FEAST OF IMMACULATE CONCEPTION DECEMBER 8
A feast called the Conception of Mary arose in the Eastern Church in the seventh century. It came to the West in the eighth century. Many theologians, including St. Thomas Aquinas, throughout Christian history debated this dogma now declared by the Catholic Church.
In 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed it to be an essential dogma in the Catholic Church. Since then, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception celebrates the belief that Mary was born without sin and that God chose her to be Jesus’ mother
In 1854, Pius IX solemnly proclaimed: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved free from all stain of original sin, from the first instant 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,.”
The Immaculate Conception should not be confused with the perpetual virginity of Mary or the virgin birth of Jesus; it refers to the conception of Mary by her mother, Saint Anne.
In Luke 1:28 the angel Gabriel, speaking on God’s behalf, addresses Mary as “full of grace.” The Greek verb and tense, chosen with great specificity by Luke means that Mary was “full of grace” all of her life.
Luke could have used a different word to show that Mary was full of grace only at that particular moment. But Luke insists by his careful choice of words that Mary was full of grace all her life, so indirectly we get a hint of Mary’s Immaculate Conception in the account of the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary in the Gospel today.
Back in those days, after greeting a person with Hail, you would give them a title. Names were very important in that part of the world because your name told something about who you were. So “full of grace” describes Mary’s very being. Mary was full of grace from the first moment of her existence when she was immaculately conceived. Rightly understood, the incomparable holiness of Mary shows forth the incomparable goodness of God.
From the moment her soul was created and infused into her body, it was free from original sin and filled with sanctifying grace. Her soul was neither stained by Original Sin, nor by the depraved emotions, passions, and weaknesses consequent to that sin, but created in a state of original sanctity, innocence, and justice. She had the graces of the first Eve before the Fall and more.
As I reflect on this dogma of the Roman Catholic Church that we celebrate Friday December 8, I know it refers to Mary and the deferential treatment she received due to the future merits of her Son, Jesus Christ’s Passion and death but what does it mean for me and you.
First it says to me Almighty God can do anything He wants, to anybody He wants. He took a murderer and adulterer, David and made him king over a kingdom that will last forever. From this “Root of Jesse” would come our Savior, Jesus Christ. So it’s not just Holy people like Mary that receives special gifts. It can happen to anyone, even us.
The Immaculate Conception shows how thorough God is in his salvation plan. Things do not just happen randomly in God’s time. He prepared the best human home for His only begotten Son. As Father, He could choose, a tabernacle unstained and full of Divine Grace…the divine grace we all hope to share in one day in heaven when our eyes and ears and hearts are fully opened to the blessedness of the Beatific Vision.
While we don’t worship Mary as Catholic Christians, we honor her for her intimacy with God and her intercessory powers on our behalf. This dogma of the Catholic Church emphasizes Mary’ place and importance in God’s salvation plan. Mary is the New Eve!
This promise of a New Eve is introduced very early in Scriptures, Genesis 3:15, “I will put my enmity between thee and the woman and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise thy heel.”
Eve by her disobedience of God’s will brought death into this world. Mary’s “Yes,” however, brought life to the world in the Divine person of the Word Made Flesh, Jesus Christ. Eve still a virgin, spouse of Adam was disobedient. Eve became for herself and the whole human race the cause of death. Mary, also a virgin, through her obedience became both for herself and the entire human race the cause of eternal life. What Eve had bound by her unbelief, Mary has loosed by her faithful obedience.
“Just as the former Eve was seduced by the words of an angel so that she turned away from God by disobeying his word, so the latter, Mary, received the good news from an angel’s announcement in such a way as to give birth to God by obeying his word….and as the human race was subjected to death by a virgin (Eve) it was liberated by a virgin (Mary.)” (St. Iranaeus)
I am grateful that my Church did not rush to judgment in making this feast a solemnity that it is today, but rather, over the centuries, with the pious belief of the People of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit came to this remarkable conclusion and sealed it as Catholic dogma.
Our country is dedicated to its patroness the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title Immaculate Conception and is honored this day in Washington D.C. in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. How blessed we are to have Jesus’ church and Mary our Mother to guide us on our journey home.
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