Fr. Bloomfield's Blog

I am a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, currently assigned to Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, Michigan. When I manage to keep the page updated, hopefully something interesting can be found here!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Faith Seeking Understanding for December 4, 2005

This week, the Church celebrates several feast days of great importance to our Faith; these feasts are culturally, liturgically, and theologically important, and should draw us more deeply into the mystery of our Advent preparations as well. On December 6th, of great delight to children of all ages, the Church remembers St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra; on December 7th, we celebrate St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan; December 8th is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and a Holy Day of Obligation; and December 9th celebrates St. Juan Diego, famous for his encounters with Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Little is truly known about St. Nicholas, except that he was the bishop of Myra (near modern-day Antalya, Turkey) in the Fourth Century. His relics were moved to Bari, Italy, in the 11th century, and a great devotion to St. Nicholas exists throughout Europe. Most of the stories and legends about St. Nicholas center around his renowned charity. The most popular of these tells the story of a poor family with three poor daughters who were unable to marry, since they could not afford a dowry. Mysteriously, golden balls (or bags of gold) appeared in the shoes (or stockings) drying by the fire. This story is the origin of the modern-day European custom in which children set their shoes outside their bedroom doors on December 5; when they awake on St. Nicholas’ Day, they find a few small treats in their shoes. Many other customs surrounding this feast day have been observed for centuries in Europe, and when European immigrants arrived in North America, these customs came along, too; throughout the nineteenth century, poems, Christmas Cards, and other Christmas decorations transformed the noble Bishop of Myrna into our modern day “Santa Claus.”

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (we have a vigil Mass at 7:00 pm on Dec. 7; on the feast itself, Mass is at 9:00 am and 7:00 pm) is one of the greatest liturgical tributes we can offer to our Blessed Mother. This great feast celebrates the Blessed Virgin Mary’s preservation from original sin from the first moment of her existence. Pope Pius IX defined this dogma in 1854, stating: “We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty 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.”

Reading the statement closely, we see that our Blessed Lady still relies entirely and completely upon her Son’s saving death and resurrection for her own salvation; nevertheless, the merits of the Crucifixion apply to Mary in advance. Because original sin was entirely excluded from her soul, she also enjoyed the gift of original justice, whereby her passions and emotions were always rightly ordered. She did not suffer the effects of concupiscence and never committed even a venial sin throughout her entire life.

By entrusting ourselves entirely to our Blessed Mother, confident in her complete and absolute freedom from sin, we honor God in an even greater way. Because she is a member of the Body of Christ, the entire Body rejoices and celebrates this special grace. The first council of Baltimore (1846) elected Mary as the Immaculate Conception the primary patroness of the United States; hence, we delight in a particular way on this feast, entrusting our nation entirely to her patronage.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!