The Feast Day of The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception:
The Blessed Virgin Mary in Her aspect of The Immaculate Conception has been called the patroness of the United States, & 8 December is the octave of her feast for our country & for the virtue of piety. We celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 9 months before her birth celebrated on 8 September. Although it is not officially part of Advent, in celebrating this feast we can easily enter into the spirit of Christmastide, for it is like the hope & truth of the dawn that grows within us all. Mary is our guide, & mother along the path of the Sun.
The vigil of the Immaculate Conception is an opportune time to light a special Advent candle in Mary’s honor expressing symbolically the words of Isaias, “There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of this root.” I usually put a beeswax candle in a candleholder covered with white silk, tied with red & blue ribbon. I place this before my statue of Our Lady.
From the womb of Our Lady, comes the light of the world. The candle represents Christ, who dispels all darkness.
I also love to sing or listen to the superb German Advent carol “Behold, a Branch Is Growing.
“Behold a branch is growing
Of loveliest form and grace.
As prophets sung, foreknowing;
It springs from Jesse’s race.
And bears one little flower.
In midst of coldest winter,
At deepest midnight hour.
Isaiah hath foretold it In words of promise sure,
And Mary’s arms enfold it,
A Virgin meek and pure.
Through God’s eternal will,
This Child to her is given
At midnight calm and still.
Joachim & Anna are the parents of the Luke Mary.
Interestingly enough, the name Anna (or Hannah in the Hebrew) means “full of grace” – and indeed the mother of Mary was at one time full with the one who is called “full of grace”! Joachim is a variant form of the Hebrew name Jehoiachin and can mean “God will establish” or “The Lord exalts” or “God has granted a son.” Fitting names for the ones who would bear & raise the child Mary who would become the Mother of God!
Joachim was of the tribe of Judah, & a descendant of King David. St. Anna was the daughter of Matthan the priest, of the tribe of Levi as was Aaron the High Priest..
Joachim & Anna had been married for fifty years, & were barren. They lived devoutly & quietly, using only a third of their income for themselves & giving a third to the poor & a third to the Temple. Joachim had done this since he was 15-years-old, & God multiplied his flocks, so the couple was well provided for. They longed for a child but remained childless into their old age.
When they were in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice to God, the High Priest, Issachar, upbraided Joachim, “You are not worthy to offer sacrifice with those childless hands.” This caused the aged couple great grief. Then the two of them gave themselves to prayer to God that He would work in them the wonder that He had worked in Abraham & Sarah, & give them a child to comfort their old age.
Joachim took his flocks & went to a high mountain, refusing to return home in shame. Meanwhile, Anna prayed in her garden. God sent the Archangel Gabriel to each of them, who gave them tidings of the birth of “a daughter most blessed, by whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed, & through whom will come the salvation of the world.“ Each promised to have their child raised in the Temple as a holy vessel of God. The archangel told Joachim to return home, where he would find his wife waiting for him in the city gate. The Archangel told Anna to wait at the gate. When they saw one another, they embraced, & this image is the traditional icon of their feast.
Anna conceived shortly thereafter. This Conception of the Most Holy Mother of God is celebrated by the Church on December 8 & the Nativity of the Theotokos is celebrated on September 8.
Joachim & Anna took Mary, at the age of three, to the temple to be dedicated to the service of the Lord, & presented her to the priest Zechariahs. The parents then, after offering up her sacrifice (according to the custom of the time), left the Virgin with other maidens in the apartments of the temple to be brought up there.
The Ave Maris Stella, is another vesper hymn for the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Even the cook can be part of the octave of the Immaculate Conception, for it is time to make Moravian Spritz. These gingerbread cookies are made for the vigil of the Immaculate Conception since Mary, too, “gave forth sweet smell like cinnamon and aromatic balm and yielded a sweet odor like the best myrrh.” The cookies must stand for ten days in the refrigerator before baking, & are then shaped into Christmas figures, especially hearts. (Later on in the season, when we come to Candlemas, we could cut the cookies into the form of candles & turtle-doves)
The Immaculate Conception as the Patroness of the United States reminds us that the hope of Peace in the world does not rest in force of arms, but rather in prayers & social action & with recourse to the intercession of Our Lady. The octave of the Immaculate Conception furnishes an admirable occasion for a renewal of true love for our country. St. Thomas Aquinas associates the virtue of piety with the cardinal virtue of justice.
May all our concepts be immaculate
8 December 2021 – “Speaking with the Stars”
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
1542 – Birthday of Mary, Queen of Scots
1765 – Birthday of Eli Whitney, American engineer, invented the cotton gin
1854 – In his Apostolic constitution Ineffabilis Deus, Pope Pius IX proclaims the definition of Immaculate Conception, which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived free of Original Sin
1953 – U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivers his “Atoms for Peace” speech, which leads to an American program to supply equipment & information on nuclear power to schools, hospitals, & research institutions around the world
1980 – Former Beatle John Lennon is murdered by Mark David Chapman in the archway of the Dakota, his residence in New York City. Earlier that day, photographer Annie Leibovitz had been to the Lennons’ apartment to do a photo shoot for Rolling Stone magazine. Delayed by a late limousine, they left their apartment to mix the song “Walking on Thin Ice” (an Ono song featuring Lennon on lead guitar) at the Record Plant Studio. As Lennon & Ono walked to a limousine, shared with the RKO Radio crew, they were approached by several people seeking autographs. Among them was Mark David Chapman. It was common for fans to wait outside the Dakota to meet Lennon and ask for his autograph. Chapman, a 25-year-old security guard from Honolulu, Hawaii, had previously traveled to New York to murder Lennon in October (before the release of Double Fantasy), but had changed his mind & returned home. Chapman silently handed Lennon a copy of Double Fantasy, & Lennon obliged with an autograph. After signing the album, Lennon asked, “Is this all you want?” Chapman smiled & nodded in agreement. Photographer & Lennon fan Paul Goresh took a photo of the encounter. Chapman had been waiting for Lennon outside the Dakota since mid-morning, & had even approached the Lennons’ five-year-old son, Sean, who was with the family nanny, Helen Seaman, when they returned home in the afternoon. According to Chapman, he briefly touched the boy’s hand.
The Lennons spent several hours at the Record Plant studio before returning to the Dakota. Lennon had decided against dining out so he could be home in time to say goodnight to his son, before going on to the Stage Deli restaurant with Ono. Lennon liked to oblige any fans who had been waiting for long periods of time to meet him with autographs or pictures, once saying during an interview with BBC Radio’s Andy Peebles on 6 December 1980: “People come and ask for autographs, or say ‘Hi’, but they don’t bug you”. The Lennons exited their limousine on 72nd Street instead of driving into the more secure courtyard of the Dakota.
The Dakota’s doorman, Jose Perdomo, & a nearby cab driver saw Chapman standing in the shadows by the archway. As Lennon passed by, he glanced briefly at Chapman, appearing to recognize him from earlier. Seconds later, Chapman took aim directly at the center of Lennon’s back & fired five hollow-point bullets at him in rapid succession from a range of about nine or ten feet away. Lennon, bleeding profusely staggered up five steps to the security/reception area, saying, “I’m shot, I’m shot”. He then fell to the floor, scattering cassettes that he had been carrying. The concierge, Jay Hastings, first started to make a tourniquet, but upon ripping open Lennon’s blood-stained shirt & realizing the severity of his multiple injuries, he covered Lennon’s chest with his uniform jacket, removed his blood-covered glasses, & summoned the police.
They reported that Chapman had dropped the revolver to the ground & was holding a paperback book, J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.
Realizing the extent of his injuries, the policemen decided not to wait for an ambulance & immediately carried Lennon into their squad car & rushed him to St Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center.
Dr. Stephan Lynn, head of the Emergency Department, who had been called in again after having just returned home after a 13-hour-long work shift, received Lennon in the emergency room at Roosevelt Hospital a few minutes before 11:00 pm.
When Lennon arrived, he had no pulse & was not breathing. Dr. Lynn, two other doctors, a nurse & two or three other medical attendants worked on Lennon for ten to 15 minutes in a desperate attempt to resuscitate him.
Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival in the emergency room at the Roosevelt Hospital at 11:15 pm by Dr. Lynn.
The surgeon also noted—as did other witnesses—that, at the moment Lennon was pronounced dead, a Beatles song (“All My Loving”) came over the hospital’s sound system.