The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
of the Blessed Virgin Mary
December 8, 2018 Cycle C
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine
Sunday Reading Meditations
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. By a singular privilege, Our Lady was preserved from original sin from the very moment of her conception. The celebration of Mary’s purity challenges us to live a more holy life. Our devotion to the Immaculate Virgin reminds us that Christian life is a path of purification from sin.
The dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary was declared by Blessed Pius IX on December 8, 1854. He described what he had experienced during the proclamation of the dogma in these words: “I did not have an ecstasy or vision of any sort, then, but what I came to know in defining the dogma is such that no human tongue could express it. When I began to publish the dogmatic decree, I felt my voice to be impotent to make itself heard by the immense multitude which was crammed into the Vatican Basilica, but when I reached the formula of the definition, God gave to the voice of his Vicar such strength and supernatural vigor that it resounded in the whole basilica: and I was so overwhelmed by such divine assistance that I was constrained to stop speaking for an instant in order to give free vent to my tears… While God was proclaiming the dogma by the mouth of his Vicar, God himself gave to me a knowledge so clear and so expansive of the incomparable purity of the Most Holy Virgin that, submerged in the depth of this knowledge which no language could describe, my soul remained inundated with unutterable delights, delights which are not earthly, but could only be found in Heaven. No prosperity, no joy of this world could ever render the least idea of those delights; and I do not fear to affirm that the Vicar of Christ needed a special grace in order not to die of sweetness, under the effect of this knowledge and this experience of the incomparable beauty of Mary Immaculate.”
The first reading tells us about the great human tragedy that is original sin. After sinning, Adam is afraid of God and hides from him: “The LORD God called to the man and asked him, ‘Where are you?’ He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.’”(Gen 3:9). The transgression of our first parents has given rise to fear. Our relationship with God has been gravely wounded. Nevertheless, God has promised that he will come to our rescue. Although Eve distanced mankind from God, a new woman, God’s instrument to destroy the work of the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel” (Gen 3:15).
Adam and Eve were prideful and rebellious, whereas Mary was humble and obedient. She promptly replies to the call of the Archangel: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).
In the second reading, St. Paul says: “[…] he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him” (Eph 1:4). God’s plan is for us to be holy. St. John says in his first letter: "Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who as this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure" (1 Jn 3:2-3).
Our hope is to see God one day as he is. This is the destiny for which we were created, even if it may seem remote! In order to be able to see God in eternity, we must strive to purify our hearts during our lives. The company of those who are already pure purifies us. Mary—holy and immaculate—has a singular mission in the healing of the wounds due to the original sin. Contemplation of the sanctity of Mary purifies our hearts and brings us closer to God. Those who turn to Mary experience the sweetness of her consolations: the “unutterable delights” described by the Blessed Pope. She gives us the strength to proclaim the wonders of God’s works as she gave Pius IX the strength to to be heard by the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica. As the refrain of today’s psalm says: “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.”
Let us pray that knowledge of the purity and beauty of Mary Most Holy increases our desire for sanctity. May Our Lady, who is the advocate of grace and model of holiness, obtain for us all the graces that we need to imitate her total surrender to the will of God. Amen.