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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

immaculate conception
The Immaculate Conception by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

Both the feast and doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was originally opposed by the Dominicans. Recognition of the feast goes back to the 7th century though it was not universal. Some speculate that the Church in Syria recognized it as far back as the 5th century!

It came to the Western Church from the East. It wasn't until 1476 that Pope Sixtus IV established it as a universal feast. Since the dogma was not officially defined, Catholics were not obliged to accept the dogma and this was reiterated by the Council of Trent. The Immaculate Conception was solemnly defined as a dogma by Pope Pius IX in 1854 on the same ancient traditional date of the feast, December 8.

We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which asserts that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin is a doctrine revealed by God and, for this reason, must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful.

----- Pope Pius IX, 1854, ineffabilis Dei

We must except the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honour to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin.

--- St. Augustine (On Nature and Grace, 42)

immaculate conception
Immaculate Conception with Saints by Piero di Cosimo

In Praise of Mary Immaculate

You are all fair, O Mary;
the original stain is not in you.
You are the glory of Jerusalem,
the joy of Israel,
the honor of our people,
and the great advocate of sinners.
O Mary, Virgin most prudent,
Mother most merciful, pray for us;
intercede for us with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Saint Anne conceiving the Virgin Mary
Saint Anne conceiving the Virgin Mary by Jean Bellegambe

Prayer of Pope Pius XII
on the centenury of the Immaculate Conception dogma

Enraptured by the splendor of thy heavenly beauty, and impelled by the anxieties of the world, we cast ourselves into thine arms, O Immacuate 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.

Taken from The Prayer Book, Father John P. O'Connell, M.A., S.T.D., 1954.


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