Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Solemnity of The Immaculate Conception (December 8)

The Gospel Reading Today: Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.


(source of commentary and reflection: Servant of the Word

Commentary on Lk 1:26-38

 This passage from St. Luke’s Gospel is the story of Mary being informed by the Archangel Gabriel that she has been chosen for the great privilege of baring the Savior of the World. St. Mary graciously accepts this honor although with very human fear indicating that her free will is at play – making her obedience to God’s will more powerful. It is proposed that with this acceptance, Mary entered into a vow of perpetual virginity because of the demands of Isaiah 7:14 (“Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”)

This announcement is parallel to the Zechariah’s news about John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-23), which is also delivered by the Angel Gabriel.  This passage clearly identifies Jesus as Son of David and Son of God thus linking it with the messianic predictions from the Old Testament. Also very important in this story is Mary’s incredulous response; “’How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’" establishing her virgin status and is a declaration of the Spirit’s role in the conception.


Who could make such a choice; to accept the essence of God, incarnated in human form? Who could choose to give up any possibility of a normal life to become the mother of the Son of God? Who could be worthy to accept the deposit of perfection that was the person of Jesus, absolute perfection in form and spirit? These are the questions asked by the Apostles and Fathers of the Church as they contemplated St. Mary’s acquiescence to the will of God.

Numerous chains of logic have been applied to demonstrate how St. Mary could only have been the Immaculate Conception; how the Archangel Gabriel had addressed her (pronounced her) “Hail, full of grace!” The only way the Blessed Mother could be “full of grace” would be the absolute absence of sin, which necessarily included original sin.

We do not get the full impact of the Archangel’s statement in its English translation. In Greek the words used were chaire kecharitōmenē. The word charis in St. Luke’s Gospel is associated with chare –joy and wisdom (sophia). St. Luke is saying she is not simply “fullness” but Holy Mary is an instrument of grace. To quote the scripture scholar Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P. “Luke's word puts the emphasis upon the source of goodness rather than upon its effects. In regard to Mary, therefore, he points out that she is the object of God's grace and favor. Because the verb is also a participle, Mary is shown to have been chosen for a long time past; God's full flow of favor has already been concentrating upon her.”
[4] The grace that flows in her and through her was therefore established from before her conception and perforce without sin – immaculate.

It is for this reason we celebrate this day in all solemnity. God chose his holy instrument to bring life back into a world that had fallen to sin and death with Adam and Eve’s great failure. A loving Father sends his beloved Son to us free of sin himself to become the sacrifice that makes us whole. The Immaculate Conception in the person of St. Mary is the only way this could happen. She herself, full of grace was conceived without sin so that through her life could enter the world once more. For us we ask her again and perpetually - Pray for us, sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

H/T : this post is from Servant of the Word

[4] See Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice Hall, Inc., © 1968, 44:31
Graphic credit: John William Waterhouse 1914 - The Annunciation 

More great resources: The Immaculate Conception: Three Scriptural Arguments and 
If Mary Had No Sin, Is Christ Her Savior? both from
Canterbury Tales by Taylor Marshall

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