We ask God to enlighten our eyes, that they may be pure and clear and focused. As such, we remember today the Immaculate Conception of Mary, which we celebrate on December 8. The Immaculate Conception celebrates the grace-filled being whom we acknowledge as the Mother of God and our Mother, Mary Immaculate.
-from Let Us Adore Him
†"Let us not imagine that we obscure the glory of the Son by the great praise we lavish on the Mother; for the more she is honored, the greater is the glory of her Son. There can be no doubt that whatever we say in praise of the Mother gives equal praise to the Son." — St. Bernard of Clairvaux
✞MEDITATION OF THE DAY✞ "But as great as was St. Paul's devotion to our Lord, much greater was that of the Blessed Virgin: because she was his mother, and because she had him and all his sufferings actually before her eyes, and because she had the long intimacy of thirty years with him, and because she was from her special sanctity so unspeakably near him in spirit. When, then, he was mocked, bruised, scourged, and nailed to the Cross, she felt as keenly as if every indignity and torture inflicted on him was struck at herself. She could have cried out in agony at every pang of his. This is called her compassion, or her suffering with her Son, and it arose from this that she was the 'Vessel of Devotion' unlike any other." — Bl. John Henry Newman, p. 155 AN EXCERPT FROM A Year with Mary
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
Saint of the Day for December 8
The Story of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
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. In the 11th century it received its present name, the Immaculate Conception. In the 18th century it became a feast of the universal Church. It is now recognized as a solemnity.
In 1854, Pius IX solemnly proclaimed: "The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in 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, was preserved free from all stain of original sin."
It took a long time for this doctrine to develop. While many Fathers and Doctors of the Church considered Mary the greatest and holiest of the saints, they often had difficulty in seeing Mary as sinless—either at her conception or throughout her life. This is one of the Church teachings that arose more from the piety of the faithful than from the insights of brilliant theologians. Even such champions of Mary as Bernard of Clairvaux and Thomas Aquinas could not see theological justification for this teaching.
Two Franciscans, William of Ware and Blessed John Duns Scotus, helped develop the theology. They pointed out that Mary's Immaculate Conception enhances Jesus' redemptive work. Other members of the human race are cleansed from original sin after birth. In Mary, Jesus' work was so powerful as to prevent original sin at the outset. Reflection
In Luke 1:28 the angel Gabriel, speaking on God's behalf, addresses Mary as "full of grace" (or "highly favored"). In that context, this phrase means that Mary is receiving all the special divine help necessary for the task ahead. However, the Church grows in understanding with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit led the Church, especially non-theologians, to the insight that Mary had to be the most perfect work of God next to the Incarnation. Or rather, Mary's intimate association with the Incarnation called for the special involvement of God in Mary's whole life.
The logic of piety helped God's people to believe that Mary was full of grace and free of sin from the first moment of her existence. Moreover, this great privilege of Mary is the highlight of all that God has done in Jesus. Rightly understood, the incomparable holiness of Mary shows forth the incomparable goodness of God. Mary as the Immaculate Conception is the Patron Saint of:
Dear Lord, you have called me by my name. You have carved me in the palm of your hand. May I grow in trust and never give in to despair.
"Leave me here freely all alone In cell where never sunlight shone should no one ever speak to me This golden silence makes me free." Part of a poem written by a prisoner at Dachau concentration camp
How am I really feeling? Lighthearted? Heavy-hearted? I may be very much at peace, happy to be here. Equally, I may be frustrated, worried or angry. I acknowledge how I really am. It is the real me that the Lord loves.
The Word of God
Luke 1:26-38 (audio link) Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Reading 1 Gn 3:9-15, 20
After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree, the LORD God called to the man and asked him, "Where are you?" He answered, "I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself." Then he asked, "Who told you that you were naked? You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!" The man replied, "The woman whom you put here with me— she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it." The LORD God then asked the woman, "Why did you do such a thing?" The woman answered, "The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it."
Then the LORD God said to the serpent: "Because you have done this, you shall be banned from all the animals and from all the wild creatures; on your belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel."
The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4
R. (1) Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds. Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done wondrous deeds; His right hand has won victory for him, his holy arm.
R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds. The LORD has made his salvation known: in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice. He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness toward the house of Israel.
R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God. Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands; break into song; sing praise.
R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.
Reading 2 Eph 1:3-6, 11-12
Brothers and sisters: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.
In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ.
Alleluia See Lk 1:28 R. Alleluia, alleluia. Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Lk 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end." But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" And the angel said to her in reply, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God." Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.
Some thoughts on today's scripture
▪ Scripture leaves us in no doubt about God being a long-range planner - he can determine a whole series of events to come to maturity in his own good time. In fact, he has done this for the benefit of us all – planning, even before the beginning of the world, for us to become sisters and brothers of Jesus.
▪ For the grand plan to come to completion, the cooperation of Mary was needed. And that is why the devotion of the faithful has long believed that Mary had to be specially privileged - namely, through being herself exempted from any touch of inherited sin.
▪ The Gospel writer here attempts a 'close up' of Mary's epoch-making moment – as she offers her acceptance of God's plan for her to be the mother of Jesus. She gets reassurance in answer to a query - the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and the power of the Most High will over-shadow her.
▪ But many a prophet quailed before the image of an angel arriving to call him to his particular role. Perhaps Mary is helped to 'pull herself together' by the news that even the aged Elizabeth has been favoured with a child - Mary then knows that the Lord has begun to take a hand not just in her own life, but in the course of events in the world as a whole.
What feelings are rising in me as I pray and reflect on God's Word? I imagine Jesus himself sitting or standing near me and open my heart to him.
I thank God for these few moments we have spent alone together and for any insights I may have been given concerning the text.
wau.org Catholic Meditations Meditation: Luke 1:26-38
The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Patronal Feastday of the USA (Solemnity)
Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you. (Luke 1:28)
If you could go back in time and pick your own mother or if you could spend generations creating the perfect mother for yourself, what sort of characteristics would you focus on? This may sound like an odd thought, but the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen once wrote about this idea: What type of mother did Jesus plan for himself?
We know that God had carefully set up the lineage of Joseph, the man destined to be Jesus' earthly father. So it's not hard to imagine God spending generations lining up the heritage of the woman who would bear his Son in her womb, imbue him with her DNA, and prepare him for his mission.
As awesome as this truth is, there is even more to God's plan for Mary. He wanted a woman who would be more than just the mother of his Son; he wanted someone whom everyone could look to as their mother. So he mapped out a path, both for her ancestors and for herself, and gave her the gifts she would need to follow that path. As remarkable as all this is, it is just as remarkable that Mary embraced these gifts and said yes to God's plan for her.
Here's how Archbishop Sheen suggests God would have made her: "One who would radiate every virtue, every manner of kindness and charity and loveliness; one who by the purity of her life and her mind and her heart would be an inspiration not only to you but even to your fellow men and women, so that all would look up to her as the very incarnation of what is best in motherhood."
Mary wasn't just an ordinary woman who happened to win a special visit from the angel Gabriel. She was uniquely chosen and meticulously formed for her role even before she was conceived without sin. This is what we celebrate today: the uniqueness of this woman and the yes that she found the courage to say to God over and over again.
Today, let's thank God for giving us such a good and pure mother. Let's follow her example and try our best to say yes to God's plan for our lives.
"Lord, help me remember to turn to Mary whenever I need an example or counsel or support in prayer."
The first Holy Scripture ends with the words "...she became the mother of all the living." And so we inherit our mortal lives, but these bodies, these lives, these are temples created to house the Spirit, and for that we have The Lord, and to purify them, we have Jesus, who came into the world we live through Mary, a vessel, a sacred vessel, an Ark. And on that note, I was telling my wife as we traveled to a nearby city to attend daily Mass, as we prayed the Rosary, I had been pondering the Blessed Mother. I said "Isn't it interesting that the green trees of Christmas with shining lights looks like the Virgin Mother Mary of Guadalupe? And the trunk is the tree that holds what it will give fruit...the Light of the world...
We prayed today "Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done wondrous deeds; His right hand has won victory for him, his holy arm." This whole GOD thing is unfathomable to me. He is tremendously great, and unfathomable in His smallest of ways, and this meaning in His smallest of people. Mary was chosen out of nowhere to the human imagination, her parents weren't even fertile, and God gave them this gift. It is a miracle. And we lead on by mere miracles day by day.
The 2nd Reading said "In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ." Mary was chosen, and now we are chosen in our own unique way, in our own unique world, and these worlds are millions and billions. No need to explore other worlds in outer space when there are worlds among us... God's creation, upon HIS conception in ours.
And the notion of conception comes when the Archangel Gabriel appears to our Blessed Mother nearly 9 months ago with today's Gospel Words: ""Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you." The very words we repeat in the Holy Rosary. She is told " you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus." Son of the Most High. And Mary in her simple mind asks ""How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" She has no idea that God can do things that are unimaginable, when it comes to life, like making life happen out of nothing and nowhere and then take it and bring it back in various ways, forms, and fashions, for HE is the ALMIGHTY, the creator, and HE can do as HE pleases for the GOOD of the world. The angels tells her she will be overshadowed, meaning the Lord will come upon her, and this eclipse of the sunlight means something greater is upon us, as the Virgin of Guadalupe stated in her image to the Aztecs and the Spaniards of Mexico, they all understood she was greater, and whom She Bore would be even GREATER than HER, for Her Son Was MORE. And it boils down to life as we know it. Conception. I was watching a late show, and an older actress said she was for "reproductive rights of women", meaning she intends to defend abortions, a losing battle, because TRUTH and LIFE win. The rights of the unborn humans, our brothers and sisters are more than the rights of the woman, because this has nothing to do with the woman/mother and everything to do with that human with its right..to live and be given an opportunity to praise God "...so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ" and this shows how dark the devil is when the unborn are slaughtered so that they won't be given a chance to praise God. And so, this day of the Immaculate Conception is a feast of life, in which all Catholics are called by Obligation to attend Holy Mass to celebrate life, and this is a joyful expectation. Our Mother was joyful, even though she did not know how things would end exactly, or how she would live exactly, or what exactly would happen. The things that have happened and are happening are beyond human comprehension, but there are clues, and these are what make things exciting, and hopeful, and in a Holy Expectation, we nurture the conception, until it is born, and whole new chapter begins....