REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
December 8, 2020
By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA
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.” Luke 1:26–28
Today we celebrate the Blessed Mother being conceived without sin, preserved from the first moment of her existence as a part of God’s plan for our salvation. Mary, saved preemptively through the grace of her Son, is preserved from sin and is “full of grace” from the moment of her conception. With full freedom, Mary chooses to remain sinless and says yes to God’s plan for her and the world, thus reversing the disobedience of Eve and becoming the “New Eve.”
In our gospel reference, the angel Gabriel appears to Mary, with the greeting “Hail full of grace,” telling her that through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Most High, she will conceive and bear a son. Mary replies that she is the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. What does it mean to be “full of grace?” This is a question at the heart of our solemn celebration today.
Today we honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Savior of the World, under the unique title of “The Immaculate Conception.” This title acknowledges that grace filled her soul from the moment of her conception, thus preserving her from the stain of sin. Though this truth had been held for centuries among the Catholic faithful, it was solemnly declared as a dogma of our faith on December 8, 1854, by Pope Pius IX. In his dogmatic declaration he stated:
We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.
By raising this doctrine of our faith to the level of a dogma, the holy father declared that this truth is to be held as certain by all the faithful. It is a truth that is found in the words of the angel Gabriel, “Hail, full of grace!” To be “full” of grace means just that. Full! 100%. Interestingly, the Holy Father did not say that Mary was born in a state of Original Innocence as were Adam and Eve before they fell into Original Sin.
Instead, the Blessed Virgin Mary is declared to be preserved from sin by “a singular grace.” Though she had not yet conceived her Son, the grace that He would win for humanity by His Cross and Resurrection was declared to have transcended time so as to heal our Blessed Mother at the moment of her conception, preserving her of even the stain of Original Sin, by the gift of grace.
Why would God do this? Because no stain of sin could be mingled with the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. And if the Blessed Virgin Mary were to become a fitting instrument by which God unites with our human nature, then she needed to be preserved from all sin. Additionally, she remained in grace throughout her life, refusing to ever turn from God by her own free will.
As we celebrate this dogma of our faith today, turn your eyes and heart to our Blessed Mother by simply pondering those words spoken by the angel: “Hail, full of grace!” Ponder them, this day, reflecting upon them over and over in your heart. Imagine the beauty of the soul of Mary. Imagine the perfect grace-filled virtue she enjoyed in her humanity. Imagine her perfect faith, perfect hope and perfect charity. Reflect upon every word she spoke, being inspired and directed by God. She truly is The Immaculate Conception. Honor her as such this day and always.
My mother and my queen, I love you and honor you this day as The Immaculate Conception! I gaze upon your beauty and perfect virtue. I thank you for always saying “Yes” to the will of God in your life and for allowing God to use you with such power and grace. Pray for me, that as I come to know you more deeply as my own spiritual mother, I may also imitate your life of grace and virtue in all things. Mother Mary, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You!