The Immaculate Conception is the Catholic dogma that the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, was conceived in her mother's womb without the stain of original sin. A lot of folks mistakenly confuse the Immaculate Conception with the Virgin Birth of Jesus. While the two events are linked, they are not one and the same. So why does the Catholic Church teach this dogma anyway?
Well, we know way back in Exodus 3, when Moses first saw God as the burning bush, that there is such a thing as holy ground. God told Moses to take off his sandals, because he was standing on holy ground, where God Himself was present on earth. We know today that Israel and Jerusalem are known as "The Holy Land", because of the fact that Jesus walked there. We know that the Ark of the Covenant was considered very holy by the Jews, because it contained the Word of God. The Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was originally placed in Solomon's Temple, was so holy that only the Jewish high priest could enter it once a year. So what does all of that mean? Well, if the desert where God walked was "holy ground", how much more holy would Mary have to be to have God live inside her for 9 months while she was pregnant? If the Ark of the Covenant was pure and holy because it contained The Word of God in stone tablets, how much more pure and holy would Mary have to be to contain The Word made flesh (Jesus Christ) in her body? Very pure and holy indeed.
In fact, Gabriel referred to Mary as "full of grace" (Luke 1:28) BEFORE the incarnation took place. One cannot be full of grace and have ANY sin (Romans 6:14). And that fact could only mean that Mary did not have the stain of any sin, even original sin, on her soul. Mary was not "Full of Grace" because she had Jesus inside of her; rather, she was chosen to be the mother of Jesus because she was full of grace already. Gabriel told her "The Lord is with you" before she became pregnant by the Holy Ghost.
For the record, the Blessed Virgin Mary was not the first woman to be created immaculately. That honor would go to Eve, who was brought forth from the body of Adam sinless. Thanks to the cunning of lucifer, her free will, and her weakness, she said yes to to the bad angel lucifer and allowed sin to enter the world. Mary, on the other hand, by saying yes to the good angel Gabriel, brought forth Jesus from her body, which allowed salvation to enter the world. In other words, God redeemed the world through an immaculately conceived virgin (Mary) without sin in order to overcome the condemnation of the world through an immaculately created virgin (Eve) who did sin. Paul calls Jesus the new Adam in 1 Corinthians 15:45, which would make Mary the new Eve. Just as Adam and Eve were created without sin and failed their test, just so, Jesus and Mary were created without sin and passed their test.
It is truly amazing that so many non-Catholics have a problem with this dogma, as if God cannot do whatever he wants to do, and however he wants to do it. Some non-Catholics think that if Mary had said no to Gabriel, that God would have just picked out another woman to have Jesus! Now where exactly is THAT in the Bible?
Some even belittle the Mother of God with the mistaken belief that by belittling Jesus' mother they are somehow exalting Jesus! Just try that one out with your best friends the next time you see them. Tell them that you really like them, but you just can't stand their mother, who had nothing to do at all with how they were brought up! They probably won't be your friends much longer.
Here are some excellent scripture quotes for you to meditate on concerning the holiness and purity of our Mother Mary (John 19:27, Revelation 12:17):
Matthew 12:33: "Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit
Luke 1:42: and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
Luke 6:43:"For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit;
1 Corinthians 6:17: But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him
Romans 6:14: For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Luke 1:28: And he came to her and said, "Hail, Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!"
Luke 1:38: And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
Luke 22:42: "Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."
(**NOTE - In the perfect imitation of Jesus, Mary submits her will to God the Father completely, as does Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. So should we).