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Father,
you prepared the Virgin Mary
to be the worthy mother of your Son.
You let her share beforehand
in the salvation Christ would bring by his death,
and kept her sinless from the first moment of her conception.
Help us by her prayers
to live in your presence without sin.

We ask this through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

- Opening Prayer for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
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Genesis 3:9-15, 20

After Adam had eaten of the tree the Lord God called to him, “Where are you?” he asked. “I heard the sound of you in the garden.” He replied, “I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” “Who told you that you were naked?” he asked. “Have you been eating of the tree I forbade you to eat?” The man replied, “It was the woman you put with me; she gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman replied, “The serpent tempted me and I ate.”

Then the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Be accursed beyond all cattle,
all wild beasts.
You shall crawl on your belly and eat dust
every day of your life.
I will make you enemies of each other:
you and the woman,
your offspring and her offspring.
It will crush your head
and you will strike its heel.”

The man named his wife “Eve” because she was the mother of all those who live.
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Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ.
Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ,
to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in is presence,
determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ
for his own kind purposes,
to make us praise the glory of his grace,
his free gift to us in the Beloved.
And it is in him that we were claimed as God’s own,
chosen from the beginning,
under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things
as he decides by his own will;
chosen to be,
for his greater glory,
the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came.

____________________

Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. he went in and said to her, “Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, “Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?” “The Holy Spirit will come upon you,” the angel answered, “and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.” “I am the handmaid of the Lord,” said Mary, “let what you have said be done to me.” And the angel left her.
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Today we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception. For the benefit of our non-Catholic subscribers and Catholics who have forgotten their catechism lessons, the Immaculate Conception refers not to the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb, but the conception of Mary in the womb of her parents, that she was conceived without Original Sin. What is so special about this feast day? Let us put it in its proper context, as the readings today do.

Let us go right back to the beginning of time, or even before there was time. God created the universe, and all that is in it, visible and invisible. And all was good. He created the angels, and they were all good. Everything was created for God’s greater glory.

There was one angel, however, who thought he was better than all the rest, including God himself. He was created for God’s glory, but this angel wanted himself to be glorified. He taught all the rest of creation was made to glorify him. He thought that he was the centre of creation.

Then God created man in his own image and likeness. And when he did so, he unveiled his master plan - Christ, both man and God, who was the real centre of the universe (second reading). The angel could not accept that a lowly man was the centre of the universe and not him, and so he fell from grace, dragging down all the other angels who thought the same way as him - that a man could not possibly be the centre of the universe and all that was created.

And so began a cosmic battle fought in the hearts of mankind. God’s angels who remained loyal to God fought against the angels who rebelled against God. The leader of the angels who rebelled against God came to be known as Satan. And the battle took place in the heart of man.

Now man was created in God’s own image and likeness. Since Satan thought himself equal to God, he wanted to remake God’s greatest creation into his own image and likeness. This was why and how Satan tempted woman in the garden. His temptation: You will be like gods.

Now man and woman were created without Original Sin, meaning that their judgement was not clouded with the effects of Original Sin. They were tempted by Satan and they freely chose to rebel against God’s commandment. And they fell from grace. Both man and woman made that choice, and both fell from grace.

It was only after they had sinned that man named woman “Eve”, because naming something gave man power and dominion over it. So because of Original Sin, man has power and dominion over woman. These effects of Original Sin are still very much evident in our world today, when we look at how men have power and dominion over women.

Because of this incident, all of Adam and Eve’s offspring were contaminated with Original Sin, and no one was able to make a choice free from the clouded judgement that are the effects of Original Sin. Until Christ. Christ was born without Original Sin, which meant his choices were not clouded with the effects of Original Sin. Where the first Adam (without Original Sin) rebelled against God, Christ (the second Adam) obeyed God, countering the effects of the first Adam, that is, removing Original Sin. Christ restored things to the way they were meant to be, that is, mankind without Original Sin.

This removal of Original Sin extended to men and women of all time, past, present and future. If Christ’s sacrifice can remove Adam’s sin (and how long ago did Adam live?), his sacrifice can easily remove his mother Mary’s Original Sin at the moment of her conception, preserving her from ever being contaminated by Original Sin. The sole reason for doing this is so that Christ himself would be born in a vessel that had never been contaminated by sin.

Mary, being the other person born without Original Sin, was also able to make an unclouded decision to obey God, which she did in the Gospel reading. In so doing, she became the second Eve, whose act of obedience countered the first Eve’s act of rebellion. This is why Mary is the first and most important cooperator of Christ for the salvation of the world, and why we accord her a special place in our hearts. However, it must be noted that the only reason she was able to do this was because she was first freed from Original Sin, which came about from the sacrifice of Christ.

Confusing? Think about how you are cooperating with Christ in your own salvation. Christ cannot save you unless you accept his salvation. In the same way, Mary cooperated with Christ in ensuring her own salvation, which happened to be more influential, since it was able to counter the bad choice made by the first Eve. Only a person without Original Sin can counter the effects of a choice made by someone without Original Sin.

Having been baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we too have been freed from Original Sin, although the effects remain. Each time we choose to obey God, we are cooperating with Christ in his act of salvation.

Think about it. Your obedience saves more than just yourself. You, me, and Mary, we all have important parts to play God’s master plan for creation, which revolves around Christ, much to Satan’s chagrin. We have important roles to play. The fate of the universe truly does lie in our hands.
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Prayer:
Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord, your grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by his Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: The Immaculate Conception.

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