Online Encyclopedia

THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V14, Page 335 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!

THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION  . This

dogma of the
See also:
Roman Catholic Church was defined as " of faith " by Pope
See also:
Pius IX. on the 8th of December 1854 in the following terms: " The
See also:
doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first instant of her conception, was, by a most singular grace and
See also:
privilege of Almighty
See also:
God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the human
See also:
race, preserved from all stain of
See also:
Original Sin, is a doctrine revealed by God, and there-fore to be firmly and steadfastly believed by all the faithful." i These words presuppose the distinction between original, or racial, and actual, or personally incurred sin . There is no dispute that the Church has always held the Blessed Virgin to be sinless, in the sense of actual or
See also:
personal sin . The question of the Immaculate Conception regards original or racial sin only . It is admitted that the doctrine as defined by Pius IX. was not explicitly mooted before the 12th century . But it is claimed that it is implicitly contained in the teaching of the Fathers . Their expressions on the subject of the sinlessness of Mary are, it is pointed out, so ample and so absolute that they must be taken to include original sin as well as actual . Thus we have in the first five centuries such epithets applied to her as "in every respect
See also:
holy," " in all things unstained," "super-innocent" and " singularly holy "; she is compared to
See also:
Eve before the fall, as ancestress of a redeemed
See also:
people; she is " the earth before it was accursed."2 The well-known words of St Augustine (d . 430) may be cited: " As regards the -
See also:
mother of God," he says, " I will not allow any question whatever of sin." s i From the Bull Ineffabilis Deus . 2 See Passaglia's
See also:
work, referred to below. a De natura et gratia, cap.
See also:
xxxvi . It is true that he is here speaking directly of actual or -personal sin . But his
See also:
argument is that all men are sinners; that they are so through original depravity; that this original depravity may be overcome by the grace of God, and he adds that he does not know but that Mary may have had sufficient grace to over-come sin " of every sort " (omni ex paste) .

It seems to have been St

Bernard who, in the 12th century, explicitly raised the question of the Immaculate Conception . A feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin had already begun to be celebrated in some churches of the West . St Bernard blames the canons of the metropolitan church of Lyons for instituting such a festival without the permission of the Holy See . In doing so, he takes occasion to repudiate altogether the view that the Conception of Mary was sinless . It is doubtful, however, whether he was using the
See also:
term " Conception " in the same sense in which it is used in the definition of Pius IX . In speaking of conception one of three things may be meant: (1) the mother's .co-operation; (2) the formation of the
See also:
body, or (3) the completion of the human being by the infusion of the rational or spiritual soul . In early times conception was very commonly used in the first sense—" active " conception as it was called . But it is in the second, or rather the third, sense that the word is employed in
See also:
modern usage, and in the definition of Pope Pius IX . But St Bernard would seem to have been speaking of conception in the first sense, for in his argument he says, " How can there be absence of sin where there is concupiscence (libido) ? " and stronger expressions follow, showing that he is speaking of the mother and not of the child.' St Thomas Aquinas, the greatest of the
See also:
medieval scholastics, refused to admit the Immaculate Conception, on the ground that, unless the Blessed Virgin had at one time or other been one of the sinful, she could not justly be said to have been redeemed by Christ.5 St Bonaventura (d . 1274), second only to St Thomas in his influence on the Christian
See also:
schools of his age, hesitated to accept it for a similar reason.6 The celebrated John
See also:
Duns Scotus (d . 1308), a Franciscan like St Bonaventura, argued, on the contrary, that from a rational point of view it was certainly as little derogatory to the merits of Christ to assert that Mary was by him preserved from all taint of sin, as to say that she first contracted it and then was delivered ?

His arguments, combined with a better acquaintance with the

language of the early Fathers, gradually prevailed in the schools of the Western Church . In 1387 the university of Paris strongly condemned the opposite view . In 1483 Pope
See also:
Sixtus IV., who had already (1476) emphatically approved of the feast of the Conception, condemned those who ventured to assert that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was heretical, and forbade either side to claim a decisive victory until further
See also:
action on the
See also:
part of the Holy See . The council of Trent, after declaring that in its decrees on the subject of original sin it did not include " the blessed and immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God," renewed this prohibition:$ Pope Paul V . (d . 1651) ordered that no one, under severe penalties, should dare to assent in public acts " or disputations that the Blessed Virgin was conceived in original sin . Pope Gregory XV., shortly afterwards, extended this prohibition to private discussions, , allowing, however, the
See also:
Dominicans to argue on the subjects among themselves . Clement XI., in 1708, extended the feast of the Conception to the whole Church as a holy day of
See also:
obligation . Long before the
See also:
middle of the 19th century the doctrine was universally. taught in the Roman Catholic Church . During the reign of Gregory XVI. the bishops in various countries began to press for a definition . Pius IX., at the beginning of his pontificate, and again after 1851, appointed commissions to investigate the whole subject, and he was advised that the doctrine was one .4 S . Bernardi Epist. clxxiv .

7 . Summa theologia, part iii., quaest . 27,

See also:
art . 3 . e In librum III. sententiarum distinct . 3 quaest. i. art . 2 . In librum III. sententiarum dist . 3 quaest. i. n . 4; Cfr . Distinct . 18 n .

15 . Also the Summa theologia of Scotus (compiled by a

See also:
disciple), part iii., quaest . 27, art . 2 . 8 Seas. v . De peccato originale . which could be defined and that the time for a definition was opportune . On the 8th of December 1854 in a
See also:
great assembly of bishops, in the
See also:
basilica of St Peter's at Rome, he promulgated the Bull Incffabilis Deus, in which the
See also:
history of the doctrine is summarily traced, and which contains the definition as given above . The festival of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin, as distinct from her Nativity, was certainly celebrated in the Greek Church in the 7th century, as we learn from one of the canons of St Andrew of Crete (or of Jerusalem) who died about A.D . 900.1 There is some evidence that it was kept in Spain in the time of St Ildefonsus of Toledo (d . 667) and in
See also:
southern Italy before A.D . 1000 .

In

England it was known in the 12th century; a council of the province of Canterbury, in 1328, ascribes its introduction to St Anselm . It spread to France and Germany in the same century . It was extended to the whole church, as stated above, in 1708 . It is kept, in the Western Church, on the 8th of December; the Greeks have always kept it one day later . The chief repertoire of Patristic passages, both on the doctrine and on the festival, is
See also:
Father Charles Passaglia's great collection, entitled De immaculato Deiparae semper Virginis conceptu Caroli Passaglia
See also:
sac . S.J. commentarius (3 vols., Romae, 1854-1855) . A useful statement of the doctrine with numerous references to the Fathers and scholastics is found in Hurter's Theologia Dogmatica (5th ed.), torn. i. tract. vii. cap . 6, p . 438 . The state of Catholic belief in the middle of the 19th century is well brought out in La Croyance generale et constante de l'Eglise touchant l'immaculee conception de he bienheureuse Vierge
See also:
Marie, published in 18J5 by Thomas M . J . Gousset (1992-1866), professor of moral
See also:
theology at the
See also:
grand seminary of
See also:
Besancon, and successively archbishop of Besancon and cardinal archbishop of Reims .

For

See also:
English readers the doctrine, and the history of its definition, is clearly stated by Archbishop Ullathorne in The Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God (2nd ed.,
See also:
London, 1904) . Dr F . G . Lee, in The Sinless Conception of the Mother of God; a Theological Essay (London, 1891) argued that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is a legitimate development of early church teaching . (^IJ . C .

End of Article: THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
[back]
THE IMITATION OF CHRIST (Imitatio Christi)
[next]
IMMANENCE (from Lat. in-manere to dwell in, remain)...

Additional information and Comments

The Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mary is generally explained in terms of God's preservation of her from the stain of the original sin inherited by all men. But the immaculate conception of Virgin Mary may also reasonably be said to refer to the way she conceived Jesus Christ through the infusion of the divine spirit into her body by the Holy Spirit and not through any human reproduction by means of sexual intercourse that necessary involves hymen rupture and consequential loss of virginity.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.