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Catholic Faith
Vol. 5 - #4, July / August 1999

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Q.  How were Enoch and Elijah's being taken directly into Heaven different from Our Lady’s Assumption into Heaven? —S.C., Georgia

A.  Among others, Enoch and Elijah are identified in the Old Testament as having been taken from this world by God without apparently going through the act of dying. We know much more about Elijah than about Enoch. Presumably Elijah went to heaven without dying. Moreover it was believed that Elijah went to heaven without having first died. Does this mean that Elijah went to heaven directly? Actually the Church has never held as official teaching that Elijah was taken directly to heaven without going through the process of dying.

Much less is known about Enoch, the son of Cain. Enoch is said to have walked with God because: “God took him.” No doubt Ecclesiasticus suggests that Enoch was directly taken to heaven. In any case, it is not certain that either Elijah or Enoch was directly taken from this world and assumed into heaven. We may hold that both Elijah and Enoch were mysteriously taken from this world without going through the ordinary human experience of dying. But the Catholic Church has never taught this as a certain article of faith.

Q.  Was the Blessed Virgin Mary impeccable?  —S.C., Georgia

A.  The Blessed Virgin never sinned. In fact this is common Catholic teaching. But strictly speaking Mary was preserved from ever committing actual sin. It is a common teaching of Catholic Christianity that the Blessed Virgin, being conceived without sin, never actually offended God by even the least venial sin. This preservation from actual sin is part of the common teaching of Catholic Christianity. However, the Church’s focus is on Mary’s being preserved from ever committing actual sin.

Impeccability literally means the absolute impossibility of committing sin. The Church teaches the impeccability of Christ. Christ could not sin because He was the all holy God who became man. In fact, the Council of Constantinople condemned the theory that Christ became fully impeccable only after His resurrection. This is false. Christ, as the living God who became man, not only never sinned but could never sin. Absolutely speaking Christ was impeccable. Our Lady certainly never sinned, but we cannot say that she was incapable of sinning because we do not say that she was absolutely impeccable. We apply impeccability to Christ who was the living God who became man.

Q.  Was Mary married to Joseph according to the Jewish Law before the Annunciation? —A.H., Oregon

A.  The Church commonly teaches that Mary and Joseph were truly married according to Jewish Law. However, in saying this, we do not hold that Mary and Joseph ever had sexual relations. Both she and Joseph understood that they were not ever to engage in sexual relations. Consequently, we must say that both Mary and Joseph were truly married according to the Jewish Law. But we must also say that they abstained from any sexual relation as wife and husband. This is the Church’s official teaching about Mary and Joseph’s virginity.

Catholic Faith
Vol. 5 - #4, July / August 1999, p. 40

Copyright © 1999 by Inter Mirifica
No reproductions shall be made without prior written permission

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