Category Archives: Immaculate Conception

The Immaculate Conception

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Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, that great miracle, namely the preservation of the Mother of God from any stain of original or actual sin. A beautiful meditation by Cardinal Corsi (1633-1697):

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.


The Immaculate Conception

Today is the most solemn feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, proclaimed a dogma in 1854 and confirmed later by Our Lady at Lourdes, France in 1858, with the words “I am the Immaculate Conception.”  From the first moment of conception, Our Lady was free from all stain of original sin, meaning she never sinned throughout her life. What a profound thought.  Let us honor Our Lady today and make reparation for the blasphemies hurled at her from those Catholics who do not love and honor her, unbelievers and protestants.  A Blessed Feast to all!

The following meditation is given by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger:

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”–Apoc. 12.

Among the various privileges of the Blessed Virgin, the one which the Church recalls to us by the feast of to-day strikes us as being altogether peculiar in character. In regard to all the other prerogatives of Mary, they are in themselves an incitement for us, who are her children, to derive from them some benefit for ourselves, and to sanctify our lives by the imitation of her virtues. But this privilege which was granted to none but Mary, seems, exceptionally, to bear no practical reference whatever to our life of virtue. And yet from the consideration of this mystery can be drawn much that has reference to our lives as children of God. I admit: We certainly had not the happiness of entering this world free from the stain of sin; still the Sacrament of Baptism which, perhaps we were so fortunate as to receive on the very day, or even in the hour of our birth, cleansed our soul entirely from the guilt of Adam. Alas! how few preserve their baptismal innocence! How soon is it lost! And why is this?

A glance at the image of the Immaculate Conception will give you the answer to this question. O Mary, whose child I became at baptism, beg for me the grace never to lose my baptismal innocence; or, if unfortunately I have lost it, obtain that I may again cleanse my soul from every stain of sin, by the baptism of penance! I speak in the holy name of Jesus, to the greater honor of God! What a precious boon baptismal innocence is, what an extraordinary grace, what a singular privilege! In the past five thousand years countless persons have lived who never had the happiness of receiving baptism. Although Mary was the only being among all the children of men who enjoyed the happiness and the singular grace of coming into existence, free from all stain of original sin, yet we also, who have been born of Catholic parents, have received, without any merit of our own, a most wondrous grace, in being so soon cleansed by baptism from original sin, and thereby becoming pleasing to God.

If we had died the moment after receiving baptism we would have immediately entered heaven, there to enjoy the beatific vision. If this fact furnishes such a potent reason for being grateful to God, must we not be filled with sadness when we reflect that so few of those baptized retain their innocence unto the close of their lives? Ask of yourself: How is it with me? Have I never in my life committed one mortal sin? If not, oh! then thank God and rejoice. But, alas! the number of those who are conscious of this privilege is very small. As regards baptism, there are millions and hundreds of millions who share this happiness with us. But how few of these, if they die as adults, bear their baptismal innocence beyond the grave! And how few of these millions, who reach manhood or old age, have never in their life sinned mortally! I may say the large majority lose the precious grace of innocence in their youth.

And, you may ask, what is the cause of this? I said: That one glance at the image of the Blessed Virgin, which we are accustomed to call that of the Immaculate Conception, will give you the answer. As is well known, we are wont to represent the Immaculate Conception in this manner: Mary is represented as a virgin, with eyes cast down, and hands folded as if in prayer. She places one foot upon the moon, whilst with the other she crushes the head of the serpent that lies upon the ground, bearing an apple in its mouth. Behold, in this image the reasons why so many persons so soon lose the grace of baptism; behold also the virtues, on the diligent practice of which depends the preservation of baptismal innocence!

Mary has one foot upon the earth. This teaches us, that if we wish to retain our innocence we must sever our hearts from all inordinate desire for those things which the world offers–earthly possessions, worldly honor, worldly enjoyments. We must fully understand, that whatever the world may offer with the promise of rendering us happy here below, is naught but dross and disappointment, that can never satisfy the cravings of our hearts, which were created solely for God and for heaven. But this conviction must be so entire, that we not only do not prefer the goods and pleasures of this world to those spiritual ones which our faith and the intercourse with God grant us even in this world; but that we, moreover, regard them in the same light as did St. Paul when he said: I regard all that is not Christ, as the filth of the street. You must cherish the same sentiments if you wish to preserve your baptismal innocence.

But, alas! this is not the case with the great majority of the children of the Church. They overrate earthly goods and enjoyments; and even in their early youth they long for them with such eagerness, that very soon this craving proves their downfall and the occasion for mortal sin.

Mary has, at the same time, the moon under her feet. What meaning is hidden in this? The moon is a symbol of mutability. Man but too often forms good resolutions, but as often fails to keep them; he breaks them as readily as if he had never made them. If all Christians were to adhere to the resolutions which they formed in early youth, then would they also preserve their innocence. But here lies the fault. Circumstances change: one leaves his home and enters with others on the every-day duties of life. He fails in the resolutions he made of saying his prayers, of frequently receiving the Sacraments, Of attending divine service, of reading spiritual books, and thus he becomes careless, yields to temptations, and commits grievous sins others have instilled the poison into their hearts, and entangled them in numerous occasions of sin.

Mary stands wrapt in pious meditation. If you wish to preserve your innocence untarnished, walk in the presence of God with recollection of spirit, and pray with fervor. The holy Fathers have justly remarked, that no one has ever lost his innocence who did not, in the first place, grow careless in saying his prayers, or neglect them altogether. And to what does the serpent, in the image of the Immaculate Conception, point? I answer: It points to the dangers of society and bad company; to the seducing power of bad example, and encouragement to evil on the part of others. This is the means which Satan employs most frequently in bringing souls to ruin. It is intercourse with, and the encouragement of persons who have already become habitual sinners, which exercise the most potent influence over innocent souls. These are in danger of gradually ceasing to regard sin as a dreadful thing; and, being led away by the persuasive language of the seducer, they depart from the narrow path, and tread the broad road which leads to perdition. Young boys and girls who have had the advantage of a religious education at home, are but too often led away in this manner, so that a few months after their first communion they are totally changed. Intercourse with and the encouragement of others have instilled the poison into their hearts, and entangled them in numerous occasions of sin.

Mary crushes the head of the serpent that holds in its mouth the apple of temptation. What does this signify? I answer: The reason why so many persons lose their baptismal innocence is this: They do not resist temptation at the outset, and crush its first beginnings.If you wish to retain your innocence you must follow the advice of Christ: “If thy eye, hand, or foot tempt thee, cut it off–cast it away; “meaning thereby, that we should avoid all occasions of sin, no matter at what cost. If you have lost your innocence, it was because you did not follow this advice.

The image represents the Virgin with eyes cast down. What does this imply? I say, if you wish to preserve your innocence, you must walk in the presence of the Lord in humility of spirit, knowing full well how weak you are of yourself in the face of temptation. This trait in the image of the Blessed Virgin says to you: Humble thyself!

May the invocation of Mary Immaculate obtain for us grace, that by the practice of virtue our lives may be conformable to hers, and that we, in this world of sin, may always walk pure and spotless in the presence of God! Amen!

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

On this day, in 1854, Pope Bl. Pius IX defined the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception as an article of Faith to be believed by all Catholics in these words:

“In honor of the most Holy and Undivided Trinity, for the glory and ornament of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith and the spread of the Christian religion, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own, we pronounce and define, that the doctrine, which maintains that the most blessed Virgin Mary, in the first moment of her conception, was, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, in regard of the merits of Christ Jesus, the Saviour of the human race, preserved free from the stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and is, therefore, to be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful.”

Just a few years later, in 1858, at Lourdes Our Lady confirmed what the Holy Church defined in stone, by saying to St. Bernadette “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

What is the Immaculate Conception?  The Immaculate Conception refers to the singular privilege of Our Lady, that of being conceived without the stain of original sin because She was destined to be the Mother of God.

Prayer of Pope Pius XII

Enraptured by the splendor of thy heavenly beauty, and impelled by the anxieties of the world, we cast ourselves into thine arms, O Immaculate Mother of Jesus and our Mother, Mary, confident of finding in thy most loving heart appeasement of our ardent desires, and a safe harbor from the tempests which beset us on every side.

Though degraded by our faults and overwhelmed by infinite misery, we admire and praise the peerless richness of sublime gifts with which God has filled thee, above every other mere creature, from the first moment of thy conception until the day on which, after thine assumption into Heaven, He crowned thee Queen of the Universe.

O crystal fountain of faith, bathe our minds with the eternal truths! O fragrant Lily of all holiness, captivate our hearts with thy heavenly perfume! O Conqueress of evil and death, inspire in us a deep horror of sin, which makes the soul detestable to God and a slave of Hell!

O well-beloved of God, hear the ardent cry which rises up from every heart. Bend tenderly over our aching wounds. Convert the wicked, dry the tears of the afflicted and oppressed, comfort the poor and humble, quench hatreds, sweeten harshness, safeguard the flower of purity in youth, protect the holy Church, make all men feel the attraction of Christian goodness. In thy name, resounding harmoniously in Heaven, may they recognize that they are brothers, and that the nations are members of one family, upon which may there shine forth the sun of a universal and sincere peace.

Receive, O most sweet Mother, our humble supplications, and above all obtain for us that, one day, happy with thee, we may repeat before thy throne that hymn which today is sung on earth around thine altars: Thou art all-beautiful, O Mary! Thou art the glory, thou art the joy, thou art the honor of our people!  Amen.

For your edification, here is Dom Gueranger in “The Liturgical Year” on this Feast of the Immaculate Conception:

“At length, on the distant horizon, rises, with a soft and radiant light, the aurora of the Sun which has been so long desired. The happy Mother of the Messias was to be born before the Messias Himself; and this is the day of the Conception of Mary. The earth already possesses a first pledge of the Divine mercy; the Son of Man is near at hand. Two true Israelites, Joachim and Anne, noble branches of the family of David, find their union, after a long barrenness, made fruitful by the Divine omnipotence. Glory be to God, Who has been mindful of His promises, and Who deigns to announce, from the high heavens, the end of the deluge of iniquity, by sending upon the earth the sweet white dove that bears the tidings of peace!

The Feast of the blessed Virgin’s Immaculate Conception is the most solemn of all those which the Church celebrates during the holy time of Advent; and if the first part of the cycle had to offer us the commemoration of some one of the mysteries of Mary, there was none whose object could better harmonize with the spirit of the Church in this mystic season of expectation. Let us, then, celebrate this solemnity with joy; for the Conception of Mary tells us that the Birth of Jesus is not far off.

The intention of the Church, in this Feast, is not only to celebrate the anniversary of the happy moment in which began, in the womb of the pious Anne, the life of the ever-glorious Virgin Mary; but also to honour the sublime privilege, by which Mary was preserved from the Original Stain, which, by a sovereign and universal decree, is contracted by all the children of Adam the very moment they are conceived in their mother’s womb. The faith of the Catholic Church on the subject of the Conception of Mary is this: that at the very instant when God united the soul of Mary, which He had created, to the body which it was to animate, this ever-blessed soul did not only not contract the stain, which at that same instant defiles every human soul, but was filled with an immeasurable grace which rendered her, from that moment, the mirror of the sanctity of God Himself, as far as this is possible to a creature. The Church with her infallible authority, declared, by the lips of Pius IX, that this article of her faith had been revealed by God Himself. The Definition was received with enthusiasm by the whole of Christendom, and the eighth of December of the year 1854 was thus made one of the most memorable days of the Church’s history.

It was due to His Own infinite sanctity that God should suspend, in this instance, the law which His Divine justice had passed upon all the children of Adam. The relations which Mary was to bear to the Divinity, could not be reconciled with her undergoing the humiliation of this punishment. She was not only daughter of the eternal Father; she was destined also to become the very Mother of the Son, and the veritable bride of the Holy Ghost.

Nothing defiled could be permitted to enter, even for an instant of time, into the creature that was thus predestined to contract such close relations with the adorable Trinity; not a speck could be permitted to tarnish in Mary that perfect purity which the infinitely holy God requires even in those who are one day to be admitted to enjoy the sight of His Divine majesty in Heaven; in a word, as the great Doctor St. Anselm says, ‘it was just that this holy Virgin should be adorned with since God the Father was to give to her, as her Child, that only-begotten Son, Whom He loved as Himself, as being begotten to Him from His Own bosom; and this in such a manner, that the self-same Son of God was, by nature, the Son of both God the Father and this blessed Virgin. This same Son chose her to be substantially His Mother; and the Holy Ghost willed that in her womb He would operate the conception and birth of Him from Whom He Himself proceeded.  

Moreover, the close ties which were to unite the Son of God with Mary, and which would elicit from Him the tenderest love and the most filial reverence for her, had been present to the Divine thought from all eternity: and the conclusion forces itself upon us that therefore the Divine Word had for this His future Mother a love infinitely greater than that which He bore to all His other creatures. Mary’s honour was infinitely dear to Him, because she was to be His Mother, chosen to be so by His eternal and merciful decrees. The Son’s love protected the Mother. She, indeed, in her sublime humility, willingly submitted to whatever the rest of God’s creatures had brought on themselves, and obeyed every tittle of those laws which were never meant for her: but that humiliating barrier, which confronts every child of Adam at the first moment of his existence, and keeps him from light and grace until he shall have been regenerated by a new birth—–oh! this could not be permitted to stand in Mary’s way, her Son forbade it.

The eternal Father would not do less for the second Eve than He had done for the first, who was created, as was also the first Adam, in the state of original justice, which she afterwards forfeited by sin. The Son of God would not permit that the woman, from whom He was to take the nature of Man, should be deprived of that gift which He had given even to her who was the mother of sin. The Holy Ghost, Who was to overshadow Mary and produce Jesus within her by His Divine operation, would not permit that foul stain, in which we are all conceived, to rest, even for an instant, on this His Bride. All men were to contract the sin of Adam; the sentence was universal; but God’s Own Mother is not included. God Who is the author of that law, God Who was free to make it as He willed, had power to exclude from it her whom He had predestined to be His Own in so many ways; He could exempt her, and it was just that He should exempt her; therefore, He did it.

Was it not this grand exemption which God Himself foretold, when the guilty pair, whose children we all are, appeared before Him in the garden of Eden? In the anathema which fell upon the serpent, there was included a promise of mercy to us. ‘I will put enmities,’ said the Lord, ‘between thee and the Woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head.’ [Gen. iii. 15] Thus was salvation promised the human race under the form of a victory over Satan; and this victory is to be gained by the Woman, and she will gain it for us also. Even granting, as some read this text, that it is the Son of the Woman that is alone to gain this victory, the enmity between the Woman and the serpent is clearly expressed, and she, the Woman, with her own foot, is to crush the head of that hated serpent. The second Eve is to be worthy of the second Adam, conquering and not to be conquered. The human race is one day to be avenged not only by God made Man, but also by the Woman miraculously exempted from every stain of sin, in whom the primeval creation, which was in justice and holiness,  will thus reappear, just as though the Original Sin had never been committed.

Raise up your heads, then, ye children of Adam, and shake off your chains! This day the humiliation which weighed you down is annihilated. Behold! Mary, who is of the same flesh and blood as yourselves, has seen the torrent of sin, which swept along all the generations of mankind, flow back at her presence and not touch her: the infernal dragon has turned away his head, not daring to breathe his venom upon her; the dignity of your origin is given to her in all its primitive grandeur. This happy day, then, on which the original purity of your race is renewed, must be a Feast to you. The second Eve is created; and from her own blood (which, with the exception of the element of sin, is the same as that which makes you to be the children of Adam), she is shortly to give you the God-Man, Who proceeds from her according to the flesh, as He proceeds from the Father according to the eternal generation.

And how can we do less than admire and love the incomparable purity of Mary in her Immaculate Conception, when we hear even God, Who thus prepared her to become His Mother, saying to her, in the Divine Canticle, these words of complacent love: ‘Thou art all fair, O My love, and there is not a spot in thee! It is the God of all holiness that here speaks; that eye, which sees all things, finds not a vestige, not a shadow of sin; therefore does He delight in her, and admire in her that gift of His Own condescending munificence. We cannot be surprised after this, that Gabriel, when he came down from Heaven to announce the Incarnation to her, should be full of admiration at the sight of that purity, whose beginning was so glorious and whose progress was immeasurable; and that this blessed spirit should bow down profoundly before this young Maid of Nazareth, and salute her with, ‘Hail, O full of grace!’ [St. Luke i. 28] And who is this Gabriel? An Archangel, that lives amidst the grandest magnificences of God’s creation, amidst all the gorgeous riches of Heaven; who is brother to the Cherubim and Seraphim, to the Thrones and Dominations; whose eye is accustomed to gaze on those nine angelic choirs with their dazzling brightness of countless degrees of light and grace; he has found on earth, in a creature of a nature below that of Angels, the fullness of grace, of that grace which had been given to the Angels measuredly. This fullness of grace was in Mary from the very first instant of her existence. She is the future Mother of God, and she was ever holy, ever pure, ever Immaculate.

This truth of Mary’s Immaculate Conception—–which was revealed to the Apostles by the Divine Son
 of Mary, inherited by the Church, taught by the holy fathers, believed by each generation of the Christian people with an ever increasing explicitness—–was implied in the very notion of a Mother of God. To believe that Mary was Mother of God, was implicitly to believe that she, on whom this sublime dignity was conferred, had never been defiled with the slightest stain of sin, and that God had bestowed upon her an absolute exemption from sin. But now the Immaculate Conception of Mary rests on an explicit definition dictated by the Holy Ghost. Peter has spoken by the mouth of Pius; and when Peter has spoken, every Christian should believe; for the Son of God has said: ‘I have prayed for thee, Peter, that thy faith fail not.’  [St. Luke xxii. 32] And again: ‘The Holy Ghost, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you.’ [St. John xiv. 26]

The Symbol of our faith has therefore received not a new truth, but a new light on a truth which was previously the object of the universal belief. On that great day of the definition, the infernal serpent was again crushed beneath the victorious foot of the Virgin-Mother, and the Lord graciously gave us the strongest pledge of His mercy. He still loves this guilty earth, since He has deigned to enlighten it with one of the brightest rays of His Mother’s glory. How this earth of ours exulted! The present generation will never forget the enthusiasm with which the entire universe received the tidings of the definition. It was an event of mysterious importance which thus marked this second half of our century; and we shall look forward to the future with renewed confidence; for if the Holy Ghost bids us tremble for the days when truths are diminished among the children of men, [Ps. xi. 2] He would, consequently, have us look on those times as blessed by God in which we receive an increase of truth; an increase both in light and authority.

The Church, even before the solemn proclamation of the grand dogma, kept the Feast of this eighth day of December; which was, in reality, a profession of her faith. It is true that the Feast was not called the Immaculate Conception, but simply the Conception of Mary. But the fact of such a Feast being instituted and kept, was an unmistakable expression of the faith of Christendom in that truth. St. Bernard and the angelical doctor, St. Thomas, both teach that the Church cannot celebrate the Feast of what is not holy; the Conception of Mary, therefore, was holy and immaculate, since the Church has, for ages past, honoured it with a special Feast. The Nativity of the same holy Virgin is kept as a solemnity in the Church, because Mary was born full of grace; therefore, had the first moment of Mary’s existence been one of sin, as is that of all the other children of Adam, it never could have been made the subject of the reverence of the Church. Now, there are few Feasts so generally and so firmly established in the Church as this which we are keeping today.

The Greek Church, which, more easily than the Latin, could learn what were the pious traditions of the east, kept this Feast even in the sixth century, as is evident from the ceremonial or, as it is called, the Type, of St. Sabas. In the west, we find it established in the Gothic Church of Spain as far back as the eighth century. A celebrated calendar which was engraved on marble, in the ninth century, for the use of the Church of Naples, attests that it had already been introduced there. Paul the deacon, secretary to the emperor Charlemagne, and afterwards monk at Monte-Cassino, composed a celebrated hymn on the mystery of the Immaculate Conception; in 1066, the Feast was first established in England, in consequence of the pious Abbot Helsyn’s [ Some writers call him Elsym, and others Elpyn. See Baronius in his notes on the Roman Martyrology, Dec. 8. (Tr.)] being miraculously preserved from shipwreck; and shortly after that, was made general through the whole island by the zeal of the great St. Anselm, monk of the Order of St. Benedict, and archbishop of Canterbury. From England it passed into Normandy, and took root in France. We find it sanctioned in Germany, in a council held in 1049, at which St. Leo IX was present; in Navarre, 1090, at the abbey of Irach; in Belgium, at Liege, in 1142. Thus did the churches of the west testify their faith in this mystery, by accepting its Feast, which is the expression of faith.

Lastly, it was adopted by Rome herself, and her doing so rendered the united testimony of her children, the other churches more imposing than ever. It was Pope Sixtus IV who, in the year 1476, published the decree of the Feast of our Lady’s Conception for the city of St. Peter. In the next century, 1568, St. Pius V published the universal edition of the Roman breviary, and in its calendar was inserted this Feast as one of those Christian solemnities which the faithful are every year bound to observe. It was not from Rome that the devotion of the Catholic world to this mystery received its first impulse; she sanctioned it by her liturgical authority, just as she has confirmed it by her doctrinal authority in these our own days.

The three great Catholic nations of Europe, Germany, France, and Spain, vied with each other in their devotion to this mystery of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. France, by her king Louis XIV, obtained from Clement IX, that this Feast should be kept with an octave throughout the kingdom; which favour was afterwards extended to the universal Church by Innocent XII. For centuries previous to this, the theological faculty of Paris had always exacted from its professors the oath that they would defend this privilege of Mary; a pious practice which continued as long as the university itself.

As regards Germany, the emperor Ferdinand III, in 1647, ordered a splendid monument to be erected in the great square of Vienna. It is covered with emblems and figures symbolical of Mary’s victory over sin, and on the top is the statue of the Immaculate Queen, with this solemn and truly Catholic inscription:


[D. O. M. supremo coeli terrreque imperatori, per quem reges regnant; Virgini Deiparae Immaculatae Conceptae, per quam principes imperant, in peculiarem Dominam, Austriae Patronam, singulari pietate suseeptae, se, liberos, populos, exercitus, provincias, omnia denique confidit, donat, consecrat, et in perpetuam rei memoriam statuam hanc ex voto ponit Ferdinandus III Augustus.]

But the zeal of Spain for the privilege of the holy Mother of God surpassed that of all other nations. In the year 1398, John I, king of Arragon, issued a chart in which he solemnly places his person and kingdom under the protection of Mary Immaculate. Later on, kings Philip III and Philip IV sent ambassadors to Rome, soliciting, in their names, the solemn definition, which Heaven reserved, in its mercy, for our days. King Charles III, in the eighteenth century, obtained permission from Clement XIII, that the Immaculate Conception should be the patronal Feast of Spain. The people of Spain, which is so justly called the Catholic kingdom, put over the door, or on the front of their houses, a tablet with the words of Mary’s privilege written on it; and when they meet, they greet each other with an expression in honour of the same dear mystery. It was a Spanish nun, Mary of Jesus, abbess of the convent of the Immaculate Conception of Agreda, who wrote God’s Mystic City, which inspired Murillo with his Immaculate Conception, the masterpiece of the Spanish school.

But, whilst thus mentioning the different nations which have been foremost in their zeal for this article of our holy faith, the Immaculate Conception, it were unjust to pass over the immense share which the seraphic Order, the Order of St. Francis of Assisi, has had in the earthly triumph of our blessed Mother, the Queen of Heaven and earth. As often as this Feast comes round, is it not just that we should think with reverence and gratitude on him, who was the first theologian that showed how closely connected with the Divine mystery of the Incarnation is this dogma of the Immaculate Conception? First, then, all honour to the name of the pious and learned John Duns Scotus! And when at length the great day of the definition of the Immaculate Conception came, how justly merited was that grand audience, which the Vicar of Christ granted to the Franciscan Order, and with which closed the pageant of the glorious solemnity! Pius IX received from the hands of the children of St. Francis a tribute of homage and thankfulness, which the Scotist school, after having fought four hundred years in defence of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, now presented to the Pontiff.

In the presence of the fifty-four Cardinals, forty-two archbishops, and ninety-two bishops; before an immense concourse of people that filled St. Peter’s, and had united in prayer, begging the assistance of the Spirit of truth; the Vicar of Christ had just pronounced the decision which so many ages had hoped to hear. The Pontiff had offered the holy Sacrifice on the Confession of St. Peter. He had crowned the statue of the Immaculate Queen with a splendid diadem. Carried on his lofty throne, and wearing his triple crown, he had reached the portico of the basilica; there he is met by the two representatives of St. Francis: they prostrate before the throne: the triumphal procession halts: and first, the General of the Friars Minor Observantines advances, and presents to the holy Father a branch of silver lilies: he is followed by the General of the Conventual Friars, holding in his hand a branch of silver roses. The Pope graciously accepted both. The lilies and the roses were symbolical of Mary’s purity and love; the whiteness of the silver was the emblem of the lovely brightness of that orb, on which is reflected the light of the Sun; for, as the Canticle says of Mary, ‘she is beautiful as the moon.’ [Cant. vi. 9] The Pontiff was overcome with emotion at these gifts of the family of the seraphic patriarch, to which we might justly apply what was said of the banner of the Maid of Orleans: ‘It had stood the brunt of the battle; it deserved to share in the glory of the victory.’ And thus ended the glories of that grand morning of the eighth of December, eighteen hundred and fifty-four.

It is thus, O thou the humblest of creatures, that thine Immaculate Conception has been glorified on earth! And how could it be other than a great joy to men, that thou art honoured by them, thou the aurora of the Sun of justice? Dost thou not bring them the tidings of their salvation? Art not thou, O Mary, that bright ray of hope, which suddenly bursts forth in the deep abyss of the world’s misery? What should we have been without Jesus? And thou art His dearest Mother, the holiest of God’s creatures, the purest of virgins, and our own most loving Mother!

How thy gentle light gladdens our wearied eyes, sweet Mother! Generation had followed generation on this earth of ours. Men looked up to Heaven through their tears, hoping to see appear on the horizon the star which they had been told should disperse the gloomy horrors of the world’s darkness; but death came, and they sank into the tomb, without seeing even the dawn of the light, for which alone they cared to live. It is for us that God had reserved the blessing of seeing thy lovely rising, O thou fair morning star! which sheddest thy blessed rays on the sea, and bringest calm after the long stormy night! Oh! prepare our eyes that they may behold the Divine Sun which will soon follow in thy path, and give to the world His reign of light and day. Prepare our hearts, for it is to our hearts that this Jesus of thine wishes to show Himself. To see Him, our hearts must be pure: purify them, O thou Immaculate Mother! The Divine wisdom has willed that of the Feasts which the Church dedicates to thee, this of thine Immaculate Conception should be celebrated during Advent; that thus the children of the Church, reflecting on the jealous care wherewith God preserved thee from every stain of sin because thou wast to be the Mother of His Divine Son, might prepare to receive this same Jesus by the most perfect renunciation of every sin and of every attachment to sin. This great change must be made; and thy prayers, O Mary! will help us to make it. Pray—–we ask it of thee by the grace God gave thee in thine Immaculate Conception—–that our covetousness may be destroyed, our concupiscence extinguished, and our pride turned into humility. Despise not our prayers, dear Mother of that Jesus Who chose thee for His dwelling-place, that He might afterwards find one in each of us.

O Mary! Ark of the covenant, built of an incorruptible wood, and covered over with the purest gold! Help us to correspond with those wonderful designs of our God, Who, after having found His glory in thine incomparable purity, wills now to seek His glory in our unworthiness, by making us, from being slaves of the devil, His temples and His abode, where He may find His delight. Help us to this, O thou that by the mercy of thy Son hast never known sin! and receive this day our devoutest praise. Thou art the ark of salvation; the one creature unwrecked in the universal deluge; the white fleece filled with the dew of Heaven, whilst the earth around is parched; the flame which the many waters could not quench; the lily blooming amidst thorns; the garden shut against the infernal serpent; the fountain sealed, whose limpid water was never ruffled; the house of the Lord, whereon His eyes were ever fixed, and into which nothing defiled could ever enter; the mystic city, of which such glorious things are said. [Ps. lxxxvi. 3] We delight in telling all thy glorious titles, O Mary! For thou art our Mother, and we love thee, and the Mother’s glory is the glory of her children. Cease not to bless and protect all those that honour thine immense privilege, O thou who wert conceived on this day! May this Feast fit us for that mystery, for which thy Conception, thy Birth, and thine Annunciation, are all preparations—–the Birth of thy Jesus in Bethlehem: yea, dear Mother, we desire thy Jesus, give Him to us and satisfy the longings of our love.”

 A blessed and holy feast of the Immaculate Conception to all my readers!

~Damsel of the Faith