CATHOLIC WORLD NEWS: TUES. DEC. 8, 2009: HEADLINES-
VATICAN: POPE: VENERATION AT MONUMENT OF BLESSED VIRGIN MARY-
EUROPE: ITALY: CHRISTMAS MEETING OF LEADERS TO DISCUSS GOD-
AFRICA: NIGERIA: 30 PILGRIMS DIE IN HAJJ-
AMERICA: US: GOV. CARCIERI OF RHODE ISLAND DEFENDS BISHOP TOBIN-
ASIA: CHINA: BISHOP DUXI DIES AGE 90-
AUSTRALIA: YOUNG ADULT WALKS 15,000 KM TO UNITE RELIGIONS-
POPE: VENERATION AT MONUMENT OF BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
CNA reports that the Holy Father made the trip across Rome this afternoon to complete the traditional act of papal veneration at the monument of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. In his message from the Piazza di Spagna, he contrasted the loving example of Mary with the persistent drum beat of evil found in the news media.
The Pope addressed Romans from the site of the famous Spanish Steps, where he said a statue of Mary "almost keeps watch over the city.”
Mary, Benedict XVI pointed out, is present all over Christian cities in paintings, mosaics and chapels, and through her presence she reminds us that "where sin is abundant, grace is overabundant."
"She is the Immaculate Mother that repeats also to the men of our time: do not be afraid, Jesus has conquered evil, he has conquered over it at the root, freeing us from its dominion."
"How much we need this wonderful news!" the Pope exclaimed, remarking on the contrast of this message to the communication of evil spread daily through the news media to the people.
This negativity, he continued, "isn't completely disposed of and day by day it accumulates. The heart hardens and thoughts are clouded."
"This is why the city needs Mary."
The Holy Father explained that by her very presence "she speaks to us of God, reminds us of the victory of Grace over sin and brings us hope even in the mostly humanly difficult situations."
Pope Benedict then delivered a powerful reflection on the dangers of urban living, The city, he said, has a tendency to make people disappear and every so often the story of one of these "invisible people" gets picked up by the media and exposed to the public "without mercy, or with false mercy." Every person, though, desires "to be accepted as a person and considered a sacred reality" and we all "require the greatest respect."
Each of us, though, as a part of our city is called to make it more hospitable. Said the Pope, "Everyone contributes to its life and to its moral climate, in good or in evil."
We "often we complain about the pollution of the air" but there also exists a "pollution of the spirit" that can impede us from treating others as they deserve to be treated. He stressed the importance of remembering that the people around us are not just bodies or "objects with faces, exchangeable and consumable."
It is Immaculate Mary, said the Holy Father, that "helps us to rediscover and defend the depth of the person, because in her there is perfect transparence of the soul in the body." "She is purity in person, in the sense that spirit, soul and body are in her fully coherent between themselves and with the will of God."
The Madonna teaches us to see the world and others "with mercy, with love, with infinite tenderness," he explained.
Pope Benedict closed the gathering with praise for those who already practice this behavior in their actions and implored all to "lend an ear to the voice of Mary" in her message that "where sin is abundant, grace is overabundant." In being aware of this and acting with our hearts, he said, our cities will be "more beautiful, more Christian, and more human."(source: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=17981
MIDNIGHT MASS TO BE CELEBRATED 2 HOURS EARLY
CNA reports that the traditional midnight Christmas Mass at St. Peter's Basilica will be held two hours earlier this year. For many the news aroused fears about the Pope's health, but, according to the Vatican spokesman, it's only an effort to save Pope Benedict's energy for a busy Christmas schedule.
Although the change is without precedent, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said not to worry. In a response to the Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli of Il Giornale, Fr. Lombardi said that the decision was made months ago and that "there are no 'alarms' whatsoever as to the health of the Pontiff."
It was decided the Mass would be held at 10 p.m. "to permit Benedict XVI to wear himself out a little less and to be able to retire earlier in anticipation of the reading of the message the day after. The Mass, instead of starting at midnight, will finish at that hour," Fr. Lombardi said.
The message referred to is the "Urbi et Orbi," the Pope's traditional noon address on Christmas Day, in which he announces the birth of the Savior and greets Rome and the world in multiple languages.
Among the events on the Pope's calendar leading up to Christmas Mass are today's celebration of the Immaculate Conception, a meeting with the new Cuban Ambassador to the Holy See, and a private audience with the President of Vietnam.
The latter two, Tornielli explains, are particularly important as they confirm Vatican relations with the two Communist nations, where the Church "is playing an important and delicate role on the social plane."(Source: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=17980
ITALY: CHRISTMAS MEETING OF LEADERS TO DISCUSS GOD
CNA reports that the Catholic Church in Italy is preparing for Christmas with a meeting of ecclesiastical, scientific and cultural leaders to discuss “the question of God.”
The international event, organized by the Italian bishops’ conference, will be held from Dec. 10 to 12.
Titled “God today: with Him or without Him, that changes everything,” its attendees will hear from bishops, philosophers, theologians, scientists, artists, musicians, poets, scholars, and men and women of different faiths.
The originator of the event, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, will be one of the speakers, Vatican expert Sandro Magister writes at Chiesa.
“The question of God is not exclusive to the West,” the cardinal said at a Friday presentation to the media. “Scientific language is increasingly more universal, and therefore also universalizes its own negation of God.
“For this reason, the West has a debt to pay to the whole world: not to remove, but to clarify for itself the reasons for faith in God. Only in this way will it be capable of dialoguing with different cultures, principally those of Asia, instead of closing in on itself.”
The event’s other scheduled speakers include German philosopher Robert Spaemann, British philosopher Roger Scruton, the French philosopher Rémi Brague and Vatican Museum director Antonio Paolucci.
Topics to be discussed include God in music, cinema, television, and the sciences. “God and violence” and “God in beauty” will be other themes, as will creation and evolution.
Magister reports that the aim of the event is to revive a “positive encounter” between the faith and the culture of today. In his view, the event is harmonious with Pope Benedict’s approach and is an example of the mystery of God being rejected by the dominant culture but being alive in the hearts and minds of the “little ones.” (SOURCE: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=17975
NIGERIA: 30 PILGRIMS DIE IN HAJJ
All Africa reports that thirty Nigerian pilgrims have so far lost their lives in Saudi Arabia during the 2009 hajj, an official of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Alhaji Uba Mana, has said.
Mana, who is the head of media and publicity of the commission, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in an interview in Mecca on Monday that Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto, Kano, Zamfara, Plateau, Nasawa, Bauchi, Lagos, Yobe, and Borno, each lost pilgrims during the hajj.
Giving a breakdown, Mana said that Kebbi State lost five pilgrims, Niger and Sokoto lost four each, Kano and Plateau states lost three pilgrims each, Nasarawa, Bauchi and Zamfara states lost two each, while Lagos, Yobe and Borno states lost one pilgrim each.
He explained that the three pilgrims from Kano state who died in the hajj came through international route and not through the state's pilgrims welfare board.
Mana said that of the 30 that lost their lives, three were knocked down by moving vehicles, two as a result of kidney failure while the rest died of hypertension and heart related ailments.
On the transportation of Pilgrims back home from Saudi Arabia, the NAHCON spokesman said that 15,000 pilgrims have so far returned home and reiterated that all Nigerian pilgrims would be back at home by December 26.(SOURCE: http://allafrica.com/stories/200912071845.html
US: GOV. CARCIERI OF RHODE ISLAND DEFENDS BISHOP TOBIN
Catholic Online reports that Governor Donald Carcieri is the Governor of Rhode Island and a Catholic Christian. He spoke to Rhode Island Radio Station WPRO and local reporters last week. He is facing the wrath of the militant Homosexual Equivalency Movement in Rhode Island. I use this term to refer to homosexuals who insist that their relationships be treated as the legal equivalent of marriage. They do not like the Governor. Why? Because they do not like the content of his message - so much for free speech. The Governor spoke the truth, defended a Catholic Bishop and offered to pray for Congressman Patrick Kennedy. Referring to Congressman Patrick Kennedy’s choice to have a public dispute with the Catholic Church he told the Press that the Congressman had made “outrageous statements about the Catholic church” and that Bishop Tobin had “no choice except to come back and defend the Church.” He was right. Patrick Kennedy accused his own Church of fanning “the flames of dissent and discord” because it defended the fundamental Human Right, the Right to Life. The Bishop reiterated the pledge of the US Bishops to oppose any proposed National Health Care Reform which would allow federal dollars to be used to kill children in the womb through procured abortion. The Catholic Church defends the dignity of every human person at every age and stage. Congressman Patrick Kennedy knows this is the teaching of the Church. The media tried to goad the Governor into a further entanglement in this now global news story. They asked whether he believed that a Catholic in elective office owes allegiance first to the Church or to the State. That is where all of this is headed, the questioning of whether faithful Catholics can be good Americans. It hearkens back to the Catholic bashing of the “Know Nothing” movement when Catholics were pilloried in the media and accused of being Un-American. The twist is that some of the people who are feeding this new hostility are people like Patrick Kennedy, unfaithful Catholics in public life who knowingly misstate the teachings of their own Church, publicly dissent, and confuse the public. I have referred to them in the past as “Anti-Catholic Catholics.” The “Know-Nothing Party” was rooted in the anti-Catholic bigotry which flourished in America between 1852 and 1856. America was the home of a nativist movement that opposed the immigrations of that era, especially from Ireland and Germany. Some simply did not want us here. This movement was known as the “know-nothings” because its members answered “I know nothing” when asked about their true anti-Catholic aims. They hid their bigotry behind a wink and a nod. The “Know Nothings” did not like the way Catholics believed, lived or practiced their faith. They hated the way Catholics refused to separate their faith from their public life. It angered them that Catholics infused their faith within the cultural framework in which they lived their daily lives. I assert that in our own age there is a new “Know Nothing” movement which feels the same way as it relates to serious Catholics who refuse to compromise on truth. Ironically, some of its leaders are Catholics themselves, like Patrick Kennedy. On June 3, 2003 the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger issued a directive entitled “Considerations regarding Proposals to Give Legal recognition To Unions Between Homosexual persons.” The document presented nothing new concerning Marriage. It clearly rejected any effort to give equivalent legal status to homosexual unions. It restated the unbroken tradition of the Catholic Christian Church for two thousand years. It sought to help Bishops to direct Catholics in Public Life: “The present Considerations do not contain new doctrinal elements; they seek rather to reiterate the essential points on this question and provide arguments drawn from reason which could be used by Bishops in preparing more specific interventions, appropriate to the different situations throughout the world, aimed at protecting and promoting the dignity of marriage, the foundation of the family, and the stability of society, of which this institution is a constitutive element. The present Considerations are also intended to give direction to Catholic politicians by indicating the approaches to proposed legislation in this area which would be consistent with Christian conscience” There is a cultural revolutionary movement underway in the United States and beyond. It is led by those on the fringes of the homosexual activist community who want to force legal recognition of homosexual unions and then enforce an equivalency with true marriage by using the Police Power of the State. They will stop at nothing less than this legal “equivalency” between homosexual unions and true marriage. Having learned from the verbal engineering of the movement to make the taking of innocent life in the womb through abortion “a right”, they are master manipulators of the language. They have reframed this anti-marriage movement as a movement for “marriage equality” much like the proponents of abortion succeeded in calling killing the unborn a “choice.” Catholics must be honest about some in our own house. Purporting to speak for the Church or to promote some “new way”, certain Catholic Politicians undermine the teaching of our Church, do violence to the truth, cause scandal, injure the common good and put their own souls in jeopardy. Congressman Kennedy is one recent example. They hide behind a self erected “public/private” dichotomy in rejecting their duty to defend the right to life and protect marriage and the family and society founded upon it. They engage in sophistry to explain away their error. They are not only being unfaithful to the truths proclaimed by their own Church, they are undermining the common good. The directive spoke forcefully to these folks: “If it is true that all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are obliged to do so in a particular way, in keeping with their responsibility as politicians. Faced with legislative proposals in favor of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are to take account of the following ethical indications. When legislation in favor of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.” The directive not only addressed Christians, it addressed its reasoning to the whole of civil society: “Since this question relates to the natural moral law, the arguments that follow are addressed not only to those who believe in Christ, but to all persons committed to promoting and defending the common good of society.” The document systematically presented a lucid, solid, powerful defense of the truth about marriage and family. Yes, it presented this truth from within biblical revelation and the Christian Tradition. However, like all of the Church’s Social Doctrine, it also did so from the order of right reason, the natural law, the biological and anthropological order, the social order and the legal order. That is because truth is truth. The Prefect for the Congregation who issued the directive, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger is now Pope Benedict XVI. He continues to insist that Catholics in political life defend marriage and family. Just as Catholic politicians must support the right to life for unborn persons they must support marriage: “When legislation in favor of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral”. Just as Catholics in the nineteenth century opposed the original “Know Nothings” we must oppose the new “Know Nothing” movement. The Catholic Church is defending marriage as strongly as she defends the Right to Life from conception to natural death. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith concluded its directive with these words: “The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself.” Governor Donald Carcieri defended Bishop Tobin. His failure to be intimidated is infuriating some within the Homosexual Equivalency Movement. The Governor was recently a speaker at a fundraising banquet for the Massachusetts Family Institute. The group is one of a growing number of marriage advocacy organizations experiencing growth as a direct result of the attacks on the institution of marriage by Homosexual Equivalency Advocates. The Governors’ appearance was protested by several groups such as “Queer Action Rhode Island” who wanted the appearance cancelled. He stood up and defended marriage, the family and the society founded upon it. Bravo! Governor Donald Carcieri needs our prayers. He has shown courage and should be commended. (SOURCE: http://www.catholic.org/politics/story.php?id=34979&page=2
CHINA: BISHOP DUXI DIES AGE 90
UCAN reports that Bishop Matthew Luo Duxi of Leshan (Kiating) in Sichuan province died of heart disease on Dec. 4. The Vatican-approved prelate was 90.
Bishop Matthew Luo Duxi of Leshan (left)celebrates his 89th birthday last year withBishop Paul He Zeqing of Wanzhou
Bishop Paul He Zeqing of Wanzhou (Wanxian), from neighboring Chongqing municipality, presided at the Dec. 7 funeral Mass, held at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Chailou village. Local priests as well as priests from the other four dioceses in Sichuan -- Chengdu, Nanchong, Xichang and Yibin -- concelebrated the Mass.
After the funeral, Bishop Luo's body was buried at the Catholic cemetery behind the church, located at the foot of Mount Emei, a mountain in southwestern China sacred to Buddhists.
A middle-aged Chailou parishioner surnamed Liu told UCA News Bishop Luo had devoted himself to the diocese's development and had shown concern for every Catholic, especially those who were poor.
"Our Church affairs will become difficult and inconvenient without a bishop, especially when the priests have to make important decisions and ordain new priests," she said.
The entire province needs new Church leaders, as the only remaining bishop is Bishop John Chen Shizhong of Yibin, 92, who is ailing, Liu added.
Leshan diocese has 16 priests and 70,000 lay Catholics.
Father Paul Lei Shiyin, ordained a priest in 1991, has been managing the diocese since Bishop Luo's health deteriorated in recent years. He told UCA News the diocese set up a management committee on Dec. 8.
The priest is one of the 10 vice chairmen of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, and one of seven Catholic members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the Chinese government's top advisory body.
Bishop Luo was born in 1919 and completed his seminary studies in the Annunciation Seminary in Chengdu diocese in 1956, according to the diocesan obituary.
However, he became a farmer during the decades of political turmoil starting in the 1950s and was ordained a priest only in 1983, at the age of 64. He was made Leshan vicar general two years later.
In 1993, he became the first bishop of Leshan to be elected and ordained by the government-approved Church community. He received recognition from the Vatican later.
YOUNG ADULT WALKS 15,000 KM TO UNITE RELIGIONS
Cath News reports that Wollongong young adult Sam Clear spent 18 months walking more than 15,000 kilometres from Brazil to Spain in a bid to unite the world's religions.
Mr Clear, 30, said he stared down death on several occasions during his trek, the ntnews.com.au website said.
"I had a rifle held up to my head in Venezuela, was bashed up on the side of the road in Russia and got arrested in the United States," he said. "They couldn't work out if I was a tourist or a missionary."
While the Catholic Church in Australia has seen a drop off in its numbers, particularly of younger members, in recent years, Mr Clear said this was starting to change.
"There's a lot of youth who have seen their parents turn away from the church completely, but they have gone searching for the meaning of life," he said.
"We are seeing a lot of teenagers in the church without their parents." (SOURCE: http://www.cathnews.com/article.aspx?aeid=18169
The Immaculate Conception
Feast: December 8
So great are the advantages we reap from the incarnation of the Son of God that to contemplate it, and to thank and praise him for the same, ought to be the primary object of all our devotions and the employment of our whole lives. In the feast of the Conception of the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God we celebrate the joyful dawning of that bright day of mercy, the first appearance which that most glorious of all pure creatures made in the world, with those first seeds of grace which produced the most admirable fruit in her soul. Her conception was itself a glorious mystery, a great grace, and the first effect of her predestination. Her Divine Son, the eternal God, in the first moment of her being, considered the sublime dignity to which he had decreed to raise her, and remembered that august, dear, sacred, and venerable name of his mother, which she was one day to bear; and he beheld her with a complacency, and distinguished her in a manner, suitable to so near a relation she was to bear. He called her not his servant in whom he gloried, as he did Israel, but his mother, whom for the sake of his own glory he decreed exceedingly to exalt in grace and glory. From that instant the eternal Word of God, which was to take flesh of her, looked upon it as particularly incumbent on him, in the view of his future incarnation, to sanctify this virgin, to enrich her with his choicest gifts, and to heap upon her the most singular favours with a profusion worthy his omnipotence. From that very moment he prepared her to be his most holy tabernacle. When Almighty God commanded a temple to be built to his honour in Jerusalem, what preparations did he not ordain! What purity did he not require in the things that belonged to that work, even in the persons and materials that were employed in it! David, though a great saint, was excepted against by God, because he had been stained with blood spilt in just wars. Again, what purifications, consecrations, rites, and ceremonies did he not order to sanctify all the parts of the building! This for a material temple, in which the ark was to be placed, and men were to offer their homages and sacrifices to his adorable Majesty. What, then, did he not do for Mary in spiritually decking her, whose chaste womb was to be his living tabernacle, from whose pure flesh he was to derive his own most holy body, and of whom he would himself be born!
The first condition in the spiritual embellishing of a soul is perfect purity, or cleanness from whatever can be a blot or stain in her. A skilful statuary is careful, in the first place, that there be no irregularity or deformity in the piece which he is going to carve. Almighty God therefore was pleased to preserve this holy Virgin from contracting any stain of sin, whether original or actual. Without the privilege of an extraordinary grace, the greatest saints daily fall into venial sins of surprise and inadvertence, through a neglect of a universal watchfulness over all the secret motions of their hearts in the course of action. But Mary was distinguished by this rare privilege, and by the succour of an extraordinary grace was so strengthened that her interior beauty was never sullied with the least spot, and charity or the divine love never suffered the least remission or abatement in her soul; but from the moment in which she attained the use of reason, increased, and she continually pressed forward with fresh ardour towards the attainment of higher perfection in virtue and holiness. Her exemption from original sin was yet a more extraordinary privilege of grace. It is an undoubted truth that she was sanctified and freed from original sin before she was born, and that she was brought into this world in a state of perfect sanctity. It is defined as an article of faith that in her very conception she was immaculate. It is needless here to produce the passages of holy scripture usually alleged by theologians, and other proofs by which this doctrine is confirmed. It is founded in the clear testimonies of the most illustrious among the fathers, in the decrees of several particular councils, and the suffrages of most learned and eminent masters of the theological schools. The very respect which we owe to the Mother of God, and the honour which is due to her divine Son, incline us to believe this privilege most suitable to her state of spotless sanctity. St. Austin thought this reason sufficient for exempting her, whenever mention is made of sin. "Out of reverence," says he, "and for the honour which is due to her Son, I will have no question put about her when we speak of any sin." Christ was no less her Redeemer, Reconciler, and most perfect Saviour and Benefactor, by preserving her from this stain, than he would have been by cleansing her from it: as by descending from Adam she was liable to this debt, and would have contracted the contagion had she not been preserved from it through the grace and merits of her Son.
To understand how great a grace and how singular a prerogative this total exemption from all sin was in Mary, we may take a survey of the havoc that monster made amongst men from the beginning of the world, excepting Mary The most holy amongst the saints all received their existence in sin; they were all obliged to say with St. Paul, "We were the children of wrath, even as the rest." The fall of our first father Adam involved ill mankind in guilt and misery. From that time, for the space of four thousand years, sin reigned without control On every side. By its dire effects the greatest part of the world was plunged into the most frightful state of spiritual darkness and blindness. Even the sons of light were born under its slavery; Abraham, Moses, Elias; Jeremy' Job, and all the other saints confessed with David, "Behold, I was conceived in iniquities, and in sin my mother conceived me." Sin was become a universal leprosy, a contagion which no one could escape; an evil common to all mankind, and infecting every particular individual that descended from Adam. It was communicated with the flesh and blood which men received from their parents, and from their first father Adam. Every child contracted this infection with the first principle of life. Mary, by a singular privilege, was exempted from it, and entered a world of sin spotless and holy.
The grace which exempted Mary from original sin preserved her also from the sting of concupiscence, or inordinate love of creatures, and tendency to evil. The first sin of Adam brought on us a deluge of evils, and by the two wounds of ignorance and concupiscence which it has left in us its malignity has spread its influence over all the powers of our souls. Through it our understanding is liable to be deceived and to be led away with errors; our will is abandoned to the assaults of the basest passions: our senses are become inlets of dangerous suggestions: we are subjected to spiritual weakness, inconstancy, and vanity, and are tyrannized over by inordinate appetites. Hence proceeds in us a difficulty in doing good, a repugnance to our duties, a proneness to evil, the poisoned charm of vice, and the intestine war of the flesh against the spirit. All this we experience and groan under; yet under the weight of such miseries, by a much greater evil, we are blind, proud, and insensible. We court our dangers, indulge and fortify our enemies, and caress and adore those idols which we are bound to destroy. To procure for ourselves some part in the blessing which Mary enjoyed in the empire over our passions, we must cheek them, restrain our senses, and die to ourselves. We must never cease sighing to God, to implore his aid against this domestic enemy, and never enter into any truce with him. "Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled." If our weakness and dangers call for our tears' we have still much greater reason to weep for our guilt and repeated transgressions. Whereas grace in Mary triumphed even over original sin; we, on the contrary, even after baptism and penance, by which we were cleansed from sin, return to it again, increase our hereditary weakness and miseries; and, what is of all things most grievous, infinitely aggravate out guilt by daily offences. "Who will give water to my head, and a fountain of tears to my eyes?" O, Mother of Mercy, let your happy privilege, your exemption from all sin and concupiscence, inspire you with pity for our miseries: and by your spotless purity and abundant graces obtain for us strength against all our dangers; the deliverance from all our miseries, and the most powerful remedies of divine grace.
Mary, in her conception, was not only free from stain, but moreover was adorned with the most precious graces, so as to appear beautiful and glorious in the eyes of God. And the grace she then received was the seed of the great virtues which she exercised, and the higher graces to which, by the improvement of her first stock, she was afterwards raised, during the whole course of her mortal life. By the first graces she was free from all inclination to accursed pride and from all inordinate self-love, and remained always perfectly empty of herself. This disposition she expressed when honoured with the highest graces and exalted to the most sublime and wonderful spiritual dignity; under which, sinking lower in her own abyss of weakness and nothingness, she sincerely and purely gave all glory to him. She confessed aloud that he chose her not for any merit, or anything he saw in her, but because he would signalize his omnipotence by choosing the weakest and meanest instrument, and because he saw in her the nothingness in which he most fitly exerted and manifested his infinite power and greatness. By a lurking pride we obstruct the designs of the divine mercy in our favour. The vessel of our heart cannot receive the plentiful effusion of divine grace so long as it is filled with the poison of self-love. The more perfectly it is cleansed and empty, the more is it fitted to receive. As the prophet called for vessels that were empty, that they might be filled with miraculous oil; so must we present to God hearts that are perfectly empty, when we pray that he replenish them with his grace. The exercise of humility, meekness, patience, resignation, obedience, self-denial, rigorous self-examination, compunction, and penance begin the work: but prayer and divine love perfect the cleansing of the fountain from which they spring. Thus are we to attain that purity of heart and affections by which we shall bear some degree of resemblance to the holy Mother of God. This grace we ought earnestly to beg of God, through her intercession, and particularly to commend to him, through her, the preservation of the holy virtue of purity.
The Immaculate Conception of the holy Mother of God was not only in itself a great and glorious mystery, but likewise joyful to mankind. Certain glimmerings of the benefit of our Redemption had gone before from the fall of Adam in several revelations, types, and figures; in which the distant prospect of this wonderful mercy filled the patriarchs and other saints of the old law with comfort and holy joy. But the conception of Mary displayed the first rays of its approaching light, and may be said to have been its rising morning, or the dawning of its day. In this mystery she appeared pure and glorious, shining among the daughters of Adam as a " lily among thorns." To her from the moment of her conception God said, "Thou art all beautiful, my love, and there is no spot in thee." She was the "enclosed garden," which the serpent could never enter; and the "sealed fountain," which he never defiled. She was the throne and the tabernacle of the true Solomon, and the ark of the testament to contain, not corruptible manna, but the Author of the incorruptible life of our souls. Saluting her with these epithets, in exultation and praise, let us sing with the church, "This is the Conception of the glorious Virgin Mary, of the seed of Abraham, sprung from the tribe of Juda, illustrious of the house of David, whose life, by its brightness, illustrates all churches."
Luke 1: 26 - 38
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!"
But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.
And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end."
And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?"
And the angel said to her, "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, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
For with God nothing will be impossible."
And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.