FRIDAY
December 8, 2000
volume 11, no. 255


LITURGY for Friday and Saturday, December 8 and 9, 2000

FRIDAY, December 8, 2000

    FRIDAY December 8:
    SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

    White vestments

      First Reading: Genesis 3: 9-15, 20
      Psalms: Psalm 98: 1-4
      Second Reading: Ephesians 1: 3-6, 11-12
      Gospel Reading: Luke 1: 26-38

SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

        This feast was established for the universal Church by Pope Pius IX when He proclaimed that from all eternity, the Triune Divinity chose the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the tabernacle of the Son of God. The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception proclaimed once and for all that it was unthinkable that Mary be defiled in any way by sin in any manner whatsoever. Thus, in that infinitesmal second that God created Mary He made her Immaculate. This grace, like all other graces since Adam and Eve's fall, was given to Mary through the merits of her Divine Son Jesus. She stood alone as one free of the stain of original sin, redeemed not from the evil already present at birth, but from any evil that threatened this sacred temple known as the Mother of God. This was confirmed in the infallible words of Pius IX, "The most holy Virgin Mary was, in the first moment of her conception, by a unique gift of grace and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ the Redeemer of mankind, preserved free from all stain of original sin." Saint Ephrem first held this belief in the fourth century. Seven centuries later the crusaders brought this belief back to the Western Church from the Eastern Church in the Holy Land where, since 750, it had been celebrated on December 9 along with the feast of Saint Anne who had conceived the Blessed Mother. In 1050 a feast honoring Mary's conception was offered by Pope Leo IX. In the twelfth century the Franciscan Father Duns Scotus defended the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and was listed in the Roman Calendar in the year 1476 by Pope Sixtus IV. In 1708 Pope Clement XI made the conception of Our Lady a feast of obligation. Nearly 150 years later in 1854, Pius IX proclaimed it the feast of the Immaculate Conception. This interestingly followed the lead of the United States Bishops eight years earlier who had decreed in 1846 that the U.S. was consecrated to Mary's Immaculate Conception and assigned December 8 as the official feast of their Heavenly patron. Four years after Pius IX's infallible pronouncement, Our Lady herself confirmed this dogma at Lourdes when she proclaimed to the visionary Saint Bernadette Soubirous, "I am the Immaculate Conception."

Saturday, December 9, 2000

    Saturday December 9:
    Advent Weekday and
    Feast of Blessed Juan Diego, Hermit and Visionary of Guadalupe

    Violet or white vestments

      First Reading: Isaiah 30: 19-21, 23-26
      Psalms: Psalm 147: 1-6
      Gospel Reading: Matthew 9: 35-38; 10: 1, 6-8

Feast of Blessed Juan Diego, Hermit and Visionary of Guadalupe

        Ten years after Hernando Cortez conquered Mexico for the world, Our Lady began her conquest of Mexico and all of the Americas for her Divine Son's world when she chose a simple peasant to convey one of the greatest miracles in the history of apparitions. On a frosty December morning in 1531 Blessed Juan Diego, a 51-year-old Aztec peasant. Juan and his wife, whose name is not recorded, were recent converts to Catholicism due to the influence of the Spanish evangelization which Cortez brought with him from Spain. Juan, a recent convert to Catholicism from the pagan Aztec traditions and practice that had taken its toll in the human sacrifice of hundreds and hundreds of thousands reaching into the millions. This was one of the main reasons Our Blessed Mother came in 1531, to stop the human sacrifice; both with the pagan Aztec traditions and the senseless slaughter of the Conquistadors who had cut a swath of blood across Mexico on Cortez' march to Mexico City from the Gulf. By exemplifying a gentler, Christ-like nature, not only would the native peoples understand what the missionaries were conveying, but also remind the Spanish soldiers of their roots and prompt them to repent of their warring ways. Into this atmosphere Our Lady chose Juan Diego to impart her message and give to him the on-going miracle of the miraculous tilma worn by Juan on the day of the apparition. In the nature of replacing the ridiculous with the sublime, Blessed Mary asked Juan to have a chapel or church built on the site where there had been an Aztec shrine. This site was the hill of Tepeyac. She asked him to go to the local bishop with this request. One can imagine the bishop's first reaction when he encountered this poor Indian approaching him...and then telling him why he was there. No one should be surprised at the Bishop's response. Bishop Zumarraga demanded a sign that this message Juan brought was truly Heaven-sent. Needless to say, Juan was intimidated and disheartened. He didn't even want to go back to the hill, but through the grace of the Holy Spirit there he was again the next day - December 12th, trembling on Tepeyac Hill both from the winter chill and in trepidation of what he would tell the Blessed Virgin and what, in turn, she would ask him to do. In the custom of the people of his day, Juan was dressed in simple pants and a shirt, sandals, a straw short-visored sombrero and a tilma, which was a scapular-like garment made from a versatile and strong-fibred cactus plant indigenous to this region. Shivering as he waited, he almost did not notice the light and the gentle whisp of wind as Our Lady hovered near the top of the hill. He moved closer and Our Lady sought to allay his fears, bidding him come closer and tell her the Bishop's reaction though she already knew. Juan related his encounter and the need for an outward sign. Our Lady responded with the request that he pick the roses growing out of the rough, semi-frozen tundra of Tepeyac. Juan was aghast to find rich red roses in full bloom and he quickly stooped to pick as many of these rich beauties as he could, gathering them in the full of his front tilma, then pulling it up against his chest to protect them in a pouch-like fashion; then scurrying off to present this "sign" to the Monsignor Zumarraga. Panting and nearly out of breath, he reached the Episcopo alerting the guards outside. His insistance to see the Bishop brought rebuffs from those in the outer circle who thought it odd that an Aztec peasant should be so bold, yet through the grace of God Juan was admitted to the Bishop's chambers and there excitedly exclaimed, "I have the sign, your Excellency!" Impatient, doubting and yet curious, Zumarraga beckoned Juan to approach him. Blessed Diego came near the foot of the Bishop and knelt in reverence as he unrolled his tilma. Juan's eyes were fixed on the fresh petals that tumbled to the floor and did not see the shock and amazement on the Bishop's face as his vision was transfixed on the image he beheld emblazoned on Juan's poor, fragmented tilma. To this day one can see at the Shrine an mega-sized enlargement of Our Lady's eye on the tilma. In the eye, one can see the reflection of the Bishop and his entourage as they stared in disbelief. While transfixed in this incredibility, Juan straightened up and, at once, realized the true miracle Our Lady had endowed. There on his tilma was an image of how she had appeared to him just hours before, in full color. She had appeared to Juan not as Our Lady of Grace, or as a European-kind of visage, but as an Aztec woman standing on the moon, dressed in a finely detailed full-flowing dress or garment that symbolized many of the Aztec traditions. It was an image that would be accepted by the native Indians of this land moreso than the European icons of the Virgin the Spanish had brought with them. As always the Mother of God has a method to her message and the message conveyed stirred the Bishop to a reconversion and a rededication to evangelizing and serving the Indians while preaching the reason for Our Lady's visit. The results, guided by God, spread faster than the December wind blowing across the Mexican terrain. Within a short time, countless native Indians had been brought into Holy Mother Church's fold. To top that, almost instantly the people realized the error of their ways in the ancient Aztec ways of human sacrifice and abandoned the practice. The population flourished and as the Church dwindled in the Old World due to the erosion of the Protestant Reformation, the pendulum of plentitude swung to the New World in graces and conversions. It was the beginning of a reverence and veneration that would be carried through every generation up through today. Many expect Blessed Juan to be canonized soon.

December 8, 2000
volume 11, no. 256
DAILY LITURGY



Return to Front Page of Current Issue