Church of England Diocese of Leicester Burbage with Aston Flamville

Thought for the day - Tuesday 8th December

9 Dec 2020, 11:15 a.m.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is celebrated December 8.

The feast day, which dates back to the Middle Ages, reflects the belief that Mary was never tainted by original sin.

The first explicit statement of the doctrine is found in a work by Anselm of Canterbury (c.1033–1109): “[I]t would be neither reasonable nor right for the ... evils of Adam to be transmitted to the man conceived from the Virgin.” But the doctrine remained controversial. Thomas Aquinas was opposed to it, but interestingly, two of the early Reformers warmly embraced the doctrine.

Martin Luther (1483–1546) affirmed: “Not only was Mary the mother of him who is born [in Bethlehem], but of him who, before the world, was eternally born of the Father, from a Mother in time and at the same time man and God.” And in a sermon preached on the feast of the Immaculate Conception he declared: “It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin.”

Even the Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1531)—a generation before John Calvin moved to Geneva—wrote: “I esteem immensely the Mother of God, the ever chaste, immaculate Virgin Mary.”

Finally, in 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the doctrine to be infallible dogma: “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.”

Today, the feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated by Roman Catholics and high-church Anglicans and Lutherans, and also in the Old Catholic Church and Liberal Catholic Church. The feast is not celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, which dismiss the notion of original sin and therefore see no reason for Mary to be spared. The Immaculate Conception is not to be confused with the virgin birth of Christ.

Whatever your thoughts are on this, just contemplate for one moment your own encounter with God, and how that changed you life however fleeting this may have been. Then consider saying “Yes” to God and having the Christ live within you for 9 months, and then being with you close by for his life.

What do you think now?

[Primary source: John F. Nash, "Mary: Adept, Queen, Mother, Priestess" (2020).

Fr Andrew