My grade school teacher once told us, “Jesus can never be where there is sin. So, always keep your souls clean from sin.” Ms. Wacker was instructing us on the merits and necessity of frequent confession, but I also think of her words in terms of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
Some folks mistakenly think that this feast refers to our Lord – that he was immaculately conceived, without stain of sin. Well, that’s true, but that’s what the Annunciation is all about, not the Immaculate Conception. The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was conceived without original sin in order to be a perfectly pure vessel for the Incarnation. the Church teaches that she was “pre–redeemed” so that she would be worthy of bearing the Son of God.
What Ms. Wacker taught us applies also to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Jesus, because he is God, simply could not be conceived in the womb that harbored sin!
Here is the solemn proclamation, given by Pope Pius XI on December 8, 1854 in the papal bull, Ineffabilis Deus:
“… the doctrine, which holds that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary at the first moment of her conception was, by singular grace and privilege of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the Human race, preserved from all stains of original sin, is revealed by God, and therefore to be firmly and resolutely believed by all the faithful.” (Dogmatic bull Ineffabilis Deus, of Dec. 8, 1854.)
What does that mean for us? It means that we can be assured that we have the holiest, most virtuous, most loving, and absolute best mother ever possible! Since we are members of the Body of Christ, and Mary is Christ’s Mother, then she is our Mother, too. Do you remember that our Lord asked her specifically to be our mother as he hung dying on the cross? He said to St. John, “Son, behold your mother. Mother, behold your son.” (Jn 19: 26) We are the “son” and Mary is the Mother.
So today, perhaps we can take a little pause in our Advent observance to celebrate the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and the glorious virtues of our Blessed Mother. At the close of his papal bull, Pope Pius XI said,
Let all the children of the Catholic Church, who are so very dear to us, hear these words of ours. With a still more ardent zeal for piety, religion and love, let them continue to venerate, invoke and pray to the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, conceived without original sin. Let them fly with utter confidence to this most sweet Mother of mercy and grace in all dangers, difficulties, needs, doubts and fears. Under her guidance, under her patronage, under her kindness and protection, nothing is to be feared; nothing is hopeless. Because, while bearing toward us a truly motherly affection and having in her care the work of our salvation, she is solicitous about the whole human race. And since she has been appointed by God to be the Queen of heaven and earth, and is exalted above all the choirs of angels and saints, and even stands at the right hand of her only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, she presents our petitions in a most efficacious manner. What she asks, she obtains. Her pleas can never be unheard.
These words are not only beautiful, but also meaningful and could become for us a source of meditation for the day. Do you have a special intention for which you have been praying? Take it to the Immaculate Conception! As Pope Pius XI said, “Her pleas can never be unheard.” Go to her, she’s waiting for you with open arms!
Image: Immaculate Conception, Murillo, 1650, Public Domain