The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary occurs ordinarily on December 8. Because that date in 2013 is a Sunday in the Advent season, the Sunday observance takes precedence, and the celebration of Mary’s conception is transferred to the following day, December 9. And because of this transfer, the feast is not a holyday of obligation this year. Since this feast is so important, however, there will be a Mass at 12:05 p.m. at St. Francis Church, and parishioners are encouraged to attend.
The dogma of the Immaculate Conception, proclaimed in Christian Tradition and defined in 1854, states that from the first moment of her conception, Mary—by the singular grace of God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ—was preserved immune from original sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church goes on to say: To become the mother of the Savior, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.” The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace.” In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace. Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: “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, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.” The “splendor of an entirely unique holiness” by which Mary is “enriched from the first instant of her conception” comes wholly from Christ: she is “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son.” The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and chose her “in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love.”
The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia) and celebrate her as “free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature.” By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.
”Let it be done to me according to your word...” At the announcement that she would give birth to “the Son of the Most High” without knowing man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded with the obedience of faith, certain that “with God nothing will be impossible”: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word.” Thus, giving her consent to God’s word, Mary becomes the mother of Jesus. Espousing the divine will for salvation wholeheartedly, without a single sin to restrain her, she gave herself entirely to the person and to the work of her Son; she did so in order to serve the mystery of redemption with him and dependent on him, by God’s grace.
ADVENT AT ST. FRANCIS
The Advent and Christmas seasons are busy times at St. Francis Parish, and we call your attention to these upcoming events:
The Children’s Choir is a special group which sings at the 5 p.m. liturgy on Christmas Eve. Rehearsals are on Wednesdays 6-7 p.m. in Columbian Hall. For more information, contact the director, Daniel Kirkland.
Christmas Cards are on sale after all Sunday Masses by the members of the Knights of Columbus. Come and support the charitable works of this group.
The Christmas Sharing Tree, now in the church vestibule, is an opportunity to provide a gift for someone in need. Gifts are due back by December 8. The parish is also accepting new blankets for the family boxes; there is a box in the vestibule for the blankets. We are now in need of volunteers to deliver gift boxes to the families for whom the gifts are intended. If you can help, contact Mary Witherow at 703-868-0745.
Memorial Flowers to decorate the church for Christmas may be given in memory of the faithful departed. Use the special envelope included with your offering packet or drop a check in the collection basket (including the purpose in the memo line of the check).
The Sacrament of Reconciliation will be offered at the usual Saturday time and at the special communal penance service to be held on Wednesday, December 11, at 7 p.m. The latter will include opportunities for individual confession, and both the clergy of St. Francis and other area priests will be available.
The Liturgical Schedule for the Christmas Season is as follows: