This week, we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is the patronal feast day of he United States and as such as still a Holy Day of Obligation even though it falls on a Friday. Mass times can be found in the bulletin and online.
The dogma of the Immaculate Conception wasn’t defined until 1854 by Pope Pius IX. While it was only defined in the 19th century, it does not mean we didn’t believe it before then. Indeed, for something to be declared as a dogma, it must by necessity be part of Divine Revelation or at least implied by previously defined beliefs. The Church has no authority to create or alter dogma, as the Author of Revelation is none other than God Himself. He has entrusted the propagation of the Truth to the world through the Church and ensures that the Universal Church will not in entirety err in matters of faith and morals. To this end, when something is infallibly defined or declared, it is done so with the mindset of preserving and promoting a belief already held by the Church.
The dogma of the Immaculate Conception is often confused with the Virginal Conception of Jesus Christ. The Immaculate Conception is the belief 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.” (Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus).
This means that Mary did not possess a fallen human nature, but one completely free from all sin. This is the central dogma that ties together all of the other Marian beliefs that the Church holds. Because of her Immaculate Conception, Mary is made fit to be the Virgin Mother of the Savior. Because of her Immaculate Conception, she is able to be assumed into Heaven body and soul at the end of her earthly life. She reigns as Queen of Heaven and Earth because of her relationship to Christ, but also because it is fitting that one so innocent and selfless should be the one entrusted with such great authority.
All of the graces and gifts Our Lady received were for the benefit of all, not merely for her exclusive benefit. Indeed, being free of sin doesn’t make her more distant to us sinners, but rather closer as in place of sin, she is filled with love. Love always draws the one who possesses it closer to those they care about. And Our Lady certainly cares about us. Her Immaculate Conception allows her to be God’s Mother and ours as well. So we gather annually to celebrate this feast day in her honor and to glorify Almighty God.
Please know of my prayers for you and kindly remember me in yours.