By Philippine News Agency
December 8 is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation for Catholics.
According to the dogma of the Catholic Church, Immaculate Conception was the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, free from original sin as God willed it as Mary was destined as the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Divine Trinity, who came down from heaven and became man to save mankind from sin through his crucifixion in Calvary, and was raised from the dead three days later.
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is the one of the three holy days of obligation declared by the Catholic Church in which Catholics must hear Mass.
The other two are New Year’s Day and Christmas.The dogma of the Immaculate Conception is fully explained by Fr. Tommy Lane: “As people are confused about the meaning of the Immaculate Conception, this is our celebration of Our Lady’s conception free from original sin and hence we celebrate her birth 9 months later on September 8th. We celebrate the conception of Jesus on March 25th in the Annunciation of his birth to Mary and we celebrate his birth 9 months later on December 25th.
“What we believe is in both Sacred Scripture (the Bible) and in Sacred Tradition (the teaching of the apostles handed on by the Church). The Immaculate Conception of Our Lady is a dogma of our faith which is in Sacred Tradition although not explicit in the Bible but implicit. There are hints of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady in the Bible. (An excellent explanation of Sacred Tradition is The Meaning of Tradition by Yves Congar)
“We get one hint of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception in the Gospel today, the account of the Archangel Gabriel’s visit to Mary announcing the birth of Jesus. The angel said to Mary, ‘Hail, full of grace!’ (Luke 1:28) Sometimes this is translated as ‘Rejoice, highly favored one’ but that is not really a good translation of the Greek in which Luke wrote his Gospel. The particular word Luke used to describe Mary as ‘full of grace’ means that Mary was full of grace all her life. (This is signified by being a perfect passive particle). It means that Mary is full of grace not just at the moment the angel comes to her but that she is full of grace since the beginning of her life. Luke could have used a different word to show that Mary was full of grace only at that particular moment as when he described Stephen ‘full of grace’ only for a moment in Acts 6:8 before he was stoned to death. But Luke insists that Mary was full of grace all her life. So indirectly we get a hint of Mary’s Immaculate Conception in the account of the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary in the Gospel today.
“The angel Gabriel greeted Mary, ‘Hail, full of grace!’ (Luke 1:28) Normally at that time after greeting someone with ‘Hail’ you would give them their title, so ‘full of grace’ is actually a title or name that the angel Gabriel gives to Mary. And names were very important in that part of the world because your name told something about who you were. So ‘full of grace’ describes Mary’s very being.
“We get another hint of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception in the Bible. Mary carried Jesus in her womb for nine months and we think of this especially during this Advent season. One of the titles given to Mary is ‘Ark of the Covenant.’ The Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament was a chest made of wood to carry the two stone tablets containing the commandments God gave Moses (Ex 25:16). So we could say the ark contained the word of God and Mary contained Jesus the Word of God in her womb, so for that reason Mary is sometimes called Ark of the Covenant. In the Old Testament those who were called on to move the Ark of the Covenant could not be sinners because the ark was considered so holy since it carried God’s word (1 Chron 15:14). In like manner, Mary, who is the new Ark of the Covenant, could not be touched by sin. It makes perfect sense that God would specially prepare Mary in holiness to carry Jesus in her womb. God and sin are opposites, and God prepared the sinless Virgin Mary to be a fitting mother to Jesus his Son. It is also fitting that Mary who was free from sin from the first moment of her existence was assumed body and soul to the glory of heaven at the end of her earthly life.”