Posted by: Fr Chris | December 8, 2020

Immaculate Conception/ Conception of Saint Anne

St. Joachim & St. Anna by Afroditi Petroula | Byzantine ...
SS. Joachim and Anne meet at the Golden Gate to tell each the wonderful news: they will be the parents of the Mother of the Messiah!

Known in the East as the Conception of Saint Anne, December 8 is the feast of the Immaculate Conception in the West. In the Eastern Churches, this is kept on December 9, in order to emphasize that though sinless, Our Lady is still inferior to Christ, Who alone has a perfect pregnancy (March 25-December 25). However, the Latin Church preferred the date of December 8, giving Our Lady a perfect pregnancy (December 8 – September 8). Because the United States is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, our Byzantine Catholic Church has accepted the December 8th date in America.

The dogma teaches this: the Blessed Virgin Mary “in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin. (Pope Pius IX).”

What does this mean? The Catholic Encyclopedia tells us:

Mary was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin at the first moment of her animation, and sanctifying grace was given to her before sin could have taken effect in her soul.

The formal active essence of original sin was not removed from her soul, as it is removed from others by baptism; it was excluded, it never was in her soul.  Simultaneously with the exclusion of sin, the state of original sanctity, innocence, and justice, as opposed to original sin, was conferred upon her, by which gift every stain and fault, all depraved emotions, passions, and debilities, essentially pertaining to original sin, were excluded. But she was not made exempt from the temporal penalties of Adam — from sorrow, bodily infirmities, and death. The immunity from original sin was given to Mary by a singular exemption from a universal law through the same merits of Christ, by which other men are cleansed from sin by baptismMary needed the redeeming Savior to obtain this exemption, and to be delivered from the universal necessity and debt (debitum) of being subject to original sin. The person of Mary, in consequence of her origin from Adam, should have been subject to sin, but, being the new Eve who was to be the mother of the new Adam, she was, by the eternal counsel of God and by the merits of Christ, withdrawn from the general law of original sin. Her redemption was the very masterpiece of Christ’s redeeming wisdom.

Antique French Religious Icon Saint Anne and Saint Maria Print
Saint Anne with the Virgin Mary as a child

The formal active essence of original sin was not removed from her soul, as it is removed from others by baptism; it was excluded, it never was in her soul.  Simultaneously with the exclusion of sin, the state of original sanctity, innocence, and justice, as opposed to original sin, was conferred upon her, by which gift every stain and fault, all depraved emotions, passions, and debilities, essentially pertaining to original sin, were excluded. But she was not made exempt from the temporal penalties ofAdam — from sorrow, bodily infirmities, and death. The immunity from original sin was given to Mary by a singular exemption from a universal law through the same merits of Christ, by which other men are cleansed from sin by baptismMary needed the redeeming Savior to obtain this exemption, and to be delivered from the universal necessity and debt (debitum) of being subject to original sin. Theperson of Mary, in consequence of her origin from Adam, should have been subject to sin, but, being the new Eve who was to be the mother of the new Adam, she was, by the eternal counsel of God and by the merits of Christ, withdrawn from the general law of original sin. Her redemption was the very masterpiece of Christ’s redeeming wisdom. He is a greater redeemer who pays the debt that it may not be incurred than he who pays after it has fallen on the debtor.

The feast of the Conception of Saint Anne originates in the monasteries of Palestine in the late 600s; it spread through the Syriac and Byzantine Churches so that by 1166 it was a holy day of obligation in the Byzantine Empire with no work allowed. In the texts of this feast, Mary is acclaimed as all-holy, immaculate, sinless, and most pure. Icons of “The Conception of St. Anne” shows SS. Joachim and Anne embracing at the Golden Gate after being told by angels that they would conceive a daughter who would become the mother of the Messiah.


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