Today is the Feast of Our Blessed Mother's Immaculate Conception. It is the patronal feast of the United States, and of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.
To mark the day and to honor Our Lady, I am happy to repost last year's sermon of Canon Michael Wiener, ICRSS, Rector of St. Francis de Sales Oratory:
Immaculate Conception 2013
The mysteries of our holy religion are challenging: The Incarnation of God is doubted, if not attacked, by many. The Cross is a “stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles”. And the Mystery of the Immaculate Conception is - at best – discounted or conveniently forgotten.
The mysteries of our religion require faith, faith which leaves us freedom to approach God and to become one of His without violating the principles of reason. These mysteries, however, are all parts of the same truth about God and His work of salvation which do not allow us to disregard one of them without losing all of them together.
The Immaculate Conception, defined very late in the Church’s history as a dogma, but believed by the majority of all faithful from the earliest times on, is the miraculous preservation from sin in the entirely natural conception of Mary by her mother Anne. All men, all seed of Adam, contract the sin of nature in receiving nature from nature’s head. The only exception to this general rule is Mary, and this exception in her case was made in anticipation of the merits of her divine Son on the Cross. Though from her natural origin she should have contracted it, Mary was preserved from Original Sin. And that preserving grace of the merits of Christ freed her from all rebellion of lower appetites, from any motions of the senses against the regime of reason.
In the document, the Bull “Ineffabilis Deus” in which the great Pope, the Blessed Pius IX, defines the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1854, as dogma, we read: “The Most Holy Virgin Mary was, in the first moment of her conception, by a unique gift of grace and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, preserved free from all stain of original sin.”
Mystery and privilege – two things which our modern minds often perceive as a hindrance and impediment on the way to find God.
Today’s feast is another excellent opportunity to prove that the mysteries of the Catholic Religion and the dogmatic teachings of the Church are, contrary to what many believe, the means God employed to abolish remoteness and to put the human race in direct contact with God.
In order that God could become man a mother was needed. This mother had to be the mother of a divine person who assumed our - the human - nature. After the fall, the first sin committed by man, which ruined our chances to be born in the state of grace, God wanted to re-establish humanity again by opening the channels of grace now within mankind. God did, indeed, “more marvelously renew, what he had already marvelously created”, as the priest prays in the offertory of Mass, by making Jesus Christ, second person of the Blessed Trinity, now the head of humanity.
“God’s first word of salvation, spoken outside the locked gates of Paradise, already indicates a woman, a single woman, who could never be overcome by Satan: I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and ‘her seed’ (Genesis 3:15). …
The woman who crushed the serpent’s head was the mother of God-made-man” (Hugo Rahner, “Our Lady and the Church).
If God wanted to restore humanity by becoming man Himself, being able to suffer for us and redeem us from sin, He had to have a mother. And who, among all mothers in this world, would have been better prepared for this task than Mary, the Immaculate, who received the fullness of all graces already from the first moment of her existence? Mary is this mother, a mother with heart and soul, whose immaculate body and perfectly sanctified soul are enabling her to be the mother of Christ and of all those who are reborn with Christ in grace.
Here we have the reason why Msgr. Wach, the founder and Prior General of the Institute wanted to give our community as primary patron the Immaculate Conception: Mary is the immaculate mother of the Church, Christ’s mystical body, who channels the streams of grace, of infallible teachings and infinite goodness of God to all of us who want to believe in God-made-man. Mary is the image of the Immaculate Church, invincible by the forces of darkness and reflecting for all times the beauty, the truth and love of God. Mary is the mother of all new creation, through her we all are constantly re-created in grace and from her we are always allowed to expect protection and shelter against the attacks of the evil one. All members of our Institute know well about our Mother’s guarding hand, in our personal lives and in the life of the entire Institute since its foundation in 1990.
The mysteries of our religion are challenging: They require faith, faith which leaves us freedom to approach God without violating the principles of reason. The Mystery of the Immaculate Conception is part of the same truth about God and His work of salvation.