A Vessel of Devotion
“But as great as was St. Paul’s devotion to our Lord, much greater was that of the Blessed Virgin: because she was his mother, and because she had him and all his sufferings actually before her eyes, and because she had the long intimacy of thirty years with him, and because she was from her special sanctity so unspeakably near him in spirit.
When, then, he was mocked, bruised, scourged, and nailed to the Cross, she felt as keenly as if every indignity and torture inflicted on him was struck at herself. She could have cried out in agony at every pang of his.
This is called her compassion, or her suffering with her Son, and it arose from this that she was the ‘Vessel of Devotion’ unlike any other.”
Bl. John Henry Newman, p. 155 OF “A Year with Mary”
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated every December 8 to commemorate the Virgin Mary.
The Sacrament of the Immaculate Conception is a Catholic feast that commemorates Mary’s sinless conception. Even though this feast day falls during the Advent season, which also prepares for the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Immaculate Conception refers to Mary’s birth to her mother, St. Anne. According to the religious doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, “from the very first minute of her conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary was kept free from all stains of original sin, even by the singular grace and entitlement of Almighty God, and given the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of Mankind.
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which falls on Dec. 8 each year, is one of the Church’s most misunderstood yet beloved feast days. It is also a Holy Day of Obligation this year, so be sure to find a Mass to attend! In addition to Masses on the day itself, many parishes also offer vigil Masses the day before.
While many think the Immaculate Conception refers to Jesus’s conception by the Virgin Mary, it actually honors the way in which the Virgin Mary’s herself was conceived. (The Feast of the Annunciation on March 25 honors Jesus’ conception).
Now, many might wonder, “why is this such an important part of the Church’s teaching?” The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides the answer:
To become the mother of the Saviour, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.” The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace.” In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.
Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:
The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin. (CCC 490-491)
In addition to attending Mass on this day, another small but significant way to honor this feast day is to invoke the Blessed Mother’s intercession by saying the Hail Mary before meals.
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