Monday, December 8, 2008

December 8: Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Today marks the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. From the CCC:
The Immaculate Conception

490 To become the mother of the Savior, Mary "was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role."132 The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as "full of grace".133 In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace.

491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God,134 was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.135

492 The "splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son".136 The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love".137

493 The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God "the All-Holy" (Panagia), and celebrate her as "free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature".138 By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.

It also helps to understand Original Sin. John Martingnoni has a good write up from an old, "This Rock" magazine in an article entitled, "To Explain Infant Baptism you Must Explain Original Sin"

Some have a misunderstanding of Original Sin and therefore have difficulty comprehending the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

Great Marian Resources:
UPDATE: Fr. Perrone talks about the Immaculate Conception in his column this week...

Now that the play The Hertitance has
had its premiere and its performances
nearly over, I can turn my thoughts more
calmly to Advent. It’s a time of singular
beauty in the Church’s life. I suppose it’s
underappreciated on account of the
towering solemnity of Christmas. Then
too, all the commercial promotion of the
holidays drives the significance of
Advent far from people’s minds. But of
all the liturgical seasons, Advent focuses
closely on the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Monday we will celebrate the solemnity
of Her Immaculate Conception, by
which God began the reversal of sin and
its consequences. Holy Mary became
that rising dawn that promised the full
light of day in the coming of Christ.

We should always ponder the ways of
God and try to draw forth their meaning.
In this case we are struck by the fact that
Mary need not have been necessary for
God to have come to our rescue.

Realizing however that this was God’s
desired way, we ought to ask why She
should have been made part of the divine
plan. Why does Mary exist when God
could have done without Her? My
thoughts, searching for an answer, are
drawn to the wedding at Cana. Why was
it that Mary appeared in the story? Did
not Christ work many signs and miracles
without Her intercession? Why then was
this episode recorded then for us to read
in our bibles? Was it not specifically to
show us the intermediary purpose and
position of Mary?

It’s always at best an estimated guess
when we ask why does God do what He
does. The choice of Mary by God shows
us the way God has ordered His creation
in a supernatural way. For a mental
picture, if we were to imagine God as the
hub of a wheel in which all His creatures
at its rim surrounding Him were
connected to God its center, we would
have a model of how God did not choose
to relate to us supernaturally, which is to
say, directly: each one to Him. He rather
chose a hierarchical formation,
somewhat like a pyramid, in which the
lower are related to Him, the pinnacle,
through an ascension of elemental parts.

The wheel idea is characteristic of many
non-Catholic Christian religions which
so emphasize God’s direct dealings with
each individual that they ignore the
hierarchical structure God established.
Yet it was the divine will to create an
ordering of creation according to the
place everyone has in the divine scheme.

The other image better represents the
Catholic understanding of God’s dealing
with His creatures where He
communicates with them mediately for
the greater part. Here is the whole
ordered world of angels and men
hierarchically arranged. In this one we
should recognize that the first of all His
creatures and the one therefore who is
the supernatural link of all of them to
God is the Blessed Virgin Mary. In this
position She distributes the graces of
God to the Church and She intercedes
for men before God. Her Immaculate
Conception first established that
supernatural link. It did not exist–except in
the mind of God–before then. In this we
can see the importance of the place of
Mary and how God made of Her a
necessity in the order of grace. All this
was in view of God’s becoming man in
Christ, the most momentous event of

Our present place in the unrolling of the
chronology of humanity allows us to look
back to the time when God had not yet
become man, when that connecting
‘bridge’ of Mary did not yet exist. We are
then made aware of the great significance
of the Immaculate Conception which was
the immediate preparation for Christ’s
Incarnation. Advent also makes us long for
the fulfillment of the whole divine plan
when the human drama will have come to
completion, its denouement. Christ the
Judge and Sovereign will be seen by all
and each creature’s place in the scheme of
human history will be made evident. You
will inevitably be somewhere in that
picture, either among the saints or among
the demons, but you will not be without a
place. The vigilance of Advent is meant to
help secure us a place at God’s right rather
than at His left side. In that final scene
there will be the first place given to that
Woman radiating with the fullness of
grace, uniquely resembling Christ Himself.

Advent then is a preparation for the vision
of heaven which wouldn’t have
been made possible for us without the
Blessed Virgin Mary.

Fr. Perrone

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!