Today, December 8, is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
It is the faith of the Church that Mary, Mother of God, as preparation for her responsibilities as the Mother of the Savior and in honor of so great a privilege of being the Mother of our Lord, was preserved from every stain of sin from the moment of her conception in the womb of her own mother. This singular grace was not due to her own merits, but to those of her Son. The merits of His obedience even unto death, the merits of His cross endured for the sake of our salvation, were applied to His Mother from the moment of her conception. God, being eternal, is not constrained by chronology. For God, every moment is now. The conception of Mary in the womb of her mother is now. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross is now. Every moment in history is now. As such, it is nothing for God to bestow upon the Mother of the Savior at the moment of her conception the salvation won for all by that Savior on the cross. What Son would deny His Mother so great a gift?
The Gospel According to Luke 1:26-28:
“And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
St. Ephraim, writing of Christ and Mary in the fourth century:
“You alone and your Mother are more beautiful than any others; For there is no blemish in you, nor any stains upon your Mother. Who of my children can compare in beauty to these?”
St. Ambrose of Milan, in his Commentary on the Psalms, also in the fourth century:
“Come, then, and search out Your sheep, not through Your servants or hired me, but do it Yourself. Lift me up bodily and in the flesh, which is fallen in Adam. Lift me up not from Sara but from Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free of every stain of sin.”
St. John Damascene, preaching on the Dormition of Mary in the eighth century:
“We had closed Paradise; you opened again the entryway to the tree of life. We turned joys into sorrow; you turned sorrow back into the greatest of joys for us. And how would you, the Immaculate, taste of death? You are the bridge to life, you are the staircase to heaven; and [for you] death will be but a passageway to immortality. O Most Blessed, truly blessed art thou!”
On December 8, 1854, Pope Blessed Pius IX promulgated Ineffabilis Deus, in which he stated:
“We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance 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, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”
Four years later, in the village of Lourdes, France, St. Bernadette Soubirous experienced heavenly visions from the Blessed Virgin Mary, who identified herself as “the Immaculate Conception.”
Today, we celebrate the wondrous mercy of God, His grace to save us and preserve us from sin, and our hope to follow St. Mary, our Blessed Mother, into His kingdom.
Father, the image of the Virgin is found in the Church. Mary had a faith that your Spirit prepared and a love that never knew sin, for you kept her sinless from the first moment of her conception. Trace in our actions the lines of her love, and in our hearts her readiness of faith. Prepare once again a world for your Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. (from The Liturgy of the Hours, Immaculate Conception, Solemnity).
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.