Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Immaculate Conception and Advent

Each Sunday throughout the year is considered the Day of the Lord. Special solemnities may at times be celebrated on Sundays but never during the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. These Sundays are restricted to the observance of the particular spiritual character of the season. So, for instance, when August 15 falls on a Sunday, the Church commemorates the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But when December 8 is on a Sunday, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is not observed on that day. Yet, this feast is of great importance. We recognize God's intervention in granting that our Lady be spared the inheritance of original sin at her conception in the womb of her mother St. Ann. So, this year, the commemoration of her Immaculate Conception is moved to tomorrow, December 9. The U. S. bishops have removed the obligation to attend Mass for this feast only this year.
The sin of the first parents of the human race is inherited by each person at the beginning of life in the womb. Baptism takes away this original sin. Because of his omniscience, God knew that Mary would say "yes" to his request that she be the mother of his Son. That is why he spared her having original sin at conception. She would remain sinless throughout her life. This doctrine was held by the Church over the centuries and was formally defined in 1854. 

It is believed that St. John the Baptist was cleansed of original sin at the Visitation. Mary had just conceived our Lord in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. She went to help her cousin Elizabeth who was six months pregnant with John. As we continue our spiritual reflection in preparation for Christmas, it is worth meditating on St. John the Baptist. He is a good example for us. St. John’s whole life was determined by his vocation, that is, to prepare the people to receive Jesus. He carried out this task without holding back; he gave up his life for this purpose.

One most worthy way of imitating the zeal of St. John the Baptist is to invite someone to Church. We should not be hesitant to ask a friend, relative or coworker to come with us to Confession and to Mass. Sometimes such an invitation is much appreciated. This is something that we can always think about doing, not just now as we approach Christmas, but always throughout the year.

Father Stanley

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