May God grant you a joyful and blessed Feast of the Immaculate Conception!
Although the Church’s faith in the Immaculate Conception is of apostolic origin, the dogma was explicitly defined with infallible petrine authority (ex cathedra) on December 8, 1854. In his apostolic constitution, Ineffabilis Deus, Pius IX teaches:
“We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of Her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”
Hence, if anyone shall dare — which God forbid! — to think otherwise than as has been defined by us, let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church.”
As with all the great Catholic Mysteries, we can turn to the liturgy provided by Holy Mother Church to contemplate its meaning more deeply. Moreover, since these sacred texts are inspired by the Holy Ghost, we can meditate upon them repeatedly as they continue to reveal innumerable facets of the Mystery’s innumerable facets. For example, consider the deep interconnection between this principal Mystery and others, such as the Incarnation, Original Sin, the Redemption, the Sacred Priesthood, or the Final Judgment.
Today, I invite you to consider just the antiphons from the Divine Office of Lauds (Morning Prayer) for this feast through the “lens” of Our Lady’s Fatima Message. I will offer a few simple reflections to help prompt your own meditation.
Thou art all fair, O Mary, there is no spot of original sin in Thee. (Ant 1 for Ps 92)
From the first moment of Her conception, Our Lady is immaculately pure. She has never been tainted by sin! The devil has never been able to conquer Her in the slightest.
At Fatima, She reminded us of the importance of the virtue of purity, especially in our modern age. Our Lady warned St. Jacinta that certain fashions would be introduced which would offend Our Lord very much. St. Jacinta was always very sensitive to modesty and exhorted those around her to purity – of body and of soul. Our Lord also told Sister Lucia that the penance required of each of us is to faithfully fulfill the duty of our state in life. For every single human, be they single, married, or in religious vows, their state in life requires that they live chastely. In particular, the priest requires great purity in order to offer worthily Christ’s Sacrifice at the Catholic Altar. It is precisely a lack of such purity that underlies much of today’s crisis, causing terrible scandal and inducing many to reject the Faith.
Let us pray for the grace of purity. “O Mary, by the grace of Thine Immaculate Conception, make my body pure and my soul holy. Amen.”
Thy raiment is white as snow, and thy countenance as the sun. (Ant 2 for Ps 99)
How could one not think of King David’s hymn when hearing ten-year-old Lucia’s description of Our Lady: “It was a Lady dressed all in white, more brilliant than the sun, shedding rays of light, clear and stronger than a crystal glass filled with the most sparkling water, pierced by the burning rays of the sun.”
Over the centuries, Our Lady has appeared in varying raiment, yet Her particular choice of donning all white more brilliant than the sun at Fatima strongly evokes the Immaculate Conception. Likewise, the rays of grace (light) evoke Her being “full of grace.”
The antiphon’s allusion to the sun reminds us of the great Miracle of the Sun. We recall how the witnesses thought the sun would fall upon the earth and of how, in the Vision, flames from the angel’s sword threaten to destroy our planet. Last Sunday, we heard Our Lord’s apocalyptic warnings that there would be signs in the sun and great confusion upon the earth. Without the sun, there can be no life on earth (as we know it).
Yet not all the power of the sun can even compare with the mere countenance of the Queen of Heaven.
The Lord God said to the serpent: I will put enmities between thee and the Woman, and thy seed and Her seed: She shall crush thy head. (Ant for the Benedictus)
No passage of Scripture so clearly evokes the Immaculate Conception as does the protoevangelion (Gn 3:15). In fact, this is probably the most frequently cited ‘proof text’ when trying to explain the Scriptural underpinning of this dogma.
And perhaps no other Scriptural quote better summarizes the message of Our Lady of Fatima. Fatima warns of the tremendous attack unleashed by the Ancient Serpent upon mankind. The battle between those who are faithful to God – to Christ, to the Church, to Catholic dogma, to Catholic worship, to Our Lady, to Her Rosary, to Fatima – and those who are opposed to God is reflected in that absolute and total enmity between satan and the Woman Who Is Immaculate.
Just as the protoevangelion compels the believer to a great hope, “She shall crush thy head;” so too the prophecies of Fatima, “In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, which will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”
Let us pray.
O God, by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, Thou prepared a worthy habitation for Thy Son; we beseech Thee, that, as by the foreseen death of Thy same Son Thou preserved Her from all stain of sin, so Thou would grant us also, through Her intercession, to come to Thee with pure hearts. Through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
Happy 24th Anniversary, Father Michael Rodríguez!
We raise our hearts to God in thanksgiving for the priestly service and sacrifice rendered by Fr. Rodriguez to the Church. Twenty-four years ago, on Dec 8, 1996, Fr. Rodriguez received the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Please keep him in your prayers, especially that he may receive the grace to always know and do the holy will of God; and to remain supremely faithful to Christ, His Church, and the Catholic Faith.
Photo: Fr. Rodriguez offering twenty white roses to the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8, 2016; one rose in gratitude for each of his twenty years as a priest.