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"Immaculate Conception" as defined by Pius IX (Bull Ineffabilis) [Musings by: Rembrandt]
by Saint Pope John Paul II (Reflection for Holy Mass / Rosary for the Vigil of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima) + May 13/14 Events (Livestream / Rosary)
ABOUT THIS POST:
In the first of a series of reflections & posts for the month of May, The Rosary Hour Podcast Newsletter invites you to read and reflect upon Saint Pope John Paul II’s exploration of the definition of "Immaculate Conception" as per Pius IX (19 June 1996, page 11 in L'Osservatore Romano).
Our most senior author, Rembrandt, has added some introductory reflections.
Events for May 13/14 - Livestream / Rosary
All Rights Reserved: © Copyright - The Rosary Hour Podcast (Newsletter: May 12, 2022)
“THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION”:
Musings by Rembrandt
Travessa da Senra House Press (Porto, Portugal)
The Immaculate Conception is a paradox, difficult to accept in a materialistic age, even among those who reject materialism. And to limit the mystery too concretely within the bounds of human reproduction blinds our intuition with the literal.
The dogma of the Immaculate Conception, proclaimed in 1854 by Pope Pius IX in Ineffabilis Deus, holds that Mary, even as a creature, is as close as can be to sharing divinity a priori: "the Mother of God is the seat of all divine graces and is adorned with all gifts of the Holy Spirit". That Mary is conceived in this world outside of the fallen state is an ancient paradox. Ineffabilis Deus is simply its formal affirmation requiring the assent of faith.
There is an approach to the divine in Mary in the Epistle for the Mass of the Immaculate Conception, preserved in the 1962 Missal for the Usus Antiquior:
“The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made any thing from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived....
Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not."
(The Book of Proverbs 8:22-35; see also the discussion of the full quotation in the Digital Toolkit for Rosary Leaders: Reflections on the Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary)
The Gospel for the Mass of the Immaculate Conception belongs to the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin (Luke 1:26-28), hence the Wisdom of the Book of Proverbs and Mary of the Gospel of Luke become one and the same. The Church treats the Old and New Testaments as one text. Being "set up from eternity" means Wisdom exists in timelessness, prior to the dawn of consciousness. The Litany of Loreto, which dates back at least to the early 16th century, represents Mary as sedes sapientiae. Hence Mary as Wisdom is steeped in tradition.
Hardly four years past following Ineffabilis Deus, when
"in a French town at the foot of the Pyrenees, the Virgin Mother, youthful and benign in appearance, clothed in a shining white garment, covered with a white mantle and girded with a hanging blue cord, showed herself to a simple and innocent girl at the grotto of Massabielle. And to this same girl, earnestly inquiring the name of her whose vision she was favored ... replied: 'I am the Immaculate Conception'". (Pius XII, Fulgens Corona, 3)
With these strange words, Mary becomes a verb. Water wells up from an independent spring, for the mother of God is associated with earth. The spring is the aqua permanens, a persistent and continuous flowing act of creation and wisdom under the auspices of earth. It is the ever-flowing water, full of grace in its promise of healing.
Mary is "free from every stain of original sin". 'Freedom from' is the operative concept, and variants of the phrase are repeated in Pope John Paul II's treatment of the Immaculate Conception. The divine in Mary is approachable only with privative language; that is, with terminology denoting what it is not.
The late pope reminds us that freedom from original sin includes freedom from concupiscence. Concupiscence introduces an ethical dimension, the opposite end of which is purity. Yet with Mary, there is no question of temptation, although from our human standpoint, her unique state makes us aware of our own fallenness in relation to a single exception.
Putting aside the connection of Wisdom with Mary taken from the Book of Proverbs in the Mass for the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Mary's earthly story begins, as with every human being, at her conception. However, her freedom from concupiscence, or more generally from original sin, appears as a gratuity, "a singular grace and privilege of almighty God" (Ineffabilils). However, a gratuitous freedom from sin peels away its ethical emphasis and brings us to its deeper meaning. There is no negative in Mary's state. Mary is free from concupiscence because her very essence supports no principle of contradiction.
We are creatures of change, but Mary has divine prerogatives from conception, qualities that are not subject to change. She retains these through her life on earth through to her Assumption, when she enters her heavenly dwelling (ad aethereum thalamum est assumpta, cf. Munificentissimus Deus, 29). Mary is conceived in the world, but remains free from all change which implies fallenness. That is her paradox: Mary, without losing her essence, is at the same time intimate with her fellow creatures. Her freedom from original sin, from concupiscence, excites our longing for her, a longing to be released from our fallenness.
Rationalistic discussions about the impossibility of a virgin birth are a reductio ad absurdum, for Mary's virginity is yet another privative description. It reflects the touch of her divine origins, her state under the aegis of timelessness; meaning, she is untouched by experience when it comes to fallenness in the world of change. Her virginity is not to be reduced to a mere abstention from coitus.
Pope John Paul II says that Mary's preservation from original sin makes her "all holy". Her "privilege" reflects her unique position as a creature, who at the same time was possessed by the Lord "in the beginning of his ways". Mary's holiness, John Paul II says, complements the "negative formulation of the Marian privilege"; that is, it balances the privative language we are constrained to use to describe her. Holiness attaches to the sacred object as we apprehend its uniqueness-in-the-world, which for Mary is "the very singular privilege which was never granted to another person" (Pius XII ).
All Rights Reserved: © Copyright - The Rosary Hour Podcast (Newsletter: May 12, 2022)
“Musings” by Rembrandt
Travessa da Senra House Press (Porto, Portugal)
The following text is taken from: L'Osservatore Romano Weekly Edition in English, 19 June 1996, page 11)
IMMACULATE CONCEPTION DEFINED BY POPE PIUS IX
by: Saint Pope John Paul II
(L'Osservatore Romano Weekly Edition in English, 19 June 1996, page 11)
According to this dogmatic definition, it has been revealed by God that Mary was preserved from original sin from the moment of her conception.
At the General Audience of Wednesday, 12 June, the Holy Father continued his catechesis on the Immaculate Conception, this time discussing the dogmatic definition of the doctrine by Pope Pius IX.
"We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which asserts that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin is a doctrine revealed by God and, for this reason, must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful", the Pope said in his Bull Ineffabilis.
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis, which was the 23rd in the series on the Blessed Virgin and was given in Italian:
1. Down the centuries, the conviction that Mary was preserved from every stain of sin from her conception, so that she is to be called all holy, gradually gained ground in the liturgy and theology. At the start of the 19th century, this development led to a petition drive for a dogmatic definition of the privilege of the Immaculate Conception.
Around the middle of the century, with the intention of accepting this request, Pope Pius IX, after consulting the theologians, questioned the Bishops about the opportuneness and the possibility of such a definition, convoking as it were a "council in writing". The result was significant: the vast majority of the 604 Bishops gave a positive response to the question.
After such an extensive consultation, which emphasized my venerable Predecessor's concern to express the Church's faith in the definition of the dogma, he set about preparing the document with equal care.
Blessed Virgin is free from every stain of sin
The special commission of theologians set up by Pius IX to determine the revealed doctrine assigned the essential role to ecclesial practice. And this criterion influenced the formulation of the dogma, which preferred expressions taken from the Church's lived experience, from the faith and worship of the Christian people, to scholastic definitions.
Finally in 1854, with the Bull Ineffabilis, Pius IX solemnly proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception:
"... We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which asserts that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin is a doctrine revealed by God and, for this reason, must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful" (DS 2803).
2. The proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception expresses the essential datum of faith. Pope Alexander VII, in the Bull Sollicitudo of 1661, spoke of the preservation of Mary's soul "in its creation and infusion into the body" (DS 2017). Pius IX's definition, however, prescinds from all explanations about how the soul is infused into the body and attributes to the person of Mary, at the first moment of her conception, the fact of her being preserved from every stain of original sin.
The freedom "from every stain of original sin" entails as a positive consequence the total freedom from all sin as well as the proclamation of Mary's perfect holiness, a doctrine to which the dogmatic definition makes a fundamental contribution. In fact, the negative formulation of the Marian privilege, which resulted from the earlier controversies about original sin that arose in the West, must always be complemented by the positive expression of Mary's holiness more explicitly stressed in the Eastern tradition.
Pius IX's definition refers only to the freedom from original sin and does not explicitly include the freedom from concupiscence. Nevertheless, Mary's complete preservation from every stain of sin also has as a consequence her freedom from concupiscence, a disordered tendency which, according to the Council of Trent, comes from sin and inclines to sin (DS 1515).
3. Granted "by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God", this preservation from original sin is an absolutely gratuitous divine favour, which Mary received at the first moment of her existence.
The dogmatic definition does not say that this singular privilege is unique, but lets that be intuited. The affirmation of this uniqueness, however, is explicitly stated in the Encyclical Fulgens corona of 1953, where Pope Pius XII speaks of "the very singular privilege which was never granted to another person" (AAS 45 , 580), thus excluding the possibility, maintained by some but without foundation, of attributing this privilege also to St Joseph.
The Virgin Mother received the singular grace of being immaculately conceived "in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race", that is, of his universal redeeming action.
The text of the dogmatic definition does not expressly declare that Mary was redeemed, but the same Bull Ineffabilis states elsewhere that "she was redeemed in the most sublime way". This is the extraordinary truth: Christ was the redeemer of his Mother and carried out his redemptive action in her "in the most perfect way" (Fulgens corona, AAS 45 , 581), from the first moment of her existence. The Second Vatican Council proclaimed that the Church "admires and exalts in Mary the most excellent fruit of the Redemption" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 103).
Solemn definition serves the faith of God's People
4. This solemnly proclaimed doctrine is expressly termed a "doctrine revealed by God". Pope Pius IX adds that it must be "firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful". Consequently, whoever does not make this doctrine his own, or maintains an opinion contrary to it, "is shipwrecked in faith" and "separates himself from Catholic unity”.
In proclaiming the truth of this dogma of the Immaculate Conception, my venerable Predecessor was conscious of exercising his power of infallible teaching as the universal Pastor of the Church, which several years later would be solemnly defined at the First Vatican Council. Thus he put his infallible Magisterium into action as a service to the faith of God's People; and it is significant that he did so by defining Mary's privilege.
Weekly Edition in English
19 June 1996, page 11
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