GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
On December 8th throughout the world Catholics celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Now the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, and this feast day in particular, is one of my favorite topics to discuss for three reasons. First, it's one of the most misunderstood Catholic doctrines. Second, it’s one of the most controversial Catholic doctrines. And then third, it's a great example of how the readings that are used in the mass can be very baffling, very confusing, if you don't know the tradition of the church and you don't look at the New Testament in light of the Old Testament and the Old Testament in light of the New. So let me walk through those briefly before we look at the passages for today.
First, the Immaculate Conception is one of the most misunderstood doctrines. In my experience over the years, I've seen this over and over again, when you say the Immaculate Conception to a lot of people what they think you mean is the virginal conception of Jesus. So let's just get that off the table right away. The Catholic Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception has nothing to do with the conception of Jesus, right. That's the doctrine of the virginal conception. When we talk about the Immaculate Conception, we’re talking about the conception of Jesus' mother Mary, right, in the womb of her mother — traditionally named Anne. The doctrine here has to do with the fact that Mary was conceived without any stain of original sin, that she was preserved immune from all stain of original sin from the moment of her conception. It also involves the fact that she committed no sin her entire life long. We’ll come back to that. So when we talk about the Immaculate Conception, it's the Immaculate Conception of Mary, not the virginal conception of Jesus.
Now second, this doctrine is one of the most controversial doctrines because it is virtually universally rejected by all non-Catholic Christians. So if you look in the Protestant world for example, they’ll open their Bible and they’ll say where do you see in the New Testament that it says that Mary was conceived without sin, that she was conceived without original sin. And it’s true, if you open your Bible and you look for the expression Immaculate Conception in the New Testament, you’re not going to find it. If you look for any statement in the New Testament, any explicit statement that Mary was conceived without original sin, you're not going to find it. So the Immaculate Conception is one of these doctrines of the Catholic Church that for many non-Catholic Christians it's just patently un-biblical. In other words, it’s an obvious example of the fact that Catholics believe things that are not just not in the Bible, but that are contrary to Scripture. So for example, in Romans 3, Paul says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” right. So for many non-Catholics they’ll say “look, Romans 3: ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’, clearly that includes Mary.” Therefore, Mary’s a sinner, so for us to say that Mary was conceived without sin is not just not a Biblical teaching, positively speaking, it's actually unbiblical in the sense that it’s contrary to Scripture, it contradicts it.
The third reason I love talking about the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in particular is because when you look at the readings for today's mass they don't seem to have anything to do with the doctrine that we’re celebrating, right — with not just the doctrine, the mystery I should say — they don't have anything to do at first glance with the mystery that we’re celebrating, the mystery of Mary's conception without the stain of original sin. So for example, if you look at the readings for today, the first reading from the Old Testament is the story of the fall of Adam and Eve, right. What does that have to do with the Immaculate Conception? The Psalm for today is just a Psalm singing praise of God's marvelous works. What does that have to do with the Immaculate Conception? The second reading from the letter to the Ephesians seems to be about the church, not about Mary. And then finally, the gospel for today, which is the centerpiece of today's mass, is the story of the Annunciation to Mary, where Gabriel appears to Mary and delivers, you know, the good news that she's going to be the mother of the Messiah. You might be thinking if you go to mass, well if we’re celebrating the Immaculate Conception, why are we reading about the Annunciation, right. In fact, that might play a little role why some people get confused and think that the Immaculate Conception is about the virginal conception because the reading for today is focused on that.
So what I want to do in this video is answer all three of those points. I want to clarify exactly what the Immaculate Conception is about. I want to show where it comes from in Sacred Scripture through the light of Sacred Tradition. And I also want to explain why these particular readings are chosen for this solemnity. I hope by the end of the video you’ll get a good sense of how the church's selection of these Scriptures, when they’re read in the light of tradition and the ancient Christian church fathers, not only makes sense but they shed enormous light on the mystery that we’re actually celebrating today, the mystery of Mary's Immaculate Conception.
So let's begin with the Gospel reading for today and then we’ll go back to the Old Testament and we’ll try to work through those texts and see how it is that they're tied to the Immaculate Conception of Mary.