Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary—8 December AD 2014

Ordinary of the Mass
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Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus

O, Mary, conceived without sin—
Pray for us who have recourse to thee.

    Today we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin.  It is worth noting that this feast is of special significance to Americans, as the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, is the patroness of our nation.  The bishops of these United States chose her in 1846 at the Sixth Provincial Council of Baltimore;  and then in 1849, at their Seventh Council, petitioned the Pope to proceed with defining the Immaculate Conception as a dogma of our Catholic Faith.   So, for us, this religious holy day also takes on the aspect of a special day for our Republic.

    The Immaculate Conception, of course, refers to the conception of the Blessed Virgin by her parents Saints Joachim and Anne.  By virtue of His divine providence, God cooperated with her parents to bring Mary into existence free from every stain of original sin.  He preserved her “from all stain by letting her benefit in advance from the sacrifice of the Cross.”   Like all other human beings, she required redemption by Jesus Christ, but, seeing her part in that redemption, the Father allowed her to benefit from its fruits beforehand.

    The sinless nature of our Lady has always been agreed upon by faithful Christians, although over the centuries there has been a little bit of technical discussion as to when and how her deliverance from sin took place.  Some have suggested that it took place at the annunciation;  that the angel's words made Mary “full of grace.”   Others, following a medieval understanding of reproductive biology, thought that this “hallowing” took place on the 80th day after conception;  the day the father's “germinating seed” was thought to receive a human soul.

    But certainly, God knew in advance—from all eternity—that Mary would give her consent to His plan for bringing His Son into the world and redeeming it.  And the Angel told Mary that she was “full of grace” and not that she had the opportunity to become “full of grace” by entering into an agreement.  And the traditional belief that Mary was taken up to heaven body and soul suggested that she shared the special gifts originally given to Adam and Eve, and that she had never lost them through original or actual sin.  And God knew, as we have come to know, that a child is endowed with a human soul from the instant of its conception.  Above all, human experience has shown that God does not do things half way—He always acts in full measure.  So, by the time of the provincial councils at Baltimore, and the time of the preparation for the First Vatican Council in 1869, it was well accepted that our Lady was always without sin.

    With petitions from bishops around the world and the knowledge that the Immaculate Conception was well accepted throughout the Church, Pope Pius IX declared it a dogma that all must believe:

    The doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege granted her by God, was preserved from any stain of original sin, is a doctrine taught and revealed by God, and is therefore to be believed with firmness and constancy by all the faithful.

    Liturgically, we are soon to re-live the birth of the Son of God.  God does everything with a supreme sense of fitness.  Only the womb of a spotless and sinless virgin was adequate to carry the Christ-child, to give Him flesh of her flesh and bone of her bone.  Let us allow this same sense of fitness to manage our affairs, doing our best to keep ourselves holy, so that we may be fit temples of the Holy Ghost, and worthy recipients of Our Lord in Holy Communion.

    It is especially fitting that this feast day falls during the season of Advent.  It ought to inspire our meditations with the knowledge that sinless perfection is, at least, possible for us.  We were not conceived without sin, but we were baptized, and we can go to Confession.  We can become sinless, and we can follow Mary's example to stay that way.

O, Mary, conceived without sin—
Pray for us who have recourse to thee.












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