The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Blessed Virgin by Bernardo Cavallino (1650)

Central Idea: Mary is the New Eve, the mother of all who live in Christ. Doctrine: The Immaculate Conception. Practical Application: Ways to grow closer to Our Lady.

To view the Lectionary 689 readings, click here.

Central Idea: Mary is the New Eve, the mother of all who live in Christ.

Reading 1 Gn 3:9-15, 20

After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree,
the LORD God called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden;
but I was afraid, because I was naked,
so I hid myself.”
Then he asked, “Who told you that you were naked?
You have eaten, then,
from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!”
The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me,
she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.”
The LORD God then asked the woman,
“Why did you do such a thing?”
The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”

Then the LORD God said to the serpent:
“Because you have done this, you shall be banned
from all the animals
and from all the wild creatures;
on your belly shall you crawl,
and dirt shall you eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike at your head,
while you strike at his heel.”

The man called his wife Eve,
because she became the mother of all the living.

  • When the early Church fathers read this passage from Genesis in the light of Christ’s Redemption, they called it the Protoevangelium or the first announcement of the Gospel.
  • God’s plan of redemption began as soon as Adam and Eve sinned. He asked the man, “Where are you?” God was not asking Adam where he was geographically. The question was more along the lines of “Where are you in relationship to me, to each other, to creation, and to your very self?”
  • Adam’s answer is that he hid himself because he was naked. Adam sees himself now in a cosmos in which he is at odds with its creator and all of its creatures. So he responds first by hiding and then by blaming.
  • Yet, despite their original sin of disobedience, Adam and Eve and all their descendants were promised a victory over the demonic serpent. The woman will have an offspring who will strike the head of the devil.
  • Mary, the immediate mother of that offspring of Eve, due to the unique privilege of her Immaculate Conception, will not be “naked” and need to hide from God, but will be clothed with every grace.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.

Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.

The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.

All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.

  • The “new song” is the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation announced in today’s Gospel.
  • The Blessed Virgin Mary is the woman whose offspring—Jesus Christ—has make right what Adam made wrong.

Reading 2 Eph 1:3-6, 11-12

Brothers and sisters:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,
as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and without blemish before him.
In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ,
in accord with the favor of his will,
for the praise of the glory of his grace
that he granted us in the beloved.

In him we were also chosen,
destined in accord with the purpose of the One
who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will,
so that we might exist for the praise of his glory,
we who first hoped in Christ.

  • Paul teaches that Christ’s salvation is not just the forgiveness of our sins—wouldn’t that be enough?—but also our adoption as holy sons and daughters of God.
    • Thus, we are blessed with every spiritual blessing, that is, with all graces.
    • We have been chosen from eternity, before anything had been created.
    • We are chosen to be perfectly holy, that is, to share in God’s life and love.
    • And God did all this out of love for us.
  • In the Blessed Virgin Mary all this applies to the highest degree. As St. Josemaria Escriva liked to put it, Mary is “the Daughter of God the Father, Mother of God the Son, Spouse of God the Holy Spirit. Greater than she no one but God” (Christ is Passing By, 171).

Alleluia See Lk 1:28

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you;
blessed are you among women.

  • These simple words of the angel Gabriel, which many of us recite at least 50 times a day, summarize the Church’s entire doctrine of the exalted vocation and status of the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the moment of her conception, throughout her earthly life, and now in her place in heaven.

Gospel Lk 1:26-38

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.

  • The Redemption could take place because the Blessed Virgin Mary freely consented to God’s plan for her to be the Mother of the Redeemer. This makes Mary the New Eve, the mother of all who live in Christ.
  • Mary was prepared to accept this most exalted vocation because she was “full of grace” due to her Immaculate Conception, as we shall see, preserved from original sin and filled with sanctifying grace from the moment of her conception.

Doctrine: The Immaculate Conception

  • Mary could freely consent to be the Mother of the Redeemer due to the unique privilege of her Immaculate Conception.
  • The dogma of the Immaculate Conception is “[T]he most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin” (Dogma of 1854)
  • God gave this singular gift to Our Lady so she would be able to say yes to being the Mother of Christ. God could become man to redeem us because Mary said yes to the angel.
  • Mary was redeemed by Christ in advance of his Passion and Death. From her origin she possessed holiness—that is, friendship with God through sanctifying grace—and justice—that is, a right relationship within herself, with others, and with all of creation. This is why Mary could say yes to God, the basis for her sinlessness, and the reason why her body was eventually assumed into heaven.

Practical Application: Grow closer to Our Lady

  • Just as Eve is the mother of the living—that is, of every human being—Mary is the mother of all who live in Christ the Redeemer of man.
  • Imitate Mary—“Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it” (Lk 11:28). When a woman praised Jesus’ mother for having the good fortune of being chosen to be the mother of such a great man, Jesus pointed to Mary’s true greatness, that she heard the word of God from the angel Gabriel and said yes to it. We, too, should listen to the Word of God, both in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and adhere to it.
  • Take Mary’s advice—“Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). At Cana, when they had no wine, Mary knew her son could fix the problem, so she told the attendants to do whatever he told them to do. In the same way, we do best when we discern God’s will and then try to carry it out.
  • Rely on Mary’s help—“Behold your mother” (Jn 19:27). On the Cross, Jesus gave us to Mary and Mary to us in the person of St. John the Apostle. This is why we say thousands and thousands of times, “pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.”

The Homiletic Directory recommends the following Catechism points and theme for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

  • CCC 411, 489-493, 722, 2001, 2853: God’s preparation; the Immaculate Conception.
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