08 December 2009

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

8 DECEMBER 2009. Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and, for us here in the United States, our country's patronal feast.

The Immaculate Conception was promulgated as dogma for the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1854, with these words:
We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which asserts that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin is a doctrine revealed by God and, for this reason, must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful.
However, long before the declaration of Pope Pius IX, the feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary had been celebrated by the Church in the East since the Seventh Century (prior to the great schism in 1054) and had been celebrated in the Western Church since the Eighth Century. By the Eleventh Century, the feast had taken on its current title: the Immaculate Conception.

For the faithful, today we recognize the special place that Mary holds in salvation history. As the Mother of God, Mary was conceived without original sin and remained sinless during her life. While not God, being only human in constitution, Mary was especially chosen by Our Lord to be the vessel for the Messiah's birth and His mother on earth.

Pray to Mary, the Immaculate Conception, that being preserved from all stain of sin She will pray for us that we may persevere against sin on our earthly pilgrimage, for the glory of, and in service to, Jesus Christ her son.

(Saint Ephram (306-373))

O pure and immaculate
and likewise blessed Virgin,
who art the sinless Mother of thy Son,
the mighty Lord of the universe,
thou who art inviolate and altogether holy,
the hope of the hopeless and sinful,
we sing thy praises.
We bless thee, as full of every grace,
thou who didst bear the God-Man:
we bow low before thee;
we invoke thee and implore thine aid.
Rescue us, O holy and inviolate Virgin,
from every necessity that presses upon us
and from all the temptations of the devil.

Be our intercessor and advocate
at the hour of death and judgment;
deliver us from the fire
that is not extinguished
and from the outer darkness;
make us worthy of the glory of thy Son,
O dearest and most clement Virgin Mother.
Thou indeed art our only hope most sure
and sacred in God's sight,
to Whom be honor and glory and majesty and dominion
for ever and ever world without end.


IMAGE: Inmaculada Concepción, by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664).

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