“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

Fear Not!

Uncorrupted Ark of His Dwelling Place- Please pray for us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012 EA photographer

The flash of the fireworks is gone from the sky. That gaudy-glitzy ball has dropped.  Noise-makers are silent, and punchbowls are empty. 2012 is officially underway. Thankfully, this is not the end of a mere night-long celebration, but the beginning of a time of grace. As we begin our new year, we celebrate the Feast of the Solemnity of The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Today, we focus our admiration on the Blessed Mother and our gratitude on God, for His gift of Divine Maternity to the Blessed Virgin. We celebrate Mary as the Theotokos – the Mother of Son of God.

Antiphon 3 from the Vespers for today’s feast reads:

Your blessed and fruitful virginity is like the bush flaming, yet unburned, which Moses saw on Sinai. Pray for us Mother of God.

Christ was fully human and fully Divine. He did not just take up residence in the belly of the Blessed Virgin, or merely temporarily occupy available space. Rather, in His humility and wisdom, Jesus Christ willed that His very flesh and blood would be drawn from the Spotless Virgin. Mary was the Immaculate Tabernacle that He chose to house and form the substance of His humanity. Today, we celebrate this mystery which is beyond human comprehension. Tonight’s Vespers Antiphons express it so beautifully:

O marvelous exchange! Man’s creator has become man, born of a virgin. We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

By your miraculous birth of the Virgin You have fulfilled the Scriptures: like a gentle rain falling upon the Earth You have come down to save Your people. O God, we praise You!

This is a moment of joy, of intense gratitude, and celebration. Together we rejoice the singular honor and privilege given to Our Lady, while we simultaneously celebrate our own share in Christ’s gift of grace.

What a fitting start to the new year! Today we recall the words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary, as he heralded her high calling. St. Gabriel greets Mary with: “Hail Full of Grace (Luke 1: 28).”  Recall, the Greek word, kechatitomene (Kεχαριτωμένη) is scripturally used only here, and the connotation is that Mary is the one who is so replete with grace that not even the slightest shadow of darkness is present. Before St. Gabriel announces God’s salvific plan, which elicits Mary’s fiat, he first directs her to: “Fear not Mary, for you have found favor with God (Luke 1:30).”

Mother of Our Redeermer, Please pray for us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012 EA photographer

Today as we embark on a new year, this message is profound. St. Gabriel is the messenger of God’s grace, and He well understands how overwhelming this pure Gift will be. “Perfect Love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).” It is only with this Love that Mary (and the rest of us) can complete the mission assigned by God. It is only by accepting the Gift of Pure Love, that – like Mary –  we can say “yes” to God. The Angel Gabriel tells Mary that that the Divine Child, the Emmanuel Whom she is to bear, is to be named “Jesus.” This Child’s very name reflects His essence and means “God is with us!”

As 2012 dawns, we do well to remember that God is indeed with us. Just like Mary, we are told to “Be Not Afraid!” In fact, the admonition to “Be Not Afraid!” appears 365 times in the Bible! In nearly every book of the Bible we find those words. This new year is pregnant with possibilities. We have been given a great gift. 2012 will be full of joys and challenges. Yet, through it all God is indeed with us. In accepting His perfect Love, fear melts.

With Mary, let us rejoice in this new day, this new year.With hearts full of gratitude, let us turn to Our Creator, and through Mary, may we ask His Blessing upon this year.  From the Divine Office together let us pray:

God Our Father, may we always profit by the prayers of the Virgin Mother Mary, for You bring us life and salvation through Jesus Christ her Son who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

A Blessed 2012 to you and yours!

Ad Jesum per Mariam

M.A. JMJ

Hail Full of Grace (Kεχαριτωμένη)!

—Hail Full of Grace! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. photo from St. Mary's Maternity of the Blessed Virgin, Richfield, WI, EA photographer

—Hail Full of Grace! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. photo from St. Mary's Maternity of the Blessed Virgin, Richfield, WI, EA photographer

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is among my favorites. Today we celebrate the singular grace and privilege that was bestowed upon Our Heavenly Mother: namely that she was conceived without the stain of Original Sin. The Blessed Mother was to provide a pure Tabernacle of human flesh within which Our Divine 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.

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.

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.

Throughout history we have been given glimpses of this glorious mission of hers. In 1858, Our Lady appeared to14 year-old Bernadette Soubirous in a series of eighteen apparitions in Lourdes, France. On March 25, Our Lady revealed to Bernadette her singular and unique role with the words: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Since then we have seen a superabundance of grace pour through this place through Our Lady’s Immaculate intercession. The apparitions at Lourdes clearly demonstrate that Our Lady had been sent by God to Earth to give heavenly ascent to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception which had been infallibly proclaimed only four years earlier by Pope Pius IX. It never ceases to amaze me how Our Lord transcends space and time, and communicates His plan to us in every generation.

Our Lady of Good Help © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011 EA photographer

Our Lady of Good Help © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011 EA photographer

One year ago today, on December 8, 2010, my family and I were given the tremendous blessing of being present at the Shine of Our Lady of Good Help, as Bishop David L. Ricken officially proclaimed the Marian apparitions which occurred there in 1859 to be worthy of belief and gave the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help the full approbation of the Church. I will remember that Holy Mass as long as I live!

After years of visiting this holy site, finally seeing it officially recognized by the Holy Mother Church was beyond words. I sat there with tears of joy streaming down my face as Bishop Ricken read his proclamation and explained the extensive process of investigation which had led to the decree. I was simultaneously numb and exuberant. All those years longing for Our Lady’s message to receive the attention it deserves had finally come to fruition. The emotion was overwhelming! I could not help but be aware of the uniqueness of that moment in history, and I was so grateful to witness it.  As if it were not enough to merely be present, my son Kenny had the privilege of serving as the Bishop Ricken’s Miter and Crosier bearer for Holy Mass. This mother’s heart swelled with gratitude as I prayed for the aspired vocation of my son, and experienced an incredible outpouring of grace.

This year we will celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, at Holy Hill Basilica, National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, another place that is dear to my heart.  I love these exquisite Holy Masses con-celebrated by the entire Carmelite Community. Our Lady, as the Immaculate Conception, continues to send God’s grace upon this community, and they respond to it with such beauty and devotion.

Mother of God Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011 EA photographer

Mother of God Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011 EA photographer

This year the children and I are adding The Holy Hour of Grace to our celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Drew Mariani of Relevant Radio spotlighted the Holy Hour of Grace a few days ago, and complete information can be found on the Mother of All Peoples website. This  bimonthly on-line magazine is compiled by the renowned mariologist, Dr. Mark Miravalle, and the address is:  http://www.motherofallpeoples.com/Articles/Marian_Private_Revelation/the-hour-of-grace.html

 Evidently, in the Spring of 1947, Our Lady appeared as Mary the Mother of God to a young nurse, Pierina Gilli, in a hospital chapel in the small Northern Italian town of Montichiari. Our Lady was very sad, and her heart was pierced with three swords. The first sword represented the unworthy celebration of Holy Mass and Holy Communion unworthily received. The second sword represented being unfaithful to and relinquishing one’s vocation as a priest or religious; while the last sword stood for the betrayal of the True Faith. In response, Our Lady requested prayer, sacrifice and penance. Our Lady continued to appear to Pierina eleven times, including an apparition at the Basilica of Montichiari on December 8, 1947, where thousands of people were present.

On that day, Our Lady appeared to Pierina in the following manner and stated:

“ Our Lady appeared on a large white staircase, decorated with a white, red and yellow rose over her heart. She said with a smile: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” And descending several steps with great majesty She continued: “I am Mary, full of grace, Mother of My Divine Son Jesus Christ.” Descending even more, She said:

Through my coming to Montichiari, I wish to be known as the Rosa Mystica. It is my wish that every year, on 8th December, at noon, the Hour of Grace for the World be celebrated. Many divine and bodily graces will be received through this devotion.

Our Lord, my Divine Son Jesus, will send His overflowing mercy if good people will pray continuously for their sinful brother.

One should very soon notify the Holy Father of the Church, Pope Pius XII, that it is my wish that the Hour of Grace for the World be made known and spread throughout the world. If anyone is unable to visit his church, yet will pray at noon at home, he will also receive graces through me. Whoever prays on these tiles and weeps tears of penance, will find a secure heavenly ladder and receive protection and grace through my motherly heart (Mother of All Peoples Jonathan Baker, 12/2/11) .”

Our Lady specified that this world-wide Hour of Grace was to be celebrated in the following manner. It is to begin at noon and end at 1pm on December 8th. One must begin by reading Psalm 51 three times with arms extended in prayer. The remainder of the hour can be spent as in prayer as one chooses, (rosary, personal prayer, meditation, etc). However, additional care to resist distractions is requested, and we are to intercede in penance and reparation for not only ourselves, but all those in our lives. One does not need to be in a church to participate in the Holy Hour of Grace.

Regarding this devotion, Our Lady stated:

“This Hour of Grace will produce great and numerous conversions. Hardened and cold hearts resembling this marble will be touched by divine Grace, and they will become faithful to Our Lord in loyal love heart (Mother of All Peoples Jonathan Baker, 12/2/11) .”

 While not yet officially approved, the Bishop of Giulo Sanguineti  has publicly expressed his openness to the apparitions and has encouraged pilgrimages there.

I am not certain how much undistracted prayer I will be able to offer with my brood of eight in tow at the Basilica of Holy Hill today, but we are going to try. Please consider joining me where ever you may be in this world-wide Hour of Grace in honor of Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception.

Blessings

Ad Jesum per Mariam

M.A.  JMJ