The Immaculate Conception

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception in which we profess our Catholic belief that God preserved Mary from all sin from the first moment of her conception in the womb of her mother, Anne. God prepared Mary to be the Mother of Jesus, His divine Son, by bestowing on her this extraordinary grace. It enabled her to freely consent to God’s call on her life and to be holy and pure as she carried and raised the Son of God. God bestowed upon Mary the merits of Jesus’ death and resurrection before they happened so that she would be born without original sin and would remain sinless throughout her life.

In our church, the Immaculate Conception is depicted in the window to the right of the St. Anne altar. The window has several sections and themes running through it. At the top, Mary is being presented to God in the Jewish temple by Joachim, her father. The star of David, a symbol of the Jewish religion is at the top and Mary is being received by the priest. At the bottom of this scene are two baskets containing doves, a symbol of St. Joachim and representing his willingness to dedicate the child he had so longed for to God.

In the lower scene, Mary is being taught by her mother, St. Anne. It is believed that Anne’s teaching of the scriptures, along with God’s grace, was instrumental in Mary opening her heart to God’s will in her life. The bird to the right represents Anne’s longing for a child, for Mary was born to them later in life.

Rising from the base of the window around these two scenes is a golden vine. During Advent we hear the prophecy of Isaiah:

“…a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse and from his root a bud shall blossom.” (Is 11:1)

This prophecy indicates that the Savior will come from the descendants of Jesse, the father of David. Jesse had many descendants, and in the fullness of God’s time, Mary was born of this lineage. The golden vine symbolizes her Immaculate Conception, her freedom from sin. The golden grapes higher up on the vine symbolize the holy Son of God who will be her child.

As we reflect on this window we might consider in what ways are we saying yes to God in our lives as Mary did in hers. Do we allow the Scriptures to inform our decisions? Do we spend time with God in prayer? Is our desire to live a holy life? Mary is also the Mother of the Church and our Mother. We can always turn to her for help as we try to live out God’s call on our own lives.