Tuesday, December 08, 2015
By Jean M. Heimann
On December 8, we celebrate two significant events in the Catholic Church on the same day – the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy and the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
Earlier this year, during Lent, Pope Francis announced that the Church would celebrate an extraordinary jubilee year devoted to God’s mercy. On April 11, 2015, he published a letter entitled Misericordiae Vultus (The Face of Mercy), stating that the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy would take place from December 8, 2015 – the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception – through November 20, 2016 – the Solemnity of Christ the King.
We begin the Jubilee Year focusing on Mary, the Mother of God, who is also the Mother of Mercy. We look at the face of our Lord Jesus Christ to see God’s mercy for us. He is the one who opens up the gates of salvation for us. However, mercy begins with Mary, who is the Immaculate Conception.
What is the dogma of the Immaculate Conception?
The Immaculate Conception, proclaimed in 1854 by Pope Pius IX, celebrates the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother, St. Anne. On December 8, 1854, Blessed Pope Pius IX announced the dogma of faith that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin.” Four years later, the Blessed Virgin Mary, appeared in Lourdes, France where she confirmed the truth of the dogma by telling St. Bernadette Soubirous (a 14-year-old peasant girl) that she was “the Immaculate Conception.”
The Church teaches that Mary was pre-redeemed; that is, the merits of Christ’s crucifixion and death were applied to her to preserve her from original sin. In fact, Pope Pius IX’s 1854 Bull defining Mary’s Immaculate Conception states that Mary was preserved not only from original sin, but from all sin throughout her life.
Here’s what Pope Pius IX wrote in the Papal Bull:
Chosen to be the Mother of the Son of God, Mary, from the outset, was prepared by the love of God to be the Ark of the Covenant between God and man. She treasured divine mercy in her heart in perfect harmony with her Son Jesus. Her hymn of praise, sung at the threshold of the home of Elizabeth, was dedicated to the mercy of God which extends from “generation to generation” (Lk 1:50). We too were included in those prophetic words of the Virgin Mary. This will be a source of comfort and strength to us as we cross the threshold of the Holy Year to experience the fruits of divine mercy.
At the foot of the Cross, Mary, together with John, the disciple of love, witnessed the words of forgiveness spoken by Jesus. This supreme expression of mercy towards those who crucified him show us the point to which the mercy of God can reach. Mary attests that the mercy of the Son of God knows no bounds and extends to everyone, without exception. Let us address her in the words of the Salve Regina, a prayer ever ancient and ever new, so that she may never tire of turning her merciful eyes upon us, and make us worthy to contemplate the face of mercy, her Son Jesus.
Through her Fiat, the Blessed Virgin Mary became the Mother of God. She conceived Jesus in her womb and made the miraculous mystery of the Incarnation possible. Thus, she is the Mother of Mercy. It is through her “yes” in consenting to be the Mother of God that we have been granted eternal life. Let us give thanks to God today for our the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Immaculate Mother!
~ copyright Jean M. Heimann 2015