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Did Mary never sin throughout her life ("Holy Mary") because she received the grace of Immaculate Conception, or are there two different graces?

The dogma of Immaculate Conception states (in Ineffabilis Deus):

We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that 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 Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.

(See also another question.)

Meanwhile, the Catholic Catechism states

493 The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God "the All-Holy" (Panagia), and celebrate her as "free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature". By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.

It is not clear to me whether the features are product of the same grace. The other example where the two conditions meet is Jesus Christ. I am not aware of the Church declaring another person as having received the grace of not ever sinning, or of immaculate conception. Perhaps both come together because they are the same?

P.S.: In my opinion, this related question does not answer the question.

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Mary's Immaculate Conception was the consequence of a singular Grace of God. God did not protect her from commiting sin all through her life. But as the result of her Immaculate conception, she was free from concupiscence (i.e., attraction towards sin).

This does not mean that she could not sin. She still had free will. Adam and Eve were also free from concupiscence at their creation. But they misused their free will and commited sin. But Mary chose to co-operate with the Grace that was given to her by God and resisted tempation all through her life. This same Grace is given to all human beings too.

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  • What is the source of your answer?
    – luchonacho
    Dec 27, 2023 at 19:10
  • If she was protected from concupiscence, she was protected from the temptation to sin. In Catholic theology this was "special grace" - not even Jesus was given this and definitely not other humans. Dec 28, 2023 at 17:41
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Note: this answer has been updated in light of additional research.

The Jesuit scholar Kenneth Baker writes that:

Two special factors rendered Mary impeccable or unable to sin. The first was her constant awareness of God, living always in His presence, and the second was her reception of special and extraordinary graces. These special graces made it possible for Mary to maintain a perfect harmony in her mind, will and emotions and to recognize always what was the right thing to do and then to do it. (Baker, Kenneth (2016). Fundamentals of Catholicism, Vol. 2. Ignatius Press. ISBN 978-1-68149-732-7.)

The Immaculate Conception it itself did not protect her from personal sin, but she was granted an additional "divine protection" so that she did not experience temptation. From the Catholic Encyclopedia

Theologians assert that Mary was impeccable, not by the essential perfection of her nature, but by a special Divine privilege. Moreover, the Fathers, at least since the fifth century, almost unanimously maintain that the Blessed Virgin never experienced the motions of concupiscence.

Conclusion: In Catholic theology the grace of the Immaculate Conception protected Mary from original sin, but she was also granted an addition special grace protecting her from temptation. Even Jesus did not receive this type of protection. So the answer to the OP question is that Mary received more than one type of grace - one protecting her from original sin (the Immaculate Conception), another protecting her from temptation.

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  • I do not believe that major Catholic theologians would say that Mary was incapable of ever sinning. After all Our Lord himself was Tempted by the Devil in the Desert, yet triumphed over him. Mary too must have been tempted to sign, yet preserved the sanctifying graces within her soul. Something out first parents did not do. Mary was capable of sinning, but she co-operated with the original grace of the Immaculate Conception and did what Adam and Eve should have done: never sinned!
    – Ken Graham
    Dec 28, 2023 at 16:03
  • It must be maintained here too that Mary continued to cooperate with the graces given her. Without that interior cooperation on the part of Mary, she would have fallen into sin.
    – Ken Graham
    Dec 28, 2023 at 16:17
  • I was surprised at this too, but it was written by an established Catholic scholar and published in a respected Catholic journal. I think he uses the term "unable" in a special sense here.. I'll create a question about this. Dec 28, 2023 at 16:27
  • I created a question to help us resolved this issue: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/99379/… Dec 28, 2023 at 16:46
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Is Mary's grace of Immaculate Conception the same as that of "Holy" Mary?

The short answer is no.

First of all, let us look at the wording of Pope Pius XII's definition of the Immaculate Conception of Mary:

We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that 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 Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.

Declaramus, pronuntiamus et definimus doctrinam, quae tenet, beatissimam Virginem Mariam in primo instanti suae Conceptionis fuisse singulari omnipotentis Dei gratia et privilegio, intuitu meritorum Christi lesu Salvatoris humani generis, ab omni originalis culpae labe praeservatam immunem, esse a Deo revelatam, atque idcirco ab omnibus fidelibus firmiter constanterque credendam. Quapropter si qui secus ac a Nobis. - Immaculate Conception (Wikipedia)

As we can see, Mary was preserved from all stain of Original Sin at the very moment of her conception. Original Sin deprives the soul of sanctifying grace. Thus Mary's soul was preserved from all stain of original sin in her soul and she was born with sanctifying grace dwelling within her being.

Thus Mary was preserved by a singular grace from God and preserved from all stain of Original Sin. In on other words, the state of her soul was equivalent to that of our first parents, Adam and Eve, prior to their fall into sin: the original sin.

As we see, the creation of Adam and Eve was one in which sanctifying grace remained in their souls. That is to say, until they disobeyed God and fell into sin which destroyed the sanctifying grace in their souls!

Now Mary was preserved from all stain of Original Sin, just like our first parents. This is where the Virgin Mary and our first parents differed. Mary preserved this singular grace given to her and never sinned.

Let us recall that Jesus himself was tempted to sin while in the desert, yet conquered the temptations of the Devil.

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

Now, if Jesus could be tempted to sin and preserved grace in his human soul, so could his Mother Mary! What temptations Mary had to undergo in this world are not recorded in the annals of history.

The difference between Jesus and Mary

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 sinslessness of the Lord Jesus is absolutely necessary and super-eminently fitting. Thus, there can be no comparison between the Savior and our Mother Mary, for she was only a creature and was in great need of a Redeemer, but the Lord Jesus was in no way subject original sin and had no need of redemption himself (since his humanity was created by the Holy Spirit and not by the propagation or generation [thus, he did not inherit original sin]). - Was Jesus immaculately conceived?

Mary, like us was saved by the merits Christ on the Cross, albeit in a very unique manner.

Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J. states that Mary had to ”maintain a perfect harmony in her mind, will and emotions and to recognize always what was the right thing to do and then to do it.” Thus Mary’s holiness was achieved because she cooperated with the graces accorded her during her lifetime. Mary is called Most Holy not simply because of the graces given to her, but by virtue that she cooperated and worked with those same graces she received from Almighty God. This is what made Most Holy Theotokos.

Two special factors rendered Mary impeccable or unable to sin. The first was her constant awareness of God, living always in His presence, and the second was her reception of special and extraordinary graces. These special graces made it possible for Mary to maintain a perfect harmony in her mind, will and emotions and to recognize always what was the right thing to do and then to do it. - Sinlessness of Mary

Mary maintained “a perfect harmony in her mind, will and emotions and to recognize always what was the right thing to do and then to do it, through cooperating and working with those actual graces!

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