Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hail Mary, Full of Grace; The LORD is with you

First Reading         Genesis 3:9-15, 20

After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree,
the LORD God called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden;
but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.”

Then he asked, “Who told you that you were naked?
You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!”
The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me
she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.”

The LORD God then asked the woman,“Why did you do such a thing?”
The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”
Then the LORD God said to the serpent:
“Because you have done this, you shall be banned
from all the animals and from all the wild creatures;
on your belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat
all the days of your life.

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.”

The man called his wife Eve,
because she became the mother of all the living.

Responsorial              Psalm 98

R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.

Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.

The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.

All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.

R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.

Second Reading      Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12

Brothers and sisters:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,
as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and without blemish before him.
In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ,
in accord with the favor of his will,
for the praise of the glory of his grace
that he granted us in the beloved.

In him we were also chosen,
destined in accord with the purpose of the One
who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will,
so that we might exist for the praise of his glory,
we who first hoped in Christ.

Gospel                  Luke 1:26-38

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.

He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”

But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”

And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

+++ +++ +++ +++

The Immaculate Conception

The Three Divine Persons imbue this sublime creature with all her privileges, her favors, and her graces, as well as all her holiness. The Eternal Father created her pure and immaculate. He is well pleased in her, for she is the worthy dwelling place of his only Son. Through the generation of his Son from all eternity, he anticipates the generation of his Son as Man in the pure womb of this Mother. From her conception, he clothes her in the radiant snowy garment of grace and of most perfect sanctity; she participates in his perfection. The Son who chose her as his mother poured his wisdom into her, so that from the very beginning, by infused knowledge, she knew her God. She loved and served him in the most perfect manner as he never until then had been loved and served on the earth. The Holy Spirit poured his love into her; she was the only creature worthy or capable of receiving this love in unlimited measure since no other had sufficient purity to come so near to God; and being near him, could only love him ever more. She was the only creature capable of containing the stream of love which poured into her from on high. She alone was worthy to return to him from whom that love had come. This very love prepared her for that “Fiat” which delivered the world from the tyranny of the infernal enemy and overshadowed her, the purest of doves, making her pregnant with the Son of God.

O my Mother! How ashamed I feel in your presence, weighted down as I am with faults! You are most pure and immaculate from the moment of your conception – indeed, from the moment in eternity when you were conceived in the mind of God. Have pity on me! May one compassionate look of yours revive me, purify me, and lift me up to God. Raise me up from the filth of this world that I may go to him who created me, who regenerated me in Holy Baptism, giving me back my white stole of innocence that original sin had so defiled. Dear Mother, make me love him! Pour into my heart the love that burned in yours for him. Even though I be clothed in misery, I revere the mystery of your Immaculate Conception, and I ardently wish that through it you may purify my heart so that I may love your God and my God. Cleanse my mind that it may reach up to him and contemplate him and adore him in spirit and in truth. Purify my body that I too may be a tabernacle for him and be less unworthy of possessing him when he deigns to come to me in Holy Communion. Amen.

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina


Sarah in the tent said...

'We who first hoped in Christ'
Our Lady is the first of all those 'who first hoped in Christ'. Perhaps the person who chose this reading for this feastday is inviting us to change every 'we' to a 'she' and every 'us' to a 'her'. The result is what I understand by her Immaculate Conception.

Is this reading one of the sources for Calvin's ideas of predestination? I find this Protestant teaching rather bleak. As Catholics, do we assign predestination only to Mary?

It's interesting to compare Eve and Mary today, because both were conceived without original sin. Eve does not believe God in His warning, but Mary believes Him in His promise ('blessed is she who believed'). As a result of her disbelief, Eve is reduced to hiding from God, whereas Mary can say 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord'.

Fr. John L. Sullivan said...

Sarah, when I first read your comment about "those who hope", I could not help but think of a woman who doubted the promise made to her husband Abraham. Her name was Sarah.

I also thought about Eve, the ancestor of every human person, as told in the account in Genesis. As you say, she was created without original sin, as was her spouse Adam. Both of them were created with the ability to discern what is true or false, and what is right or wrong, and both of them made the decision to do what pleased them, rather than what they knew would please God.

If I am asked to compare Eve and Mary today, I would say that Eve heard and understood God's warning, but decided to choose what is more pleasing to them: to taste the fruit of the forbidden tree, and to offer a bite of that fruit to Adam.

Mary, on the other hand, had a similar decision to make: to accept or to reject the invitation that the Father extended to her by the message of the angel. The gospel tells us that Mary acted with wisdom -- human wisdom.

In words that might ring true to people of the early 21st century, Mary's response was: "I don't think I can accept this invitation, because I have dedicated my virginity to God."

Consider how she responded to the next message of Gabriel: "That's not a problem. The child will be the Son of God, and your virginity will remain intact. And just to prove the point, your cousin Elizabeth, who is in her old age (like Sarah) has conceived a son, and is now in her sixth month."

Sarah, for you and everyone who reads this and is beset with doubts about their relationship with God, consider carefully the last words of the Angel: "Nothing is impossible with God."

Trust Him, and everything will turn out all right --- at the end of the story.