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An Advent Advantage

Preparations for the Immaculate Conception

By Jason Godin
Associate Editor, Fathers for Good

The process of becoming pregnant. The way in which one perceives or understands. Forming or devising a plan. Be it an event, idea or action, preparation is the theme that threads together the definitions of conception.

On December 8, the Church celebrates the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It has been an annual holy day of obligation since it was declared dogmatic truth by Pope Pius IX in 1854. Since that time it has served as a wonderful witness within Advent – the liturgical season of preparation for the coming of Christ – that honors the woman whom the Father first prepared for his Son with the power of the Holy Spirit. Now seems an appropriate time as any to consider what we can do to help others better appreciate the Immaculate Conception. Here are two humble, but hardly simple, steps that we can take:

Model Mary
Dedicate yourself to strive for sainthood by modeling the sanctity Mary exhibited her entire life. Look at the sanctuary statue of Mary in your parish church and see not simply cold stone but a radiant pillar, an image of the firmest faith, highest hope, and most original obedience for you to follow toward Christ. And when you slip in your journey of faith, as all fallen sons and daughters of Eve do, turn to Mary – the New Eve – for help. Ask her to aid you in confessing your sins humbly and with trust in God’s mercy so that you can receive the pardon and peace needed to live once again in a state of grace.

Join a Confraternity
Become an active member in a confraternity, a lay association approved by Church leaders and dedicated to promoting specific works of Christian charity and piety. One choice could be the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception, a growing group of men and women dedicated to living out the spirituality of the Congregation of Marian Fathers. Established in the 18th century, its members wear the Blue Scapular, two small pieces of sky-blue fabric bearing an image of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus on one and the Blessed Virgin Mary on the other, connected together with a red string. Members pledge to spread devotion to the Immaculate Conception in communion with Mary, spiritually through prayers like the rosary and physically through active participation in their parish communities.

In his brilliant book Mysteries of the Virgin Mary (Servant Books, 2010), Father Peter John Cameron, O.P., observes about the Immaculate Conception: God “forms from the midst of the muck of human misery one mortal set apart to be the immaculate image of himself, so that once again we might truly image God” (19). As your Advent preparations advance, take to heart a beautiful fact of faith: the Immaculate Conception is a person, not just a singular point in history or a required reason to be at Mass on December 8. God prepared an extraordinary woman, without the stain of sin, inside an ordinary human womb. What an advantage for us all.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!