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How the Solemnity of the Annunciation teaches about Mary’s Immaculate Conception

annunciation-1434

Annunciation, Fra Angelico

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! 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.

-Luke  1:26-31-

Read all the readings from the Mass of the day here.

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Some thoughts on why this feast day sheds light on Mary’s Immaculate Conception celebrate on Dec 8:

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception was finally promulgated in 1854… but the seeds of it are found much earlier in a careful reading of scripture. When the Angel addresses Mary at the Annunciation, he does not address her by her name. Instead, he uses the title “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” This title might as well be her name, for it describes Mary’s true nature; her person is full of grace. Notice that she is addressed as “full of grace”, even before the Angel announces that she will be asked to be the Mother of God.
Know anyone that fits that description? Nope. She’s the only one. The rest of humanity is fallen.
Mary’s detractors what to know what makes her so special?  If she is human, she should be subject to all the pitfalls of humanity, and just as sinful are the rest of us, right?  Not quite. There’s more to Mary’s story, and it takes a very careful reading for Scripture to parse it out. Not to mention 2000 years of biblical interpretation and theological reflection.What’s sooooo special about Mary is her Immaculate Conception. And it means this: Mary was redeemed by the merits of her Son Jesus at Calvary – who is God – at her conception, so she never received a fallen nature. The nature she received was like that of Eve’s before the Fall. And recall, that after the fall, the Immaculate Conception is implied, theologians say, in this verse from Genesis 3:15, that speaks of a woman to come:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

-Gen 3:15-

This is why we have references to Mary as the “new Eve.” And why St. Jerome (4th century) taught this about Mary: “Death through Eve, life through Mary.”

From among the descendants of Eve, God chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of his Son. “Full of grace”, Mary is the most excellent fruit of redemption: from the first instant of her conception, she was totally preserved from the stain of original sin and she remained pure from all personal sin throughout her life.

-Catechism of the Catholic Church, 508-

Mary, we might say, is the first person redeemed, by an application of the grace of Christ’s victory over sin and death on the Cross. And her sinless, loving heart, allowed her the perfect response to God’s call on her life: “Yes!”

Blessed Duns Scotus (d. 1308) called it “preservative redemption.” Preservative redemption addressed this question of Mary’s redemption taking place before her Son was even born.  Huh? The short of it is this:  God, the Creator of time, is also Lord over time, and can work outside of time.  And God can apply his graces throughout history (time) as He deems fit.  Therefore, God, in his divine plan of salvation, willed that Mary would be saved first, in her humanity, by the application of the graces won on the Cross for humanity by her Son, Jesus… providing a perfectly pure temple for the Holy Spirit to later “overshadow” and allow the Son of God to take on flesh in a sinless womb.

Whew! Got all that?

This is what the Catechism says:

Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:
The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.

The splendor of an entirely unique holiness by which Mary is enriched from the first instant of her conception comes wholly from Christ: she is redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son. The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places and chose her in Christ before the foundation of theworld, to be holy and blameless before him in love.

– Catechism of the Catholic Church, 491, 492-

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About the painting above.

My book is my thanksgiving for Mary’s spiritual motherhood; in it I tell about my original reticence toward Mary and my halting steps toward getting to know her better. On this feast, usually celebrated on March 25, I renew my consecration to the Mother of God,  and the mother of me.

 

 

 

 

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