Monday, December 8, 2014

Immaculate Conception

Esteban Bartolome Murillo - Immaculate Conception
Just imagine the millions of Christmas cards being exchanged right now, going across the globe, many of which are images of the Blessed Virgin Mary, frequently with baby Jesus and St Joseph. Just imagine the thousands upon thousands of nativities being set up and displayed around the world with the Holy Family taking center stage for the Advent and Christmas season.
The 260 million links and articles to the word ‘Our Lady’ produced by Google, and the many other images produced when you type the words ‘Blessed Mother’ are proof of how dominant she still is in the Catholic church and in Christian culture around the world. And when I think that more than half of the parishes in my home country of Malta are dedicated to the Blessed Mother, it shows the devotion people still have towards her.
Many were also the classical works written in sacred music, starting with various Gregorian chants melodies and continuing with the Magnificat, Salve Regina, Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and so much more by many great composers. They all get their inspiration from the image of Mary, conceived without sin, a privilege that was only granted to her and no one else. Just as Jesus was considered the new Adam, so Mary is considered the new Eve.
In 1760, Pope Clement XIII authorized the celebration of the Immaculate Conception in the Catholic church.
But it was only in 1854 that Pope Pius IX, after consulting with all the bishops of the world, pronounced and proclaimed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. This was a rare event and it took another 96 years to have another Dogma proclaimed, this time the Assumption of Mary in 1950. Then another event happened that affirmed the Immaculate Conception of Mary, only 4 years later, when in 1858, the apparition at Lourdes took place, Mary revealing herself to Bernadette Soubirous as the Immaculate Conception.

A Murillo stained glass in St Basil's, Eastern Pennsylvania
The Encyclical Ineffabilis Deus that proclaimed the Dogma proclaims that the Blessed Virgin Mary, “in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”
A massive painting depicting this event is in the Vatican Museums, by Francesco Podesti, and I'll share information about this tomorrow.

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