8th December 2020


Tuesday, Second Week of Advent; Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Gen 3:9-15,20;   Ps 98:1-4;   Eph 1:3-6,11-12;   Lk 1:26-38


We celebrate today the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the second reading we come across the hymn that Paul used in his thanksgiving prayer in beginning of his epistle to the Ephesians. It is a baptismal hymn of the early Church similar to the one found in the beginning of Peter’s first letter, a baptismal homily or sermon. The epistle reminds us of the noble call we have been given, to be “saints”. It is a positive message that offsets some of the pessimism that occurs when we think only about original sin in this dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

Mary responded “Yes” to God’s universal plan of salvation for all humankind. She became, through this “Yes”, the “world’s first love.” Mary is that new song that we sing today as we honour her integrity and sanctity. God’s grace is the foundation of her immaculate conception and of our “being born again from above” (Jn 3:7). St Irenaeus of Lyon was the first to reflect on Genesis (first reading) in the light of Mary and Eve. Both are called “Mother of the living.” Mary, through Jesus, became the universal mother of the living, and renewed the “original blessing” bestowed on humankind at its moment of creation. Adam and Eve bound us up with the rope of disobedience to the divine will and plan for happiness; Mary through Jesus was able to untie and unravel completely that contortion and twisted series of knots which we call sin. Mary was the way back to rediscover the original plan of God (cf. Eph 1:10) and thus to restore the original blessedness of joy and peace to humankind.

John Cardinal Newman rediscovered the importance of Irenaeus’ thought for a foundational principle in Mariology. The long history of the tradition about this ‘New Eve’ teaching was intimately connected with Paul’s teaching of Jesus as the ‘New Adam’. Mary cooperated with this love plan of God and thus had a cooperative role in the mystery of our salvation.

In today’s gospel, we find the beautiful passage of the Annunciation, where Archangel Gabriel said to Mary, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” This indicates the exceptional holiness of the Blessed Mother. When one considers the role, Mary was to play in the life of our Lord – whether his incarnation, his childhood, or his crucifixion – she must be outstanding in holiness, truly “full of grace” in accepting and in fulfilling her role as the mother of the Saviour in the fullest sense of Mother. Her grace-filled holiness was from the very beginning of her life, her conception.

As Christ’s mother, we have also considered her as Mother of the Church. When Mary was conceived in St Anne’s womb, she was perfectly free of the consequences of original sin. Her sinlessness is often presented as a necessary corollary to two basic social truths: the glory of a child gives honour to the parents and the shame of a parent brings disgrace upon a child. Our virgin’s sinlessness “builds a fence” around the sinlessness of our Lord Jesus, who is like us in all things but sin. Mary was perfectly free of the effects of original sin as an adult, at the moment of Christ’s conception. Over several faultless years of freely-chosen charity, Mary acquired with God’s grace the perfect purity, making her a worthy vessel of his son. In Mary is summed up the longing and searching of the whole human race for God: she is the first among those who believed in Jesus Christ and was the first to be saved from evil and death.”

In a homily on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception delivered in 1982, Pope St John Paul II wrote: “Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who filled you, Virgin of Nazareth, with every spiritual blessing in Christ. In him, you were conceived immaculate. Pre-selected to be his mother, you were redeemed in him and through him more than any other human being. Preserved from the inheritance of original sin, you were conceived and came into the world in a state of sanctifying grace. Full of grace!” May we venerate this mystery of our faith, as children of Mary in today’s solemnity

Responsorial Psalm: O sing a new song to the Lord, for he has worked wonders.

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