Advent invites us to reflect on the life of Mary Immaculate…
Bernadette Soubirous at the age of 14 encountered a vision of a woman named Mary in a cave above the banks of the Gave River near Lourdes. She was a poor young girl so no one believed her, but the vision continued.
Finally, the local priest asked Bernadette to find out the name of the woman and she replied Immaculate Conception. I had the privilege to make a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France where Mary appeared. Thousands of people go to Lourdes on pilgrimage and receive many blessings.
The Immaculate Conception is a dogma based mainly on Christian tradition and theological reasoning. It was defined as a Dogma in 1854 in the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius IX “Ineffabilis Deus.” Mary approved it by declaring to Bernadette at Lourdes, “I am the Immaculate Conception”. The celebration of this feast existed in the church even before. Monks in Palestinian monasteries started celebrating the feast of Conception of Our Lady by the end of the 7th century. Over the years it spread to different regions. Pope Leo VI propagated the celebration in the universal church and Pope Sixtus IV approved it as a feast.
Every year during Advent we celebrate the feast of Immaculate Conception and we listen to Gospel passage angel's invitation to become Mother of God. We read in the Gospel, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28). This passage tells us about the state holiness of Mary.
In the first reading from the Book of Genesis, we see the story of the creation of Adam and Eve. They were in the beautiful paradise. They were sinless, they were happy, enjoying every moment of their life. All of a sudden they lost that state of holiness. At that moment they lost the freedom and were afraid of God. We see in the first reading, God searching for Adam and Eve, asked them, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). How many of us may have had a similar experience. When you tried to hide from your parents, they asked you out of love “where are you?” Did you recognize their love? No, you tried to tell them your excuses, isn’t it? Like all of us Adam and Eve had their own reason why they sinned.
God promised there will be a woman and her son to save the generation of Adam and Eve: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel" (3:15). Mary is the new Eve and Christ is the new Adam. In Mary, humanity responded to God. She said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Immaculate Conception is not about the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb; it is about the conception of Mary in the womb of Anna. It is beautiful that we get a chance to reflect on the conception of Mary and Jesus during Advent. Let us walk with Mary in this advent season.
I take this opportunity to wish everyone the Happy Feast of Immaculate Conception, especially to Parishioners of Immaculate Conception. I would like congratulate also our Confirmation Candidates and First Reconciliation Candidates who are introduced at Immaculate Conception. Let us keep them all in our prayers.