THE MONTH OF DECEMBER IS DEDICATED TO THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF OUR LADY
The month of December is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, which is celebrated on December 8. From all eternity God chose with infinite wisdom the woman who would be the Mother of His divine Son. To prepare for the Word Incarnate a spotless and holy tabernacle, God created Mary in grace and endowed her from the moment of her conception with all the perfections suited to her exalted dignity. St. Thomas teaches that through her intimacy with Christ, the principle of grace, she possessed beyond all creatures a fullness of divine life.
“From all eternity God chose with infinite wisdom the woman who would be the Mother of His divine Son. To prepare for the Word Incarnate a spotless and holy tabernacle, God created Mary in grace and endowed her from the moment of her conception with all the perfections suited to her exalted dignity. St. Thomas teaches that through her intimacy with Christ, the principle of grace, she possessed beyond all creatures a fullness of divine life.” — Liturgical Meditations, The Sisters of St. Dominic
This feast invites us to meditate on the virtue of purity. “Mary alone — ‘our tainted nature’s solitary boast’— never saw her soul’s purity darkened with the dust of any stain, nor did she see in any part of her triumphal course toward heaven any sin or trace of worldliness. By a unique and singular privilege from God she was preserved from original sin from the first moment of her Immaculate Conception; by another privilege derived from the first, the Lord did not permit her ever to be stained even with those unavoidable failings of human weakness.” — Luis M. Martinez
In 1854, Pope Pius IX’s solemn declaration, Ineffabilis Deus, clarified with finality the long-held belief of the Church that Mary was conceived free from original sin. In proclaiming the Immaculate Conception of Mary, as a dogma of the Church, the pope expressed precisely and clearly that Mary was conceived free from the stain of original sin. This privilege of Mary’s, derives from God’s having chosen her as Mother of the Saviour, thus she received the benefits of salvation in Christ, from the very moment of her conception. This great gift to Mary, an ordinary human being just like us, was fitting because she was destined to be Mother of God. The purity and holiness of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a model for all Christians.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says of the Immaculate Conception of Mary:
490. To become the mother of the Saviour, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role”. The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace”. In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.
491. Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception . That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1844: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.” (Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, 1854.)
492. The “splendour of an entirely unique holiness” by which Mary is “enriched from the first instant of her conception” comes wholly from Christ – she is “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son.” The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and chose her “in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love.”
493. The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia) and celebrate her as “free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature”. By the grace of God.
NOVENA OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is profoundly influential among the faithful, is an occasion for many displays of popular piety and especially for the novena of the Immaculate Conception. There can be no doubt that the feast of the pure and sinless Conception of the Virgin Mary, which is a fundamental preparation for the Lord’s coming into the world, harmonizes perfectly with many of the salient themes of Advent. This feast also makes reference to the long messianic waiting for the Saviour’s birth and recalls events and prophecies from the Old Testament, which are also used in the Liturgy of Advent.
The novena of the Immaculate Conception, wherever it is celebrated, should highlight the prophetical texts which begin with Genesis 3, 15, and end in Gabriel’s salutation of the one who is “full of grace” (Lk 1, 31-33) — Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy
O Most Holy Virgin, immaculate in body and spirit, look kindly on me as I implore your powerful intercession. O most Holy Mother, receive my prayers as I present them to God. O Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, you intercede for us with your Son. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.