"A Singular Grace and Privilege" Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus
The Blessed and Immaculate Mother of God bears many titles, all of them deserving of the singular grace and privilege of being God's chosen one from all time to be the Gate of Heaven and Ark of the Covenant.
"We must strive to live without sin in these times of persecution, keeping ourselves 'unspotted from this world' (James 1:27). The Church's purification is our purification. And the instrument of that purification, without his intending it, is the devil himself. 'Woe to the earth,' says the Apocalypse, 'because the devil has gone down to you in great wrath, knowing that he has but a short time' (Apocalypse 12:12). His consort on earth is the Great Harlot, the Scarlet Woman of the Apocalypse, of whom it is said: '…the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality' (Apocalypse 17:2). The harlot, called the great city of Babylon, we may understand as the unbelieving world and the apostate church, which loves the world more than the Lord Jesus Christ. She is the evil counterpart of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the purified Church, the Bride of Christ. We are warned against her by a voice from Heaven: 'Go out from her, My people, that you may not share in her sins, and that you may not receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached even to Heaven, and the Lord has remembered her iniquities' (Apocalypse 8:4,5)."
Editor's Note: In Father Louis Campbell's sermon for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, he speaks of the magnificence of God's perfect plan in creating His ideal human tabernacle to hold and nurture the Father's only-begotten Son Jesus Christ. Father points to the inspiring words of Pope Pius IX in declaring the Dogma of Mary's Immaculate Conception 151 years ago today, and to the praise and veneration given to Our Lady by holy saints, specifically the humble Cure of Ars St. John Marie Vianney who spoke of the immeasurable benefits of sanctifying grace. Father also points to the contrast of the two women of the Apocalypse: the one with the crown of twelve stars who opposes the harlot of Babylon, whose iniquities will be avenged by the Lord God. Those iniquities are prevalent today and in order to be counted with the "woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet" we need to be totally subservient to her Divine Son and follow her loving Motherly advice. If we do not we will fall under the siren of the harlot which is the courtesan of the world, the flesh and the devil. Father likens Mary to the Ark that lifts us above the swirling waters of sinfulness and elevates us to a mystical echelon where we can bask in God's goodness while still in our human bodies and possessing sound minds. Such spiritual ecstasy did the saints - from St. Paul - experience, including Venerable Mary of Agreda who recorded her rapport with Our Lady in her masterful Mystical City of God. Father shares this in illustrating how Christ's Mother was alone given by God, through her being conceived without Original Sin, this "singular grace and privilege". [bold and italics below are editor's emphasis.]
The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, not to be confused with the Virgin Birth of her Divine Son, Jesus Christ, refers to her own conception in the womb of her mother, St. Anne. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854, as follows:
"By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the honor of the Holy and undivided Trinity, for the glory and adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith, and for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own: 'We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.' (Pope Pius IX, Apostolic Constitution, Ineffabilis Deus, December 8, 1854).
Since Mary was sinless even at the moment of her conception, there was nothing to impede the infusion of the spiritual richness of the divine mysteries into her soul. She was, even at the beginning, "full of grace." The Blessed Virgin, after her Son, Jesus Christ, possessed the gifts of grace far more abundantly than any of the other saints. Mary herself testifies, "He who is mighty has done great things for me" (Luke 1:49).
Other saints were also blessed by God with remarkable spiritual graces. St. John the Baptist was cleansed of Original Sin and filled with the Holy Ghost while still in the womb of his mother, St. Elizabeth. St. Paul was "caught up into paradise and heard secret words that man may not repeat" (2 Corinthians 12:4). The mystical experiences of many of the other saints are also well known, such as those of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Siena, St. John of the Cross, and many more. But the Blessed Virgin Mary was gifted far beyond any of them, since she was perfect in humility and her spiritual vision was unclouded by any sin.
St. John Vianney says of Our Lady:
"Mary, who was adorned from the first moment of her conception with sanctifying grace, not only carefully preserved it, but by a holy life co-operated with it faithfully, and every moment of her life increased this sanctifying grace, so that She was filled with grace, and also overflowing with merits for Heaven; yes, She was not only the fullest in grace, but also the richest in heavenly treasures."
Through Baptism, we are also rich in heavenly treasures, as the holy priest explains:
"Sanctifying grace raises man to the highest dignity, namely, the dignity of a child of God. We became child-ren of God in holy Baptism. When we came into this world we were laden with original sin, and therefore, as the apostle says, 'Were by nature the children of wrath' (Ephesians 11:3), objects of God's displeasure. Through holy Baptism, that bath of regeneration, we were cleansed from original sin and adorned with sanctifying grace, and through this grace we be-came an object of the Divine good pleasure, children of God. As at the Baptism of Jesus, so at the Baptism of a child, the heavenly Father speaks from Heaven: 'This is My beloved Son, in Whom I well pleased' (Matthew 3:17)."
We must strive to live without sin in these times of persecution, keeping ourselves "unspotted from this world" (James 1:27). The Church's purification is our purification. And the instrument of that purification, without his intending it, is the devil himself. "Woe to the earth," says the Apocalypse, "because the devil has gone down to you in great wrath, knowing that he has but a short time" (Apocalypse 12:12). His consort on earth is the Great Harlot, the Scarlet Woman of the Apocalypse, of whom it is said: "…the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality" (Apocalypse 17:2). The harlot, called the great city of Babylon, we may understand as the unbelieving world and the apostate church, which loves the world more than the Lord Jesus Christ. She is the evil counterpart of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the purified Church, the Bride of Christ. We are warned against her by a voice from Heaven: "Go out from her, my people, that you may not share in her sins, and that you may not receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached even to Heaven, and the Lord has remembered her iniquities" (Apocalypse 8:4,5).
The Lord has given us an incomparable teacher and model of holiness in Mary. Her Immaculate Heart, like a new ark, will carry us above the deluge of impurity of which Our Lady spoke of at Fatima. Better times lie ahead for the Church through Mary's intercession. The Venerable Mary of Agreda in her Mystical City of God speaks of Mary's power in the last times:
"It was revealed to me that through the intercession of the Mother of God, all heresies will disappear. This victory over heresies has been reserved by Christ for His Blessed Mother. In the last times the Lord will especially spread the renown of His Mother: Mary began salvation and by Her intercession it will be concluded. Before the Second Coming of Christ, Mary must, more than ever, shine in mercy, might and grace in order to bring unbelievers into the Catholic faith. The powers of Mary in the last times over the demons will be very conspicuous. Mary will extend the Reign of Christ over the heathens and Mohammedans, and it will be a time of great joy when Mary, as Mistress and Queen of Hearts, is enthroned."
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Father Louis J. Campbell