Every 8th of December, Roman Catholics the world over celebrate what has to come to be known as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Catholic schools and universities even declare the day as a holiday. There are even churches (at least one in my home city of Naga) that are named after it. This feast has its roots in Syria and was celebrated perhaps as early as the 5th century.
This doctrine, contrary to the perception of many, is not about the conception of our Lord Jesus. It’s the belief that Jesus’ mother, Mary, was conceived without sin (hence, the Catholic prayer that starts with ‘O Mary conceived without sin…’). Section 490 of The Catechism of the Catholic Church states,
“To become the mother of the Savior, Mary ‘was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.’ The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as ‘full of grace’.In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace. Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, ‘full of grace’ through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: ‘The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race,preserved immune from all stain of original sin.’”
This doctrine, however, does not have any Biblical basis.
First off, there’s nowhere in the Bible where you’ll find the phrase ‘full of grace’ to refer to Mary. There are two places in the New Testament where this phrase is found, but they are both not about Mary. In John 1:14, the phrase ‘full of grace’ refers to our Lord Jesus. In Acts 6:8, the person being referred to as ‘full of grace’ is Stephen.
All translations of the proof text (Luke 1:28) being used by Catholic apologists for Mary’s supposed immunity ‘from all stain of original sin’ don’t support such claim. The text, Luke 1:28, states, “And coming in, he said to her, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’” That’s the angel Gabriel saying those words to Mary, who was then engaged to Joseph. Other translations render the phrase ‘favored one’ as ‘highly favored’ (ASV), ‘favored woman’ (NLT), or ‘having been favored’ (The Nestle Aland 26th edition, Greek New Testament Interlinear). This simply means that no matter how you interpret the Greek, you won’t get the translation ‘full of grace.’
Secondly, let’s not forget that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Rom. 3:23), and Mary is certainly no exception to such state of mankind. Only Jesus, who is Himself God incarnate, lived a perfect and sinless life. Mary was truly blessed and was given that unique privilege of bearing the very Son of God, but we should never elevate her to a level that goes against what Scripture says.
One is also bound to ask: if Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin, why would she appeal to a Savior? In Luke 1:47 (a verse in the Magnificat), she says, ‘And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.’ If she was indeed free from any sin, she wouldn’t have needed a savior.
Until now, the Roman Catholic church continues to argue that in order for Jesus not to inherit the original sin of Adam, He had to be born by a sinless woman. But they don’t realize and/or accept the fact that Jesus, being the Second Person of the Triune God, is of course immune from sin!
The Catholic doctrine of Immaculate Conception is a heretical and blasphemous doctrine and has no biblical basis whatsoever, no matter how you exegete the verse or verses used to lend support to it or give it credence. It’s unknown to the early church and is a later invention or development. What we find in the Bible is NOT the immaculate conception of Mary but the virgin conception of Jesus Christ.