Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Digging Deeper Into Faith and Belief

On the Eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I gave a talk on Mary, the Mother of God, to a group of men and women. As always, whenever I am preparing to give a talk, I do a lot of research and then I add personal reflection and experiences. I have been studying the Catholic religion most of my adult life, either formally at Fordham or informally through all my years of teaching, reading, praying, and listening to homilies and talks. I love the mystery and depth in the Catholic religion and since I can never learn all there is to know, I am always "digging deeper," learning more, gaining insights and that keeps it interesting. So when I give a talk I always learn something, both from the research I do as well as from the participants. So on Monday night, I sat with a group of Catholics, who like me, are interested in knowing more. One definition of theology is-faith seeking understanding and whenever that happens its a great dynamic. 
One thing that I mentioned that people seemed surprised to learn is how the date of December 8th was decided. The Church celebrates the birth of Mary on September 8th. The date of the Immaculate Conception was determined by counting back nine months from this date. So we celebrate on Dec. 8th, that Mary was conceived and born without original sin, given a special privilege by God, for Mary is Theotokos-God-bearer. That qualifies her, no doubt. Do you know that name of the Pope who declared Mary free from every stain of sin?      (It was Pius IX)
On December 8th, 1854 Pope Pius IX pronounced that 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, was preserved exempt from all stain of sin."
Pius IX on December 8th declared the dogma. There's a nine and an eight in that sentence. The Church celebrates Mary's birth on September 8th. Another 9 and an 8. Perhaps it's just coincidental, but there are a lot of nine's and eight's in this story.......(I didn't mention this in the talk but it makes for interesting blogging).

The Most High has sanctified his own tabernacle.  (Psalm 46:5)