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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Luke 1, 26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,

to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

He went in and said to her, 'Rejoice, you who enjoy God's favour! The Lord is with you.'

She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean,

but the angel said to her, 'Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God's favour.

Look! You are to conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus.

He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David;

he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.'

Mary said to the angel, 'But how can this come about, since I have no knowledge of man?'

The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God.

And I tell you this too: your cousin Elizabeth also, in her old age, has conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month,

for nothing is impossible to God.'

Mary said, 'You see before you the Lord's servant, let it happen to me as you have said.' And the angel left her.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

As Christmas draws near, the Liturgy offers us this feast in honour of Jesus’ mother. The Virgin Mary becomes for us an example of how to live in this Advent season, an example of how to wait for the Lord who is to be born among us. The Gospel of Luke shows us a girl from a little town in Galilee, Nazareth, on the edge of the Roman Empire. She was a girl like any other, living an ordinary life in her village and yet, the Lord’s gaze had come to rest on her. With today’s feast we remember Mary’s conception without sin; that is, she was unmarked by the original guilt of humanity and exempt from the dramatic estrangement from God that is the lot of Adam, Eve, and every one of us. It is an ancient feast that was called "the Conception of Mary"; but when Pius IX, in 1854, proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the feast took on this new name.
Mary was undoubtedly a young girl like any other and yet the Lord’s gaze had come to rest on her in a very special way, and she was not marked by the distance that original sin signifies. From the beginning she had been chosen to be Jesus’ mother. Therefore the one who was going to become the mother of the Son of God could not be far from God. So she received the gift of being born "immaculate," without sin and stain. It was not a merit but a grace. The Lord prepared her to be a worthy dwelling place for his Son. The Son’s love protected the mother. Mary’s mystery is not completely foreign to us. Just as God looked on her at the moment of her conception, God has also looked on us.
The Apostle Paul writes, "He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love" (Eph 1:4). Like Mary, we were chosen by God before creation, and we were chosen to be holy and immaculate. It is not by accident that the Apostle says, "He chose us" and not, "We chose him." We are the fruit of God’s love; God thinks of us in his heart and we come into the light. Parents take part in this process of love. Our name begins in God’s heart and remains there forever. That is why we believe that life is holy, from the beginning and forever. The Lord never forgets our names; woe to those who want to erase them! Every man and woman is in God’s heart.
On today’s feast we contemplate how great God’s love is and what marvels he is able to work through us if we do not betray his predilection as Mary did not betray it. She never distanced herself from this love: formed to become Jesus’ mother, Mary fully accepted her vocation. It was not easy, nor was her acceptance guaranteed.
When the angel said that she was full of grace, Mary was perplexed. Mary did not think highly of herself. Contrary to the high esteem we have of ourselves she felt herself to be nothing in front of God. The essence of original sin is in thinking oneself disconnected from God and far from his love. And this is at the origin of evil in the world. At the words of the angel, Mary did not exalt herself. Instead, the evangelist writes that she was perplexed. So it should be for us each time we listen to the Gospel; we should not be exalted rather listen to Another. We need to let the Lord touch our hearts; that is what it means to be perplexed. The angel comforts Mary, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive a son... and [you] will name him Jesus" (v. 30). To tell the truth, these words upset her even more, in part because she had not yet gone to live with Joseph. But the angel adds, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (v. 35). Mary listens to the angel and obeys, "Here am I, the servant of the lord; let it be with me according to your word." The girl from Nazareth, the first to be loved by God, is also the first to answer "yes" to God’s call. Mary stands before us, before the eyes of our hearts, so that by contemplating her we can imitate her and we, too, can receive the tender embrace of the Son that fills our hearts and our lives.

Memory of the Mother of the Lord

Calendar of the week
Sunday, 22 October
Liturgy of the Sunday
Monday, 23 October
Memory of the Poor
Tuesday, 24 October
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
Wednesday, 25 October
Memory of the Saints and the Prophets
Thursday, 26 October
Memory of the Church
Friday, 27 October
Memory of Jesus crucified
Saturday, 28 October
Memory of the Apostles
Sunday, 29 October
Liturgy of the Sunday