The Immaculate Conception
Hail, full of grace; the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.--LUKE i. 28.
The extraordinary dignity and sanctity of the Blessed Virgin is made manifest in the words of today's Gospel. Since she was to become the Mother of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, it was not an ordinary messenger but an Archangel that was sent to announce to her this great dignity. And how worthy she was of such lofty honor the angel declares in his salutation. She is " full of grace," the abyss of all heavenly favors; "the Lord is with" her, she possesses holiness beyond all other creatures; she is " blessed among women," because, unlike all others, she was never subject to any sin.
I. The meaning of this dogma. I. The Immaculate Conception does not refer, as some non-Catholics imagine, to the virgin birth of our Lord, nor to His sinlessness; neither does it imply on the part of the Blessed Virgin that her conception, like our Lord's, was divine, in the sense that it was without a human father. 2. The meaning of this doctrine is that, by a singular favor and privilege of God, and through the foreseen merits of her Son, the Virgin Mary, from the first instant of her conception in the womb of her mother, was preserved free from all stain of sin. 3. Original sin is that moral guilt and stain of soul which we inherit from Adam, the moral head of the human race. Sanctifying grace and many other extraordinary privileges were conferred upon our first parents from their creation, but all these they lost through their sin; and the effect of their fall has descended upon all their posterity, with the exception of Christ, who was sinless by reason of the Hypostatic Union, and Mary, who was conceived immaculate by the special favor of God. 4. Hence, the Blessed Virgin from the first moment of her conception was free from sin and endowed with sanctifying grace. Jeremiah and John the Baptist were sanctified in their mothers' wombs and born free from original sin, but they were not conceived in this state. 5. The grace received by Mary in her conception was far superior to that ever attained by any of the saints throughout their lives, and this grace she never lost, but on the contrary continually augmented in her life. 6. Being a child of Adam, Mary was in need of redemption, not to free her from sin, but to preserve her against sin.
II. Reasons for this dogma. I. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception was not defined until December 8, 1854, by Pope Pius IX, but it had always been taught in the Church as a divinely revealed doctrine. 2. The Holy Scriptures, as interpreted by the Fathers of the Church, contain this doctrine: (a) "I will put enmities between thee and the woman, . . . she shall crush thy head" (Genesis iii. 15). (b) Types of the Immaculate Conception were the ark of Noah, Jacob's ladder, the burning bush, etc. (c) Many words of the prophets can be understood of Mary's sinless conception; e.g., what they say about the holy Jerusalem, the ark of sanctification, the house, built by eternal Wisdom, etc. (d) The salutation which the Angel addressed to Mary on the day of the Annunciation implies this doctrine. 3. The Fathers speak of Mary as the supreme miracle, as nearest to God and above all praise; they declare her superior to Eve in the latter's innocence; they called her the lily among thorns, the virgin earth from which the new Adam came forth, etc., etc.; they hold that sin should not be thought of when there is question of Mary; they call her immaculate, more holy than sanctity, more pure than purity, etc. 4. The Popes have promoted devotion to the Immaculate Conception and have inculcated the doctrine. The Council of Trent in its decree on sin excluded the Blessed Virgin. 5. This doctrine has been universally believed by all classes in the Church, although a few questioned it at different times. 6. The Immaculate Conception was altogether fitting since the Son of God was to take flesh from the Virgin Mary, and He could not permit that His Mother should ever have been subject to His enemy.
LESSONS. I. Rejoice over the Immaculate Conception, for Mary is truly the " honor of our people." 2. Ask Our Lady's intercession against temptation and sin. 3. Praise God for the great privilege granted to our Mother.
THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
BY CARDINAL CORSI
Acting upon the inspiration which the Holy Ghost is daily imparting to her, the Church has instituted feasts in commemoration of the chief mysteries in the Blessed Virgin's life. She celebrates in an especial manner the Immaculate Conception, the holy birth, the divine Motherhood, the sufferings, and the glorious death and assumption into heaven of the sweet Mother of Christ. Today the Church is celebrating the feast of her Immaculate Conception, and I wish to point out to you wherein the exalted privilege consists by which Mary was thus distinguished, and how she corresponded with this extraordinary grace with which God adorned her. Alone among all mankind Mary, by a special grace, was conceived without the stain of original sin, because it was befitting the dignity of Jesus Christ that His human mother should never be sullied by sin; never, not even for a moment, subjected to the dominion of Satan. This the Church has solemnly declared and prescribed for our belief.
It is truly a glorious privilege which was bestowed upon the Blessed Virgin at her conception. In order to form a proper idea of it, let us contemplate the unhappy state in which we all were born. Upon us rests the penalty of the fatal fall of our first parents. At our conception we were burdened with the stain of original sin and with its awful penalty. We all were born sinners, children of wrath, slaves of the devil.
Mary, alone of all mankind, has been exempt from this misfortune from the moment of her conception. Among mankind the Lord has at various times selected specially favored friends, but notwithstanding His love for them, notwithstanding His manifestations of grace bestowed upon these privileged souls, not one of them was ever freed from this baneful inheritance. It was their fate, as it was the fate of all children of Adam, to suffer the penalty.
How different was Mary's happy lot! Although a child of Adam, like the rest of us, although the offspring of a father fallen into sin, she did not inherit the penalty ordained for the rest of mankind. What an honor, indeed, is this prerogative of grace! Had God been pleased to sanctify her just before her birth, she would have shared this great grace with John the Baptist. Had God satisfied Himself with pouring out upon her His graces, she would have shared such honor with the apostles' and other saints. But God wished to make a marked difference even between the elect souls and His Mother, even between the saints and their queen, by exempting her from original sin, a privilege which no one ever shared with her.
And what were the results of this distinct sanctification of Mary ? The first result was this: that she never experienced an inclination to evil, she never experienced this direful consequence of original sin. From the first moment she was, in body and soul, completely subject to the spirit of God. From that very moment she could exclaim, " All generations shall call me blessed, for He that is mighty hath done great things in me."
The second blessed result of the special sanctification of the Immaculate Virgin was, that she ever remained zealous in preserving and increasing the grace which she had received. Although exempt from human infirmities and confirmed in God's grace from her conception, still she incessantly strove to be most faithful in the fulfillment of all her duties, and spent much time in prayer. Although absolutely free from sin, she accepted adversity and suffering with humility and patience. She had her full share in the sufferings of her divine Son and in the great sorrows of Golgotha. In such manner she daily even increased the grace with which she had been endowed from the very moment of her conception.
Let us rejoice, dear brethren, in this glorious Immaculate Conception. Let us thank the Lord that He has distinguished the blessed Virgin by so great and extraordinary a privilege; and let us in confidence seek our refuge in the purest of Virgins, so that she may obtain for us, through her powerful intercession, purity of body and soul, and victory over all temptations. Let us address to her in the hours of temptation that brief prayer: "Through thy most holy Immaculate Conception, O Mary, preserve my body and soul from all impurity." Let us often during the day salute the blessed Virgin with the short ejaculation: "Hail Mary, conceived without sin," and we may be sure that she, who is not only the Virgin of Immaculate Conception but also the Mother of God, will graciously hear our prayers and that she will intercede for us with her divine Son; and a more powerful mediator we could not desire. Amen.
Hymn: O Gloriosa VirginumO God, Who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin didst prepare a worthy dwelling place for thy Son: we beseech Thee, that, as by the death of the same Thy Son, foreseen by Thee, Thou didst keep her free from all stain, so by her intercession thou wouldst grant to us also to come with clean hearts to Thee. Amen.
O glorious Virgin, ever blest,
Sublime above the starry sky,
Who nuture from thy spotless breast
To thy Creator didst supply.
What we had lost through hapless Eve
The Blossom sprung from thee restores,
And, granting bliss to souls that grieve,
Unbars the everlasting doors.
O Gate, through which hath passed the King,
O Hall, whence Light shone through the gloom;
The ransomed nations praise and sing
Life given from the Virgin womb.
All honor, laud, and glory be,
O Jesu, Virgin-born, to thee;
All glory, as is ever meet,
To Father and to Paraclete. Amen.
V. This day is the Immaculate Conception of the holy Virgin Mary.
R. Who with her virginal foot crushed the serpent's head.
Ant. The Lord God said to the serpent: I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head. Alleluia.
O Mary, who didst enter the world free from stain, do thou obtain for me, from God, that I may pass out of it free from sin. Amen
InvocationO Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
Indulgence of 300 days; plenary indulgence once a month on the usual conditions, for devout daily recitation.
To the Virgin ImmaculateO Virgin Immaculate, Mother of God and my Mother, from thy sublime height turn upon me thine eyes of pity. Filled with confidence in thy goodness and knowing full well thy power, I beseech thee to extend to me thine assistance in the journey of life, which is so full of dangers for my soul. And in order that I may never be the slave of the devil through sin, but may ever live with my heart humble and pure, I entrust myself wholly to thee. I consecrate my heart to thee for ever, my only desire being to love thy divine Son Jesus. Mary, none of thy devout servants has ever perished; may I too be saved. Amen.
Indulgence of 500 days.O pure and immaculate and likewise blessed Virgin, who art the sinless Mother of thy Son, the mighty Lord of the universe, thou who art inviolate and altogether holy, the hope of the hopeless and sinful, we sing thy praises. We bless thee, as full of every grace, thou who didst bear the God-Man: we all bow low before thee; we invoke thee and implore thine aid. Rescue us, O holy and inviolate Virgin, from every necessity that presses upon us and from all the temptations of the devil. Be our intercessor and advocate at the hour of death and judgment; deliver us from the fire that is not extinguished and from the outer darkness; make us worthy of the glory of thy Son, O dearest and most clement Virgin Mother. Thou indeed art our only hope, most sure and sacred in God's sight, to whom be honor and glory, majesty and dominion for ever and ever world without end. Amen.
Prayer of Praise
Saint Ephrem the SyrianO Almighty and Eternal God, Who didst prepare for thy Son a worthy habitation, by the immaculate conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary; we beseech Thee, that, as Thou didst preserve her from every stain of sin, through the merits of the preordained atonement of Jesus Christ, so Thou wouldst grant that we also may come without spot to Thee. Through the same Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen
Litany of the Immaculate Conception
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father, Source of all sanctity,
Have mercy on us.
God the Son, uncreated Sanctity,
Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost,
Spirit of Sanctity,
Have mercy on us.
Most sacred Trinity, one God,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, immaculate,
Pray for us.*
Virgin of virgins, immaculate*
Holy Virgin, by predestination immaculate,*
Holy Virgin, in thy conception immaculate,*
Holy Virgin, after thy conception immaculate*
Daughter of the Father, immaculate,*
Mother of the Son, immaculate,*
Spouse of the Holy Ghost, immaculate,*
Seat of the most Holy Trinity, immaculate,*
Image of the Wisdom of God, immaculate,*
Dawn of the Son of Justice, immaculate,*
Living arc of the body of Christ, immaculate,*
Daughter of David, immaculate,*
Guide to Jesus, immaculate,*
Virgin, triumphing over original sin, immaculate,*
Virgin crushing the head of the serpent, immaculate,*
Queen of heaven and earth, immaculate,*
Gate of the heavenly Jerusalem, immaculate,*
Dispenser of graces, immaculate,*
Spouse of St. Joseph, immaculate,*
Star of the world, immaculate,*
Impregnable tower of the Church militant, immaculate,*
Rose amid thorns, immaculate,*
Olive of the fields, immaculate,*
Model of all perfection, immaculate,*
Cause of our hope, immaculate,*
Pillar of our faith, immaculate,*
Source of divine love, immaculate,*
Sure sign of our salvation, immaculate,*
Rule of perfect obedience, immaculate,*
Pattern of holy poverty, immaculate,*
School of devotion, immaculate,*
Abode of chaste modesty, immaculate,*
Anchor of our salvation, immaculate,*
Light of angels, immaculate,*
Crown of Patriarchs, immaculate,*
Glory of Prophets, immaculate,*
Lady and Mistress of Apostles, immaculate,*
Support of Martyrs, immaculate,*
Strength of Confessors, immaculate,*
Diadem of Virgins, immaculate,*
Splendor of all Saints, immaculate,*
Sanctity of all Christians, immaculate,*
Companion of devout souls, immaculate,*
Joy of those who hope in thee, immaculate,*
Health of the sick, immaculate,*
Advocate of sinners, immaculate,*
Terror of heretics, immaculate,*
Protectress of all mankind, immaculate,*
Patroness of those who honor thee, immaculate,*
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.
V. In thy conception, O Virgin Mary, thou wast immaculate.
R. Pray for us to the Father, Whose Son Jesus conceived of the Holy Ghost, thou didst bring forth.
Let us Pray.
Ejaculations in honor of the Immaculate Conception1. In your Conception, O Virgin Mary, you were immaculate! Pray for us to the Father, Whose Son Jesus, conceived in your womb by the Holy Ghost, you brought forth.
An indulgence of 300 days each time. (353)2. Blessed be the holy, immaculate, and most pure conception of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.
An indulgence of 300 days each time. (336)3. O Mary, who came into this world free from sin, obtain from God for me to leave it without sin.
An indulgence of 300 days each time. ( 355)
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