9 Dec – Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The OXYGEN team would like to invite interested writers to contribute a reflection or two for the Christmas mass readings at the end of this year. If you feel called to put the sharing of your faith into writing, please do drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!
The OXYGEN team
The Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved from the stain of original sin in the first instant of her conception in the womb of her mother. This was a singular privilege and grace of God, granted in view of the merits of Jesus Christ. By her conception is meant not the act or part of her parents in it, nor the formation of her body, nor the conception of Christ later in her own womb; from the moment her soul was created and infused into her body, it was free from original sin and filled with sanctifying grace. Her soul was never stained by original sin, nor by the depraved emotions, passions, and weaknesses consequent on that sin, but created in a state of original sanctity, innocence, and justice. She had at least the graces of the first Eve before the Fall and more. This privilege was befitting the one who was to be mother of the Redeemer.
The doctrine was defined by Blessed Pope Pius IX, 8 December 1854. It is in accord with the texts of Scripture (Genesis 3), “I will put enmities between thee [the serpent] and the woman, and thy seed and her seed”; (Luke 1), “Hail, full of grace.” It is established by tradition, by the writings of the Fathers, by feasts observed in honour of this prerogative, by the general belief of the faithful. The very controversies over it among theologians brought about a clear understanding and acceptance of the doctrine long before it was declared by Blessed Pope Pius IX. After the declaration, some Protestant writers denounced what they styled Mariolatry (idolatry of Mary). However, there is a constantly-growing devotion among Catholics, and respect among some Protestant groups for the prerogatives of the Mother of Our Redeemer.
Among the many masters who have represented the Immaculate Conception in art are: Carducci, Carreno de Miranda, Falco, Holbein, Montanes, Muller, Murillo, Reni, Ribera, and Signorelli. It is the title she used when appearing at Lourdes.
The feast originated in the East about the 8th century where it was celebrated on 9 December. In the Western Church it appeared first in England in the 11th century and was included in the calendar of the universal Church in the 14th century. It has a vigil and an octave, and is a holy day of obligation in the United States, Ireland, and Scotland.
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.
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 his 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.
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.
In Him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. We won’t know what we don’t know. My fallibility was made obvious to me today as I drove down the I5 freeway from LA. Ignoring all the signs that said ‘Road Closed’, I thought “No way, they must be talking about a slip road, how could the I5 be closed?! It’s an 8-lane, major arterial highway!” Wrong! I was gridlocked in traffic for hours as snowfall and ice closed large portions of the freeway. LA traffic is something else. Sometimes it doesn’t move.
They don’t call it a learning curve for nothing. You won’t know what you don’t know. It takes humility and not a small amount of suffering for us to accept our fallibility, admit we’re wrong and seek help. Pride and complacency is why people don’t consult maps or traffic reports until they’re lost or stuck. Or won’t seek help until they desperately need it. Or won’t buy medical insurance until it costs too much. Our risk curve is not what we think it is, because we base our assumptions on historical experience. That won’t ever prepare us for unforeseen events because that’s the thing about them – they’re unforeseen.
Adam lived in a perfect world, a world where all his needs were provided for, a world where you could say, he took God for granted. Adam didn’t see the perfection around him because his historical experience was perfection. By eating of the fruit, he acquired only enough knowledge to make him dangerous to himself. It takes suffering to attain the wisdom to appreciate our blessings and be content. We don’t see the whole picture yet our confidence in our past experience prompts us to plan based on our shallow understanding of the world. We think we know better. Most times we don’t. We’re more like Adam than Mary. Then when things go wrong, we question God, “Why, why have you allowed this to happen?” Mary’s model of discipleship was unquestioning in its faith. She recognized the difficulty of the circumstances that were presented to her, acknowledged that she didn’t have all the answers but that it was ok to not have them because she fundamentally believed that God’s plan was better than her own. So she simply yielded her will to Him. We struggle to do that because, well, we use our ‘common sense’ to reason things out. We have just enough knowledge to make us dangerous to ourselves, but not enough to give us the wisdom to accept that He sees the whole picture, and knows what’s best for us.
Today let’s take a moment to reflect and acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers. We are fallible and we need God in our lives. We don’t know better despite what we think we know. Whether we’re contemplating life changing decisions or just managing logistics, let’s first ask Him what His will is for us and plead for His guidance in our endeavors. Lord not my will but Thine be done.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for the humility to accept that we can’t plan for our future based on past experiences. We pray for God’s grace to help us to walk His way.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for God’s forgiveness and all the second chances He gives us to redeem ourselves, when we insist on doing things our way.