By Amy Lovell, president of REDgen, a community action group committed to working together across systems to promote balance and resiliency in the lives youth and families
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception celebrates Mary being conceived immaculate, without the stain of original sin. In Luke 1:28, Gabriel greets Mary with, “Hail Mary full of grace.” This grace is translated from the Greek word “kecharitomene,” which means to fill or endow with grace. It is in the perfect tense indicating that Mary was graced in the past but with continued effects in the present, which points to her immaculate conception.
The Protoevangelium of James tells the story of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Mary’s parents and a couple who struggled to conceive a child, similar to Sarah and Abraham. Joachim went into the desert, fasted and prayed while Anne prayed in isolation of Joachim. An angel appeared to Anne and said, “The Lord has heard your prayer and you shall conceive and shall bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all of the world.”
It is also stated in the Protoevangelium that Anne made a sanctuary in Mary’s room and allowed nothing unclean or common as she had a special holiness. They also had her blessed by the chief priests. They did not know exactly what God had in store for Mary, but they knew she needed to remain holy.
Mary is often referred to as the new Eve, but a key difference between Eve and Mary is that Mary had been given earthly parents who guided and protected her. Mary had enmity with the serpent, was full of grace and had a family commitment to her remaining in a state of grace.
In this season of gifts, let’s take some time to reflect on the gift of grace, the gift of parents, grandparents, role models and the gift of having Mary as our Mother to intercede for us.