Advent Saints – Mary, The Immaculate Conception by Deacon Marty McIndoe

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The Blessed Virgin Mary is the greatest of all Saints and is venerated with a special cult.  She is called by St. Thomas Aquinas, hyperdulia, as the holiest of all creatures.  Her Feast Day on December 8th celebrates her Immaculate Conception.  Many people think that this refers to the conception of Jesus, but it is all about the conception of Mary by Saint Anne.  The conception of Jesus is celebrated as the Annunciation of the Lord on March 25th, exactly nine months before Jesus’ birthday on December 25th.  The birthday of Mary is celebrated exactly nine months after the Immaculate Conception, on September 8th.  When you think about it, these dates make a lot of sense.

So what is the Immaculate Conception?  Very simply it tells us that by a special grace from God Mary was conceived without original sin.  This was to make her ready to receive the God made Man, Jesus.  She was to be the New Ark of the Covenant, the very dwelling place of God.  Sin could not be present where God was present.  Although the doctrine was promulgated fairly recently, in 1854 by Pope Pius IX , it dates back to the very earliest days of the Church.   Many of the early Church fathers reflected on it and many scripture passages hint at it, but it took a long time for Theologians to deal with it.  Two Franciscans, William of Ware and Blessed John Duns Scotus, helped develop the theology. They pointed out that Mary’s Immaculate Conception enhances Jesus’ redemptive work. Other members of the human race are cleansed from original sin after birth by baptism. In Mary, Jesus’ work was so powerful as to prevent original sin at the moment of conception.

Even though there was no official promulgation until 1854, and even though theologians were late in defining it, the Church and its peoples celebrated it.  There are indications the Feast was celebrated as early as the 600’s.  Initially it was known as the Conception of Saint Anne.  By the 11th century it bore its present name, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.  For those who would like some further information on the Feast, I would recommend going to Catholic Answers.  I am giving you the link to the page where it shows Scriptural references for the Feast.  Just click here:  http://www.catholic.com/blog/tim-staples/the-immaculate-conception-in-scripture.

 

Here are some quotes from early Church fathers about the Immaculate Conception:

“She was the ark formed of incorruptible wood. For by this is signified that His tabernacle was exempt from putridity and corruption.” – St. Hippolytus (circa 235 A.D.)

“This Virgin Mother of the Only begotten of God is called Mary, worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, one of the one.” – Origen (244)

“Thou alone and Thy Mother are in all things fair; there is no flaw in Thee and no stain in Thy Mother.” – St. Ephraim (370)

“Mary, a virgin not only undefiled but a virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free of every stain of sin.” – St. Ambrose (388)

“A Virgin, innocent, spotless, free of all defect, untouched, unsullied, holy in soul and body, like a lily sprouting among thorns.” – Theodotus of Ancrya (446)

“The very fact that God has elected her proves that none was ever holier than Mary; if any stain had disfigured her soul, if any other virgin had been purer and holier, God would have selected her and rejected Mary.” – Jacob of Sarug (521)

“In the womb of the her mother now begins to blossom the earth which will be the dwelling place of the Creator of the earth, the holy scepter, the new ark, the vessel of manna, … the bush which was not consumed by fire, the golden candelabrum, the living bridal room  of the Lord God.” – Hymn for the feast of the Conception of St. Anne (seventh century)

“She is born like the cherubim, she who is of a pure, immaculate clay.” – Theotoknos of Livias (650)

“Today humanity, in all the radiance of her immaculate nobility, receives its ancient beauty.  The shame of sin had darkened the splendor and attraction of human nature; but when the Mother of the Fair One par excellence is born, this nature again regains in her person its ancient privileges and is fashioned according to a perfect model truly worthy of God…. The reform of our nature begins today, and the aged world, subjected to a wholly divine transformation, receives the first fruits of the second creation.” – Andrew of Crete (733)

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