RCIA – The Immaculate Conception
The Immaculate Conception
December 8, 2010
Prayer: Loving and gracious God, we thank you and praise you for the gift of Mary, your Mother. You
honored this simple woman of faith from the moment of her conception with the favor of sinlessness. You gave Mary the privilege of conceiving and bearing your beloved Son. Her “yes” to the angel’s announcement opened the way for our salvation. Send your Holy Spirit to us to be our guide as we reflect on the meaning of Mary’s Immaculate Conception for us today. We pray through Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Holy days are special feasts, recalling important events in the life of Jesus or of persons close to him. Catholics gather for the Eucharist on these special days during the year to celebrate and reflect on the meaning and implications of the feast for our lives. On this feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Church celebrates Mary’s conception without sin in the womb of her mother Anne. The Church of the United States, for whom Mary of the Immaculate Conception is its patron saint, holds this day in high esteem as one of its holy days of obligation. (RCL)
Reading 1 Genesis 3:9-15, 20
After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree, the LORD God called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.”
Then he asked, “Who told you that you were naked? You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!” The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.” The LORD God then asked the woman, “Why did you do such a thing?” The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”
Then the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you shall be banned from all the animals and from all the wild creatures; on your belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living.
Reading 2 Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
Brothers and sisters: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he (God) chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved. (to be full of love)
In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ.
Gospel Luke 1:26-38
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! (Rejoice, O highly favored daughter!) 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. (Blessed are you among women)
What image or phrase seems to have importance for you? What is evoked in you upon hearing these words from these scripture passages?
The passage from Genesis sets the context for this feast in the sin of our first parents. The effects of sin are traced back from the disorders found in the human condition to this rich symbolic story of Adam and Eve, who disobeyed the command of God and hid from God in the garden. As the story gathers impetus, Adam and Eve blame one another and the snake. From this moment on, the serpent is cast in terms of an ongoing conflict with humanity, representing chaos and evil. This original sin that originates in the first people, Adam, meaning earth, and Eve, meaning the mother of all the living, is somehow passed down from generation to generation. Yet there is a note of hope, for even though Eve shares responsibility for the catastrophe of sin, God’s promise continues through her in the offspring she will bear. (RCL)
What can you learn about the human struggle with evil from this story?
This Lucan gospel story is remarkable for its focus on Mary. In contrast to Matthew’s gospel in which Joseph is the more central figure, Luke’s account brings to light God’s high regard for Mary. No particular marks of social status are hers. She has neither husband nor child, she does not share Joseph’s Davidic ancestry, and she is not described as virtuous under the Law, as was Zechariah in Luke’s parallel story of the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist. Yet the Lord favors Mary, despite her youth, her poverty, and her womanhood in a society that gave preference to men. The angel greets her with an address that is both respectful and beautiful in the original Greek, and for which there is probably no adequate translation. Finally, the event that is about to take place in Mary’s life is affirmed by a sign that takes place in someone else’s life – the pregnancy of Elizabeth in her old age. (RCL)
Mary is the new Eve, repairing the damage set in place by Eve in the garden and paving the way for our salvation. Reflect for a moment on Mary’s blessedness.
Mary’s freedom from original sin signifies more than her own blessedness as “highly favored” of the Lord. The relevance of the Immaculate Conception extends to all people: Because of Mary’s assent to God, the incarnation and, thus, the redemption of the world became possible. Taken together, therefore, the first reading and the gospel embrace the human race’s whole drama of sin and redemption. The reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians shows that this redemption was in the plan of God from the beginning. (RCL)
Name some of the influences of sin that you see in your personal lives, as well as the world.
The reality of evil exists. Yet God’s grace is also available to us and is more powerful than sin. (RCL)
Name evidence of God’s graces or blessings at work in your personal lives and in the world.
Church doctrine on the Immaculate Conception
Wednesday’s feast celebrates that, from the moment of her conception in the womb of Anne, Mary was free from original sin and all its effects. This special grace from God flows out of Mary’s role in God’s plan for the salvation of humankind. (RCL)
This doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is not found in scripture, but it is illustrated by the gospel reading. Whereas Adam and Eve sinned through their disobedience to God’s command, Mary hears and freely obeys the Word of God spoken to her by the angel. The gospel reading, which tells the story of the annunciation (which is a different holy day of obligation in March), is the account of Mary’s fiat (Latin for “let it be done”) – her willingness to place herself fully in the hands of God, in circumstances that promised to be difficult, unusual, and requiring great faith and trust. Since the earliest days of the Church, the belief that Mary was free from the stain of original sin has been upheld. Pope Pius IX declared the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception as infallible dogma on December 8, 1854. (RCL)
What does Mary’s “yes” to the invitation to become the mother of God mean to us? The ultimate purpose of devotion to the Blessed Virgin is to glorify God and lead Christians to commit themselves to a life which conforms absolutely to God’s will. Mary’s “yes” not only gives her an esteemed place in salvation history but also provides for us the model of a true disciple of Jesus – conformity to the will of God. (RCL)
This favor bestowed upon Mary is not a result of something she did but is the action of God upon her. This is also true in our lives. Everything depends on the gift of grace from God. We are born in need of a relationship with Jesus Christ who removes the alienation between God and ourselves. Mary needed the same redemption, but it was achieved in a unique way, by her being conceived immaculately. (RCL)
The breach with God described in the Genesis account of Adam and Eve disobeying God’s command has been made whole through the obedient submission of Mary to God’s plan for the salvation of humanity. (RCL)
What does this doctrine of the Immaculate Conception awaken in you?
A 12th century sermon by St. Anselm addressing the place of Mary in the divine plan: “To Mary God gave his only-begotten Son, whom he loved as himself. Through Mary God made himself a Son, not different but the same, by nature Son of God and Son of Mary. The whole universe was created by God, and God was born of Mary. God created all things, and Mary gave birth to God. The God who made all things gave himself form through Mary, and thus he made his own creation. He who could create all things from nothing would not remake his ruined creation without Mary. God, then, is the Father of the created world and Mary the mother of the recreated world. God is the Father by whom all things were given life, and Mary the mother through whom all things were given new life. For God begot the Son, through whom all things were made, and Mary gave birth to him as the Savior of the world. Without God’s Son, nothing could exist; without Mary’s Son, nothing could be redeemed.” (AnselmOratio 52)
Hymn for Mary’s Holy Day:
Immaculate Mary, your praises we sing;
You reign now in splendor with Jesus our King.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria! Ave, ave, Maria!
In heaven, the blessed your glory proclaim;
On earth we, your children, invoke your sweet name.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria! Ave, ave, Maria!
We pray for the Church, our true Mother on earth,
And beg you to watch o’er the land of our birth.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria! Ave, ave, Maria!