Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox church believe in the sinlessness of Mary. Although their beliefs differ, they agree on the belief that "Mary was sinless."

If Mary is sinless (i.e. the Catholic belief that Mary was created without the stain of original sin, and also did not sin. OR - the Eastern Orthodox belief that denies original sin, yet claims Mary never sinned) how, then, is Christ Mary's victory?

Christ's sinless life, death, and resurrection is our victory. He is our perfect example. He is the only One who perfectly loved God with all of His mind, soul, heart, and strength. If we say that Mary is also in the sinless category - how is this not robbing Christ of His Glory? Additionally, how is this not demonstrating that Mary cannot say "Christ is HER victory?" If the doctrine of the sinlessness of Mary is true, she cannot rely on the sinless life of her Son. She cannot fall on her knees in humble gratitude to her Son, accepting His perfect life, because she would have done it without Christ.

Thoughts on how the doctrine of the sinlessness of Mary does not do the following: (1) robs Christ of His unique office and glory (2) robs Mary of the opportunity to fall in humble gratitude to her Son's perfect life. (3) cause us to turn our eyes on Mary also (which consequently robs Jesus of the focus)

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    What does "her victory" and "our victory" mean? That's not a term Catholicism usually uses in this context.
    – eques
    Apr 14, 2021 at 17:03

4 Answers 4


The Catholic Church teaches that Mary's immaculate conception was made possible by Christ's sacrifice --- just like any graces that we get. Specifically, the decree "Ineffabilis Deus", in which Pope Pius IX defined the dogma of the immaculate conception, states the dogma as follows: "The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin." So it is not correct that "she would have done it without Christ."

  • If Christ's sacrifice made possible an 'immaculate conception' of Mary, would Christ not have had to died as a sinless sacrifice first (given that he was tempted to fail)? In other words, Mary was conceived by her mother 5 or so decades before Jesus was even born, so has not the cart been put before the horse here, with this theology?
    – Anne
    Nov 22, 2022 at 12:34
  • @Anne is God bound by Time?
    – eques
    Nov 22, 2022 at 13:41
  • @eques The Creator of time controls time. Time never controls or binds God. Here we speak of a physical event claimed to have happened to Mary at the time of her conception. Jesus had to endure physical events culminating in his death and resurrection for the benefits of that to apply to people.
    – Anne
    Nov 22, 2022 at 13:51
  • That's my point though. God is not bound by time and thus He can apply the merits of Christ's passion to a soul conceived before that if He so chooses.
    – eques
    Nov 22, 2022 at 14:03
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    I think you misunderstand me. My point was to support Andreas' answer and oppose your comment. The Catholic understanding of the Immaculate conception relies on the fact that God is outside time and so can apply the merits of the Crucifixion to Mary. The remainder of your "new question" surely has been covered somewhere on this site.
    – eques
    Nov 22, 2022 at 14:18

Sinlessness of Mary?

It is true that according to Catholicism, Mary is believed to be immaculately conceived and did not commit any real personal sin, but these graces did not preserve Mary from being tempted to sin.

Jesus himself was tempted in the ways men are; then logic tells us that his Mother would have been equally tempted as men are.

For we have not a high priest, who can not have compassion on our infirmities: but one tempted in all things like as we are, without sin. - Hebrews 4:15

Mary's Immaculate Conception was not necessary for our salvation!

The Catholic Church believes that it was not absolutely or intrinsically necessary for the Blessed Virgin Mary to be sinless; only fitting or appropriate (God making the choice).

Thus, even a dogmatic belief in the Immaculate Conception does not in any way impinge upon the Two Natures of Christ. We believe the Immaculate Conception happened, and are required to believe this, but we don't believe that it had to happen exactly as it did (in all possible worlds, etc.), in order for God to be God.

All the Immaculate Conception did was make Mary as Eve was before the Fall (precisely why the Church fathers often called her the Second Eve or New Eve): unfallen and sinless; not subject to original sin. As Cardinal Newman remarked, "Why is it considered such an extraordinary thing that God chose to simply make one person—the Mother of God the Son, the Theotokos—the way that all of us would have been, but for the Fall?"

Fr. Ryan Erlenbush wrote on The New Theological Movement website (12-8-11):

And this is the great difference between Jesus and Mary: She required a special grace to preserve her from the stain of sin, but our Savior (by virtue of the Incarnation itself, and on account of his divinity) could not possibly have contracted the guilt or debt of original sin in any respect.

While our Blessed Lady, even though Immaculately Conceived, required a Redeemer (namely, her own Son, Christ Jesus), the Lord did not have any need of a Redeemer. No special grace was required (beyond that of the Incarnation itself) to keep the Christ Child from original sin – he could not possibly have contracted it.

In this sense, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is seen to be fitting and true while (in itself) not absolutely necessary, but the sinlessness of the Lord Jesus is absolutely necessary and super-eminently fitting.

Was Mary's Immaculate Conception Absolutely Necessary?

St. Thomas Aquinas maintains that it was indeed possible for Our Lord Jesus Christ to have been born of sinful woman; Christ's glory would not have been diminished thereby. But, he states elsewhere, it would have been inappropriate:

God so prepares and endows those, whom He chooses for some particular office, that they are rendered capable of fulfilling it, according to 2 Cor. 3:6: "(Who) hath made us fit ministers of the New Testament." Now the Blessed Virgin was chosen by God to be His Mother. Therefore there can be no doubt that God, by His grace, made her worthy of that office. ... But she would not have been worthy to be the Mother of God, if she had ever sinned. First, because the honor of the parents reflects on the child, according to Prov. 17:6: "The glory of children are their fathers": and consequently, on the other hand, the Mother's shame would have reflected on her Son. Secondly, because of the singular affinity between her and Christ, who took flesh from her: and it is written (2 Cor. 6:15): "What concord hath Christ with Belial?" Thirdly, because of the singular manner in which the Son of God, who is the "Divine Wisdom" (1 Cor. 1:24) dwelt in her, not only in her soul but in her womb. And it is written (Wis. 1:4): "Wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins."

We must therefore confess simply that the Blessed Virgin committed no actual sin, neither mortal nor venial; so that what is written (Cant 4:7) is fulfilled: "Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee," etc. - Was the dogma of the Immaculate Conception formulated in response to someone challenging Mary's ability to bear a perfect Son?

If God preserved Mary from all sin, He could have preserved Christ's body and soul likewise without the grace of Mary's Immaculate Conception.

Was it necessary for God to make Mary immaculate at her conception so that she could be Jesus' mother?

No. The Church only speaks of the Immaculate Conception as something that was "fitting," something that made Mary a "fit habitation" (i.e., suitable dwelling) for the Son of God, not something that was necessary.

And hence they [the Church Fathers] affirmed that the Blessed Virgin was, through grace, entirely free from every stain of sin, and from all corruption of body, soul and mind; that she was always united with God and joined to him by an eternal covenant; that she was never in darkness but always in light; and that, therefore, she was entirely a fit habitation for Christ, not because of the state of her body, but because of her original grace. . . .

For it was certainly not fitting that this vessel of election should be wounded by the common injuries, since she, differing so much from the others, had only nature in common with them, not sin. In fact, it was quite fitting that, as the Only-Begotten has a Father in heaven, whom the Seraphim extol as thrice holy, so he should have a Mother on earth who would never be without the splendor of holiness - (Ineffabilis Deus).

St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa clearly states that it was Adam and not Eve that was responsible for the transition of original sin. Now if Mary, the Mother of Jesus is the New Eve and Jesus Christ is the New Adam, it is obvious that the Immaculate Conception was not necessary for our salvation for the Holy Spirit can operate in that dwelling place He so chooses to. It the Holy Spirit that made it possible for Christ to be free of original sin and not Mary, the New Eve.

The solution of this question is made clear by what has been said. For it has been stated that original sin is transmitted by the first parent in so far as he is the mover in the begetting of his children: wherefore it has been said that if anyone were begotten materially only, of human flesh, they would not contract original sin. Now it is evident that in the opinion of philosophers, the active principle of generation is from the father, while the mother provides the matter. Therefore original sin, is contracted, not from the mother, but from the father: so that, accordingly, if Eve, and not Adam, had sinned, their children would not contract original sin: whereas, if Adam, and not Eve, had sinned, they would contract it. - Whether if Eve, and not Adam, had sinned, their children would have contracted original sin?

Thus Mary, like all of mankind, was saved by Christ’s victory over death on the Cross, albeit through special graces received by the Mother of Jesus.

Mary’s own victory is none other than Christ’s Victory. No other person had the possibility of offering their son’s death to God for the salvation of the world as Mary did at the foot of the Cross.

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    So the Immaculate Conception adds nothing to the salvatory merits of Christ's sacrifice and, in fact, the sacrifice is what makes the Immaculate Conception possible. It adds nothing to Christian salvation which would have been just as effective without it. Why is such an unnecessary thing a dogma? Nov 22, 2022 at 12:29
  • @MikeBorden Church teahing is that Mary was still saved by Christ's merits on the Cross. Was she not at the foot of the Cross supporting her son in the role of a mother.
    – Ken Graham
    Nov 22, 2022 at 14:27

by the grace of the LORD she didn't have personal sins but she had the original sin (aka eating of the forbidden fruit by Adam and Eve); so, Jesus is her saviour too. she died 15 years after Christ's ascension; Jesus resurrected her in 3 days.

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    – agarza
    Apr 21, 2021 at 3:47
  • What reference is there for Mary being resurrected after 3 days?
    – Adam
    Apr 21, 2021 at 11:51
  • @Adam that's in the Gospel of Thomas, I believe - not something any Churches have as canonical, but it is old. I'm not sure resurrected it the right word, that would imply that she died. Catholics and Orthodox slightly differ on that.
    – Peter Turner
    Apr 21, 2021 at 14:17

Eastern Orthodox perspective as I understand it:

  1. Mary did not sin during her life, although she is affected by the original sin (as we all are). It is worth noting that the concept of "sin" is different in Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. In Catholicism it's more jurisdictional (transgression against the God laws), in Eastern Orthodoxy is more like a "mistake" or "self-harm". So with that understanding, the effect of the original sin makes us vulnerable to death, makes us have imperfect bodies etc, but this is just a consequence, it's not something we can hold against ourselves as it is not our personal doing (we just suffer the consequences of Adam and Eve decision). Mary was also suffering from the consequences of the original sin, but it wasn't her "fault". See: "Ezekiel 18:20 The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son" - that means the sin of father should not burden the conscience of the son, but that doesn't mean that the son won't suffer the consequences of father's actions. This is how we believe the original sin affects us.
  2. Since Mary did not sin, she was humble enough to recognize that God is superior. She was the pinnacle of human development up to that point and the only human that was capable of giving birth to Christ and not fall into pride (people are insanely proud of their kids having good grades, imagine how humble she must have been to give birth literally to a God and not feel proud because of that). So it's almost unbelievable that a human existed at any point that was capable of such feat. This deserves recognition and I think that's the primary victory - it was finally possible for Christ to be born and not spiritually harm the Mother. This also means that she understood that it is impossible for a human to achieve such humility without a God's grace, so she did not attribute that to herself. Again, the primary focus is on God, what Mary did is she submitted to His will.
  3. Mary is the holiest of humans, but she is still a human. We do not pray directly to her, instead, we ask her to in turn ask God, as we believe she will support us. So still the main focus is still on God, we just believe we have a helping hand.

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