Problems with Today’s Collect – Immaculate Conception

Msgr. Bruce Harbert was Executive Director of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy from 2002 to 2009.

In the new version of the Collect for the Immaculate Conception we pray that ‘we, too, may be cleansed . . .’. ‘Too’ implies a comparison with the Blessed Virgin, of whom we say earlier in the prayer ‘you preserved her from every stain’. But if she was preserved from every stain, as the Faith teaches, she could not have been cleansed – there was nothing to cleanse her from. The Latin doesn’t say ‘cleansed’ but rather ‘mundos,’ which means ‘pure.’ Like Mary, we can be pure by God’s gift, but, unlike her, we need to be cleansed. So a more faithful translation of the clause in question would run ‘we, too, may be pure’.

The prayer could be further improved by replacing ‘too’ by ‘also,’ since ‘we, too’ can be misheard as ‘we two’. The commas introduced in an attempt to exclude that ambiguity give the text a clumsy and cluttered appearance.

O God,
who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
prepared a worthy dwelling for your Son,
grant, we pray,
that, as you preserved her from every stain
by virtue of the Death of your Son, which you foresaw,
so, through her intercession,
we, too, may be cleansed and admitted to your presence.


  1. Can anyone, ANYONE AT ALL, tell me WHAT today’s Propers are even talking about???

    While they may make perfect sense in Wooooostah, I do not think they will ever warrant a “gold star.” My boyfriend agrees.

    Therefore, since no one knows what we are praying about, at least by virtue of the written prayer, one must revert to something they can understand, another o’le faithful:

  2. What can a priest reading this do? Do they have to be faithful to the new text or to what it is meant to say?

    1. they use their common sense and edit it, well enough so as to be unobtrusive.

      One strategy that I found myself using last Sunday was to substitute the breviary translation.

  3. Deus, qui per immaculátam Vírginis Conceptiónem
    dignum Fílio tuo habitáculum praeparásti,
    quaesumus, ut, qui ex morte eiúsdem Fílii tui praevísa,
    eam ab omni labe praeservásti,
    nos quoque mundos, eius intercessióne,
    ad te perveníre concédas.

    2008 ICEL
    O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin
    prepared a worthy dwelling for your Son,

    we pray that,
 as you preserved her from every stain
    by the Death of your Son, which you foresaw,

    so you will grant that, through her intercession,

    we also may be clean and come into your presence.
    Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
for ever and ever. 

    Note: In addition to avoiding the 2010 Vox Clara Pell-Moroney-Ward Missal’s theological inaccuracies regarding grace by translating the Latin text accurately, the 2008 ICEL text, which the conferences of bishops approved, also preserves the Church’s Trinitarian theology. The unfortunate and unwarranted addition of “one” (taken over from the otherwise repudiated 1973 text), “one God, for ever and ever,” as Monsignor Harbert has pointed out several times on this blog, is justified neither by the Latin text nor by Catholic theology. How in the world did this prayer (and that conclusion) obtain the “confirmatio” of the Congregation for Divine Worship (in consultation, one presumes with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith)? And just wait till that latter Congregation’s former Prefect bumps into some of these texts in one of his multiple white-leatherbound, gold coat-of-arms embossed Roman Missals! 🙂

  4. It seems worth noting that the problematic comparison and use of the term “cleansed” is present in the 1998 Sacramentary draft as well.

    1. 1998 ICEL:

      Lord our God,
      through the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary
      you prepared a worthy dwelling for your Son.
      As you preserved her from all taint of sin
      by the salvation his death would bring,
      so, through her intercession, cleanse us from our faults
      and lead us safely into your presence.

      There’s no indication that Mary is “cleansed.” The word “cleanse” only refers to us.

      1. And you could say the same of the current translation. It is the implied comparison, present in both versions, that Msgr. Harbert finds problematic.

      2. Huh? The 1998 and the 1973 translations both avoid the error that Mgr Harbert accurately cites. It is only the new, botched translation that falls into it.

      3. Robert Bruce, I’m not following you at all. Here is the 1973/74 translaton:

        you prepared the Virgin Mary
        to be the worthy mother of your Son.
        You let her share beforehand
        in the salvation Christ would bring by
        his death,
        and kept her sinless from the first moment of
        her conception.
        Help us by her prayers
        to live in your pesence without sin.

        The new text is wrong, in fact heretical. There is no such problem in 1973/74 or in 1998. What are you talking about??


      4. Jonathan Day/ Fr. Ruff: OK, as I re-read Msgr. Harbert’s comment I see that he sees the main difficulty in the word “too” which implies a strong comparison, and it’s true that the ’98 doesn’t have this word.

        But Msgr. Harbert also seems to be saying that a big part of the problem is that “cleansed” is a poor translation. The structure of the prayer is a comparison; we pray that God will do something for us and make a comparison to something he did for Mary. The two things are similar in effect – we pray that we will be made clean/pure as Mary has been. However the way this is to come about is different, and this is why “cleansed” is an unfortunate choice. The whole comparison falls apart, and whether the comparison is strongly implied by the insertion of the word “too” or subtly implied by the structure of the prayer, it’s still there.

      5. Mr. Bruce – or read Fr. Allan’s comment at 9:21 AM this morning – he theologizes that Mary was “cleansed” in some great bathroom in the eschatologival heavens before she was “pure”.

      6. Bill, I certainly hope you don’t consider baptism a cleansing in some liturgical bathroom of the Church or maybe you do. Did the Blessed Virgin Mary need to be washed in the “Blood of Christ” at the cross or not since this was applied to her as a prevenient grace, that is, at the time of her being conceived and prior to the conception of Christ and his birth in the limitations of time. But prior to being conceived, she as all of us, are a thought in the mind of God, we exist in a theological way from all eternity in the “mind of God.” Who knows what she was prior to her conception and her need to be cleansed at her conception. But at the very least, she needed Adam’s Original happy fault in order to become Immaculately Conceived for with out that necessary Original Sin there would be no point for the incarnation of Christ or for her Immaculate Conception.

  5. Isn’t the entire point of an Immaculate Conception that Mary doesn’t need to be cleansed? Or maybe this is a sign that we’re retreating from a high Mariology. Let’s hear it for ecumenism!

  6. Mgr Harbert’s points seem spot on to me. ‘Mundos’ and ‘ad te pervenire’ are by no means parallel. Liturgiam not-very-Authenticam, where art thou?

    The Latin prayer is:

    Deus, qui per immaculatam Vírginis Conceptionem dignum Filio tuo habitaculum praeparasti, quaesumus, ut, qui ex morte eiusdem Filii tui praevisa, eam ab omni labe praeservasti, nos quoque mundos, eius intercessione, ad te pervenire concedas

    At least part of the problem here is the mechanical rendering of quoque as ‘too’, where the sense of it is more emphatic than conjunctive – not ‘cleanse us as you cleansed our Lady’, but ‘through her intercession even we can be cleansed.’

    The 1998 does it nicely:

    Lord our God, through the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary you prepared a worthy dwelling for your Son. As you preserved her from all taint of sin by the salvation his death would bring, so, through her intercession, cleanse us from our faults and lead us safely into your presence.

    Literal, word-for-word translation almost always obscures the meaning of the Latin. I also notice how much better the English reads when the prayer is split into two sentences.

    1. I appreciate the ’73 translation offered by the OSB Father above which says “worthy mother.” While “Ark of the New Covenant” is certainly one if our Lady’s titles, not to use THE word which emphasizes beyond all others Mary’s flesh-blood origin of the Incarnate Word’s human nature seems very nearly heartless.

  7. This seems like a good place to blame the original. Not only is it obscure, but the framing parallel is kind of creepy. Unless you opt to avoid the dwelling image, as 1973 did, we end up “in your presence”, presumably in the ” worthy dwelling for your Son.”

    Maybe it is good that it is obscure.

    1. On the contrary, I think the parallel is good, and very important. Mary isn’t another ‘god,’ unreachable to us as a model. She is a model of what God intends for all of us. This is the whole point of the feast, in my view.


    2. Father,

      I agree with you on the point of the feast, but that is why I object to this prayer. The IC prepared “a worthy dwelling” which is often taken as referring to Mary’s physical body. The prayer then meanders through a proper analogy on purity to reach a conclusion about coming into God’s presence. Christ came into Mary :: we come into God’s presence. Mary as dwelling corresponds to God’s presence.

      There are several ways to take this. The unintentionally creepy one is having us with God=Christ physically in Mary. 1973 tried a broader parenting image, so that we are in (pregnant?) God as Christ was in Mary. That is OK but IMO the best would be God dwells in us as Christ dwelled in Mary.

      This actually might not be a problem of the Latin. Why did they add “presence”? That objectification makes it seem similar to a dwelling. Some form of “come and be with You” looks better than “come into your presence.”

  8. I think that Msgr. Harbert’s analysis is very good and sober and very helpful toward a future “cleansing” of the English translation according to the “pure” Latin text there is. So maybe we can say that the Latin text is like Mary (pure) and all translations are like us (in need of cleansing)! In other words the Latin text already experiences what we hope the English will some day at the end of time in heaven. 🙂

    1. With that said the BVM was conceived pure of Original Sin, so in a sense some kind of cleansing of Original Sin was given her so that she wouldn’t inherit it unlike the rest of us who need a cleansing after birth in Baptism. She needed the merit of her Son even for her immaculate conception, yet she experienced no sin either at conception or later after the age of reason. So the greater question is did she need the merits of Jesus to be saved? Evidently yes. But why if she was pure to begin with? Can we say that the original sin she would have inherited was washed or cleansed away at the moment of her conception in the cosmic, eschatological sense since she too needs Jesus Christ in order to be saved? She too needs the “happy fault” the “necessary sin of Adam which gained for us (and her) so great a Savior.”

      1. No, Father, not at all. Like the rest of Adam’s race, Mary is redeemed; however, She is redeemed in a unique way, such that sin NEVER touches Her: not even (though you have suggested this above) in the mind of God from all eternity. Your position sounds at moments to dance with Orthodox theology which rejects the IC dogma. HOWEVER, it is a different argument altogether to say that Mary needed to be baptized: NOT because of sin, but for the sake of priesthood; to receive the indelible character which makes possible for all the members of the Mystical Body participation in the worship of the New Covenant.

  9. My, my, my …. It’s only the SECOND Week of Advent and already the Cheerleaders of the Missale Moronicum of 2011 are finding their pom-poms in a nasty twist. And to be sure, it won’t be the last twist of the year either! Cha-Cha-Cha!

    Not easy defending the indefensible.

    Take it from Janet, it’s gonna be a mighty long liturgical year.
    Indeed …. INDEED!!!! As Monsignor Moroney told us on WBUR!

  10. God bless you all on your feast day!

    It is a place to which, of course, the other Christians just cannot go with you.

    Fr Anthony gets it right: the model of what God intends. See the RC-Anglican document Mary: Grace and hope in Christ.

    But “we are cleansed, she not” to us is contrary to Scripture, or maybe just an excess of devotion. I cannot object much to an excess of devotion to Mary!

    I like what I think Fr Alexander Schmemann said – say as much as you want about Mary: as long as she is the great example, not the great exception.

    Most Holy Mother of God, pray for us all!

    Mark MIller

  11. I ask myself what Mary herself might say about all this. I can only conclude she is rather embarrassed about all the fuss, and would rather we concentrate on making sure everyone gets a good hot meal today! 🙂

    Brigid Mary Rauch

    1. Ah, Brigid, a voice of sanity once again.

      From my perspective in the cheap seats, instead of responding “Amen” I found myself saying, “Huh?” What a way to pray!

      But. thanks, you made it clear why there are so many hungry people in our world.

  12. There must be even some Catholics who wonder at the adoption of a doctrine that has no basis in scripture. What I don’t understand is how Mary could make a free choice when God has altered her nature beforehand. I guess I like better the idea that God had enough faith in us to ask a normal human being to be Jesus’ mother.

    1. My Lutheran (LCMS) wife likes to point out that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception necessarily limits God’s omnipotence. “Wouldn’t an all-powerful God be able to overcome the power of original sin and become incarnate through any human vessel, pure or tainted?”

      I just smile and nod.

      1. But it’s clear that God the Father CHOSE to have an “immaculate” vessel for the incarnation of his Son. In what way does that limit his omnipotence? Indeed it demonstrates it!

      2. I agree with John Drake.
        I realize this won’t answer objections, not by a long shot, but it is worth emphasizing that the papal decree on this doctrine was at pains to emphasize that Mary’s being preserved from sin is solely and exclusively because of Christ’s redemptive work, in which she shared by anticipation.

      3. Christian –
        Your wife is not alone. The whole dogma surrounding this matter is plagued with problems of reason, scripturelessness
        and the mere fact that it does put God in a bind. God can do anything: he didn’t need to have an immaculate mother to be spotless himself – but, if it is insisted that he did, then likewise with her mother, and her mother before her, an her mother……..
        Did Mary, who was sinless by special grace require to be born herself of a spotless mother… and so on ad infinitum.
        Did God the Son really HAVE to have a spotless mother for him to be spotless himself? There are entirely too may ‘musts’ imposed upon the Almighty

        And, this is not an anti-Marian strain by any means. My parish is that of Our Lady of Walsingham, who has brought and daily brings to us many blessings.

        It does seem that there are some not rationally tenable exertions being made on her behalf when she is quite fully glorious with out any dependence on them.

        We are better off with pious traditions which the Church doesn’t try to dogmatise; only stepping in to corrrect (which it never does!!!) when certain groups openly worship her as a godess: this is rampant in many areas, and neither prelate, priest, theologian, cardinal or pope ever sets them straight on the matter.

      1. And here I must disagree.
        The Bible wasn’t written in English, John. The Greek simply does not bear the weight of proving the doctrine.

      2. If you can get hold of Steve Ray’s work on this issue, it’s well worth a listen. From what he says, the Greek (my poor transliteration, I’m sorry) used in that phrase is something like “kahare thomene”, which he translates as “she who has been made pure and remains pure”. He fleshes out much detail in his DVD about Mary.

        Basically, the Church says (correct me if I’m wrong, all you better scholars than I) that it was not necessary for Mary to be immaculately conceived, but it is appropriate.

      3. “Graced” is a more accurate translation. “Gratia plena” is more of a dynamic equivalent than a literal translation. And look at where it has got us!

      4. “kecharitomene” (Lk 1:28) means “favored” not “purified” (someone is mixing up “katharizomenos” with “charitomenos”).

    2. Crystal,
      Just because Mary was sinless from her conception, it doesn’t mean that her freedom was taken away or that she had something other than a full human nature. After all, Adam and Eve were created sinless, and still had free choice and were fully human. And it is precisly because of her sinlessness that she could make a radically free choice to follow God’s will, for she was not tossed around and manipulated by disordered thoughts or desires like we are. I hope this helps.

      1. It most certainly does not help. It’s obfuscation and delusion.

        Is that what you’re preaching to your flock, Fr Steve? Adam and Eve is a tale with a talking serpent who hopped around in someway to get from A to B without crawling! Genesis 2&3 is aetiology and theology not history or anthropology. Mary was not immune to these. She was a normal woman, sexually as human as the rest of us are.

        There was no “Fall” from something superior to inferior.Your so-called “disordered thoughts or desires” (by which, I presume you mean sexual thoughts and desires) are not the result of anything else other than testosterone and oestrogen, perfectly normal and health-promoting hormones.

        Now that your English has improved why not start with some basic biblical studies.

  13. My bishop did indeed read the Collect exactly as written. And so we pray the complete opposite of the reason we celebrate today. I understand priests are between a rock and a hard place- pray it wrong or violate the rule about not changing anything in the Mass. Why isn’t this a no-brainer? Pray the right thing always!! Why is a rule more important than correct theology? Anyone? Why on earth would a priest want to pray something heretical as Fr Ruff
    states? Also, even my bishop stumbled over “prevenient” as did one of the priests at my parish. Anyone else?

  14. The Sacramentary edition of the early seventies had this glaring error in the Preface of Eucharistic Prayer IV: “Father, YOU ALONE are God, living and true.” Thus the text directly implies that the Son and the Spirit are not God. Few noticed it at the time, and it was quickly and silently corrected in the next edition. Today’s liturgical blogosphere can catch such errors even before they are published. Perhaps an appropriate scriptural motto for the internet: “Whatever is hidden will be disclosed, whatever is concealed will be brought out into the open” (Mark 4:22).

    1. The gloria says, addressing Jesus the Christ, “Tu solus dominus.” Does that mean that the text directly implies that the Father and the Spirit are not Dominus? I don’t think so. There is a sense in which, “you alone are God” is true.

    2. Excellent reply, Gerard. I don’t think this is an issue, as Jan says. In fact, I don’t see a real issue with what originally there “Father, you alone are God…” Perhaps it was tweaked to read “You are the one God, living and true…” just to be on the safe side, but one/only – same difference, and the entire preface is speaking to the Father alone anyhow.

  15. One problem with all versions of this prayer is the exclusive focus on Original Sin as a stain to be washed from our souls. My understanding of Original Sin is as a state of being separated from God by our human nature. Baptism is not a trip to a celestial laundry but a return to unity with God.
    The question of Mary’s choice in the matter is interesting. Is it not possible that her words“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” could resonate back to her creation?

  16. There’s an interesting article by Fr. Endean on Rahner and Mary’s free will/predestined act – “How to Think about Mary’s Privileges” – which can be found at his site –

    I still don’t understand, though, why it’s so important to have Mary be better than other humans. There doesn’t seem to be any concern about this in the NT. It’s her human nature that makes this so special … otherwise might as well have Jesus step from God’s forhead like Athena.

    1. Thanks, Crystal – Fr. Endean’s articulation and background from Rahner helps.

      Since this dogma is from 1854 and experts/Church acknowledge that it has little scriptural roots – rather, it is an expression of the church’s faith and sensus fidelium. Rahner puts this discussion into the context of salvation history and theological anthropology without over-emphasizing or making Mary out to be a junior partner of the Trinity. Have always felt that Rahner was able to show how the church’s faith was marked by symbolic stories (not necessarily reading every dogma as if it is a scientific diagram) – and so we don’t, as Brigid says well, need to imagine some sort of celestial laundry that cleansed Mary.

      Fr. Allan theologized in one comment trying to “justify” the use of the word “cleansing”….in fact, in 1854, the Pope specifically defined the dogma as meaning that Mary did not have to be cleansed from original sin. Oh well – let’s not let facts stand in the way of the 2010 translation. As Fr. Allan also likes to say – “It is a mystery!” and leave it at that.

  17. In looking over various versions of this collect, I came across this line in the 1998 Alternate Opening Prayer which I like very much:
    “As you blessed the daughter of Israel,
    so grant us the grace
    to be fully engaged in your service,
    eager to do your will.”

    So, to the point above, if we went about giving someone a hot meal, that might make us more fully engaged in God’s service!

  18. At Mass today the “worthy dwelling” got me thinking about the modifications that happen in the uterus as it prepares to host the embryo.

    Our priest said every word carefully and very distinctly. He cares about liturgy. So I could follow everything, prevenient and all. The chanted doxology: “Through him AND with him AND in him” sounded particularly awkward. There’s nothing offensive about it (it’s a detail that does not change the meaning) but it sounds bad. I wonder if it’s just lack of familiarity, in which case with time I will get used to it, or if it’s truly ugly.

    Today was the first time in my life that I heard the word “prevenient”. I hadn’t even known such a word existed before I started reading PrayTell. Unfortunately at Mass I had forgotten what it meant. After a delay, I thought of the French “prevenant” (as in: polite, well-mannered, considerate), but it didn’t quite fit. Oh well.

    That’s one way in which the experience of the new missal is like Latin: many Latin words resemble the French, so when I hear them, I sort of know what they mean, but not quite; and I can sort of make a guess as to what a sentence means when several Latin words are strung together, except that I am missing the meaning of a few of the words and that I need to make up the grammatical connection. The new missal is similar: the meaning only comes across through a fog.

    Yet, in spite of it all, it’s still the Mass. I feel privileged to be able to go to Mass, even on a weekday, with little trouble and no advance planning (unlike in rural France where priests are scarce). I am glad I went. So maybe it’s a good sign, a sign that I will be able to overcome my distaste of the new missal.

  19. I love it how the new translation is making us all reflect on the true meaning of the prayers of the Church. The new translation is working already. 🙂

    1. We should not need the stimulus of a deficient and badly translated set of prayers in order to ponder the text of the liturgy.

      Taking that line of argument to its logical conclusion could I suggest you delete every third word in the new “translation” and spend some fruitful time reflecting and then fill in the blanks.
      It looks as if filling in the blanks and joining up the dots is how the “translators” worked any way.

      Si testimonium requieris, circumspice!

    2. It’s making a couple of bishops who stopped by Da Roberto’s yesterday afternoon wonder how it ever received the confirmatio. Their theories were very amusing but, sadly, “off the record,” as they say.

      1. Oh these poor prelates, who probably never spoke up about any of the deficiencies in the 2008 text, or the current one, once it was released, or LA the original sin of this entire matter, assuming they were ordained at the time of it’s ‘conception.’

      2. Dear Fr Rindfleisch
        I am not familiar with the difference between recognitio and confirmatio
        But I distinctly remember that there was a famous lunch a couple of yrs ago and the ICEL heads were not invited. The pope was given a copy of a text that apparently then was final text, but it wasn’t

        The vox clara people then did their 10K word hatchet job and have given us the VC2010 version.

        So to my question: how come we have a version that is now different to the one Benedict gave his blessing to a few yrs ago & doesn’t this make farce of the concepts of recognitio & confirmatio?

    3. From my perspective, Father, I wish you were correct.
      “Us”, perhaps;
      “Us all”, no.

      Beyond the blogs, no one in my world is discussing the true meaning of the prayers of the Church. They are simply reading the prayers they have been given from books or cards and most are trying not to make noticeable mistakes while doing so.
      Lots of humor when they do:
      the resigned – giggle;
      the disappoving – snicker.
      Then they go home or about their business.

      They have long lost confidence in church leadership except on the local level. Changing how we pray together is just another example of organizational irrelevance.

      The approving – read the loudest and don’t make mistakes.

  20. The root of the trouble was surely the 2008 wording ‘we also may be clean’. In current English ‘clean’ is only used of physical cleanliness. In contrast, ‘cleanse’ is still used in its metaphorical meaning, whence the alteration. The right translation, surely, is ‘we also may be pure’. The whole clause would be improved by a freer rendering, e.g., ‘[that] through her intercession we also may attain to your presence in purity of heart’.

  21. [ ? A good excuse, anyway, for quoting G.M.Hopkins:

    Mary Immaculate,
    Merely a woman, yet
    Whose presence, power is
    Great as no goddess’s
    Was deemèd, dreamèd; who
    This one work has to do—
    Let all God’s glory through,
    God’s glory which would go
    Through her and from her flow
    Off, and no way but so. ]

      1. Joe, you don’t understand. Hopkins wrote it in Latin, then sent it to Vox Clara for translation.

  22. I wonder if the comparison in the final text of the prayer is on the means by which the Blessed Virgin is preserved and we hope to be cleansed, namely, the action of God in Death of his Son.

    While I do hope to be as pure (or clean) as the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Lord Jesus Christ are, looking at my own brokenness, it seems something that is most unlikely to happen in this lifetime. I will only reach that stage, God willing, in heaven.

    1. Happily, you don’t need to worry about that; Christ robes you with his own righteousness, an aliena iustitia, nos extra nos etc. This is Luther’s insight, which since 1999 has a place in Catholic theology too.

      1. “I will only reach that stage” is a misleading emphasis; the letter to the Romans puts it in terms of dying to sin and living to God in Christ, in whom one is justified and sanctified, and predestined unto glory.

  23. “Prevenient” is a Vox Clara non-translation. ICEL 2008 had:
    “through your provident grace”. My priest stumbled on “prevenient” and is becoming increasingly irate over the translations. It doesn’t make for good prayer by the assembly when they know their priest can’t pray them.

  24. It’s been a very long time since I studied the theological and scriptural underpinnings of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. But this is how I’ve received the teaching and pass it on to others.
    Over the course of hundreds of years the Church had to sort out the mystery of how the Savior was somehow both fully divine and fully human. Following John they came to believe that God’s eternal Word was implanted in Mary’s womb. This accounts for his divine nature. What about the human nature, one that would be like ours but free from original sin? They knew of course that Mary is the source of his humanity, but if she was conceived with original sin that would create a problem. Nemo dat quod non habet… cant give what you don’t have. But hadnt the angel said that Mary had found favor with God? That favor, it was discerned, must have included Mary being granted the effects of the redemption that was to come through God’s anointed one… the very moment of her conception. Nothing is impossible for God, after all. So Mary is immaculately conceived so that she might convey to God’s eternal word a sinless human nature. A perfectly good word for that might be prevenient grace. Thus Mary is full of Grace because he who is mighty has done great things for her and Holy is his name. Henceforth all generations hail her as Blessed.
    Mary is the new Eve who, unlike the first, was prepared to welcome God to do his will in her. Deo Gratias!

    1. I wasn’t paying that much attention to this before, but now I feel a need to invoke the face palm. All of this is about Jesus being implanted in Mary’s womb……. as in a homonuclus ? As in the ancient concept that men implanted seeds that were in fact tiny humans into women’s wombs which were nothing but fertile seed beds? So our theology of Mary’s Conception and the Incarnation itself is based on an understanding of biology that knows nothing of sperm and egg?

      Seriously – pursuing this train of thought gets very icky very quickly. Non-believers make rude jokes slyly hinting at Mary having sex with God, but much, much worse are discussions of the status of Mary’s hymen by supposedly reverent theologians!

      Sometimes the more we try to explain a Mystery, the farther we are from the truth. Better to do as Jack suggests and accept the gift with a hearty Thanks be to God!

  25. “Following John they came to believe that God’s eternal Word was implanted in Mary’s womb. This accounts for his divine nature. ”

    John 1:14 could just mean that the divine Word enters history in a richer and more fleshly way in the life, death and glorification of Jesus Christ.

    St Thomas did not subscribe to the Immaculate Conception of Mary but he thought that the Virginal Conception of Jesus kept his humanity free from the taint of original sin, which is transmitted by generation. Jesus was also fully formed at the first moment of his conception unlike other souls that take 40-80 days to form. Docetism hovers here!

    The closest analogy to the Virgin Birth is Philo’s statement that Sarah conceived Isaac when she was alone (not with her husband).

    1. I just read Genesis 18 with my students and it is easy to see how Philo could have got the idea of a fatherless conception of Isaac from it.

  26. Anthony Ruff, OSB :
    And here I must disagree.The Bible wasn’t written in English, John. The Greek simply does not bear the weight of proving the doctrine.awr

    Only comments with a full name will be approved.

    FR RUFF –
    Could you elaborate? I am not a Greek scholar, but seminal in my conversion was understaning gratia plena to be a fulness (plenum) of grace of which there could be none greater, that she was, thus, so full of grace that there was no spot that was not-grace=sin. What does the Greek yield on the question?

    1. Hi JMO –

      The Greek has the passive participle “κεχαριτωμένη” = kecharitomene, which is rendered “favored one” both in the RNAB (the official USCCB translation) and the NRSV. The Catholic Church believes Mary is full of grace and free of sin – but we can’t proof text Scripture, or a slightly distorted translation of Scripture, to prove those beliefs.

      BTW, I know that I owe you an email! You and several dozen others. And my Christmas cards this year? Maybe in February?? Your email is coming, probably with lame apologies and weak excuses for its delay.


  27. “While they may make perfect sense in Wooooostah, I do not think they will ever warrant a “gold star.” My boyfriend agrees.”

    Janet, I hear that your well-beloved boyfriend gives the gold star to Father A’s Sarum Missal. I trust that your love for him continues in spite of his wanderings on Salisbury Beach, as it were.

  28. I don’t really see what the big deal is here. My own translation of the second half of the prayer would look something this:

    We pray that you, who by the foreseen death of your Son preserved her from every stain, may grant us too by her intercession to reach you clean.

    To the extent that there is a problem at all with the 2010 translation, it’s caused by the ‘as…so’ construction, which was also there in both the 2008 and 1998 translations (but not in my own translation, and not, as far as I can see, in the Latin). So if 2010 is ‘guilty’, the others are ‘guilty’ too.

    The whole matter of ‘clean’ versus ‘cleansed’ is not the issue at all. ‘May we be cleansed and admitted to your presence’ says the same thing as ‘May we reach you clean’, since it’s clearly understood in the latter that we’re not clean now but must be made clean (cleansed) somewhere along the way.

    So as I said, the ‘problem’ is with the ‘as…so’ construction. But it’s not really a problem (although, yes, it could have been clearer, as could 2008 and 1998 have been clearer). There’s really both a parallel and a juxtaposition going on in the prayer: As you once granted her something, namely the grace of being _preserved_ from all stain, so may you now grant something to us too, namely the grace of being _cleansed_ from all stain. The ‘too’ (quoque) refers to ‘us’ (‘nos’), not to either of the verbs (‘preserved’ or ‘cleansed’).

  29. Praying the texts for that Feast gave me real inspiration to go through the enitre new Missal and to re-translate a more comprehensible English translation of the prayers for use in my little parish. I predicted this situation a few years ago as a member of FDLC, and was completely laughed-down. Well, now I’m a pastor of a real parish that is longing for a liturgy that is intelligible, poetic,, and engaging.
    I predicted that this faulty translation would cause a new, sublte, quiet schism in the American Church…and now it’s coming true. Let us pray for each other, and for the Church’s liturgy.

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