Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Among these long winter days and short days in the Northern Hemisphere and certainly here in Omaha, life can seem bleak and cold as we head into the depths of winter. And, in the midst of this dark stretch, the Church gives us the gift of moments of brightness, with numerous saints feast days and liturgical celebrations. Today is one of those special days. These ‘lights’ help point us to the light of Jesus’ incarnation in just a few short weeks.
Today, December 8, we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Mary is conceived without sin, nine month prior to her early September birth, to make her an appropriate dwelling place for when she’s pregnant with her son, Jesus. She is like us in every way but sin – the daily actions and habits that block us from growing closer to God and being more human.
I have been learning a bit more about Mary these days as I learn more about Jesus and God through a class on the Spiritual Exercises in Creighton’s Christian Spirituality Program these last several weeks. One of the more remarkable components is the setting to which she was born. She was among the lower rung of the peasant class trying to farm a small plot of land while also trying to navigate the demands of carpentry. It was a difficult existence to be poor under Roman dominion in the first century. And, being pregnant out of wedlock was a quite a marginalizing situation for her to be in, too. Plus, she gave birth in a foreign place and finally made it back at some point during Jesus’ childhood. I think Mary sometimes gets a reputation for being a lovely innocent maiden (which she is!) who so easily just said yes to God request. Life had to be easy and simple for her, (right?), as the one chosen Jesus’ mother. But, life was hard for her, I can imagine, and that makes her “yes” even more impressive and admirable. It certainly speaks to a disposition that resisted complaining about the difficulties of her life, especially as she said “yes” to something she likely didn’t completely understand.
As a mom of two little ones, I’ve found myself in conversation with Mary about all the juggling that a working mom does. Certainly my life in 21st century United States entails different daily struggles than hers. But, the invitation to listen well to God’s request and trust in his guidance for big and small events in our lives is the same for all of us.
I invite us today to pray with our Pope in the prayer below.
Pope Francis’ Prayer for the Immaculate Conception.
O Mary, our Immaculate Mother,
On your feast day I come to you,
And I come not alone:
I bring with me all those with whom your Son entrusted to me,
In this city of Rome and in the entire world,
That you may bless them and preserve them from harm.
I bring to you, Mother, children,
Especially those who are alone, abandoned,
And for this reason are tricked and exploited.
I bring to you, Mother, families,
Who carry forward life and society
With their daily and hidden efforts;
In a special way the families who struggle the most
For their many internal and external problems.
I bring to you, Mother, all workers, both men and women,
And I entrust to you especially those who, out of need,
Are forced to work in an unworthy profession
And those who have lost work or are unable to find it.
We are in need of your immaculate gaze,
To rediscover the ability to look upon persons and things
With respect and awareness,
Without egotistical or hypocritical interests.
We are in need of your immaculate heart,
To love freely,
Without secondary aims but seeking the good of the other,
With simplicity and sincerity, renouncing masks and tricks.
We are in need of your immaculate hands,
To caress with tenderness,
To touch the flesh of Jesus
In our poor, sick, or despised brethren,
To raise up those who have fallen and support those who waver.
We are in need of your immaculate feet,
To go toward those who know not how to make the first step,
To walk on the paths of those who are lost,
To find those who feel alone.
We thank you, O Mother, because in showing yourself to us
You free us of all stain of sin;
You remind us that what comes first is the grace of God,
The love of Jesus Christ who gave his life for us,
The strength of the Holy Spirit which renews all things.
Let us not give in to discouragement,
But, trusting in your constant help,
Let us engage ourselves fully in renewal of self,
Of this city and of the entire world.
Pray for us, Holy Mother of God!
- Pope Francis, Act of Veneration to the Immaculate Conception at the Spanish Steps. . . , 12/8/16
Used with Permission. © LIBRERIA EDITRICE VATICANA