by Fr. Tommy Lane
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” (κεχαριτωμένη) means that Mary was full of grace all her life. (This is signified by κεχαριτωμένη 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” (πλήρης χάριτος) 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.
As we give thanks to God today for the special grace of the Immaculate Conception which God gave to Mary, we are lead to reflect on her greatness and her role in helping us on our journey to God. One of the saints who wrote about Mary helping us on our journey to God is St. Louis Marie de Montfort. Pope John Paul II was very much influenced by the writings of St. Louis Marie de Montfort and took his motto “Totus Tuus, O Maria,” “I am all yours, O Mary”, from St. Louis Marie de Montfort. These are some of the beautiful statements St .Louis Marie de Montfort made about Mary in his writings,
“God the Father made a gathering of all the waters and called it the sea; he made a gathering of all graces and called it Mary. God possesses a treasure of vast richness, containing all there is of beauty, of splendor, of magnificence, even to the inclusion of his own Son; and this immense treasure is none other than Mary whom the saints call the treasure of the Lord…
God the Son has communicated to his mother all that he has gained by his life and his death, his infinite merits and his admirable virtues, and he has made her the disburser of all that his Father has given him as his inheritance. It is through her that he applies his merits to his members, communicates to them his virtues and distributes to them his graces: she is his mysterious channel, his splendid aqueduct by which he pours forth his mercies, sweetly and abundantly upon us.
The Holy Spirit has communicated
his unsurpassable gifts to Mary his faithful Spouse, and he has chosen her to be
the dispenser of all that he possesses so that she distributes to whom she
wishes, as she wishes and when she wishes, all his gifts and graces, he himself
making no gift to men except by her virginal hands. This is in accordance with the will of God who has designed
that we should have all things in Mary…”
Mary was full of grace from the first moment of her existence when she was immaculately conceived. “God the Father made a gathering of all the waters and called it the sea; he made a gathering of all graces and called it Mary.” Jesus came to us through Mary, and Mary, full of grace, can help us on our way to Jesus. Pray to Mary every day, especially the Rosary. Let us take Mary’s hand and allow her to lead us to Jesus.
More homilies for December 8th - The Immaculate Conception of Our Lady
Related Homilies: Jesus came because Mary surrendered to God
First reading Where are you?