“Hail Full of Grace!” (Kεχαριτωμένη)

© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

May Your Mother Intercede for Us Lord! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is one of the most beautiful celebrations in the liturgical year. Today we commemorate the singular grace and privilege that God Himself bestowed upon Our Heavenly Mother: namely that she was conceived without the stain of Original Sin. Through this feast we are invited to thank God for the tremendous grace with which He has endowed Our Lady, and also to seek Her powerful maternal intercession for ourselves.

The privilege of being the Immaculate Conception is unique in Salvation History. Never before – nor ever again – has a mere creature been given so great a gift. Yet the gift is truly fitting when one contemplates the solitary role Our Lady was to occupy within God’s Divine Plan. The Blessed Mother was to provide a pure Tabernacle of human flesh within which Our Divine Savior was to rest and grow for nine months. In anticipation of Mary’s fiat, Our Lord prevented the disfigurement of Original Sin from ever touching her Immaculate Soul- His gift of grace to Our Lady who existed absolutely and totally replete with grace from the first moment of her being.

“Hail Full of Grace!” (Kεχαριτωμένη), © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

“Hail Full of Grace!” (Kεχαριτωμένη), © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

Indeed, the Angel Gabriel greets the Blessed Mother not with the words “Hail Mary,” but rather “Hail Full of Grace.” The Greek word, kechatitomene (Kεχαριτωμένη) is used exclusively to name the Blessed Mother, and it means full (overflowing) with grace. The connotation of this word is that Our Lady, was so brimming with the gift of God’s grace that there was not even an iota of room for anything opposed to that grace. My Koine Greek is pretty rusty, but what I remember is that kechatitomene is in the aorist tense – a past perfect tense denoting an action that was begun in the past, but continued into the present. Mary was conceived sinless, and that state continued into present.

The Lord Will Dawn on You in Radiant Beauty . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

The Lord Will Dawn on You in Radiant Beauty . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

When God uses a word in place of a person’s name or renames an individual, it bears deep significance as it reflects the very being and mission of the individual. Recall for example that: Abram (exalted father) was renamed Abraham (father of many nations), Jacob wrestled with an angel and was given the name Israel (contended with God), Simon the fisherman was renamed Peter- the Rock, and the Pharisee Saul was transformed into the Christian Paul. Thus, when the Angel of the Annunciation refers to the Blessed Mother, not by her given name of Mary, but rather as “kechatitomene,” it reflects the past of her sinless conception, the present of the moment of the Annunciation, and the future of her mission as the Immaculate Conception – a mission which continues to this very day.

The Lord has Chosen Her, His Loved on From the Beginning. . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

The Lord has Chosen Her, His Loved on From the Beginning. . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

In the United States of America, devotion to Our Lady under the title “Immaculate Conception” has early antecedents. For example, a feast of the Immaculate Conception was celebrated in all the Spanish colonies, and established as a Holy Day of Obligation by the First Provincial Council of Lima in 1552. Franciscan Missions to Our Lady under this privileged title include: Convento de Inmaculada Concepcion in St. Augustine, Florida (established in 1573), and La Purisima Conception Mission in New Mexico (1629) and La Purisima Concepcion in California (1787).

The Lord is with You! “Hail Full of Grace!”  © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

The Lord is with You! “Hail Full of Grace!” © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

The renowned Jesuit explorer, Pere Jacque Marquette explored the Mississippi River, and not only entrusted his perilous expedition to Blessed Virgin, but also renamed the Indian Village of Kaskasia “Immaculate Conception of Mary,” as well as renamed the Great River: “Conception River.” Fr. Marquette’s devotion to Our Lady under this title also included spreading a devotion to the Chaplet of Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, a chaplet he himself created in Her honor.

As early as May 17, 1846 Our Lady was proclaimed patroness of the entire country under this privileged title by the bishops if the United States at the Sixth Provincial Council of Baltimore. From early antiquity, a belief in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is evident through the writings of the early Church Fathers. Even before the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was officially promulgated by Pope Pius IX December 8, 1854, in his papal bull Ineffabilis Deus, this doctrine was widely espoused and celebrated, not only in Europe, but also in the United States. In 1884, the bishops of the United States united at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore to require that the feast be celebrated as a Holy Day of Obligation by all dioceses in the United States. This decision received the full approbation of Rome in 1885.

Mary Full of Grace, Intercede of Us!  © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

Mary Full of Grace, Intercede of Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

We have a rich history of celebrating the immense privilege that God has bestowed upon Our Lady. Throughout the centuries She has shown Herself to be responsive to the supplications of Her beloved children, especially when they invoke Her under this title. As our nation faces unprecedented threats to Religious Liberty, let us unite on this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception to thank God for the graces He has bestowed upon Mary, and to invoke Her Intercession for ourselves and nation.

Blessed Feast Day!

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. JMJ

The Almighty Has Done Great Things

“This daughter of Jerusalem is lovely and beautiful as she ascends to heaven like the rising sun at day break(Antiphon, Morning Prayer, Divine Office, Liturgy of the Hours).”

Hail Holy Queen © SalveMaterDei.com, -2012.

Yesterday our family was on pilgrimage. As the sun peered over the horizon, we piled into the van and headed North, to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. The Assumption of the Blessed Mother is one of most beautiful Feasts of the Liturgical year, and it is celebrated with the highest Solemnity at this humble Shrine, where Our Immaculate Mother condescended to appear to poor immigrant woman, in 1859. The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help remains the only approved Marian apparition site in the United States. This is a place of miracles. Yesterday, Bishop David L. Ricken noted during his homily that in the 18 months since the formal approval of the Marian apparitions at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, more than 225,000 pilgrims have brought their hearts and prayers to Christ through Mary at this sacred site. Bishop Ricken also stated that month after month, he receives letters documenting the myriad of both spiritual and temporal graces that have been received by those seeking Our Lady’s intercession.

Over the years, our family has enjoyed the privilege of visiting this site frequently and participating in the celebration of feasts and holy days. On this particular feast, two of my boys had the honor of serving and three of my daughters enjoyed the grace of processing under Our Lady’s Banner.

© SalveMaterDei.com, -2012.

Yesterday, we joined our hearts and souls with approximately 3,000 faithful Catholics in celebrating the Feast which commemorates the day Our Blessed Mother was assumed body and soul to the throne prepared for her from the beginning of time by the Most Blessed Trinity. There among an intimate family of 3,000 strong, we worshipped Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and honored His beloved Mother on the Solemnity of her Assumption.

Hail Full of Grace (Kεχαριτωμένη)! © SalveMaterDei.com, -2012.

Yesterday’s Gospel commemorated the glorious visit to Our Lady, the Theotokos, by the Archangel Gabriel; who greeted her with the words: “Hail Full of Grace (Luke 1: 28)” as he heralded her high calling. The words the Angel Gabriel used here are precise. Recall, the Greek word, kechatitomene (Kεχαριτωμένη) is scripturally used only in this passage. This little word is pregnant with meaning. The connotation is that Mary is the chosen vessel, the one who is so replete with grace that not even the slightest shadow of darkness is present. Our Lady is the Ark of the New Covenant; the one so pure, so holy, the daughter so highly favored that the abyss of God’s magnificence will fill her and flow through her maternal heart for all eternity.

Mary is the new Eve, the Ark of the New Covenant. Our Lady is the woman clothed with the sun spoken of in the Book of Revelation:

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the Sun, with the Moon under her feet and wearing a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns and on its head were seven diadems. Its tail swept away a third of the stars and hurled them down toward the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth. She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne. The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God. . . (Revelations 12: 1-6).

It was fitting that we honored Our Lord’s beloved Mother on this feast day, in this holy place where Our Lady has interceded for her children for over 150 years. What a magnificent celebration! The warm sun beamed brightly on the large crowd. Even amid the thousands of pilgrims present, one could still sense a transcendent serenity.

Bishop David L. Ricken © SalveMaterDei.com, -2012.

Holy Mass is the ultimate prayer; and yesterday’s Holy Mass was magnificent! Among the highlights of the Mass was Bishop David L. Ricken’s outstanding homily. Fr. Peter Stryker quoted one of the concelebrating priests who described it as “the best ‘Bishop Homily’” he had ever heard. It was Christ-centered, Marian, Magisterium-faithful, inspirational, and rock-solid. Relevant Radio produced a photo montage of this extraordinary Feast, and set against the backdrop of Bishop Ricken’s homily: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0uFRyt2_PA&feature=player_detailpage. This 22- minute gem is a treasure.

Praying the rosary as we processed with Our Lord’s Eucharistic Presence was deeply moving. One could feel the warm caress of the sun, as thousands of voices echoed the words of St. Gabriel,

“Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee, Blessed are thou among women, and Blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

The beauty of this moment in time is forever etched in my heart with deep gratitude.

May Our Lady intercede for us! Happy Feast of the Assumption,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. J.M.J.

Bishop David L. Ricken, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help Bi © SalveMaterDei.com, -2012

* A film crew from Dolan Productions was on-site at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help during the Feast of the Assumption filming a special that is scheduled to air on EWTN on October 9, 2012.