On The Immaculate Conception of Mary
John Michael Talbot
Catholic teaching would state that, left to her own power, Mary would be a sinner, and is included in the Scripture that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Her holiness is the result of God's grace alone, and her openness to it. Her being kept from sin is a Christological development based on Jewish teaching, and is only possible through the clear act of god's grace through the Son she was to bear.
It is really Christological in it's emphasis. If the child is born of a mother who is a sinner, the child inherits some form of sin that we Christians call, "original sin." In Judaism of that day the spirituality of the child is inherited from the mother. The father takes over in the raising of the son only after the child becomes a young man. If Jesus inherits original sin through being born of a sinful mother, then He cannot bear anyone else's sin except His own. So, Mary is kept from sin through the merit of the Cross her Son will bear, since the benefits of the Cross go out through history both forward and backward through time, (as witnessed by the justification of the faithful of the Old Testament through the blood of Christ according to Hebrews), so that the Son she bears may, indeed, bear the sins of all, including her own. (This is a theological time loop that fulfills, yet defies, law and logic.) So Mary's Immaculate Conception is not an attempt to give honor to Mary for Mary's sake. It is actually a Christological necessity to maintain the teaching of the sinlessness of the Incarnate Word.
God could have simply intervened and gone contrary to divine and natural law in these things, but Jesus fulfills, rather than breaks, the old law in order to free us from it. Christ's sinlessness is by His own merit as the second person of the Trinity. Mary's sinlessness is by grace alone, and her cooperation with it.
But it is not just a theological development to protect our orthodox belief in Christ. It is also part of the consistent apostolic tradition that was handed on in non theological ways through the Christian faithful. The early Church always venerated Mary as special among all the saints, both for her participation in the Incarnation of her son, Jesus Christ, and for the holiness that came from that participation. St. Augustine said that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God except Mary, and she was an entirely different case. He could not theologically explain it yet, but he knew it to be true in the orthodox tradition of the Faith.
John Michael Talbot