Write In Between

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Feast of the Immaculate Conception : A Summary of Catholic Catechesis on the Blessed Virgin Mary

The following material is from The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC.

"What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ."

--Catechism of the Catholic Church or CCC (§ 487)

Immaculate Conception

Pope Pius IX defined ex cathedra the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1854. The Pontiff stressed that Mary's sinless-ness was not due to her own merits, but truly, by the merits of her son, Jesus. "We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful." (Ineffabilis Deus).

Simply stated, Mary possessed sanctifying grace from the first instant of her existence and was free of the lack of grace caused by the "original or first sin" at the beginning of human history.

Divine Motherhood

At the Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431), the Blessed Virgin Mary was proclaimed Theotokos, a Greek term that literally translates, "Birth-giver of God." (cf. CCC § 495) In the Gospel of Luke, Elizabeth greets Mary as "the mother of my Lord" (1:43). Since the earliest days of Christianity, it has been acknowledged that the Blessed Virgin conceived and gave birth to a Divine Person, Jesus, the Son of God. Hence, Mary is rightly venerated as the Mother of God. Only by acknowledgment of Divine Maternity of Mary can faith in the Divinity of Jesus be upheld.

Perpetual Virginity

The Gospel narrative of the Annunciation states: "the angel Gabriel was sent from God … to a virgin … and the virgin's name was Mary" (cf. Luke 1:26-27). The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, foretold the virginal conception of the Messiah as well: "the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel" (7:14). Matthew’s Gospel repeats this prophecy (cf. 1:23). The Church confesses the real and perpetual virginity of Mary even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. The birth of the Christ "did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it." (Lumen gentium, § 57) Therefore, the Church celebrates Mary as the "Ever-virgin." (See CCC, § 499-501).

Bodily Assumption into Heaven

The Church has never issued a definitive declaration about the end of the earthly life of Mary. Eastern Christianity celebrates the Dormition (falling asleep) of Mary; theologians in the West conclude that Mary died in imitation of the bodily death of Jesus. In 1950, Pope Pius XII confirmed a belief held and observed for more than a millennium and solemnly proclaimed that Mary was taken body and soul into heaven.

God accorded Mary this privilege in honor of her Divine Maternity, her complete sinlessness, her spotless chastity, and for her share in her Son’s redemptive work in the world. Mary’s bodily assumption also anticipates the glorified body and place in heaven to be awarded to the faithful at the end of time.

The National Shrine

Mary is honored at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception as the Patroness of the United States of America. In May of 1846, twenty-one bishops and one archbishop attended the Sixth Provincial Council of Baltimore, along with their theologians. It was at this Council that the American Hierarchy named for the first time, the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception as the Patroness of the United States. Pope Pius IX ratified this action of the American hierarchy in February 1847.

There are seventy chapels and oratories. The various ethnic representations of the Blessed Mother given in mosaic, sculpture and other artistic renderings, symbolic of the immigrant population of America, as well as those of saints and biblical and salvific events, richly ornament the interior and exterior of the church. In addition, the upper and lower churches, inside and outside, provide a visual account of the history of the Roman Catholic faith, as well as the history of the Catholic Church in the United States of America.Marian


Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is a composite of veneration, invocation and imitation. The well-known prayer composed in her honor--Hail Mary--is an example of such devotion: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen."

The first portions of the prayer, derived from Sacred Scripture and Tradition, are a series of venerations or praises addressed to Mary. The closing portions are invocations to the intercession of Mary. Through thoughtful and deliberate recitation of this prayer, the faithful come to acknowledge the virtues of Mary and to assimilate them in their lives.

Catholic Documents referring to the Blessed Virgin Mary

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home