Feast of the Immaculate Conception

The Immaculate Conception, celebrated December 8th, is a Solemnity in the Catholic Church.  This feast is one of only three Solemnities, and thus is one of the highest ranking Marian celebrations in our liturgical year (the other two being the feast of Mary, Mother of God on January 1st and the feast of the Assumption on August 15th.)

God’s preservation of Mary not only from personal sin but from original sin from the moment of her conception is a dogma of faith in the Catholic Church.  It wasn’t always so, and from the 7th century through to St. Thomas Aquinas and on to Blessed John Duns Scotus right up to Pope Pius IX the discussions continued.

Since the entire Marian month of December is devoted to the Immaculate Conception, I would like to delve a little more deeply into this topic in a few upcoming posts, to follow the discussion as it evolved through the centuries and to highlight subject matter such as Mary’s pre-redemption.

But for today, on Mary’s beautiful feastday, I leave you with this passage from Henri Nouwen’s, “The Genesee Diary” – an entry he wrote on the feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1974:

In this feast it seems that all the quiet beauty of Advent suddenly bursts forth into exuberance and exultation. In Mary we see all the beauty of Advent concentrated. She is the one in whom the waiting of Israel is most fully and most purely manifested; she is the last of the remnant of Israel for whom God shows his mercy and fulfills his promises; she is the faithful one who believed that the promise made to her by the Lord would be fulfilled; she is the lowly handmaid, the obedient servant, the quiet contemplative. She indeed is the most prepared to receive the Lord.

It seems that there is no better time to celebrate this feast than during these Advent days. It is the celebration of the beauty of her who is ready to receive the Lord. It is like admiring the palace where the King will enter, the room to which the bridegroom will come, the garden where the great encounter will take place.

[Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Genesee Diary, pg. 174]