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Msgr. Anthony A. La Femina, STL, JCD


On December 8 the Church celebrates one of Mary’s greatest feasts, the moment when God created her as his most holy creature. On this feast of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, we commemorate God’s preparing her for her most astounding vocation of the divine maternity. She was made worthy to enclose within her womb him whom the whole world cannot contain. In the opening pages of Sacred Scripture, Mary is prophesied in the opening pages of Sacred Scripture as the “WOMAN” (Hebrew: אשה [eesha] see Gen 2:23; 3:15; Jn 2:4; 19:26). In God’s curse upon the Serpent, Mary has a prominent place. God predicts that her seed would be the second Adam, the Restorer of Adam’s lost kingdom. In this same prophecy Mary is associated with her Son’s life-giving mission as the second Eve, the new “mother of all the living” (Gn. 3:20). This association is explicitly referred to by the Lord Jesus at the marriage feast of Cana when, speaking of her indispensable involvement with him in his hour, he waits for her consent to his working the first sign of his public life, a sign that would bring both Son and Mother closer to the cross of Calvary (Jn 2:3,4). Mary gives her consent with her last words in Scripture: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). In this episode John emphasizes Mary’s undeniable intercessory power.

Upon her conception in St. Ann’s womb, Mary was the object of God’s loving designs to make her in all truth the worthy mother of his incarnate Son. He made her the living and true “Holy of Holies” in whose womb was to be enclosed him whom the whole world cannot contain. With self-respect to his own nature of holiness, God’s work consisted in flooding Mary’s soul with so much grace that he created her all holy, the only creature most resembling Himself in that character of holiness that separates him from all his creation. God hates sin and therefore the first part of his design for Mary was to prevent her from ever being stained by original sin. This sin of nature is contracted by every child of Adam and Eve at the moment of their conception. It is not a personal sin but rather the effect of our first parents’ sin. It deprives the soul of sanctifying grace and, consequently, of a personal relationship with God. By a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and solely by virtue of the foreseen merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, Mary of Nazareth - the “Woman” - was preserved immune from all stain of original sin and constituted the mortal enemy of the Serpent. God’s work of redemption was most perfectly accomplished only in Mary since he redeemed her, not by healing her from sin as he does in us, but by completely preventing sin from tainting her.

But in this initial grace God did not stop solely with preserving Mary from original sin. To Mary more grace was given than was necessary to conquer sin completely. She was utterly free from every evil concupiscence and from every personal sin for her entire earthly life. The most Blessed Virgin, ever increased her original gift by her daily fidelity to the commands and inspirations of God. Mary was so filled with grace that she could not sin and consequently she was impeccable. The Lord himself testified to Mary’s absolute fidelity to grace when a woman in the crowd, thinking of Mary merely as a normal mother, cried out: “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that you sucked.” Jesus replied: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Lk 11:27,28). Mary is the Woman who is the new “mother of all the living” because of her vocation as Mother of God and Mother of the Church.  She is the only human being over whom the Serpent never had any dominion. She indeed crushed the head of the Serpent together with and in her Son.

In his own words Pope Pius IX said: “Above all creatures did God so love her that truly in her was the Father well pleased with singular delight. Therefore, far above all the angels and all the saints so wondrously did God endow her with the abundance of all heavenly gifts poured from the treasury of his divinity that this mother, ever absolutely free of all stain of sin, all fair and perfect, would possess that fullness of holy innocence and sanctity which, under God, one cannot even imagine anything greater, and which, outside of God, no mind can succeed in comprehending fully.”

            Her Immaculate Conception is one of Mary’s preferred graces. She identified herself to St. Bernadette saying: “I am the Immaculate Conceptions, and revealed to St. Catherine Laboure’ that prayer so pleasing to herself: “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”  And why is this grace and title so dear to her?  She herself, in her most profound humility, gives us the reason in her prayer of praise to God: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.  For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.” (Lk 1:46-49.









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