with any man yet.

You can look things up yourself in the online Catechism at:
http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/index/i.htm

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© 2002 by Terry Modica
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