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event is celebrated in the, feast of the Assumption, as we call it. And I would like to call your attention to the probability of this, from the fact that no one ever pretended to collect any relics of the Blessed Virgin, except of such a nature that she might have parted with them during life, and that no one has claimed or now claims that her body actually rests anywhere on earth. Such claims would undoubtedly have been made, had it been possible to make them; for no one can suppose that the actual tomb of the body of one so intimately related to Christ would have been neglected by Christians, or that they would not have collected what souvenirs were attainable of one who must have been so dear to Him and to them.

To say that her remains were hid away, as the Jews pretended that those of Christ were, would merely be saying that Romanism began very early, and was indeed identified with Christianity itself. But such an idea, either with regard to our Divine Lord or to His Blessed Mother, is really unreasonable; no secret of such importance could be so well kept.

However, it is not necessary to argue further to prove this point, or even to show that it is not improbable ; for it has never been defined as an article of Catholic faith, though it is universally believed by Catholics.

The other matter which is given in the pro

fession of faith which we are examining is the spotless or absolute Virginity of Mary. This is generally conceded by Christians, as all call her Virgin, though all do not prefix the title Blessed. The only questions which could well be raised about it would be as to whether Christ Himself was the son of Joseph, and whether He had any brothers or sisters, in the sense in which we would use the word. Both these ideas are rejected by orthodox Protestants, the brothers or sisters mentioned in the Gospel being understood to be merely near relatives. The Catholic faith, therefore, presents no more difficulties in this matter than that of Protestants in general.

There is another matter of faith, however, with regard to the Blessed Virgin Mary which should be explained, as it has been much misunderstood, and is of considerable importance. It has been often mentioned in these last few decades, especially since its solemn definition as an article of faith by Pius IX. in 1854, and you have probably often heard of it. It is what is known as the Immaculate Conception; and on account of the special interest attaching to it, we will make it the subject of a special chapter.

CHAPTER VIII.

THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION.

THE particular dogma of the Church

which

we are about to consider

seems to furnish a specially good illustration of a fact evident enough to Catholics; that is, that most of the objections made by Protestants to our religion come from their not understanding what that religion really teaches. It is quite plain that hardly any of the objectors to the Immaculate Conception have any idea of what is meant by the words.

Some seem to think that it refers to the supernatural conception of our Divine Lord in the womb of His Blessed Motlier; and it seems certainly strange that with this notion they should object to it, for this doctrine is plainly laid down in the Apostles' Creed, which almost all Christians profess, in the words, “He was conceived by the Holy Ghost." It is also clearly taught in the Bible itself (Luke ii. 35).

Others, again, see in it a sort of deification of the Blessed Virgin herself; they think that it means to say that she is in some way equal to God; though why they should entertain this idea seems to us quite strange. It is only to be

accounted for by their having that notion firmly fixed in their minds already, so that anything which appears to point in that direction tends to increase or intensify that conviction.

Others still, paying somewhat closer attention to the words as they stand, gather from them the meaning that the Church regards the conception of Mary as supernatural in the same sense in which that of her Divine Son was; that we believe that she too was conceived by the Holy Ghost." They think, then, that if it does not mean that she was actually divine, it certainly must mean that she is in some way more than human; a goddess in some sense, though not perhaps equal to God Himself.

How strange it is that they will never take the trouble to inquire of some one who really knows what this doctrine is, or to get some book which would give them information. If they would do so, they would find, very likely, that their objections would disappear; at any rate, it would seem to them a small addition to what they are already willing enough to accept.

What, then, is this doctrine ? In the first place, it is not any raising of the Mother of God above the plane of human nature. The Church does not mean by the words “Immaculate Conception" that Mary was conceived by the Holy Ghost; on the contrary, she teaches that she was conceived and born of human parents; her

father's name is believed to have been Joachim, her mother's Anna. All that is meant is that she was not only from the time of her birth, but from the moment of her conception, la perfectly innocent or sinless child.

That is no more than what many Christians believe is the case with every child that comes into this world. And of course the Church thinks so too, if hy sin is meant actual sin; that is to say, sin actually committed by thought, word, or deed. For it is plain that no child can coinmit sin before coming to an age when it becomes aware of the difference between right and wrong; the age of reason, as we commonly call it.

But there is another thing which is known as sin, besides that which is actually committed ; it is what is called original sin, and this also is believed in by orthodox Protestants as well as by Catholics. What is meant by it is this: that Adam in his sin, as narrated in the book of Genesis, lost the right to heaven; and that from that time—that is, from the very beginning of our race-his descendants have also lost that title to heaven. A Redeemer, however, was promised immediately after Adam's sin, who was to restore the right to heaven which had been lost; and Christians generally acknowledge that it will be restored to those who believe in Him. Furthermore, Catholics and

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