To praise God is to recall and admire his wonderful works.
You can praise God for the natural beauty of his sunrises and sunsets. You can praise God for the natural beauty of every person who he immediately created in his image and likeness when he gave them an immortal soul. But most especially, we praise God for the supernatural work of our redemption in Jesus Christ who was born of Mary, the Immaculate Conception.
On Dec. 8th Catholics of the United States of America are called to celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary by praising God for creating Mary without original sin. Although the Gospel reading is from Luke 1:26-38 which describes the Virginal Conception of Jesus Christ, the Immaculate Conception of Mary is different, and chronologically comes first.
The Immaculate Conception of Mary describes when God created Mary without any stain of original sin in the womb of St. Anne. Whereas, the Virginal Conception of Jesus is when the Holy Spirit overshadowed the stainless Virgin Mary bringing the Eternal Word of God the Father into Mary‟s pure womb, without the help of man. In this manner, the Second Divine Person of the Holy Trinity then took on human flesh, our human nature, and was named Jesus.
The Church chooses to read from the Gospel of Luke 1:26-38 because these scripture passages contain the primary basis for promulgating that Mary is the Immaculate Conception.
“The angel Gabriel was sent from God…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.‟” Cf. Lk. 1:26-28
The Greek word for “full of grace” is kecharitomene (kay-caree-toe-may-nay) which is mentioned uniquely here in the Bible and means that Mary has always been filled with grace and continues to be so.
When you are filled with God‟s grace at the very conception of your life, and continue to be so, you have no room for sin in your life. It is clear, then, that God has “highly favored” Mary, which is another translation found in some Bible translations, but it still means, “full of grace,” and thus free from all sin. God did this for Mary because it was proper and fitting that his Divine Son should have a pure home in which to take on our human flesh. Jesus has a divine nature because he is in fact a divine person. Jesus united himself to our human nature in order to redeem us human persons by his divine grace given to us through his seven sacraments, of which Holy Mother Church provides through her authentic ministers. This is not the first time God created a woman who was free from original sin. God had created the first man and woman without original sin, Adam and Eve.
That is why the first reading of this Solemnity is taken from Genesis 3:9-15,20, to remind us that our first parents were perfect, but then they disobeyed God and thus original sin came into the world and was passed on to all of us, except for Jesus and Mary, the New Adam and the New Eve.
The Old Testament reminds us that, despite original sin, we still are made in God‟s image and likeness and are called to follow God‟s Ten Commandments with God‟s sufficient grace to avoid sin. However, we in fact are broken and live in a sinful world and cannot win redemption by our own power. We need Christ‟s saving grace.
Only by the merits of Jesus Christ, through his sacred humanity received with the cooperation of Mary, can we receive sanctifying grace and travel on the straight and narrow path to heaven assuredly through the seven sacraments. The certainty of salvation comes to us when we cooperate with the Church, for Christ is the divine head of the Catholic Church.
Since all grace comes to us through Jesus Christ, who was born of Mary, we can see how important Mary is to all Christians. And since Jesus loved Mary as his Mother, we should also love Mary and honor her by praising God and how he worked in her life. Even though every Sunday is a Solemnity, a holy day of obligation, on December 8th (or the vigil Mass on Dec. 7th) we gather to celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is the best way to thank God for his gift of Mary, the most holy of all the saints. With devout and fervent hearts, let us praise God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – for creating and choosing Mary to be known as the Immaculate Conception, free from original sin. Since she is always “full of grace” she never had any personal sin, either. Thus, she is the perfect daughter of God the Father, the perfect mother of God the Son, and the perfect spouse of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled God‟s commandments, including, “Honor your Father and your Mother” by loving, serving and calling God his Father, and loving, serving and calling Mary his Mother. Since we are baptized into Jesus Christ we do the same and thus follow Jesus Christ into the fullness of heaven with the essential help of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, and Holy Mother Church, of whom Jesus Christ is the divine head.
For this saving truth we offer constant praise to God.
Peace in Christ,
Fr. Thomas McCabe