December 8, 2010

The Immaculate Conception

Today (Dec. 8th) is the fest of the Immaculate Conception. The Immaculate Conception is, according to Roman Catholic Dogma, the conception of the Virgin Mary without any stain (macula in Latin) of original sin.

The dogma states that, from the first moment of her existence, she was preserved by God from the lack of sanctifying grace that afflicts mankind, and that she was instead filled with divine grace. It is further believed by Catholics that she lived a life completely free from sin. Her immaculate conception in the womb of her mother, through sexual intercourse, may be contrasted with the doctrine of the virginal conception of her son Jesus, known as the Annunciation, and followed by the Virgin Birth.

The dogma is based upon the following text from Luke;
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.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her,“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”But Mary said to the angel,“How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply,“ The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Mary's Immaculate conception is based on two key passages from the proceeding gospel; when the angel Gabriel says to Mary, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you,” and, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God."

To be "full of grace" and to be in favor with the Lord are one in the same thing. Mary was in the Lord's favor and full of grace meaning she was preserved from sin, both original and otherwise, from the moment of conception onward.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception is as much about Jesus as it is about Mary since through it Mary was prepared to be the mother of Christ.

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