Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Immaculate Conception

The feast of the Immaculate Conception is nearly upon us. One of my favourite feast days of the year (though I say that about an awful lot of feast days). This feast seems perfectly suited to the run up to advent when we come to consider a fusion of divinity and humanity. Okay, and it obviously does link quite nicely to the message of Lourdes (you knew it was coming!). The message of Lourdes was, in a sense, the divine confirmation of a recent doctrine, on the 25th of March 1858 the lady finally revealed her name to St. Bernadette:

It had been 20 days since the last apparition. Bernadette felt internally compelled to go back to the grotto and, as ever, could not resist the call. However, as of today the Lady would no longer be Aquiro; today, on the feast of the annunciation, she revealed her name. Bernadette would later write; "She lifted up her eyes to heaven, joined her hands as though in prayer, that were held out and open towards the ground and said to me: Que soy era Immaculada Concepciou (I am the Immaculate Conception) ."

It is difficult to comprehend how alien this phrase was to Bernadette - there was no thunderbolt moment for her after speaking with the Lady- where she suddenly realised who she had been talking to. Instead, terrified she would forget the name she repeated it to herself aloud all the way back up the hill into the main town of Lourdes. When she reached the house of Peyramale she simply blurted out 'I am the Immaculate Conception' which understandably caused the priest to stop in his tracks and stare at the little peasant girl in front of him.Peyramale had been requesting the name of the Lady for weeks- now here it was.

Of course Bernadette was ignorant of the fact that this theological expression was assigned to the Blessed Virgin. Four years earlier, in 1854, Pope Pius IX declared this a truth of the Catholic Faith (a dogma). Of course the priest was not - he questioned Bernadette about how she knew this phrase and discovered fairly quickly that she obviously had no idea what it meant and nor did anyone with whom she had come in to close contact. Now the priest was troubled more than ever- he could see Bernadette was sincere and for the first time he was wondering....could it be?
(from the post The 16th Apparition)

However, Bernadette's connection with the feast day does not end there. Bernadette left for the convent at Nevers in 1867. Five months later on the 8th of December her beloved mother Louise died. It seems to me no coincidence that Louise, who had suffered a great deal in her life and had struggled through the period in which Bernadette had her visions died on this day.

Bernadette herself was appropriately canonised on the 8th of December.

The Immaculate Conception remains a bastion of hope and faith in our world; the woman who is the embodiment of the goodness God intended for us all. Surely one of the most essential aspects of goodness is compassion and for this reason we can be comforted because she is listening and ready to come to our aid. Our struggles in this life are many but we await the next with open hearts.


Lisa said...

Happy, happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Squelly! This is a special day for me, too, since St. Bernadette is my namesaint. &:o) Hope this is a blessed and happy day for you!

O, Mary, Conceived without sin, Pray for us who have recourse to thee!

SQUELLY said...

Thank you Lisa! I hope you had a blessed and peaceful patron day!


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