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Immaculate Conception

December 8, 2010

Blessed Solemnity!

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 our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.  Amen.
(Opening prayer from today’s Mass)

Genesis 3:9-15, 20 (God brings the first sin to light and promises redemption)
Psalm 98:1-4 “Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous deeds”
Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12 (God chose us from the beginning to be holy)
+ Luke 1:26-38 (the Annunciation)

We’re celebrating a Conception Day.

That in itself is pause for thought. 
Birthday parties are common,
but how many people do you know who celebrate their conception day?

Well, as Catholics, we know two:  Jesus & Mary. 
And we’re not only invited, but obliged to attend Mary’s Conception Day party! 
(a.k.a. the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass–today’s a holy day of obligation).
We celebrate Jesus’ conception on March 25 (the Solemnity of the Annunciation),
nine months before Christmas. 
Today we celebrate Mary’s conception with another Solemnity,
nine months before her birthday (September 8). 
We celebrate the day that God, Joachim and Anne united in the creation of the New Eve,
whom He had chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world
to be holy and without blemish in His sight (see Ephesians 1:4). 
Today Mary, like every human person, began life as a single cell with a soul.

This was not only the beginning of a new life, but, more importantly,
it was the beginning of a whole new creation
In the beginning, God had created Adam and Eve immaculate, perfectly pure and innocent.
When they rejected God, throwing off their holiness
and hiding in fear from the God Who had loved them into being,
they threw in their lot with the fallen angels,
spoiling the innocence God had intended to pass on to us through them. 
No longer immaculate, they could not pass this gift to their children,
nor could they free themselves (or us) from the power of the ancient serpent. 
That’s Original Sin:  a disconnect from God, and an attraction to evil, which we all inherit.

God was not so easily put off. 
Promising to break our alliance with evil
(“I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and hers,” Genesis 3:15), God prepared a new creation.

He began today, with Mary.  Reaching backward in time (there are benefits to being eternal!),
God shielded Jesus’ mother from the bondage of Original Sin
through the merits of His Passion. 
From the moment of her conception He gave to her, as He had given to the first Eve,
the holiness and blamelessness He had chosen for us. 
She, like the first Eve, was immaculate. 
By His grace, she kept that holiness. 
Where the first Eve rebelled against God, the New Eve obeyed:
“Let it be done to me according to Your Word” (Luke 1:38).

the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary.
For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief,
this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.
-St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, chapter 22, paragraph 4

Her children inherit the holiness, the blamelessness, the freedom God chose for us.

That’s why Baptism is so critical. 
That’s how we become Mary’s children–by being incorporated into the Body of Christ, her Son
(see Galatians 3:27, I Corinthians 12:13, Ephesians 5:23). 
Through our rebirth into God’s new creation
we receive the inheritance of holiness that God chose for us from the beginning. 
We, too, become sinless, open to God’s gift of grace, united to Him in love.

That’s worth celebrating!

May we learn from our mother to protect the inheritance she preserved for us.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

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