Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Immaculate Conception - The Beauty of Advent

When, in 1854, Blessed Pope Pius IX solemnly defined the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he was giving full voice to an ancient and venerable tradition: “The Virgin Mary, in the first moment of her conception, by a singular 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” (Ineffabilis Deus). 

Although it might seem out of place to interrupt the quiet, dark procession of the days of Advent with today’s joyous celebration of the Immaculate Conception, this solemnity, as Henri Nouwen has observed, embodies the promise of Advent. “In this feast,” he writes, “it seems that all the quiet beauty of Advent suddenly bursts forth into exuberance and exultation. In Mary we see all the beauty of Advent concentrated. She is one in whom the waiting of Israel is most wholly and purely manifested; she is the last of the remnant of Israel for whom God shows his mercy and fulfills his promises; she is the faithful one who believed that the promise made to her by the Lord would be fulfilled; she is the lowly handmaid, the obedient servant, the quiet contemplative. She indeed is the most prepared to receive the Lord” (The Genesee Diary).  

The Immaculate Conception
by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
At its best, our devotion to the Mother of God, expressed in both liturgical and private prayer, celebrates the part Mary played in the decisive moments of salvation history. Her holiness, already fully realized at her Immaculate Conception, but increasing even more through her obedience and cooperation in the work of her Son, is an image of the holiness of the Church, the Bride of Christ, “without spot or wrinkle” (Preface of the Immaculate Conception). As Thomas Merton reflected, “The light that shines in Mary is the same light that is to shine in the whole Church and in the entire cosmos recapitulated in Christ. So Mary is compared with the heavenly Jerusalem: ‘The Lord has shown us the heavenly Jerusalem filled with the light of God, and her light is like crystal and precious stones’ (Revelation 21:10-11)” (New Seasons of Celebration). 

A Prayer in Honor of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Francis +
Virgin most holy and immaculate,
to you, the honor of our people,
and the loving protector of our city,
do we turn with loving trust.

You are all-beautiful, O Mary!
In you there is no sin.

Awaken in all of us a renewed desire for holiness:
May the splendor of truth shine forth in our words,
the song of charity resound in our works,
purity and chastity abide in our hearts and bodies,
and the full beauty of the Gospel be evident in our lives.

You are all-beautiful, O Mary!
In you the Word of God became flesh.

Help us always to heed the Lord's voice:
May we never be indifferent to the cry of the poor,
or untouched by the sufferings of the weak and those in need;
may we be sensitive to the loneliness of the elderly and the vulnerability of children,
and always love and cherish the life of every human being.

You are all-beautiful, O Mary!
In you is the fullness of joy born of life with God.

Help us never to forget the meaning of our earthly journey:
May the kindly light of faith illumine our days,
the comforting power of hope direct our steps,
the contagious warmth of love stir our hearts;
and may our gaze be fixed on God, in whom true joy is found.

You are all-beautiful, O Mary!
Hear our prayer, graciously hear our plea:
May the beauty of God's merciful love in Jesus abide in our hearts,
and may this divine beauty save us, our city and the entire world. Amen.
(from the Act of Veneration of the Immaculate in Piazza di Spagna)


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, so much. I hope this Advent season is filled with many blessings for you.

  2. I've just read your lovely reflection from December 8th last year. You've captured the beauty and spirit of this Feast, incorporating it very well into this precious time of Advent.Thank you.