Today’s Gospel Reading:
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her. [Luke 1:26-38]
Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation. The Catholic Church teaches that from the moment of her conception, Our Lady was free from all stain of original sin. This means from the beginning, she was in a state of grace, sharing in God’s own life, and free from all sinful inclinations which have plagued human nature since after the fall.
Archbishop Sheen spoke at length about the significance of the Immaculate Conception. In fact, he wrote a whole chapter about it in his book The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God.
Here’s a few great excerpts from it:
“This special purity of hers we call the Immaculate Conception. It is not the Virgin Birth. The word ‘immaculate’ is taken from two Latin words meaning ‘not stained’. ‘Conception’ means that, at the first moment of her conception, the Blessed Mother in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, and in the virtue of the anticipated merits of the Redemption of her Son, was preserved free from the stains of Original Sin…” [p. 21]
“She had this privilege, not for her sake, but for His sake. That is why those who do not believe in the Divinity of Christ can see no reason for the special privilege accorded to Mary. If I did not believe in the Divinity of Christ
—which God avert—I should see nothing but nonsense in any special reverence given to Mary above the other women on earth! But if she is the Mother of God, Who became Man, then she is unique, and then she stands out as the new Eve of Humanity—as He is the new Adam.
There had to be some such creature as Mary—otherwise God would have found no one in whom He could fittingly have taken His human origin. An honest politician seeking civic reforms looks about for honest assistants. The Son of God beginning a new creation searched for some of that Goodness which existed before sin took over. There would have been, in some minds, a doubt about the Power of God if He had not shown a special favor to the woman who was to be His Mother. Certainly what God gave to Eve, He would not refuse to His Own Mother.” [p. 22]
“Had there been no Immaculate Conception, then Christ would have been said to be less beautiful, for He would have taken His Body from one who was not humanly perfect! There ought to be an infinite separation between God and sin, but there would not have been if there was not one Woman who could crush the cobra’s head!” [p.23]
The Immaculate Conception is no fluke, and Our Lady wasn’t randomly selected to be the Mother of God, and our Mother, too. This was all part of the magnificent plan of God the Father for our salvation, and for the plan of the New Heaven and Earth long prophesied in Scripture that will one day be fulfilled.
Also this feast day is doubly important for the Catholic Church here in the United States because Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, is our Patroness.
In a decree from the bishops of the United States it was declared:
“With enthusiastic acclaim and with unanimous approval and consent, the Fathers [of the Council] have chosen the Blessed Virgin Mary, conceived without sin, as the Patroness of the United States of America…”
Many American Catholics are unaware nowadays just how profound the special connection between this nation and our Blessed Mother really is. Truly, it is a real shame most do not know. Archbishop Sheen precisely outlines these special connections in history between Mary and the U.S. in Communism and the Conscience of the West.
Here’s what Sheen wrote:
“As Americans we cannot be unmindful of the relation of this country to the Woman to whom God gave the power of crushing the head of the serpent. The Council of Baltimore on December 8, 1846, consecrated the United States to the Immaculate Conception of Our Blessed Mother. It was only 8 years later that the Church defined Her Immaculate Conception. It was on December 8, 1941, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, that the United States went to war with Japan. It was on May 13, 1945, Mother’s Day, the day on which the entire Church celebrated Sodality of Our Lady, that the United States Government proclaimed a National Thanksgiving for V-E Day. It was on August 15, 1945, the Feast of the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother, that victory came to us in the war with Japan. It was the nineteenth of August, 1945, that the United States Government declared official V-J Day and this happened to be the anniversary of one of the appearances of Our Lady of Fatima. On September 1, 1945, the first Saturday of the month which Our Lady of Fatima asked should be consecrated to Her, General MacArthur accepted the surrender of Japan aboard the Missouri. It was on September 8, 1945, the Birthday of Our Lady, that the first American flag flew over Tokyo, and as it was unfurled General MacArthur said: ‘Let it wave in its full glory as a symbol of victory for the right.'”
O Immaculate Conception, Mary, Our Mother, Patroness of the United States, please pray for all your children of the world. Fill us with your purity, love, and special graces, and intercede for us before your Son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Take us always to Him Who redeemed us, O Holy Mother! Amen.
If you’re interested in the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, you can go HERE to learn more.