Gen 3.9-15,20; Ps 97; Eph 1.3-6,11-12; Luke 1.26-38
Today’s feast commemorates the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother (traditionally given the name of Anne, as recorded in a 2nd-Century apocryphal Gospel). (Exactly nine months from today, on 8th September, we celebrate the Birthday of Mary.)
The central proclamation of this feast is God’s preparation for the Incarnation. He prepared a place for his Son’s earthly gestation [cf Hebrews 10.5] by preserving Mary from the consequences of the Fall. Mary is like us. Like all the human race she is simply saved by the grace of Christ. Singularly, though, she experienced salvation from the first moment of her existence. Therefore the angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation could salute her as ‘full of grace’.
Though this dogma was solemnly defined by Blessed Pope Pius IX on 8 December 1854 it had long been believed by Christians. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, ‘Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception.’