A Glorious Sesquicentenary: The Immaculate Conception
by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan
©Catholic Online 2004
On September 8, 1953, Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) issued his Encyclical Fulgens Corona ("On the Marian Year and the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception"). The Holy Father's letter not only anticipated the upcoming Marian Year (December 8, 1953-December 8, 1954) but also commemorated the first centenary of the solemn definition of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Each year on December 8, the Church liturgically celebrates this Dogma of the Catholic Faith. As this Solemnity approaches this year--the 150th Anniversary of the definition of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Blessed Pius IX (1846-1878) on December 8, 1854, might we learn something from the teaching of Pope Pius XII?
The "foundation" of the dogma is located in Genesis 3:15 ("I will put enmity between you and the woman and her offspring and yours") and Saint Luke 1:28 ("Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you"). The Vicar of Christ contended that "if at any time the Blessed Mary were destitute of Divine grace even for the briefest moment, because of contamination in her conception by the hereditary stain of sin, there would not have come between her and the serpent that perpetual enmity spoken of from earliest tradition down to the time of the solemn definition of the Immaculate Conception, but rather a certain subjection." (#7)
It is no wonder, then, that because of their wholehearted acceptance of this doctrine, the Fathers of the Church lavished praise upon the Ever-Virgin, using an array of vivid and informative titles to describe the sinless Mother of God: "Lily Among Thorns; Land Wholly Intact; Immaculate; Always Blessed; Free From All Contagion Of Sin; Unfading Tree; Fountain Ever Clear; The One And Only Daughter Not Of Death But Of Life; Offspring Not Of Wrath But Of Grace; Unimpaired And Ever Unimpaired; Holy And Stranger To All Stain Of Sin; More Comely Than Comeliness Itself; More Holy Than Sanctity; Alone, Holy Who, Excepting God, Is Higher Than All; By Nature More Beautiful, More Graceful And More Holy Than The Cherubim And Seraphim Themselves And The Whole Hosts Of Angels." (#9)
It only seems right and just that the Savior of the universe would have for His Mother one who was entirely pure and devoid of sin. Jesus "really redeemed His Mother, since it was by virtue of His merits that she was preserved by God immune from all stain of Original Sin." (#14)
No one may lawfully assert that devotion to Mary takes away from the adoration we owe the Most Blessed Trinity. Rather, "any honor and veneration which we may give to our Heavenly Mother undoubtedly rebounds to the glory of her Divine Son, not only because all graces and all gifts, even the highest, flow from Him as from their primary source, but also because 'The glory of children are their fathers' [Book of Proverbs, XVII6]" (#15).
As Our Blessed Lady told Saint Bernardette Soubirous within the cave at Massabielle near Lourdes, France in 1858, Mary is the Immaculate Conception. The Almighty never allowed the disobedience of Adam and Eve to disgrace her immortal soul. The universal Church fittingly honors her for her singular role in our redemption and, especially on December 8, begs her earnest prayers on our behalf.
"O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!"
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The Immaculate Conception
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