Catholicism 101: The Immaculate Conception (and a meditation!)

No, not the Immaculate Reception. That’s something else. 🙂 


The Immaculate Conception refers to Mary, not Jesus. Catholics believe that Mary, when she was conceived, was conceived without original sin. She was born “immaculately”, without the stain of original sin, because she was to be the Mother of God, and God had preserved her from original sin. This has been believed since the early days of the Church (there is no grave of Mary’s, nor any relics), but was only formally declared as dogma in 1854, by Pope Pius IX in Ineffabilis Deus. (This is an example of a pope using papal infallibility). (No, that does not mean what you think it means, most likely.)

For Catholics in the U.S., the Immaculate Conception is a Holy Day of Obligation (meaning you have to go to Mass), since Mary is the patroness of the United States.

Today’s meditation is from Come, Lord Jesus: 

Our Lady was pre-redeemed. Remember that this means–and one says it with all possible filial reverence–that our Lady was “pre-cleaned.” And even that pre-cleaning did not leave her without choices. One grow a little hesitant in the field of her perfect humanity, and awe and reverence are good, but it should not be the wrong hesitation because we should not allow our Lady to become remote from us. The fact that she was free of all human concupiscence, free of all the effects of original sin, does not mean that she was without choices. It does not mean that she could not have chosen to feel sorry for herself. I say, one feels a hesitancy in saying these things, but one shouldn’t, because if she never had choices to make in her sinless person, of what purpose would she be? If she were merely some beautiful automaton, she would not be our Mother.

She did not have that downward pull that we have, but she still had choices, and she could have wrong ones or right ones. She could have insisted after the finding in the temple that Jesus explain what he meant. She could have said, “I am your Mother, and I have got to get this straight. I don’t understand what you are talking about.” But she preferred, she chose, to accept what was to her not understandable, and to return to her humble home and to go about her duties and to ponder these things in her heart. She made her own choice to allow him to fulfill all that was involved in his Passion. And she did not, when she met him on the way of the Cross, lapse into hysterical sobbing, nor did she demand that this should be stopped. She chose the will of God and she chose it freely–again, we say, unencumbered by the downward pull of concupiscence that we know so well, but still a woman quite capable of doing right or wrong, or doing good or better or best…Our Lord did not give her to Saint John and say, “Now I am giving her to you, and she is Mother of all the flawlessly holy ones.” But he gave her to be the Mother of all persons, of all men, and he knew what was in man, what is in each one of us, our weaknesses as well as our strengths…

And so, if God shows us our faults or they are lovingly pointed out to us, and we think we are being rubbed very hard and are feeling sorry for ourselves, it is only because God is so intent on cleaning us, so intent on cleansing us: this is a big spot, it needs some hard rubbing; this is a bad stain, it needs a bigger dose of bleach. We grow in the love of being cleansed and in the ongoing understanding of what it means–the only thing it can mean for any of us–to come to God with a clean heart. It means that I have been cleaned by God, by humbling facing the truth, confessing my faults, and wishing to go forward.