Mary, the Mother of Christ Jesus, is our Mother, too. She is your Mother.
Today, we celebrate one of the most beautiful Marian Feast days, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (which is also a holy day of obligation, by the way, so get yourself to mass!).
Many people are confused about the Immaculate Conception, believing that it refers to the the conception of Jesus in Mary's womb (it does not; that is the Annunciation, or the Incarnation), or that it refers to the Virgin Birth (it does not; that is the Nativity, or Christmas).
The Immaculate Conception refers to and celebrates the conception of Mary in her own mother's womb. She was conceived in the usual way, by her two married parents, St. Anne and St. Joachim, so that was not the extraordinary part. What is extraordinary is the fact that from the moment of Mary's conception, she was without the stain of Original Sin. She was immaculate, and she stayed that way her whole life.
On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX infallibly defined this ancient Christian teaching in this way:
"We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful."
Some Catholics fully embrace this doctrine of Mary's sinlessness, yet still misunderstand why Mary was conceived without sin. Some people (even some priests) erroneously believe that Mary had to be sinless in order to carry a sinless Jesus in her own womb, so as not to pass along Original Sin to her Divine Son through her flesh. They believe that the Immaculate Conception was necessary.
But that is not true. Because if it were necessary for a woman to be without sin in order to bear a child without sin, then St. Anne would have had to be sinless to bear a sinless Mary, and the same would have to be true for St. Anne's mother, and on and on all the way back through the generations. Clearly, that is not the case.
Rather than "necessary", the words of the Church are that it was "wholly fitting" that God would preserve the Blessed Mother from any taint or impurity. She is the Holy Vessel who would house the Word Incarnate in her own body. Just as the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant was made of the purest gold to house the Word of God, the Ark of the New Covenant (Mary) would be made of purest flesh to house the Word of God made Flesh (Jesus). She was, literally, the Holy of Holies.
And so it is fitting that we honor Mary, the Immaculate Conception, on this beautiful feast day dedicated to her singular privilege as the Fairest Daughter of the Father. Praise God Who gave us, literally, the perfect Mother.
|The Immaculate Conception, by Tiepolo|
Related Post: Mary's Perpetual Virginity