The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Fear Not, Mary. The angel Gabriel’s salutation to Mary reminds us of the reaction that the ancient Hebrews had when they realized they were in the presence of the Holy.

All of the Old Testament and even New Testament figures were convinced that they would die because they were in the presence of God. It was not that they thought of God as hateful. It was that God was so holy that they a sinful people could not exist in His Presence. Leave me, Lord, I am a sinful man, was not just Peter’s pious expression when he experienced the presence of Christ[1]. Peter was expressing what all people recognize: our sinful lives cannot bear the Holiness of God.

Mary is different, though, very different. From the beginning of time, she was chosen as the one who would be completely holy. This highly favored daughter, Gabriel calls her, full of Grace, is completely removed from any sinfulness. She can bear the presence of the Holy Spirit overshadowing her. She can carry the Word of God within her. She is holy. Her holiness is our celebration for today, the Immaculate Conception of Mary[2].

God’s choice of Mary is evidenced in her response to His choice. She freely chooses Him. Different from Eve, the first woman, or from all people for that matter, Mary is obedient to God. The sin of Eden was not having room for God. Adam and Eve felt that they did not need God. Mary wanted God in her life. She would do all He instructed her to do. She is obedient and accepts the mission to be the mother of the Lord, even though this would bring her public shame and scandal as well as personal suffering.

The message of the feast for us is that we, like Mary, have to decide if our lives are going to revolve around God and His will, around goodness and love and reverence and charity, or if our lives are going to revolve around ourselves and our own needs. It takes a lot of courage, it takes a lot of strength, and it takes grace from God pushing us and pulling, but we like Mary have got to say, “Lord, whatever you want, let it be done unto me according to your will.”

We are not immaculately conceived, but due to Jesus’ death we can be like Mary instead of like Eve. We can put God first in our lives. Eve was called the mother of all the living, but she failed her offspring by turning towards death. From the cross Jesus gave Mary to us as our mother. Mary’s continual choice of God, her decision to embrace the Life that matters, His Life, made her the true mother of the living, the true Eve.

Mary under the title of Immaculate Conception is the patroness of our country. We pray for the United States today. We pray that through the intercession of the Immaculate One we might return reverence for God to the center of our government, our families and all our lives. May we Americans like Mary, our Immaculately Conceived Patroness, be holy ■

[1] Cfr Lk 5:8.
[2] The Immaculate Conception is, according to Roman Catholic dogma, the conception of Mary, the mother of Jesus without any stain ("macula" in Latin) of original sin. The dogma thus says that, from the first moment of her existence, she was preserved by God from the lack of sanctifying grace that afflicts mankind, and that she was instead filled with divine grace. It is further believed that she lived a life completely free from sin.[1] In the words of Pope Pius XII in Mystici Corporis, "she was free from any personal or hereditary sin" [2] Her immaculate conception in the womb of her mother, by normal sexual intercourse, should not be confused with the doctrine of the virginal conception of her son Jesus. The feast of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated on December 8, was established as a universal feast in 1476 by Pope Sixtus IV. He did not define the doctrine as a dogma, thus leaving Roman Catholics freedom to believe in it or not without being accused of heresy; this freedom was reiterated by the Council of Trent. The existence of the feast was a strong indication of the Church's belief in the Immaculate Conception, even before its 19th century definition as a dogma. In the Roman Catholic Church, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is a Holy Day of Obligation, except where conferences of bishops have decided, with the approval of the Holy See, not to maintain it as such. It is a public holiday in some countries where Roman Catholicism is predominant e.g. Italy. In the Philippines, although this is not a public holiday, the predominance of Catholic Schools make it almost a holiday. The Immaculate Conception was solemnly defined as a dogma by Pope Pius IX in his constitution Ineffabilis Deus, on December 8, 1854.
Ilustration: Fra Filippo Lippi, Annunciation (1445-50), Oil on panel, 117 x 173 cm; Galleria Doria-Pamphili, (Rome).

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris