Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Why Did Mary Need to Be Sinless Her Whole Life?

Megan emailed me some very good questions. I will be breaking it up into sections. As always, her words will be in silver.

How can Christ be born on earth to become man, suffer under Pilate, die on the cross, be buried, descend into Hell, and resurrect on the third day, for all souls, yet the Church holds the stance that Mary was as sinless as her Son? If Mary is sinless, then she does not need resurrection, let alone salvation. She's already pure. Thus, there is a disconnection between the statement that Christ died for all souls, yet Mary's one soul is exempt from this necessity of salvation and redemption.
Jesus died for his mother too. It is in virtue of his work on the cross that Mary is sinless.

The pre-existant Son, being beyond the bounds of time, is able to take the grace from the Cross, grace that the rest of us receive after the work is "finished" (Jn 19:30) and apply it to Mary, which in time appears as a retroactive endeavor. Because of this, Mary is able to rejoice in God her "Savior" (Lk 1:47). God saved her too. Without his pre-emptive intervention, she would have received the stain of original sin just like everyone else.

I understand her Immaculate conception. I don't understand why she had to be sinless her entire life. She was kept from original sin so that the Son of God would be born, but once He's been birthed, why does she need to remain perpetually without sin? Her being without sin at the foot of the Cross doesn't do anyone any good. It's not saving anyone. It's not hurting anyone.
First of all, I don't think it was a matter of absolute necessity, per se, that Mary remain sinless her whole life. Our salvation doesn't depend on it or anything. I think the belief in her sinlessness is simply a statement of fact: Mary never sinned. This is in virtue of the grace given to her at the moment of her conception. This grace not only prevented original sin from taking hold of her, it guided all of her actions.

We have a clue to this effect in the Greek form of the angel Gabriel's address to Mary. He called her kecharitomene, or "full of grace" (Lk 1:28, DRB). Kecharitomene is the perfect passive participle of charitoo, which denotes grace. The passive voice indicates that the subject of the sentence is being acted upon (instead of performing the action, which is the active voice). The perfect tense indicates that this action was completed in the past, with results that continue into the present and are in full effect. The action is the giving of grace. So, kecharitomene, the perfect passive participle of charitoo, would literally mean, "you who were and continue to be full of and completed in grace." This points to the type of grace-filled life that she lived, one that equipped her to always do the will of the Lord, thanks to the absense of original sin and the presence of a grace that directed all of her actions towards the Lord.

Look at the wedding of Cana, isn't she a little presumptious that the Son of God would obey her, a mere mortal? Isn't that slightly conceited?
Of course not! You have to remember that Jesus, while perfectly divine is also perfectly human. As the God-man he was perfectly obedient to the Commandments of God, one of them being "Honor your father and mother." You also have to remember that, as two sinless individuals, their wills were perfectly united to each other in virtue of being perfectly united to the Father's. So, she would not have asked him to do anything that he didn't already want to do.

Perhaps the following biblical commentary on the Wedding of Canaa (from the Ignatius Study Bible) will help as well:
What have you to do with me? Or, what is that to you or to me?: A Hebrew idiom rendered in Greek. Its meaning is flexible and must be determined by context. In general, it can express either (1) disagreement between parties with divergent perspectives (1 Ki 17:18; 2 Ki 3:13; 2 Chron 35:21) or (2) the free consent of one party to the expressed will of another, with or without a sense of reluctance (Mk 1:24; 5:7; Lk 8:28). The second connotation fits this context since Jesus promptly complies with Mary's request (2:7-8) and Mary never wavers in her confidence that Jesus will respond favorably to her petition (2:5).
As for the propriety of Mary requesting something of Jesus, we have to remember that Mary was not just an incubator or a baby-making machine (Dear God, please forgive me for even saying it!). She was his mother. She raised him, consoled him, gave him direction, and asked him to do things. She did everything a typical mother would do....and much more.

Didn't she worry after losing Christ returning from the temple in Jerusalem? Thought we were supposed to trust in God and not worry. Worry shows that you don't put your trust in God. Not putting trust in God is a sign of Doubt. Doubting God is nearly a sin.
Sure, we all have to trust in the Lord. But, when your child goes missing, you still have to go find him!! It is not out of mistrust or doubt that she worries about Him. It is out of love for him and a concern for his well-being. It would have been negligent of her not to seek him out. Plus, the Passion of Jesus is proof enough that he is not impervious to physical harm. She was showing motherly concern for his welfare, which is exactly why the Passion is such a painful experience for her.

I hope that answers your questions.

Pax Christi,


  1. just a quick question which is probably easily answered. You said that Mary and Gods and Jesus' will were so aligned that she would not ask for something he did want to do, but didnt Jesus say that it wasnt his time, and wonder why she asked it of Him? Just a small question. I love your blog, it helps give me answers to my protestant brethren and deepen my catholic faith. KUDOS!

  2. Thank you for answering my question, and it's rather long too! There's alot here for me to think and read in depth later. Perhaps once I finish my papers today. Again, thanks.

  3. Greetings,
    I did a search on Mary and needed a savior on yahoo and found this blog.

    I'll that the question posed is where I come from.

    It would seem that the demand of Mary needing a savior is perfectly and literally synonomous with needed salvation from death which is the wage of sin.

    Now the question of imputed sin emerges.

    If mary did need a savior from sin then in what sense does this hunter (death) have dominion over her? Perhaps death does not have dominion over her but that entails she does not need a savior.
    Perhaps the hunter has dominion over her in the form of imputed sin (original) but not in the sense of effectual sin (personal sin).

    I am a protestant and trying to grasp the logic that Mary had to be sinless simply does not follow for me.

    It seems to me it needs to be more logical that Jesus shared in our misery and was tempted in every way (knowing such a struggle) because his flesh desired to go astray but his spirit NEVER caved in.

    Thus he is born of adam (fallen) and born of God (perfect).


  4. Jesus need Mary to be human in order to be born a man but Mary did not need to be sinless in order to give birth to a sinless son because sin is passed on through the father (Romans 5:12), that is why the conception had to be through the Holy Spirit. Where in scripture does it say that Mary was born without sin? I can't reason out that Mary was the only human born that was forgiven for her sin before she was even born. There is no scripture that supports that. The bible says the opposite. It says in Romans 3:23 that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Mary declares God her savior (luke 1:47). In Luke 1:28 describes her as being "highly favored" which comes from the greek word charitoĊ
    that means much grace or make accepted, so she needed God's grace just like eveyrone else.

  5. Jacob and Auggy ... you two posted 3 and 4 years ago, so I don't know if you are still subscribed to this post or not, but I want to apologize for not answering your comments! Somehow, I never saw them. My answer to you is the same as my answer for "Beyond the Gate."

    "Beyond the Gate" ... see my 2-part defense of Mary's sinlessness:

    Part 1: http://phatcatholic.blogspot.com/2009/07/in-defense-of-marys-sinlessness-part-1.html

    Part 2: http://phatcatholic.blogspot.com/2006/10/eight-key-points-part-4b.html

    That should answer all of the objections that have been raised.


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