On Thursday, December 8th, we observe the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a feast that finds its origin in the Eastern Church in the fifth or sixth century and gradually spread to the Western Church being observed under several names.
In this feast we recognize and celebrate the fact that Mary was sinless from the moment of conception, that is, her conception was immaculate, without sin. Some people confuse this belief with that of the Virgin Birth, but the Virgin Birth refers to Mary giving birth to Jesus and the Immaculate Conception refers to Mary’s conception.
As the observance became more widespread it was declared a doctrine of the Church. In the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December, 1854, Pope Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary “in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin.”
In 1858, Bernadette Soubirous, a young girl of Lourdes, France, claimed visions in which Mary identified herself with the words “I am the Immaculate Conception.” The apparitions were later recognized by the Church as private revelations and Lourdes has become a center of Marian veneration. Bernadette entered the Sisters of Charity of Nevers and died in 1879. She was canonized on December 8, 1933 by Pope Pius XI.
I always see Mary as leading us to Jesus, a role described in the story of the wedding at Cana (John 2:5) where she says “do whatever he tells you.”
Those words were not addressed only to the wine steward, but to each one of us.
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