I am the Immaculate Conception
These are the words Our Lady said to Saint Bernadette Sobirous, when the young saint asked the ‘beautiful lady’ who she was, and Bernadette had no idea what they meant, in the original French patois. This was in 1858, four years after Pope Blessed Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, with the bull Ineffabilis Deus, on this day, December 8th, 1854, defining that the Mother of God was preserved from all stain (macula) of original sin, by the merits of Christ which God saw (praevisa) beforehand. In other words, she was saved before the Saviour took flesh from her, as a unique and unrepeated privilege.
In the words of the Apostolic Constitution:
The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.
The Immaculate Conception demonstrates the utter gratuity of God’s grace, that He wills to save us by means we may not expect, by any and all means at His disposal. And one of the greatest means was one of the least, an unknown and obscure Jewish virgin, living in a backwater town in Israel, who would be elevated to the status of the greatest and most perfect of all God’s creation. As Saint Paul declared in his first letter to the Corinthians, (and he may well have had Our Lady in mind)
but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
So we should rejoice in our humility and lowliness, and let the world revel in its apparent and all-too-temporary power, pomp and splendour. For what a man, or in this case a woman, is in the sight of God, said Saint Francis, that he is, and no more.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee! +