|St Anne, BVM, St Joachim|
Father Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., explains the Immaculate Conception and other Catholic teachings on Mary, the mother of God, and reflects on what an authentic revival of Marian piety and devotion might look like.
December 8th is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary which is celebrated as a Solemnity and in Ireland it is a holy day of obligation.
What the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception means is that from the first moment of her conception, God, anticipating and foreseeing the merits of her Son's passion and death, and knowing she would say "yes" to becoming the Mother of the Saviour, filled her with grace, and preserved her free from all stain of original sin.
If you would like the theology of the feast in mini-bites have a look at this page from the BBC.
In 1849 Blessed Pope Pius IX consulted the faithful and bishops of the world about the appropriateness of defining the doctrine and received a largely positive response. The core of the definition was solemnly set out in 1854 and was expressed in this way in the Constitution Inneffabilis Deus:
“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 Saviour 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.”When Our Lady appeared at Lourdes to Bernadette Soubirous four years later and Bernadette asked her, "Would you kindly tell me who you are?", she replied: "I am the Immaculate Conception".
C. O’Donnell, O. Carm. Written in 2003, prior to the change in the English text of the of the Roman Missal.
On the 25 March in 1858 the twelve-year old peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous felt drawn to the grotto where a beautiful lady had been appearing to her frequently since 11 February that year. Bernadette asked her who she was, and the lady in white said in the local dialect, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” It would be difficult to say how much that statement might have meant to the barely literate Bernadette. The clergy knew its significance. Only four years earlier Pius IX had defined the Immaculate Conception as a dogma of faith.Continue reading HERE.
There can be some confusion about the meaning of this doctrine. Some people confuse it with the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. No. The Immaculate Conception is the conception of Mary. But it is still a big mouthful. The problem is with the word “immaculate.” This is a negative word, meaning, “not spotted or stained.” The stain in question is of course original sin. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception can be put quite simply, “whatever original sin is, Mary never had it.” But original sin is also negative. Sin is a privation, namely something missing, in this case the grace of Christ. The doctrine of original sin means that all are born in a state of lacking grace and salvation. Each one is in need and has to receive grace as a gift. A child born of two saints is still a child that is short of grace. Grace, in other words, cannot be inherited.
At this point we can say that the Immaculate Conception means that Mary was never in a state of lacking grace. We can state the doctrine positively and say that from the very first moment of her existence, Mary was the most beloved of God and enjoyed grace, which made her holy, sharing in the life of the Trinity.
- You can read more about the doctrine over at EWTN here.
- On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis focused his December 8th 2013 Sunday Angelus message on the importance of Mary as a model for the Christian life.
- Over at Thinking Faith - the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception honours the doctrine that Mary was conceived without original sin. Philip Endean SJ delves into the mystery at the heart of this feast. What questions does it pose about sin and the human condition, and can we answer these questions with theology?
- Sr Louise over at Pilgrims Progress has a personal reflection on the meaning of the day
- Blue Eyed Ennis has a couple of reflections and links on the Immaculate Conception.
- Sunday Reflections blog has a post for the feast.
- Homily from the English Dominicans - here and here
- David Mills reflects on "Delivered from All Stain" over at First Things.