This year we celebrate The Immaculate Conception of Our Lady on Monday, December 9th. Traditionally, it is celebrated on December 8th. However, since the Second Sunday of Advent falls on that date this year, the celebration has been moved to the following Monday.
It is the feast in which we remember that Mary from the moment that she herself was conceived was born of no original sin. She was preserved from every sin from the moment she was conceived in Anne, her mother, until she was assumed into heaven. What difference does it make to me if Mary was conceived without original sin?
Here are three reasons to love Mary, the Immaculata:
1. By keeping Mary free from all sin, including original sin, Jesus shows us what it means to be at the same time the Son of God and the Son of Mary. Perfect piety is perfect love for our parents. If Jesus is all-powerful, all-loving, how could he, God, let his Mother be corrupted by sin, the enemy of God?
I once found the most beautiful rosary in a gift shop in Rome. It was made with Moreno glass from Venice, beautiful silver crucifix. Although I had originally gotten it for myself, Christmas time came and I knew I needed to get my Mom something special. I gave her that most beautiful rosary, because it was the best gift I could give her. If we who are wicked know how to give good gifts to our mothers, how could Jesus not know how to give whatever was in his power to give? Life without sin is not beyond his power as Son of God, and he shows perfect piety by giving his mother this very special gift.
2. It will help me understand my faith in the Bible, and in other ancient Christian writers. To start, there is the fact that the Holy Bible does not directly say that Mary never sinned, nor that she from the moment of her existence had the privilege of being without sin. But there are various texts, and fitting parallels that speak to this advantage. God formed the first Adam out of perfect soil, and made both Adam and Eve immaculate. It would be fitting to bring the second Adam from perfect soil, too, and that the second Eve would also be preserved from every taint of sin from her very beginning. The woman in Genesis had enmity with the serpent (Genesis 3:15).
Gabriel calls Mary “Full of grace” (Luke 1:28). St. Bellarmine tells us in his Christian Doctrine Catechism for kids that this meant she was free from all sin, including original sin. St. Augustine says that she “conquers sin in every way”, and that “We do not deliver Mary to the Devil by the condition in which was born”. Mary was preserved from sin.
Do we mean she did not need Jesus? No. She needed a redeemer, too. There are, however, two ways of being saved from something, such as a car getting stuck in snow and ice. One way is for a tow truck to come and save us after we have slid off the road into the ditch. The second way is like a police officer who warns us ahead of time of the ice, and we take a safer route. Or we go back home and drink hot chocolate! Either way, we are saved from getting stuck in the snow. We who have original sin from the first moment of our existence, and who have consequently sinned more, are saved by our Redeemer in the first manner. Mary, preserved from having sinned, was saved in the second.
3. Increase respect for Holy Mother Church. Even before she was declared Immaculately conceived in 1854, the church had long celebrated two feasts honoring holy events: Mary’s Birth, September 8th. The Liturgy of the Church is the rule of what one must believe, “legem credendi statuat lex supplicandi”. How we pray is how we believe. Because we celebrate Mary’s birthday, her birth must have been holy. She was holy even before the Holy Spirit descended upon her at the Annunciation.
Was she also Immaculately conceived? We have had her feast celebrated in various parts of the world for over 1200 years, and the Church has never condemned it. In fact, our belief in the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, and everything we believe that is Catholic, is what has been believed everywhere, always, and by everyone. (St. Vincent of Lérin’s maxim: Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus. See Dom Guéranger’s work On the Immaculate Conception for more history and arguments).
We are not adding anything, but simply clarifying this universal truth of salvation: Jesus saved Mary from all sin from the moment she was conceived. It was his plan from the beginning of time, and all popes, theologians, priests and faithful have freely confessed Mary was Immaculately Conceived, culminating with the little French girl’s, Bernadette’s, vision of Mary who told her to tell her priest “I am the Immaculate Conception”. In 1854 Blessed Pope Pius IX defined that Mary, from the moment of her conception, had the singular grace of being preserved from original sin and from every sin. It is a revealed dogma that all faithful are to consent and believe wholeheartedly. To even think or hold in our heart an opinion contrary to this, is lack of love for the Church and is heretical.
Believing in Mary’s Immaculate Conception gives me a divine example of piety, a better understanding of my Bible and Christian writers, and gives me a fierce love for Holy Mother Church.
© 2013. Fr. James Melnick. All rights reserved.