The Immaculate Conception, by Father Francis Cuthbert Doyle, OSB

detail from the painting 'Vierge Marie', 1927, Church of Saint Kilian, Dinghsheim, Bas-Rhine, Alsace, FranceI. Everyone will admit that Almighty God has the power to exempt the Blessed Virgin from the stain of original sin. Also, that it is becoming that He should free her from that blemish, in order to make her worthy, in some degree, to be the Mother of His Son. Furthermore, we have seen that a kind of necessity impelled God to exercise this power, in order to show that there is no limit to His dominion over the devil. We come now to examine two facts – the Maternity, and the Incarnation – facts which in a way necessitate the Immaculate Conception; and though these, as well as the reasons already adduced, are not direct and positive proofs of the dogma, yet they serve to show us how consonant it is with reason, and how admirably it fits into the plan of redemption. More than this we do not need, since the Holy Spirit has spoken by the mouth of the Church, and denned it with the infallible certainty of faith.

We maintain, therefore, that the fact of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin implies the Immaculate Conception; for, the same reason that made Our Lord be born of a Virgin Mother, would also make Him be born of an Immaculate Mother. Why, then, did God will that His Son should be born into this world of a Virgin – He willed it, in order that the sanctity due to the sacred humanity of Christ should already exist in His Mother, and throw the halo of its beauty around His sacred person. But, if God required that this sanctity should be the foregoing and preparatory con dition which fitted her to became the Mother of Our Lord, we can see at a glance that its spotless beauty ought, logically, to take its rise from the very conception of the future Mother of the Redeemer. For if the reverence due to the sanctity of Jesus Christ urged Almighty God to work a marvel, ‘at which nature stood amazed,’ namely, that a daughter of Adam should be at once a virgin and a mother, the same reverence required that Mary should be as free from every stain or blemish, at the first moment of her being, as when, upon the explanation of the Angel, she said, ‘Be it done unto me according to thy word,’ and the only begotten Son of the Eternal Father entered her womb, and there took flesh of her sinless body. That flesh, which He took from her, not only must be free from stain, but must never have been subject, at any time, or for the shortest instant of time, to the defilement of sin. Thus we see how the fact of Mary’s Maternity, or motherhood, claims for her an Immaculate Conception.

II. Furthermore, the fact of the Incarnation, or of that act of divine power by which God took upon Himself our human nature, implies the Immaculate Conception. For it would be derogatory to the infinite holiness of God, to imagine that He would take upon Himself flesh, which at one time, though but for an instant, had been defiled with the serpent’s venom. Therefore, what has been said of the Maternity, will apply with equal force to this other great fact of the Incarnation, considered in itself. But no slight weight is added to the argument, when we reflect upon the end which Christ had in view in becoming man. A rapid glance at the plan of redemption will bring this out clearly before your mind.

Man had offended a God of infinite majesty. The offence thus committed could not be adequately atoned for, except by a being equal to God. Yet, the being making the atone ment must belong to the guilty race – must be a man. The Incarnation solved this difficulty; because Christ is truly God, equal to the Eternal Father, and yet at the same time truly man, being one of the race which had prevaricated. The purpose, therefore, or end for which Christ became man, was to redeem us from sin, to burst our bonds asunder, and to open for us a fountain in which those who wish, may wash away their stains in His precious blood. Therefore, if Christ came into the world to redeem us, both from that original sin and from our own personal sins, His coming, or the Incarnation and sin, must mutually exclude each other. But, if this is the case, as all will admit that it is, then we must also admit that Mary, who is associated with Christ in the work of the Incarnation, as the seat, and the instrument of that divine mystery, is also excluded from that stain of original sin. For, if she is not, then we must say that she, through whose instrumentality the malediction pronounced upon Eve has been reversed, lay under its ban like the lowliest of Eve’s daughters; that she, through whom every blessing came into the world, has been infected with the original curse; that she, who brought the priceless ransom of our redemption, has herself once been a bond slave, and tributary to the tyrant, whose throne her glorious offspring came to overturn and grind into powder, to be trampled upon by the sons of men.

III. Thus we see that both the Maternity of our Blessed Lady and the Incarnation of Our Lord necessitate, in a certain sense, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Furthermore, this dogma, while pointing out to us the admirable congruity with our reason, which runs through the whole plan of the redemption, cannot fail at the same time to teach a lesson which every thoughtful boy will do well to impress deeply upon his mind. This lesson is the lofty notion of God’s awful sanctity which it brings home to us. God is so holy, that before lowering Himself to assume human nature, He did not consider it enough to be born of a virgin, but that virgin must be one who is spotlessly pure, and so fair that He can call her His beloved, and summon heaven and earth to witness that there is no stain in her. She must be free, not only from all actual sin, but from even the blemish of any venial sin. Yet, pure and holy as she is, the Church, when speaking of the Incarnation, seems to be amazed at the condescension of God, in taking upon Him self human nature, and says to Him: ‘Non horruisti Virginis uterum‘ – ‘Thou didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb.’

What a lesson does this teach you! God does not disdain to come to visit you in the Holy Sacrament. He enters your bosom. He unites Himself to you! Oh, what purity, what spotless purity does He require from you, in order that you may be, in some degree, worthy of this union! Yet you are but flesh and blood, exposed to many temptations, and prone to evil! So great condescension on His part cannot but urge you to make a strong and generous resolution to win for yourself that cleanness of heart with which He is so well pleased. The task, no doubt, is a difficult one, but still it is not impossible. A courageous heart, and a determined will, sustained and aided by the grace of God, will be able to accomplish it.

Therefore, be not afraid. Go frequently to Jesus in the Holy Sacrament. Unite yourself to Him. Take Him into your heart, show Him its corruption, and ask Him to cure it. When you reflect upon the Immaculate Conception, and upon all the miracles which God effected in that mystery, through His love of purity and His hatred of the opposite vice, fall upon your knees, adore the sanctity of God, and beg of Him to make you at least a faint image of His holy Mother, by giving you grace to be spotlessly pure.