The Immaculate Conception

The 8th December is one of the greatest feasts of Mary, the Mother of God. By way of explaining exactly what this feast is about, perhaps the best place to start is the long name for today’s feast: the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

A solemnity means a day that is marked by particular festivity in the celebration of the Mass and the Prayer of the Church. It means that even though the day may be an ordinary weekday, like this year it falls on a Thursday, a solemnity it is kept as though it were a Sunday. Sunday is the holiest day of the week for Catholics because it is the day on which the Lord rose from the dead. So Sunday is the benchmark of solemnity in the Holy Mass, and so if a feast is called a solemnity, we should be on the look out in the Mass for things which we are used to from a Sunday.

For example on a solemnity, as on a Sunday, we say the Gloria at the beginning of the Mass. This is a song of praise to the Holy Trinity, using the words that the angels sang on the night Christ was born of Mary in Bethlehem. Why not Google the words of the Gloria if you’re not familiar with them? In fact, much of Western Classical music was based on the words of the Mass and if you were to type Gloria into YouTube, you’d find literally hundreds of Mass settings by composers such as Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven.

Also, we stand and say the Credo after the Homily. This Profession of Faith is our personal confession of belief in the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, as well as the Church, that baptism washes away our sins, the resurrection of the dead, and everlasting life.

So the liturgy tells us that this particular feast is one of great solemnity, kept as though it were a Sunday.

The phrase ‘Immaculate Conception’ often gets confused with the Virginal Conception of the Lord. The Virginal Conception is the belief that Mary, while remaining a virgin, conceived the Son of God in her womb miraculously, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Immaculate Conception, however, refers not to Christ’s conception, but to Mary’s. It is the truth revealed to us by God, that Mary, conceived in the ordinary way by her father and mother, St. Joachim and St. Anne, was free of any spot or stain of original sin. Original sin means our sharing in that first sin of Adam and Eve has had on the world which that touches each of us as members of the human race. The consequences of original sin still remain even after baptism; death, suffering, and the desire to sin even though we know it to be wrong. Our Lady,  however, was conceived immaculate, without original sin. Indeed, immaculate itself means spotless, without stain, without fault, pure. So to put it simply, the Immaculate Conception means that Mary was without original sin, pure from the very moment her life began, and remained sinless for the whole of her life.

Mary received this from the Lord not due to her own merits, but due to a unique gift of grace. God is the only One who was able to chose his own mother, and in chosing Mary, he made her the most beautiful person he has ever created, beautiful in her soul from the moment of her conception. Anticipating the power that the death and resurrection of God the Son would have on the universe in freeing us from sin and death, the Holy Trinity preserved our Lady from all sin so that she would be a worthy dwelling place for God himself.

Why not look further into this wonderful teaching of the Catholic Church? It is a wonderful truth of our faith, and our Lady is so precious to God as without Mary he could not have come to us. To even think about that for a few moments would be a great way to mark this great solemnity and to ponder the mystery of Christmas for which Advent prepares us.

Here is a wonderful hymn to mark the Immaculate Conception. Why not say it aloud as a prayer to our Lady and ask her to show us how to live lives in friendship with God, and free from sin?

Holy light on earth’s horizon

Star of hope to fallen man,

Light amid a world of shadows,

Dawn of God’s redemptive plan.

Chosen from eternal ages,

Thou alone of all our race,

By thy Son’s atoning merits

Wast conceived in perfect grace.

Mother of the world’s Redeemer,

Promised from the dawn of time:

How could one so highly favoured

Share the guilt of Adam’s crime?

Sun and moon and stars adorn thee,

Sinless Eve, triumphant sign;

Thou art she who crushed the serpent,

Mary, pledge of life divine

Earth below and highest heaven

Praise the splendour of thy state,

Thou who now art crowned in glory

Wast conceived immaculate.

Hail, beloved of the Father,

Mother of his only Son,

Mystic bride of Love eternal,

Hail, thou fair and spotless one!

 

Post by Edmund Montgomery

Christmas Fair!

Don’t forget it’s the Church Christmas Fair THIS WEEKEND. The fair is being held from 12:00 – 15:00 at St Christopher’s Primary School, Romiley. The fair is being opened by our very own Edmund, so do please come along and support us.

There’ll be plenty of stalls and, of course, the raffle! Prizes include a £50 Marks & Spencer Voucher, bottles of wine, bottles of spirits/liqueurs.

And don’t forget the following weekend, on 3rd December, the Woodley Christmas Markets will be taking place at Woodley Precinct opened by our very own Fr. Egan. Why not take a look at some pictures from last year’s markets, kindly posted by local bloggers Startpoint Cafe – Stockport SK6.

 

We’re also going to be announcing a very special Advent service soon – keep visiting us for more information, or why not register to receive blog posts direct to your email inbox? Just click ‘sign me up’ on the right hand side. Your email address is keep safe and confidential!

 

We hope to see you at the Christmas Fair and Christmas Markets!

Remembrance day and the Church

On April 19th 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope. He chose to be called Benedict, and was the sixteenth man to choose that name since Pope Benedict I in the year 575. But it was his most recent name-sake, Pope Benedict XV (pope from 1914-1922) that inspired Cardinal Ratzinger to take Benedict as his papal name. The new pope said,

‘I chose to call myself Benedict XVI ideally as a link to the venerated Pontiff, Benedict XV, who guided the Church through the turbulent times of the First World War. He was a true and courageous prophet of peace who struggled strenuously and bravely, first to avoid the drama of war and then to limit its terrible consequences.’

The First World War, was a disaster for the countries of central Europe. In the four years of the war, more than 15,000,000 people were killed, which represented at that time the bloodiest conflict in the history of the world. Pope Benedict XV tried desperately to bring peace between the warring parties, but was tragically unsuccessful. What was even more painful for the Pope was that many, if not all the countries involved were either Catholic or Christian, and still they were killing their enemies in their hundreds of thousands.

Pope Benedict did however call the Church to pray. And he asked priests all around the world to work with him in praying in particular for the souls of all those who had been killed by the violence of what was becoming known as the ‘Great War’. To do this he issued a decree stating that priests were able to offer three Masses on the 2nd November, All Souls’ Day, for the Faithful Departed.

This was intended by Pope Benedict not only to bring about a speedy end to the War, but also to pray that those who had died (and who were dying) would be granted eternal rest free from their sins. Ever since priests have been able to offer three Masses on All Souls’ Day, a unique privilege given by Pope Benedict in 1915. Here in our own parish of Our Lady and St. Christopher we had three Masses on All Souls’ Day this year.

The War did finally come to an end, and it was not accidental that the Armistice, the Peace, signed between the warring countries was concluded in the very month, November, dedicated to praying for the Faithful Departed. Whilst the speedy end to the War that Pope Benedict XV had hoped for was not realised, the ending of the War on the eleventh day of the eleventh month did restore to Europe something that had been lost; the remembrance of the Dead in the month of November.

So every November when across the United Kingdom people of all ages pause and remember the sacrifice that men and women have and continue to make in the defence of our country, we are forming part of a chain of prayer that goes back to even before Christ, when in honour of fallen warriors, the Maccabees offered prayers for the Dead that God might forgive their sins and grant them His peace.

This Remembrance Sunday, let us not just ‘remember’ or ‘think about’ those who have died, but pray for them. November is a month dedicated to praying for the Dead, so with hope in Resurrection of the Dead, we pray asking for their eternal rest.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

Post by Edmund Montgomery, Pastoral Associate at Our Lady & St. Christopher’s, Romiley.

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