December 8, 2017

Mary's Immaculate Conception

December 8, 2017:  Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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Pope Francis
Angelus:  The angel's words contain the key to understanding today's celebration.  He calls Mary “full of grace” even before pronouncing her name.  In this way, God reveals the new name God gave her that befits her more than the one her parents gave.  “Full of grace” means “full of God's presence.”  Since God entirely pervades her, there's no place in her for sin.  It's extraordinary since evil contaminates the whole world.  Only Mary is humanity's ever-green oasis; she's the only uncontaminated person, immaculately created to welcome fully–with her ‘yes’–God who came into the world.  When we call her “full of grace,” we pay her the greatest compliment, the one God offered her.  Because she's sinless, she's immune to aging (since sin, not age, makes you old, not age), and tota pulchra, completely beautiful.  Since her youth doesn't depend on age, her beauty consists not on external appearances. Mary, as the day’s Gospel shows, does not excel in appearance.  She is from a simple family; she lived humbly in almost-unknown Nazareth.  Many paintings of the Annunciation show Mary seated before an angel with a book of Scripture; she often listened to and reflected with God.  God's Word was her secret; he took on flesh in her womb.  Lord, give us the grace to stay young by saying no to sin and to live a beautiful life by saying yes to you.
Prayer to Mary:  Immaculate Mother, we thank you for always caring for us all.  As soon as we turn our thoughts to you, we feel your tender, strong, maternal presence.  Help us develop the "antibodies" we need to combat the viruses of our times:  indifference, unsociable behavior, fear of foreigners and those different from us, conformism, hypocrisy, resignation to environmental and ethical degradation, exploitation of people.  Help us reject these and other viruses with antibodies from the Gospel.  Let us read a gospel passage every day and, like you, keep God's Word in our hearts, so it may fruit in our lives.  When you touched atheist Alphonse Ratisbonne, he became a Christian.  Mother of grace and mercy, help us look to your open hands that allow grace to fall on the earth.  Help us rid ourselves of pride and arrogance, and recognize ourselves as the poor sinners we are, but your children.  Let us place our hand in yours and let ourselves be led back to Jesus, our Brother, Savior, and Father, who waits for us and forgives us when we return to him.  Thank you for listening to us.  Bless the Church, this city, and the whole world.
Read
  • Gn 3:9-15, 20  Adam/God:  “I was naked so hid myself.” / “You ate the forbidden fruit!” / “The woman you put with me gave it to me.” God / Eve:  “Why?” / “The serpent tricked me.”  “Serpent, I'll make you and the woman enemies...”  Eve became mother of all the living.
    Annunciation/ Tanner
    More and more Annunciation art
    for today's gospel
  • Ps 98:1-4  "Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds."  All have seen the Lord's salvation, justice, kindness, and faithfulness; sing joyfully!
  • Eph 1:3-6, 11-12  Praise God who blessed us, loved us, chose us before the world was founded to be holy, to be adopted, to praise his glory.
  • Lk 1:26-38  Gabriel/Mary:  “Hail, full of grace!  The Lord is with you.  Don't be afraid; you'll bear a son and name him Jesus.  He'll be King, Son of the Most High.”  “How?”  “The Holy Spirit and God's power...  The child will be the Son of God...  Your 'barren' cousin also conceived; nothing's impossible.”  “I'm the Lord's handmaid.  May it be done.”
Reflect
  • Creighton:  God takes the initiative; God chooses us.  Paul was converted en route to Damascus where he'd planned to persecute Jesus' followers; the initiative was clearly Jesus'.  Paul reminds us:  “God... chose us in [Christ], before the foundations of the world.”  Paul says it's because of their communion with the Lord that they were chosen.  In choosing Mary to be his mother, God chose an obscure woman from an obscure village.  Mary was frightened, so the angel reassured her.  God called both Paul and Mary; neither expected the call, but both responded fully.  And God chooses us!  Mary is our model, intercessor, and mother.  We pray that we may experience God’s indwelling in us so like Mary we may be transformed by it.  May we imitate Mary's response to God’s call.
  • One Bread, One Body:  "The conception of his incarnation":  Today billions don't believe Jesus is God, but Mary's conception of Jesus while a virgin is evidence he's "Son of the Most High," "Son of God."  Others don't believe Jesus is a man, but Mary gave him her human nature.  Because Mary was immaculately conceived before Jesus was, it's clearer she gave him human nature.  Because Jesus is truly human, human nature has been transformed and we can relate to him person to person....
  • Passionist:  Today’s feast celebrates Mary's being chosen from the moment of her conception, but the readings focus on her full, freely given response.  Many paintings of the Annunciation include symbols that help to convey the event's meaning:
    • Light passing through a glass window or shining into a walled garden:  Mary’s chastity.
    • Mary being offered or holding a lily:  Mary's virginity.
    • Gabriel, winged, white, and descending towards Mary:  God’s Word being conveyed to her.
    • Book open to Is 7:14, dove descending on Mary:  the moment of conception.
Immaculate Conception
Murillo

(More art)
Luke 'paints' the scene with details to help us understand the event's meaning.  God's extraordinary means of communication (angel), reserved for when heaven and earth seem to touch.  God’s message steps from heaven to earth.  “Mary was troubled and pondered the greeting”:  Afraid (or else why would Gabriel say "Don't be afraid"?), she asks how it can be since she's a virgin.  Luke presents Mary as one like us, who must struggle to understand, then respond to, God’s word.  She seeks to know and understand what lies ahead even as she takes a leap of faith and says yes.  The angel reassures her of God’s faithfulness by telling her that her cousin Elizabeth has also conceived.  Like Mary we're challenged to listen for God’s Word and respond wholeheartedly.  Our own faithful witness might help others respond to God.
  • DailyScripture.net:  "With God nothing will be impossible":  The angel greets Mary as "full of grace."  God enriched Mary with gifts to enable her to assume her role.  Faith and obedience unlock God's power and grace in our lives.  When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they were separation from the God who loved them, but God promised a Redeemer.  Mary's "yes" to God's invitation is a model of faith for us; she believed God's promises even when they seemed impossible.  She was eager to do God's will, even if it seemed difficult.  God gives us the grace to say "yes" to his will and work in our lives and expects us to respond like Mary with willingness, obedience, and trust. We can yield to his grace or resist....
  • Universalis:  Immaculate Conception = Mary was conceived without original sin, that twist in human nature that makes our will tend not to follow what it knows to be right.  It enabled Mary to say yes to God's request through Gabriel that she consent to be mother of God in the flesh.  Muslims believe it too, but differently.
Dress legend
  • 'Tree' pin:  The man ate from the tree (1st reading)
  • 'Plant' pin:  Garden of Eden (1st reading)
  • 'Apple' pin:  Forbidden fruit (1st reading)
  • 'Question mark' tie pin:  God asked, “Where are you?” “Who told you you were naked?” “Why'd you do it?”... (1st reading)
  • 'Serpent' tie pin: "...The serpent tricked me" (1st reading)
  • 'Earth' tie:  All the earth has seen God's salvation (psalm)
  • 'Hand' tie pin:  God's hand won victory (psalm)
  • 'Clef' pin:  Sing joyfully to the Lord (psalm)
  • 'Angel' and 'Mary' pins:  God sent Gabriel to Mary (gospel)
  • 'Dove' pin:  "The Holy Spirit will come upon you" (gospel)
  • 'Crown' tie bar:  Jesus' kingdom will have no end (gospel)
  • 'Star' tie pin:  Mary as woman with crown of 12 stars (cf. Rev 12:1) (feast)
  • Blue and white shirt:  Blue for the Blessed Mother, white for the day
  • Purple in suspenders:  Advent season
Special greetings to and prayers for the communities at