The feast of the Immaculate Conception is near and dear to my heart. I didn’t always understand this Catholic feast. For most of my life I thought that it referred to Jesus’ conception. He was the Son of God, right? So doesn’t it make sense that his miraculous conception – what with Mary’s virginity and the message of the angel – be immaculate? I thought so, and so have others.
Jesus’ conception, though stunning in its own right, does not receive the title “immaculate.” His conception is referred to as the Virginal Conception, but we regularly refer to the whole event as the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38)
The Immaculate Conception actually refers to Mary’s conception. God gave her the “unique grace and privilege” of being “preserved free from all stain of original sin” (from Pope Pius IX in God Ineffable on December 8, 1854). Responding to the continuing grace of God, Mary was sinless throughout her lifetime. And so Mary is “immaculate” which was only proper for the woman who would carry the Son of God in her womb.
As an Immaculate Heart of Mary sister, I am humbled to have Mary as my religious namesake. Like others, I struggle in my life and my relationship with God, and I am anything but immaculate. But I have come to realize that Mary is truly our sister for though she is immaculate, she is human like us. She gives me a glimpse of how to say “yes” to God in all the big and little events in my life. Mary shows me that it is possible to meet the daily challenges of life with patience, grace, humility, and love.
On this Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I pray that you and I continue to aspire to be “full of grace” knowing that Mary is by our side.
In what ways do you experience Mary in everyday life?
Sister Julie Vieira is an Immaculate Heart of Mary sister. On this feast day, she will participate in the venerable IHM tradition of renewing her religious vows. Sister Julie blogs regularly at A Nun’s Life (http://anunslife.org)
Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Francisco_de_Zurbarán_018.jpg