Normally the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is celebrated on December 8th. However because this year it falls on a Sunday, the Sunday Mass always take precedence over any feast day. The Immaculate Conception will be celebrated on Monday, December 9th and is NOT a holy day of obligation this year. Mass is at 8:00AM on Monday and there is not any additional Masses scheduled since it is not a holy day of obligation this year.
What does the Immaculate Conception celebrate? Officially taught by Pope Pius IX in consultation with the world’s bishops and promulgated in the papal bull Ineffabilis Deus on December 8, 1854. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary “was, from the first moment of her conception, by the singular grace and privilege of almighty God and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ the Savior of the human race, preserved free from all stain of original sin.”
The religious meaning of this dogma centers on the victory of God’s grace, freely given in Christ. Sin is universal, and the whole human race is in need of salvation. This is offered because of God’s love and mercy poured out in the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus, prior to any merits or deserving works on the part of human beings. The dogma of Mary’s original sinlessness celebrates God’s victory over the powers and principalities of this world as this woman comes into existence. In her very being, through the mercy of God, the grip of evil is broken. So to us Catholics, it is fitting that grace be freely given to Mary from the first moment of her existence because of her role in being the faith-filled mother of Jesus. Her yes to God brought Christ into the world, through whom the ancient sin of Adam and Eve is overturned. That God generously graces Mary, enabling her living union with God from her beginning even while not removing her from the sufferings of history, is congruent with divine mercy. It also signifies the good news that for the Church and for every human being, grace is more original than sin!
We light the second candle of the Advent wreath today. The countdown to Christmas is moving on. The media, and especially advertisements, remind us constantly that time is short. So too does John the Baptist in today’s gospel. His reminder is to repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. With that in mind, I invite you to our Advent Communal Penance Service this Tuesday, December 10th at 7:00PM. There will be a brief prayer service followed by individual confession. Clean not only your house for Christmas, but your soul as well!!
Have a blessed Advent.