Gospel: Lk 1:26-38
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God, to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
The angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean.
But the angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a son; and you shall call him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the kingdom of David, his ancestor; he will rule over the people of Jacob forever; and his reign shall have no end.”
Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 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 holy child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative, Elizabeth, is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”
Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the angel left her.
Today we are celebrating the fact that, from the very first moment of her conception in her mother’s womb, Mary belonged to God completely and totally, and did not inherit Adam and Eve’s original sin as all other human beings do when they are conceived. This fact was solemnly and infallibly defined a dogma of the Catholic Church in 1854 by Pope Pius IX.
What is interesting in connection with today’s feast is the fact that this doctrine developed very slowly in the Church and that, in the course of the centuries, great theologians were hesitant about the absolute sinlessness of Mary. It was really the piety of the faithful, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which enabled the leadership of the Church to develop this teaching. Professional theologians may be very bright, but what is called the “sensus fidelium” or the spiritual instinct of the faithful is more reliable on the long run. Incidentally, the belief in the Assumption of Mary in Heaven (proclaimed a dogma by Pius XII in 1950) was likewise slowly nourished by the Holy Spirit in the heart of the simple faithful, ignorant of theology but enamored of God. Some things are understood well only with the heart…