There are three feasts in the Church calendar which focus upon St. Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. These feasts are The Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin (Dec. 8), The Feast of the Annunciation of our Lord Jesus Christ (March 25), and The Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (May 31). Today, I would like for us to focus upon St. Mary and the important role that she played in Salvation history as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s first Advent. In doing this, we will take all three of the Marian feasts in consideration.
Introduction to the Marian Feasts
“The honor paid to Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, goes back the earliest days of the Church. Two Gospels tell of the manner of Christ’s birth, and the familiar Christmas story testifies to the Church’s conviction that He was born of a virgin. Mary was the person closest to Jesus in His most impressionable years, and the words of the Magnificat, as well as her humble acceptance of the divine will, bear more than an accidental resemblance to the Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount.
Later devotion has claimed many things for Mary that cannot be proved from Holy Scripture. What we can believe is that one who stood in so intimate relationship with the incarnate Son of God on earth must, of all the human race, have the place of highest honor in the eternal life of God.” (Source: The Proper for the Lesser Feasts and Fast 1997, p. 328)
The Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
“In accordance with the eternal purpose of God, who willed to prepare a most pure habitation for Himself in order to take flesh and dwell among men, Joachim and Anna were prevented from having children for many years. Their barren old age was symbolic of human nature itself, bowed down and dried up under the weight of sin and death, yet they never ceased begging God to take away their reproach. Now when the time of preparation determined by the Lord had been fulfilled, God allowed Joachim and Anna to conceive a daughter. Through the conception of Saint Anna, the barrenness of human nature itself, separated from God by death, has on this day been brought to an end; and by the wondrous birth-giving of her who had remained childless until the age when women can no longer bear fruit, God announced and testified to the more astonishing miracle of the Conception without seed, and of the immaculate coming to birth of Christ within the heart and the womb of the Most Holy Virgin and Mother of God. Even though the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary took place through a miraculous action of God, she was conceived by the union of man and woman in accordance with the laws of our human nature, which has fallen through Adam’s transgression and become subject to sin and corruption (cf. Gen. 3:16). As the chosen Vessel and precious Shrine prepared by God since the beginning of time, she is indeed the most pure and the most perfect of mankind, but even so, she has not been set apart from our common inheritance nor from the consequences of the sin of our first parents. Just as it was fitting that Christ, in order to deliver us from death by his own voluntary death (Heb. 2:14), should by his incarnation be made like to men in all things except sin; so it was meet that His Mother, in whose womb the Word of God would unite with human nature, should be subject to death and corruption like every child of Adam, lest we not be fully included in Salvation and Redemption. The Mother of God has been chosen and preferred among all women, not arbitrarily, but because God foresaw that she would preserve her purity and keep it perfect: conceived and born like all of us, she has been worthy to become the Mother of the Son of God and the mother of us all. So, in her tenderness and compassion, she is able to intercede for us with her Son, that He may have mercy upon us” (excerpt taken from the Synaxarion).