Every year Catholics celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th. And every year the readings selected for the Mass on this day revolve around Mary, her identity, and the role she plays in salvation history.
In this video, which is part 5 of 5, from the readings for the Mass for the Solemnity of Immaculate Conception, Dr. Pitre gives the explanation of where the concept of "Immaculate" comes from in the Catholic Church's tradition - namely, Scripture.
This 5 part series is taken from The Mass Readings Explained, which can be learned about here >
So what about the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception? Where do we even get the language of immaculate if, you know, the New Testament itself doesn't use that with reference to Mary. Well in this case there’s one other paragraph in the Catechism that can be helpful, and I’ll end with this, it goes back to the second reading for today, the reading from the letter to the Ephesians, which as we saw, talked about those of us who are in the church being chosen by God to be blameless and to be holy before God. If you look in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 490, it actually quotes that very text from the letter to the Ephesians with reference to Mary's Immaculate Conception. So let's look at that together:
To become the mother of the Savior, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.” The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace” (Luke 1:28). In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace. Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854... The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and chose her “in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Eph 1:3-4).
That’s from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 490 & 494. Okay, so did you see what the church just did? It took what Paul says about the church being given the grace to be blameless or immaculate and applies it to Mary as, the reality which she is, the first Christian at the moment of the Annunciation. So those two scriptural texts, the Annunciation, when the angel greets Mary as full of grace, and then Ephesians 1, which describes the church as immaculate through God's grace, applies both those text to Mary as the living embodiment of what it means to be a Christian, and as a kind of living icon of the church itself, holy and blameless in the eyes of Christ, not through our own efforts but through God's grace and through the love of Christ.
So isn’t that fascinating. The very passages we look at today for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Genesis 3, Luke 1, and Ephesians 1, are the three texts cited by the Catechism to explain the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. It's almost as if the church knows what these passages means and has chosen them very deliberately in order to lay out this mystery of her Immaculate Conception for us, the mystery of Mary as the new Eve.