The first missionary religious congregation for women in the history of the Church and the world is the Institute of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary founded in 1877 by BL. Mary of the Passion, now in the 139th year of its course.

Franciscan in its essence.
Missionary in its services
Mary - like in its approach.

» Dedicated to universal mission

» Seek strength from the Eucharist

» And offer ourselves in challenging services

Updates

The Dogma of Immaculate conception

                                       

 

The Dogma of Immaculate Conception

During its first centuries, the Church's attention to Mary focused on her virginity and maternity. These particular aspects were highlighted as the Church struggled to articulate its belief on the natures and person of Jesus more clearly and definitively in response to the erroneous teachings about Him, put forth by the Docetists and other Gnostics, the Arians, and the Nestorians. The Church's Marian teachings served to clarify what the Church believed about Jesus. As the Church reflected on Mary's cooperation in the Incarnation as well as her intimate relationship with Jesus as His Mother, the Church also began to appreciate and ponder the holiness of this woman who cooperated with God in the Incarnation. During its first centuries, the Church's attention to Mary focused on her virginity and maternity. These particular aspects were highlighted as the Church struggled to articulate its belief on the natures and person of Jesus more clearly and definitively in response to the erroneous teachings about Him, put forth by the Docetists and other Gnostics, the Arians, and the Nestorians. The Church's Marian teachings served to clarify what the Church believed about Jesus. As the Church reflected on Mary's cooperation in the Incarnation as well as her intimate relationship with Jesus as His Mother, the Church also began to appreciate and ponder the holiness of this woman who cooperated with God in the Incarnation.

    In the late sixth century there was a feast of Mary's nativity in the East. In the seventh century a feast of Mary's conception began to be celebrated and by 850 it was generally celebrated in the East. The feast was celebrated as the "Conception of Saint Anne, the Mother of the Theotokos

There is a difference between the Eastern and Western idea of original sin. The Eastern Church places its attention on the concept of deification, the process by which God shares His divine nature with human beings. The original sin is interpreted as a condition by which human nature that does not share in deification is unfulfilled.

The feast of Mary's Conception appears to have spread from the East into Western Europe in two directions. One was by way of Southern Italy. The feast may have been celebrated in Naples around the year 850. If the concupiscence of conjugal relations caused the transmission of original sin, then every child had original sin, except for Jesus who was born of a virginal conception.

Pope Sixtus IV (1471-1494), a Franciscan, was the first Pope to allow the feast to be celebrated in the curia but this was not extended to the universal Church. The feast was still referred to as "Mary's Conception."

It was only on May 17, 1806, that Pius VII allowed the Franciscans to add the words "Immaculata" to the name of the feast in the preface, and Gregory XVI in 1838 extended the privilege to any dioceses and orders who requested it.

In 1830, St. Catherine Labouré received a series of apparitions from Our Lady during which she received a medal that came to be known as the "Miraculous Medal." Engraved on the medal were the words, "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee." 

After consulting theologians, Pius IX, questioned the bishops of the universal church as to whether he should define the Immaculate Conception. 546 of the 603 bishops consulted responded affirmatively.The Pope made the declaration on December 8, 1854. The essential definition was: 

We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful.

 The positive point of the definition links the Immaculate Conception of Mary to the merits of Christ that would have been applied to her by anticipation or retroactively. The Son's merits flowed back upon the mother, not in the irreversible temporality of history but in the sovereign mind of God the Creator who makes all creatures what they are. This perspective derives from John Duns Scotus's remarkable insight. What was, with John Duns Scotus, a hypothesis that contradicted the theology of all his predecessors, is introduced in the Catholic faith...It is the Creator, and not the conditions of the world or the sinful behavior of ancestors, that gives being to each creature. A parallel is thus implied between the virginal conception of Jesus and the immaculate conception of Mary.

 Karl Rahner relates Mary's sinless state to our experience of sanctifying grace:

The Immaculate Conception means that Mary possessed grace from the beginning. What does it signify? This dry technical term of theology makes it sound as though some thing were meant, yet ultimately sanctifying grace and its possession do not signify anything, not even merely some sublime, mysterious condition of our souls, lying beyond the world of our personal experience and only believed in a remote, theoretical way. Sanctifying grace, fundamentally, means God himself, his communications to created spirits, the gift which is God himself. Grace is light, love, and receptive access of a human being's life as a spiritual person to the infinite expanses of the Godhead. Grace means freedom, strength, a pledge of eternal life, the predominant influence of the Holy Spirit in the depths of the soul, adoptive sonship and an eternal inheritance. Mary does not differ from us because she possessed these gifts. It is her possession of them from the beginning, and incomparably, that is the sole difference between her and us.

John Macquarrie, an Anglican theologian, has illustrated the positive manner in which the Immaculate Conception needs to be understood:

Instead of putting the dogma of Immaculate Conception in the negative form by stating that Mary was preserved from the stain of original sin, we may put it in an affirmative way and say she was preserved in a right relatedness to God. An equivalent affirmative expression would be to say that she was always the recipient of grace. She was surrounded with grace from her original conception in the mind of God to her actual historical conception in the love of her parents.

Schillebeeckx affirms the validity of Mary's redemption by prevention:

As a consequence of this, her co-operation in her own redemption was incomparably greater than our co-operation in our redemption. We can therefore reasonably claim that Mary is our prototype and model, and that we may, in faith, confidently acknowledge her as such, in our positive response to the Redemption which is brought to us in the God-man, Christ, alone. In this respect, then, Mary stands as a pattern of the Christian attitude towards life, and every Christian should look upon her as his constant example.

Mary's response to God was one of total openness: 

By virtue of the grace of her exceptional and special election, Mary realized, in her person, the fundamental openness and receptivity of the Old Testament expectation of the Messiah in all its various lines of development, which had been steadily and continuously converging towards one single point. It was this openness and receptivity which became, at least at that level, the ultimate disposition of the Incarnation. All this is, then, the pure work of grace. God prepared for his coming in and through the Jewish people and ultimately through the Virgin Mary. But, as is always the case, every grace is a receiving, from the subject's point of view. Thus, during the whole of the time before the Message, Mary's holiness was a pure receptivity and openness towards God's potential gifts.

At certain moments of her life, Mary's response to God's initiatives has ramifications in            the history of salvation: 

Even if Mary did personalize her exceptional objective state of being redeemed in a subjectively sublime manner through the whole of her life, it is nonetheless possible to distinguish, in her life as in Christ's, various climaxes which form the summit of her subjective acceptance of Christ's redemption. Chief among these are her virgin openness, her fiat, her communion with Christ's sacrifice at the foot of the Cross, her physical death and her experience of Pentecost.

Blessed John Duns Scotus (1265/66 – 8th November 1308), besides being known as the «Subtle Doctor», is also referred to as the «Marian Doctor».  It was he who presented a systematic theology of the Marian privilege of the Immaculate Conception, which the Catholic Church officially proclaimed as a Dogma of Faith in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of Pope Pius IX (8th December 1854.

Immaculate Conception is fundamental in order to understand this privilege of the Virgin Mary in its correct theological setting.  Scotus builds a theology centred upon Christ, who is eternally predestined by God the Father to assume human nature in the Incarnation.  According to the Subtle Doctor the Incarnation was not primarily intended to be the condition for the redemption of humanity from sin.  In God’s provident plan, the Incarnation of the Word in the person of Jesus Christ was, first and foremost, the apex of the act of creation by God the Father.  All creation has been fashioned according to the image of the Incarnate Word, and is the result of a pure and free act of love on the part of God.  Creation, in this way, enters in a mysterious but real way into a loving relationship with God as a Trinity of Persons.  Each and every creature, being complete in itself and unique in its essence, is a model of God the Son, who became Incarnate in order to glorify His Father for the beauty of creation.  This vision is a direct result of Franciscan spirituality at its best.  It is true that, in the history redemption, the Incarnation was then orientated toward the salvation of humankind from sin, but this aspect, important though it may be, could not be the only reason for the Incarnation.  Otherwise God would not be seen as the personification of the primacy of the free will, expressed in love which overflows from Him onto His creatures.

            It is in this Christological view of the world and of redemption that Scotus speaks about the Virgin Mary as Mother of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God.  She becomes the embodiment of all perfection in creation, freed from sin and from its effects through the saving power of Jesus Christ, the universal Mediator between God and humankind.  It was fitting that God would choose a Mother for His Son, who would be totally free form any stain of original and actual sin, in order to become a channel of grace to us all.  Having explained in a few words Scotus’ Christological vision of creation and redemption, we can now try to understand how he explains the privilege of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary within this theological context.

www.christendom-awake.org