Immaculate Heart Of Mary
Volume I/ Issue 5/ August 2016
Understanding the Immaculate Conception
It would be beneficial to all of us to have a correct understanding of the Immaculate Conception. You see, this term "Immaculate Conception" confuses people, quite frankly. Many people have a misconception of what this term truly means. For these people, they think that the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady puts her on a par with God. They feel as though the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady makes her equal with God. They feel that the Immaculate Conception makes Our Lady some sort of a "goddess," herself and as such is in no need of God's saving grace. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If you will, let me tell you a story.
I remember when I was a young boy growing up. I remember a time or two when my mother would come into my room at home and she would take a look at the terrible condition of my room . . . . with books everywhere . . . clothes everywhere . . . bed unmade . . . toys out of place . . . . my dear mother would look at this mess and she would tell me: "You better start cleaning up this room and when I come back it had better be IMMACULATE!!!!" In other words, she wanted my room to be as clean as possible with nothing out of place or out of order.
Or fast-forward to adulthood. In your business life, I am sure all of us have had the occasion when our boss was coming through on an official visit . . . or the owner of the company . . . or a big regional manager was coming to visit. And the word always goes out to clean up your desk . . . clean up your cubicle . . . clean up your area . . . and make sure everything is IMMACULATE!!!!!
Or how about when we are expecting important company to our home . . . whether it be dear friends that we have not seen in a while . . . or beloved relatives . . . . or neighbors . . . . when we invite people over to our home, we want the best impression given. We clean up. We put things in order. We tidy up. We place things where they are supposed to be. We vacuum. We clean. We do all of this in order for the house to be IMMACULATE!!!!
Even when I know that the bishop is coming to visit our parish on his annual visitation, what do I do? I put everything in order. I clean the sacristy. I clean the church. I polish up the altar. I dust everything. In short, I want the church to be IMMACULATE because somebody important is coming to visit!!!
In each of the examples that I gave above, we are cleaning things up, we are putting things in order.
Whether it be our room; our house; or our work-space. And why is this so important? Why do we clean things up or put things in order? We are getting our area in good condition because someone important is coming to visit. When you think about it in those terms, God wanted the Blessed Mother to be Immaculate because a very important visitor was coming to visit us: His Son.
Pope Pius IX wrote in 1854 in regards to the Immaculate Conception: "The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the saviour of the human race, was preserved from all stain of original sin." (IIneffabilis Deus, the Apostolic Constitution f Pope Pius IX on the Immaculate Conception (December 8, 1854).
As stated above, this statement scares a lot of people because they don't truly understand what it means.
Quite frankly, a lot of people who call themselves "Catholic" do not even understand truly what the term "Immaculate Conception" means.
Please note in the quotation referenced above two important points made by Pope Pius IX :
1) The Immaculate Conception of Our Lady was a "singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God."
In other words, it was not anything Our Lady did herself to make this possible: God made the Immaculate Conception possible for her;
2) God permitted the Immaculate Conception "in view of the merits of Jesus Christ . . . "
In other words, the Immaculate Conception was permitted not for the benefit of Mary herself, but the Immaculate Conception was for the benefit of the Divine Infant she carried in her womb. God wanted a proper place, free of all sin, as the proper place for His Son to dwell. Again, this was allowed by God. Mary did not make herself Immaculate . . . God made her Immaculate for His Son's benefit!
We know that the Blessed Virgin Mary was the "vehicle" that brought Our Saviour into the world. As such, God made her "immaculate" so that she could be a pure vehicle to bring the Saviour of the World to us. We hear in St. Luke 1:42 from Elizabeth: "And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb." Indeed! Our Lady was in fact blessed. She was blessed because she was made so by God. She was blessed because she said "Yes!" to God. She was blessed because she was open to doing the will of God in her life. "And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her." (St. Luke 1:38)
If we have ever gone to pick up someone in our own vehicle . . . whether it be a important visitor . . . an important guest . . . . a boss .. . a beloved relative . . . . if we are given the task of picking that person up and driving them somewhere, don't we make a point to try to clean up our vehicle? Don't we try to put it in order as much as possible? Don't we try to make it IMMACULATE as possible?
For my part, this is how I view the Immaculate Conception of Mary: it's not so much about HER as it is about WHOM she was carrying inside of her.
In the Immaculate Conception, God was preparing a vehicle worthy of carrying His Son into the world. A vehicle without spot, without sin, without stain. When we clean our rooms . . . when we clean our work areas . . . when we clean our homes . . . we are actually showing the importance of those who are coming to visit. In this case, it was the most important visitor ever: the Saviour of the World. And God chose Our Lady to bring that Saviour into the world: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee" (St. Luke 1:28) . . . . the Lord is with thee! . . . . This is the reason God gave Our Lady the gift of the Immaculate Conception because the Lord was with her.
And here lies the importance of the whole notion of the Immaculate Conception: the Immaculate Conception was not for the benefit of the Blessed Virgin Mary . . . . the Immaculate Conception was for the benefit of the Divine Infant she was carrying within her. She was not "Immaculate" for HER benefit . . .. She was "Immaculate" for HIS benefit. She was made immaculate because she was carrying the Saviour of the World. (FTB)
A Sound And True Devotion To The Immaculate Heart Of Mary"And suddenly there was with the Angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying: Glory to God in the highest: and on earth, peace to men of good will. And it came to pass that after the Angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath shewed to us. And they came with haste: and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in a manger. And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child. And all that heard wondered: and at those things that were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart." - St. Luke 2:13-19
A sound and true devotion to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary is found in nothing more or less than the imitation of the work and action of that same heart. It is for this reason that we begin this short excursus on the Immaculate Heart with a somewhat lengthy quotation from the Gospel according to Saint Luke.
Before we make our brief consideration regarding the work and action of the Immaculate Heart, we would do well to mention briefly those things of which a true devotion does not consist. We do this simply so that we may all the more grow in true devotion, grounded in truth.
Firstly devotion to the Immaculate Heart must not be founded in sentimentality,.....
for then it would simply be an exercise in inflaming the passions. By pretending to place some holy object as the object of our passions, we become all the more slaves unto those very passions. We likewise step exceptionally close to blasphemy by treating the holy as something sentimental, as we are thereby beginning to rob the holy of its objectivity and permanence.
On the other hand - and it can not be here stated strongly enough - holy things may very often elicit sentiments within us. This is certainly within normal and accepted bounds and experience. We can welcome such consolations when they come, but we must not seek them for their own sake.
Secondly, devotion to the Immaculate Heart should not be devoid of action.
Here, one might protest. After all, how many Rosaries are offered in reparation to the Immaculate Heart? How many consecrations made? How many enrollments in the Scapular?
We can answer that while all of these things can be good, they are quickly turned into contradiction if they are not the fruit of genuine imitation of the Immaculate Heart. The Rosary that is said by lips that proclaim the Immaculate Heart is turned into hypocrisy if accompanied by a heart which refuses to follow the example of that same Immaculate Heart. The "consecrations" of people, places, and things unto the Immaculate Heart are made vain if these "consecrations" are not, in fact, consecrations unto Our Blessed Lord in the honor and deep imitation of the Immaculate Heart. The scapular worn over the heart which refuses to be made like unto our Lady's heart is mocked by every beat of the unrepentant heart.
But let us not lose hope. When we are jarred awake to these facts, we are not left without a remedy. The remedy is far simpler than the problems which we face, and the remedy provides us with a path of ineffable sweetness as we follow it. The answer is, quite simply, to imitate the Immaculate Heart in the workings of our own hearts.
Now, any true imitation must by definition be based upon a true understanding of the thing imitated.
It is this true understanding that not only ensures that the imitation will - in fact - be true, but this true understanding will likewise allow our imitation to be an imitation in the manner of following, of learning, and of growing, rather than the pale imitation of play-acting, feigning, and self-delusion.
So where do we go to find the truth of the matter? Where do we go to find the expression of the Immaculate Heart which is to be our exemplar as we embark upon the work of true devotion in the imitation and formation of our own hearts? This is precisely where the admittedly rather lengthy quotation from the Gospel with which we started this brief article comes in.
The scene of what is related in this Gospel passage is so well known that it really needs no introduction. We see the angelic host proclaiming glory unto God in the sight of the shepherds on the night of our Lord's nativity. From there we see the visit of the shepherds to the Holy Family, and their own relation of all that had come to pass. Finally, we end with the statement: "Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart."
It is in these actions - the keeping and the pondering of the words - that we see most clearly the work of the Immaculate Heart, as well as the example which is given to us to follow.
Let us take a very brief look over the passage again, and we will see that in a very few words we have a brief outline of the Christian life, easily applicable and practicable within our own lives today, and which is summed up in perfect imitation and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of our Blessed Lady.
We start by hearing the words of the angelic host:
"Glory to God in the highest: and on earth, peace to men of good will." These same words, of course, are repeated at every offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that is not of penitential character, and which is of appropriate liturgical rank. Throughout the liturgical actions of the Church, we see this connection between heaven and earth, just as is seen here by the shepherds in witnessing the songs of eternal praise by the angelic choir. When we assist at Holy Mass, we too hear these words, this very same song of praise, as it is raised both in heaven and on earth by the entirety of the Church. Every word which we hear within the Catholic Liturgy is uttered in praise of God. Every word is the voice of the Church, the immaculate bride of Christ, through the ministrations of her members. We are all invited to be present at the same eternal hymn of praise that the shepherds witnessed and heard on the night of the nativity.
We are not only to be witnesses of this eternal praise. We are also the recipients of its promises. The first promise, of course, is seen within the very words of the angelic hymn itself: "On earth, peace to men of good will." To those who assist at the worship of God, and whose will is made good like unto the will of God ("For this is the will of God, your sanctification." - I Thessalonians 4:3), then peace is sent unto them from on high.
This is the very peace of which our Lord speaks: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you: not as the world giveth, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid." - Gospel according to St. John 14:27.
Notice that our Lord gives His peace along with the command that our hearts be not troubled nor afraid. This ties directly into what we were considering regarding true devotion to the Immaculate Heart. Our own hearts must not be troubled by the passions (either of our selves or of others), nor should they be afraid. Fear is the great immobilizer, a very common cause of inaction. Neither of these conditions are fruitful for genuine devotion.
So let us hear the Word of God proclaimed by the Church, the immaculate bride of Christ. Let us do so with genuine good will, unto our sanctification. Let us receive the peace sent by God from heaven to earth. Upon the reception of this peace, let our hearts not be troubled, nor let them fear.
With this foundation having been laid, let us now listen to our heart: "My heart hath said to thee: My face hath sought thee: thy face, O Lord, will I still seek." - Psalm 26:8
This is precisely what we see in the example of the shepherds, for they set out to seek the face of the newborn Lord: "Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath shewed to us. And they came with haste: and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in a manger.
We ourselves follow in imitation of the shepherds when we seek the face of the Lord.
We do this first and foremost through the sacraments and through assisting at the Sacred Liturgy. Throughout the liturgical day of the Church, we see unfolding the entirety of the history of salvation before us. Matins and Lauds awaken within us the lessons which we are to receive and to live. Prime ushers in a new day with praise and with the putting on of the armor of God. The "little hours" of Terce, Sext, and None are our accompaniment throughout the day and throughout life as a reminder of the constant praise of God in heaven and on earth, and of the necessity of our own constant remembrance of the holy presence of God and the cultivation of constant prayer within the heart. Vespers sees the evening fall and praise raised unto God, the lighting of lamps as a sensible sign of his Word. "Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my paths. " - Psalm 118:105 Compline closes the day in praise, in thanksgiving, and in peace.
Of course, there is the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which takes its place according to the nature of the liturgical day or season. The Holy Sacrifice being timeless, being a participation in the eternal Sacrifice, is not reckoned among the "hours," of course, but it is constantly referred to and referenced throughout the hours of the Divine Office during the day and night.
In participating and assisting at the Sacred Liturgy, the Catholic heart seeks and finds the face of the Lord. For just as the shepherds encountered our Lord in the midst of the Holy Family when they sought Him, so also we encounter our Lord in the midst of His Church when we seek Him.
"And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child."
When we seek the face of the Lord and find Him, we are often given a greater gift of understanding.
Of course, understanding is numbered among the gifts of the Holy Ghost. The gifts of the Holy Ghost are communicated to us through the sacraments, and increased within us as we exercise the graces given to us. There is no greater exercise of the sacraments than participation within the Sacred Liturgy. Even to hear the proclamation of the Gospel at Holy Mass by a duly sent minister of the Church is an opportunity to exercise the graces given to us as members of Christ's Church, and therefore to grow all the more in the gifts and fruits of the Holy Ghost.
"And all that heard wondered: and at those things that were told them by the shepherds."
In the proclamation of praise of God and in the hearing of that praise, by the very action of God and his grace, wonder is elicited from the entirety of the human person. Now, the consideration of wonder and its importance to the Christian soul in our day is a topic for another excursus, but let it suffice to say here that wonder is exactly the right response to the good news of the presence of God among us. Should we not wonder and rejoice that, having sought His face, we now have found God among us? Should we not give glad testimony in the presence of God and his saints to the wonderful things which God has wrought within us? Let us stand in wonder every time we hear the words of testimony and of praise given in the presence of our blessed Lord, whether two thousand years ago in the stable or in our present day, given to the Lord in the Sacred Liturgy.
Having done this all, finally we can arrive to a true understanding of what devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary means: "Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart." For we have discovered a treasure, the very pearl of great price.
Our imitation of the Immaculate Heart is to keep this treasure within us; to hold fast to the state of sanctifying grace! Our imitation is to ponder, to weigh, truly to appreciate the words which we have been given. For in pondering the words which we have been given, we will discover that at their center is the Word Himself. It is precisely this kind of imitation of the Immaculate Heart that is necessary for us, most especially in our world today. Our Lady's Immaculate Heart is leading you directly to our Blessed Lord! Are you willing to follow?
Sweet Heart of Mary, be our hope and our salvation! (FJH)
History of Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
This devotion begins with three references from Sacred Scripture. The first is when the shepherds visited the Christ Child:“But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
The second is at the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, when Simeon prophesied: “And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:35)
And finally at the finding in the temple: “And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart.” (Luke 2:51)
We see the devotion of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, when it is actually pierced at the Crucifixion of her Divine Son, Jesus. And thus we see a connection between devotion to the Immaculate Heart and the Seven Sorrows, since there is reference to devotion to the Immaculate Heart in two of the Seven Sorrows, namely the Prophecy of Simeon and the Finding in the Temple, and her heart was pierced in the last four, which relate to the Passion and Death of Jesus.
The Fathers of the Church make only passing mention of this devotion. It was not until the end of the eleventh century that this devotion came more to the forefront introduced in a sermon by Saint Bernard. Saints Gertrude and Mechtilde, who both died around the beginning of the fourteenth century were devoted to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
It was left by Divine Providence to Saint John Eudes to spread the devotion of both the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary as we read in the Breviary lesson for his feast day (August 19). “His matchless zeal was very conspicuous in promoting the salutary devotion towards the most sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, whose liturgical worship he was the first of all to devise, although not without some divine inspiration. He is therefore held to be the father, the teacher, and the apostle of that worship.” Saint John Eudes was fighting against the heresy of Jansenism, which chills the hearts of men and turns them to stone, whereas the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary soften our hearts and make them hearts of flesh.
And I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh. (Ezechial 36:26)
God has given us these two devotions to bring our hearts closer to Him and to soften them in this time of hard-heartedness, when all manner of sin is now considered totally acceptable.
Saint John Eudes first celebrated the feast in 1648 in his society, dedicated to Jesus and Mary. He wrote a Mass and Office, which is published in his book, The Admirable Heart of Mary, which was published around his death in 1681.
Others promoted the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which caused Pope Pius IV to give permission to the Bishop of Palermo to celebrate the feast of the Most Pure Heart of Mary in his diocese. Pope Pius VII gave more permissions and soon this devotion began to spread. In 1855 the Sacred Congregation of Rites approved a Mass and Office of the More Pure Heart of Mary. However, this feast was not placed on the Universal Calendar of the Church at this time.
The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared at Fatima in 1917. In the June 13th apparition she called for reparation to her Immaculate Heart. The next month is the most famous message, which contained three secrets, two of which have been revealed the third going to the grave with Jucia dos Santos.
Mary said: “I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of reparation on the first Saturdays of the month. … In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me; Russia will be converted and there will be some peace.”
Mary did indeed come with both request. The devotion of the First Saturdays was approved by the Church, which consists of the recitation of the Rosary together with an additional fifteen minutes of meditation on its mysteries on the First Saturday. On the same day Holy Communion should be received, if possible. Confession to a duly authorized priest should be made within a week either direction. All of these are performed in reparation for the insults made to Mary's Immaculate Heart. If Confession and Communion are not possible, make a Spiritual Communion and a Perfect Act of Contrition.
In 1942 Pope Pius XII consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and instituted the Feast of the Immaculate Heart and placed it on the Octave Day of the Feast of the Assumption, August 22nd. A decade later he again consecrated the world with a special mention of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. However, neither consecration was completed as requested by the Blessed Virgin Mary who asked originally for the consecration of Russia by the Pope in union with the Bishops throughout the world. This could be accomplished in two ways. The first is to have all of the Diocesan Bishops consecrate Russia in their own dioceses together with the Pope in Rome. The second would be to do so in an Ecumenical Council, when the Pope is gathered with the other Diocesan Bishops of the world. Neither has happened.
On three occasions, We have consecrated Russia to Mary's Immaculate Heart:
On the evening of July 16, 1990 in response to a request from those who worked for the election of a Pope, We consecrated Russia to Mary's Immaculate Heart.
Again on Saturday, August 22, 1992 We consecrated Russia to Mary's Immaculate Heart.
On the day after Our consecration as Bishop together with the consecrating Bishop We consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
We are praying for the day that Mary's Immaculate Heart triumphs as promised ninety-nine years ago at Fatima.