I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, THE ONLY SON OF GOD
"HE WAS CONCEIVED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT,
AND BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY"
Paragraph 2. "Conceived by the Power of the Holy
Spirit and Born of the Virgin Mary"
I. CONCEIVED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. . .
484 The Annunciation to Mary inaugurates "the fullness
of time", the time of the fulfillment of God's
promises and preparations. Mary was invited to conceive
him in whom the "whole fullness of deity" would
dwell "bodily". The divine response to her
question, "How can this be, since I know not man?",
was given by the power of the Spirit: "The Holy
Spirit will come upon you."
485 The mission of the Holy Spirit is always conjoined
and ordered to that of the Son. The Holy Spirit, "the
Lord, the giver of Life", is sent to sanctify the
womb of the Virgin Mary and divinely fecundate it, causing
her to conceive the eternal Son of the Father in a humanity
drawn from her own.
486 The Father's only Son, conceived as man in the womb
of the Virgin Mary, is "Christ", that is to
say, anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning
of his human existence, though the manifestation of this
fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds,
to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples.
Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest "how
God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and
II. . . .BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY
487 What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based
on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches
about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ.
488 "God sent forth his Son", but to prepare
a body for him, he wanted the free co-operation of
a creature. For this, from all eternity God chose for
the mother of his Son a daughter of Israel, a young Jewish
woman of Nazareth in Galilee, "a virgin betrothed
to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David;
and the virgin's name was Mary":
The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should
be preceded by assent on the part of the predestined
mother, so that just as a woman had a share in the coming
of death, so also should a woman contribute to the coming
489 Throughout the Old Covenant the mission of many
holy women prepared for that of Mary. At the very beginning
there was Eve; despite her disobedience, she receives
the promise of a posterity that will be victorious over
the evil one, as well as the promise that she will be
the mother of all the living. By virtue of this promise,
Sarah conceives a son in spite of her old age. Against
all human expectation God chooses those who were considered
powerless and weak to show forth his faithfulness to
his promises: Hannah, the mother of Samuel; Deborah;
Ruth; Judith and Esther; and many other women. Mary "stands
out among the poor and humble of the Lord, who confidently
hope for and receive salvation from him. After a long
period of waiting the times are fulfilled in her, the
exalted Daughter of Sion, and the new plan of salvation
The Immaculate Conception
490 To become the mother of the Savior, Mary "was
enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role."
The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes
her as "full of grace". In fact, in order
for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith
to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary
that she be wholly borne by God's grace.
491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever
more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through
God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception.
That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses,
as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:
The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment
of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege
of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus
Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from
all stain of original sin.
492 The "splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by
which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of
her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed,
in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of
her Son". The Father blessed Mary more than any
other created person "in Christ with every spiritual
blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in
Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy
and blameless before him in love".
493 The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother
of God "the All-Holy" (Panagia), and celebrate
her as "free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned
by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature".
By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal
sin her whole life long.
"Let it be done to me according to your word.
494 At the announcement that she would give birth to "the
Son of the Most High" without knowing man, by the
power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded with the obedience
of faith, certain that "with God nothing will be
impossible": "Behold, I am the handmaid of
the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word."
Thus, giving her consent to God's word, Mary becomes
the mother of Jesus. Espousing the divine will for salvation
wholeheartedly, without a single sin to restrain her,
she gave herself entirely to the person and to the work
of her Son; she did so in order to serve the mystery
of redemption with him and dependent on him, by God's
As St. Irenaeus says,
"Being obedient she became
the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole
human race." Hence not a few of the early Fathers
gladly assert. . .: "The knot of Eve's disobedience
was untied by Mary's obedience: what the virgin Eve bound
through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith."
Comparing her with Eve, they call Mary "the Mother
of the living" and frequently claim: "Death
through Eve, life through Mary."
Mary's divine motherhood
495 Called in the Gospels "the mother of Jesus",
Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the
Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as "the
mother of my Lord". In fact, the One whom she
conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became
her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the
Father's eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity.
Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly "Mother
of God" (Theotokos).
496 From the first formulations of her faith, the Church
has confessed that Jesus was conceived solely by the
power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary,
affirming also the corporeal aspect of this event: Jesus
was conceived "by the Holy Spirit without human
seed". The Fathers see in the virginal conception
the sign that it truly was the Son of God who came in
a humanity like our own. Thus St. Ignatius of Antioch
at the beginning of the second century says:
You are firmly convinced about our Lord, who is truly
of the race of David according to the flesh, Son of God
according to the will and power of God, truly born of
a virgin,. . . he was truly nailed to a tree for us in
his flesh under Pontius Pilate. . . he truly suffered,
as he is also truly risen.
497 The Gospel accounts understand the virginal conception
of Jesus as a divine work that surpasses all human understanding
and possibility: "That which is conceived in
her is of the Holy Spirit", said the angel to Joseph
about Mary his fiancée. The Church sees here the fulfillment
of the divine promise given through the prophet Isaiah: "Behold,
a virgin shall conceive and bear a son."
498 People are sometimes troubled by the silence of
St. Mark's Gospel and the New Testament Epistles about
Jesus' virginal conception. Some might wonder if we were
merely dealing with legends or theological constructs
not claiming to be history. To this we must respond:
Faith in the virginal conception of Jesus met with the
lively opposition, mockery or incomprehension of non-believers,
Jews and pagans alike; so it could hardly have been
motivated by pagan mythology or by some adaptation to
the ideas of the age. The meaning of this event is accessible
only to faith, which understands in it the "connection
of these mysteries with one another" in the totality
of Christ's mysteries, from his Incarnation to his Passover.
St. Ignatius of Antioch already bears witness to this
"Mary's virginity and giving birth,
and even the Lord's death escaped the notice of the prince
of this world: these three mysteries worthy of proclamation
were accomplished in God's silence."
Mary - "ever-virgin"
499 The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood
led the Church to confess Mary's real and perpetual virginity
even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made
man. In fact, Christ's birth "did not diminish
his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it."
And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos,
500 Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes
raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of
Jesus. The Church has always understood these passages
as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary.
In fact James and Joseph, "brothers of Jesus",
are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom
St. Matthew significantly calls "the other Mary".
They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old
501 Jesus is Mary's only son, but her spiritual motherhood
extends to all men whom indeed he came to save: "The
Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the
first-born among many brethren, that is, the faithful
in whose generation and formation she co-operates with
a mother's love."
Mary's virginal motherhood in God's plan
502 The eyes of faith can discover in the context of
the whole of Revelation the mysterious reasons why God
in his saving plan wanted his Son to be born of a virgin.
These reasons touch both on the person of Christ and
his redemptive mission, and on the welcome Mary gave
that mission on behalf of all men.
503 Mary's virginity manifests God's absolute initiative
in the Incarnation. Jesus has only God as Father. "He
was never estranged from the Father because of the human
nature which he assumed. . . He is naturally Son of the
Father as to his divinity and naturally son of his mother
as to his humanity, but properly Son of the Father in
504 Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin
Mary's womb because he is the New Adam, who inaugurates
the new creation: "The first man was from the earth,
a man of dust; the second man is from heaven."
From his conception, Christ's humanity is filled with
the Holy Spirit, for God "gives him the Spirit without
measure." From "his fullness" as the
head of redeemed humanity "we have all received,
grace upon grace."
505 By his virginal conception, Jesus, the New Adam,
ushers in the new birth of children adopted in the Holy
Spirit through faith. "How can this be?"
Participation in the divine life arises "not of
blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of
man, but of God". The acceptance of this life
is virginal because it is entirely the Spirit's gift
to man. The spousal character of the human vocation in
relation to God is fulfilled perfectly in Mary's virginal
506 Mary is a virgin because her virginity is the sign
of her faith "unadulterated by any doubt",
and of her undivided gift of herself to God's will.
It is her faith that enables her to become the mother
of the Savior: "Mary is more blessed because she
embraces faith in Christ than because she conceives the
flesh of Christ."
507 At once virgin and mother, Mary is the symbol and
the most perfect realization of the Church: "the
Church indeed. . . by receiving the word of God in faith
becomes herself a mother. By preaching and Baptism she
brings forth sons, who are conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of God, to a new and immortal life. She herself
is a virgin, who keeps in its entirety and purity the
faith she pledged to her spouse."
508 From among the descendants of Eve, God chose the
Virgin Mary to be the mother of his Son. "Full of
grace", Mary is "the most excellent fruit of
redemption" (SC 103): from the first instant of
her conception, she was totally preserved from the stain
of original sin and she remained pure from all personal
sin throughout her life.
509 Mary is truly "Mother of God" since she
is the mother of the eternal Son of God made man, who
is God himself.
510 Mary "remained a virgin in conceiving her Son,
a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in carrying
him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a
virgin" (St. Augustine, Serm. 186, 1: PL 38, 999):
with her whole being she is "the handmaid of the
Lord" (Lk 1:38).
511 The Virgin Mary "cooperated through free faith
and obedience in human salvation" (LG 56). She uttered
her yes "in the name of all human nature" (St.
Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 30, 1). By her obedience she
became the new Eve, mother of the living.