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Catholic Caucus: The Immaculate Conception of Mary helps us to see how God’s grace is revealed
Columbia Magazine ^ | 12.01.13 | Father Frederick L. Miller

Posted on 01/20/2014 6:39:50 PM PST by Coleus

Younger Than SinReproductions of a 1925 painting that hangs above the main altar in the Basilica-Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Québec are serving as the centerpiece of the Knights of Columbus Marian Prayer Program currently underway. From 2013-2015, blessed images of the Immaculate Conception are traveling throughout K of C jurisdictions as the faithful gather for prayer programs, rosary recitations and holy hours.

During Advent each year, on Dec. 8, Holy Mother Church invites us to reflect on the meaning of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God. Some of the faithful incorrectly think that the Immaculate Conception refers to the virginal conception of Christ in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. Instead, this dogma refers to Mary’s conception in the womb of her mother, St. Anne.

Mary’s conception was a wonderful moment originally known only to God and deeply enfolded into the matrix of divine revelation. It took the Church nearly two millennia to find the exact words to describe the mystery of Mary’s graced beginning.

Pope Pius IX solemnly proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854. Incidentally, St. John Neumann, the fourth bishop of Philadelphia, held the book for Pius IX as he read the text. Bishop Neumann was chosen because he was the shortest bishop present in St. Peter’s Basilica that day. This is worth keeping in mind, because the Immaculate Conception, as we shall see, is all about littleness — not of stature, but of spirit.


The words of the definition given in 1854 are simple and direct: “We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant 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 of the faithful” (Ineffabilis Deus).

This definition of faith declares that God intervened at the moment of Mary’s conception, just as he intervenes in every human conception. He breathed the breath of life into Mary as she was conceived in the act of marital union of her parents, St. Anne and St. Joachim. At that moment, God created Mary’s immortal soul. The uniqueness of the Immaculate Conception is this: When God created Mary’s soul, he filled her, in the very act of her creation, with the Holy Spirit and his grace.

In human conception, the flood of original sin cascades from Adam, the father of our human family, and prevents us from receiving the indwelling grace of the Trinity. We are conceived and born stripped of the greatest gift that God had given to Adam, a gift that God intended to give to each of us: sanctifying grace.

In the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God, a flood of mercy flowing from the pierced heart of the Savior intervened and stopped the flood of sin and death flowing from Adam in its tracks. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary was created in the grace of Christ through the Father’s sovereign foreknowledge of his Son’s sacrifice. God, after all, is not bound by time. As Blessed John Paul II wrote, Jesus Christ stands at “the center of the universe and of history” (Redemptor Hominis, 1).

At the moment of Mary’s conception, God took the side of the human family against Satan. In a sense, he crushed the head of the serpent as promised in Genesis 3:15. He declared war on sin and death and, in reality, proclaimed victory.

At that moment, God initiated the new creation of grace. He made Mary as much like heaven as heaven itself, creating her to be a fit dwelling place for his Son and preparing her to be our Mother in the order of grace. He created in Mary an immaculate Church, the Bride of his Son-made-man; a Church that has the power to obliterate sin by the grace of Christ until the end of time.


What was the effect of this grace in Mary’s spiritual life? Unlike all of us, who tend by our fallen human nature to depend on self and feel sovereignly independent and self-sufficient, Mary was always aware of her littleness and her need to depend on God for everything. She experienced her Immaculate Conception precisely in her dependence on grace.

Reflecting on the Magnificat, the canticle of Mary recorded by St. Luke (1:46-55), John Paul II once said, “The grander the work to be accomplished, the poorer are the instruments chosen to collaborate in the divine plan. As it is true that the power of God’s arm is emphasized by the weakness of the means employed, so too, the smaller the human persons who are invited to serve, the greater the things that the Almighty, through us, is disposed to accomplish.”

The Immaculate Conception is all about grace and the spiritual littleness that is the first effect of grace. God was able to accomplish the salvation of the world through Mary’s “yes” because, created in grace, she was able to say with perfect sincerity: “All generations will call me blessed, for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name” (Lk 1:48-49).

John Paul II observed that Mary “is fully aware of the greatness of her mission. However, at the same time, seeing herself and remaining a ‘lowly handmaid,’ she attributes all credit for it to God the Savior.”

On our own strength it is impossible to remain faithful; grace alone makes us capable of fidelity and fruitfulness. God fills us with his grace in baptism, and Mary, conceived without sin, helps us to cooperate with grace as she did. She teaches us true poverty of spirit, true spiritual littleness; she teaches us to rejoice in poverty of spirit so that God can do his mighty works in us; she teaches us to become like little children in Christ (cf. Mt 18:3).

In his Diary of a Country Priest, George Bernanos offers words of fitting praise for the Blessed Mother on this mysterious festival of the Immaculate Conception: “The eyes of Our Lady are the only real child-eyes that have ever been raised to our shame and sorrow. ... they are not indulgent — for there is no indulgence without something of bitter experience — they are eyes of gentle pity, wondering sadness, and with something more in them, never yet known or expressed, something that makes her younger than sin, younger than the race from which she sprang, and though a mother, by grace, Mother of all graces, our little youngest sister.”

FATHER FREDERICK L. MILLER, a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., and a member of Father Thomas F. Canty Council 3197 in Hillside, is a professor of systematic theology at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Md.

TOPICS: Catholic
KEYWORDS: columbiamagazine; immaculateconception; mothermary
The Hail Mary

Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death. Amen.


Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

The Prayer Of Mary

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.  He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever. (Lk 1:46-55)

The Angelus

The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary:
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

    Hail Mary . . .

And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us.

    Hail Mary . . .

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy 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. 

1 posted on 01/20/2014 6:39:50 PM PST by Coleus
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Comment #2 Removed by Moderator

To: Coleus
God intervened at the moment of Mary’s conception, just as he intervenes in every human conception.

I thought this was a particularly important concept. At every conception, God steps in and creates the unique human soul to go with the unique human body. Yes, He did something a little extra for Mary, freeing her from Original Sin ... but He does a profound supernatural work at every conception.

3 posted on 01/20/2014 6:45:24 PM PST by Tax-chick (What did you think would happen?)
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To: Tax-chick

It is more accurate to say that God “preserved” Mary from Original Sin, rather than “freeing” her from O.S.

4 posted on 01/20/2014 6:54:11 PM PST by Arthur McGowan
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To: Arthur McGowan

Okay, you’re right.

5 posted on 01/20/2014 6:54:39 PM PST by Tax-chick (What did you think would happen?)
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To: Tax-chick; KingOfVagabonds; Berlin_Freeper; UnRuley1; mlizzy; Arthur McGowan; mc5cents; RichInOC; ..

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 shall call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm:
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich He has sent empty away.
He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy;
As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His posterity forever.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen

Magníficat ánima mea Dóminum,
et exsultávit spíritus meus
in Deo salvatóre meo,
quia respéxit humilitátem
ancíllæ suæ.

Ecce enim ex hoc beátam
me dicent omnes generatiónes,
quia fecit mihi magna,
qui potens est,
et sanctum nomen eius,
et misericórdia eius in progénies
et progénies timéntibus eum.
Fecit poténtiam in bráchio suo,
dispérsit supérbos mente cordis sui;
depósuit poténtes de sede
et exaltávit húmiles.
Esuriéntes implévit bonis
et dívites dimísit inánes.
Suscépit Ísrael púerum suum,
recordátus misericórdiæ,
sicut locútus est ad patres nostros,
Ábraham et sémini eius in sæcula.

Glória Patri et Fílio
et Spirítui Sancto.
Sicut erat in princípio,
et nunc et semper,
et in sæcula sæculórum.


6 posted on 01/20/2014 6:58:12 PM PST by narses (... unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.)
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To: narses; Coleus
Catholic Caucus: The Immaculate Conception of Mary helps us to see how God’s grace is revealed
Fr Paul Schenck: Immaculate Conception Tells us Who Mary Is and Who We Are (Catholic Caucus)
[Catholic Caucus] On the Immaculate Conception (Angelus)
Pope's Immaculate Conception Address At The Spanish Steps (Catholic Caucus)
Why Catholics Believe in the Immaculate Conception

Essays for Lent: The Immaculate Conception
"I Am The Immaculate Conception"
The Corona of the Immaculate Conception [Catholic Caucus]
Catholic Caucus: Immaculate Conception Novena Prayer Thread
New chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Lebanon at National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Feast of the The Conception by St. Anna of the Most Holy Theotokos December 9th
On the Immaculate Conception
Immaculate Mary: "Trust Jesus, he will save you" (Catholic Caucus)
I Love that Woman! My Unworthy Reflections on The Immaculate Conception

Mary as the New Eve - St. Irenaeus
Mary - the Immaculate Ark of the New Covenant [Catholic Caucus]
THE LIFE OF BLESSED JOHN DUNS SCOTUS, Defender of the Immaculate Conception [Catholic Caucus]
An Unfathomable Marian Richness [Catholic Caucus]
Catholic Biblical Apologetics: The Immaculate Conception of Mary
History of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception - December 8 [Catholic Caucus]
Preserved Sinless from the Moment of Humanity (Dogma of the Immaculate Conception) [Catholic Caucus]
I Love that Woman! My Unworthy Reflections on The Immaculate Conception [Catholic Caucus]
Father Marquette's Devotion to the Immaculate Conception (Catholic Caucus) St. John Neumann and the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (Catholic Caucus)
Our Jewish Roots: The Immaculate Conception [Ecumenical]
And It Was Night. The Real Story of Original Sin [Ecumenical]
I Love that Woman! My Unworthy Reflections on The Immaculate Conception
Mary Immaculate: Patroness of the United States [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
Catholic/Orthodox Caucus: The Immaculate Conception: A Marvelous Theme - Novena Starts Nov. 30
THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION - Satan's Mighty Foe(Catholic Caucus)
Ark of the new covenant
Historian reveals how Pius IX decided to proclaim dogma of Immaculate Conception (Catholic Caucus)
The Immaculate Vs. the Proud

Immaculate Conception Novena -- starts November 30th [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
Blessed John Duns Scotus Champion Of Mary's Immaculate Conception (CATHOLIC CAUCUS)
The Crusade of Mary Immaculate - St. Maximilian Kolbe (Catholic Caucus)
The Early Church Fathers on the Immaculate Conception - Catholic/Orthodox Caucus
Three Reasons the Church’s ... The Immaculate Conception
Her saving grace - the origins of the Immaculate Conception
Mary Is a Model Who Works With Us and in Us
U.S. Catholic bishops to renew consecration of nation to Immaculate Conception
Catholic Meditation: To the Immaculate Conception on this Election Day
Saint Bernadette of Lourdes (Sermon from 1934)

My visit to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
On Solemnity of Immaculate Conception - "In Mary Shines the Eternal Goodness of the Creator"
The Belief of Catholics concerning the Blessed Virgin: the Second Eve
Pope makes pilgrimage to Mary statue in Rome, marking the feast of the Immaculate Conception
Pope: Mary the Immaculate Conception... (text of BXVI speech)
"Tota pulchra es, Maria, et macula originalis non est in te" (The Immaculate Conception)
The Immaculate Conception — Essential to the Faith
"Who Are You, Immaculate Conception?"
TURKEY Ephesus: The Feast of the Immaculate Conception at Mary’s House
Coming Dec 8th. Feast of the "Immaculate Conception"

Why the Immaculate Conception?
Catholic Encyclopedia: Immaculate Conception (The Doctrine and Its Roots)
The Immaculate Conception of Our Lady December 8
Mary's Immaculate Conception: A Memorable Anniversary
Ineffabilis Deus: 8 December 1854 (Dogma of the Immaculate Conception)
Why do we believe in the Immaculate Conception?
John Paul II goes to Lourdes; reflections on the Immaculate Conception
Your Praises We Sing--on the Dogma of the Proclamation of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8th
Eastern Christianity and the Immaculate Conception (Q&A From EWTN)
Memorandum on the Immaculate Conception [Newman]

7 posted on 01/20/2014 7:57:41 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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