Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Today's Gospel Lk 1:26-38
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Immaculate Conception, 1678Jesus 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.

Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  This Feast confuses many Catholics, never mind everyone else.  People quite naturally believe it is the celebration of Jesus' conception in Mary through the power of Holy Spirit.  But the Feast is actually a celebration of Mary's natural conception in her mother's womb free from original sin.  This grace was bestowed on Mary by God in light of the work of redemption her son Jesus would perform for all people.  The angel Gabriel in the Gospel today acknowledges this when he greets Mary as "full of grace" - before he has even told her of God's plan and she has said yes to it.  They are the first words out of the angel's mouth.

This is a deeply mystical belief of the Catholic Church, rooted in Scripture and Tradition, whose meaning is still unfolding to us.  As with any aspect of Catholic belief regarding  Mary, her holiness and sanctity always point the way to her son, Jesus.  What was done in secret for Mary at her very conception in her mother's womb, would be done for all people who welcomed God's mercy and love through Jesus Christ.  She is the first Christian, and the model for all who follow after her. So we too say, "Hail Mary, full of grace!" - Scott Salvato, Director of Campus Ministries - Molloy College

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Immaculate Conception, 1678

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