Where does Scripture say that Mary was conceived without sin?
First, note the parallel between Mary and the ark of the Old Covenant:
- Both Mary (cf. Lk 1:39) and the ark (cf. 2 Sam 6:2) arise and go to Judah.
- Both Mary (cf. Lk 1:56) and the ark (cf. 2 Sam 6:11) reside for 3 months in their new locations.
- David leaps with joy at the presence of the ark (cf. 2 Sam 6:16), just as John leaps at the presence of Mary (cf. Lk 1:41).
- What David says at the coming of the ark (cf. 2 Sam 6:9) is almost exactly what Elizabeth says upon the coming of Mary (cf. Lk 1:43).
- Just as the ark of the Old Covenant contained the word of God (on stone tablets), the manna from heaven, and the rod of Aaron the great High Priest (cf. Heb 9:4), so did Mary contain Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God (cf. Jn 1:1), the Manna from Heaven (cf. Jn 6:51), and the great High Priest (cf. Heb 5:4-5).
All of this points to Mary as the ark of the New Covenant, and if the ark of the old required construction of the finest and purest materials and was so holy that no one could even touch it (cf. 2 Sam 6:6-7), what else can we believe about Mary but that God constructed her to be holy and undefiled by sin, a fitting tabernacle of our Lord Jesus Christ?
There are also two salutations to Mary that are indicative of her immaculate nature. The first is the Angel Gabriel’s words to Mary: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.” The Greek term here for “full of grace” is kecharitomene, a perfect present participle of the verb charitoo, which denotes “grace.” A perfect participle indicates an action completed in the past with existing results, and a present participle denotes continuous or repeated action. So kecharitomene means “you who were and continue to be full of and completed in grace.” Mary’s fullness of grace indicates a complete absence of sin.
Note also that Gabriel literally calls Mary “full of grace” as if that were her name. This is important because in the Bible, a person’s name is often indicative of that person’s chief characteristic. Simon was called “Peter” because he was to be the “Rock” of the Church (the name “Peter” comes from the Greek word petra which means “rock”). Abram was called “Abraham” because he was to be the father of many nations (the name “Abraham” comes from the Hebrew words ab and hamon, which together mean “father of a multitude”). By addressing Mary as “full of grace,” Gabriel was acknowledging Mary as one who is particularly grace-filled.
Elizabeth’s words to Mary are also important: “Blessed are you among women” (Lk 1:42). This was actually the customary way of expressing the superlative. So, for example, the tallest man would be “tall among men.” The smartest woman would be “smart among women.” When Elizabeth said that Mary was “blessed among women” she was declaring her to be the most blessed, or more blessed than other women.
All of this indicates Mary’s perfect sinlessness, which could not have been a reality were it not for the divine intervention of the Lord at the moment of her conception.
Peace of Christ to you,
Nicholas Hardesty, WIMM Board Member
Director of Religious Education, Blessed Mother Catholic Church
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