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Excerpt from Ineffabilis Deus of Pope Pius IX,
Defining the Immaculate Conception

...And indeed, illustrious documents of venerable antiquity, of both the Eastern and the Western Church, very forcibly testify that this doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the most Blessed Virgin, which was daily more and more splendidly explained, stated and confirmed by the highest authority, teaching, zeal, knowledge, and wisdom of the Church, and which was disseminated among all peoples and nations of the Catholic world in a marvelous manner -- this doctrine always existed in the Church as a doctrine that has been received from our ancestors, and that has been stamped with the character of revealed doctrine. For the Church of Christ, watchful guardian that She is, and defender of the dogmas deposited with Her, never changes anything, never diminishes anything, never adds anything to them; but with all diligence She treats the ancient documents faithfully and wisely; if they really are of ancient origin and if the faith of the Fathers has transmitted them, She strives to investigate and explain them in such a way that the ancient dogmas of heavenly doctrine will be made evident and clear, but will retain their full, integral, and proper nature, and will grow only within their own genus -- that is, within the same dogma, in the same sense and the same meaning.

The Fathers and writers of the Church, well versed in the heavenly Scriptures, had nothing more at heart than to vie with one another in preaching and teaching in many wonderful ways the Virgin's supreme sanctity, dignity, and immunity from all stain of sin, and Her renowned victory over the most foul enemy of the human race. This they did in the books they wrote to explain the Scriptures, to vindicate the dogmas, and to instruct the faithful. These ecclesiastical writers in quoting the words by which at the beginning of the world God announced His merciful remedies prepared for the regeneration of mankind -- words by which He crushed the audacity of the deceitful serpent and wondrously raised up the hope of our race, saying, "I will put enmities between thee and the Woman, between thy seed and Her Seed" -- taught that by this divine prophecy the merciful Redeemer of mankind, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, was clearly foretold; that His most Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, was prophetically indicated; and, at the same time, the very enmity of both against the evil one was significantly expressed. Hence, just as Christ, the Mediator between God and man, assumed human nature, blotted the handwriting of the decree that stood against us, and fastened it triumphantly to the cross, so the most holy Virgin, united with Him by a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with Him and through Him, eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with Her immaculate foot...

In like manner did they use the words of the prophets to describe this wondrous abundance of divine gifts and the original innocence of the Virgin of whom Jesus was born. They celebrated the august Virgin as the Spotless Dove, as the Holy Jerusalem, as the exalted Throne of God, as the Ark and House of Holiness which the Eternal Wisdom built, and as that Queen who, abounding in delights and leaning on Her Beloved, came forth from the mouth of the Most High, entirely perfect, beautiful, most dear to God and never stained with the least blemish.

When the Fathers and writers of the Church meditated on the fact that the most Blessed Virgin was, in the Name and by order of God Himself, proclaimed full of grace by the Angel Gabriel when he announced Her most sublime dignity of Mother of God, they thought that this singular and solemn salutation, never heard before, showed that the Mother of God is the seat of all divine graces and is adorned with all gifts of the Holy Ghost. To them Mary is an almost infinite treasury, an inexhaustible abyss of these gifts, to such an extent that She was never subject to the curse and was, together with Her Son, the only partaker of perpetual benediction. Hence She was worthy to hear Elizabeth, inspired by the Holy Ghost, exclaim: "Blessed art Thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb."

Hence, it is the clear and unanimous opinion of the Fathers that the most glorious Virgin, for whom "He who is mighty has done great things," was resplendent with such an abundance of heavenly gifts, with such a fullness of grace and with such innocence, that She is an unspeakable miracle of God -- indeed, the crown of all miracles and truly the Mother of God; that She approaches as near to God Himself as is possible for a created being; and that She is above all men and angels in glory. Hence, to demonstrate the original innocence and sanctity of the Mother of God, not only did they frequently compare Her to Eve while yet a virgin, while yet innocent, while yet incorrupt, while not yet deceived by the deadly snares of the most treacherous serpent; but they have also exalted Her above Eve with a wonderful variety of expressions. Eve listened to the serpent with lamentable consequences; she fell from original innocence and became his slave. The most Blessed Virgin, on the contrary, ever increased Her original gift, and not only never lent an ear to the serpent, but by divinely given power She utterly destroyed the force and dominion of the evil one...

Mindful, indeed, of all these things and considering them most attentively with particular joy in our heart, as soon as we, by the inscrutable design of Providence, had been raised to the sublime Chair of St. Peter -- in spite of our unworthiness -- and had begun to govern the universal Church, nothing have we had more at heart -- a heart which from our tenderest years has overflowed with devoted veneration and love for the most Blessed Virgin -- than to show forth Her prerogatives in resplendent light... Consequently, following the examples of our predecessors, and desiring to proceed in the traditional manner, we announced and held a consistory, in which we addressed our brethren, the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. It was the greatest spiritual joy for us when we heard them ask us to promulgate the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mother of God...

Wherefore, in humility and fasting, we unceasingly offered our private prayers as well as the public prayers of the Church to God the Father through his Son, that He would deign to direct and strengthen our mind by the power of the Holy Ghost. In like manner did we implore the help of the entire heavenly host as we ardently invoked the Paraclete. Accordingly, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, for the honor of the Holy and undivided Trinity, for the glory and adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith, and for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own: We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of Her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.

...Let all the children of the Catholic Church, who are so very dear to us, hear these words of ours. With a still more ardent zeal for piety, religion and love, let them continue to venerate, invoke and pray to the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, conceived without original sin. Let them fly with utter confidence to this most sweet Mother of mercy and grace in all dangers, difficulties, needs, doubts and fears. Under Her guidance, under Her patronage, under Her kindness and protection, nothing is to be feared; nothing is hopeless. Because, while bearing toward us a truly motherly affection and having in Her care the work of our salvation, She is solicitous about the whole human race. And since She has been appointed by God to be the Queen of Heaven and earth, and is exalted above all the choirs of angels and saints, and even stands at the right hand of Her only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord, She presents our petitions in a most efficacious manner. What She asks, She obtains. Her pleas can never be unheard.

--PIUS IX, POPE

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