Immaculate Conception & Mary as a Model of Faith: by Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio


Immaculate Conception & Mary as a Model of Faith

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio

This post is also available in: SpanishItalian

The Gospel of Luke presents Mary, mother of Jesus,  as the model of faith, showing us what faith must include to be authentic and effective.  And imitating Mary’s virtue is key to an authentic Marian devotion and an adequate understanding of the deepest meaning of the Immaculate Conception — that it’s all about grace.

The Beatitudes rank high on the list of all-time favorite Bible passages. But what is beatitude, anyway?   In the bible, a “blessed” person is someone who has received gifts of the greatest value, gifts that lead to true fulfillment and lasting happiness.


If I were to ask you to name the first beatitude, you’d probably say “blessed be the poor in Spirit.”

According to Matthew you’d be right, but not according to Luke.  At the very beginning of his gospel, Luke reveals that the very first beatitude is uttered by a woman filled with the Spirit, speaking of another woman overshadowed by the Spirit.  Elizabeth says, “Blessed is she who has believed.” (Luke 1: 45).

Is Marian devotion important in Christian life?  This has been a bone of contention between Catholics and Protestants for nearly 500 years.


Let’s look at the evidence in just the first chapter of Luke.  First, the Angel Gabriel honors her with the greeting “Hail, full of grace” (Luke 1:29).  Then Elizabeth prophesies “blessed are you among women.”  Next the prophet John leaps for joy in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice.  Then, in her response to Elizabeth, Mary prophesies “all generations will call me blessed” (Lk. 1:48).

But it is Elizabeth’s final words to Mary that hold the key to understanding why she is to be honored, namely, her faith.  “Blessed is she who has believed.”


One of the battle-cries of the Protestant Reformation was “Faith Alone!”  One key conviction that united the many disparate strands of the Reformation was that it is impossible to earn God’s favor by our good works, but rather we receive his love as a pure gift, a grace, through faith.

Now consider Mary.  Did she crisscross the Mediterranean planting Churches like Paul?  Did she give eloquent sermons like Stephen (Acts 7).  Did she govern the Church like Peter?  No.  Her claim to fame is that she simply said yes to God.  She believed He could do as he said and would do as He said.


But true faith is not just intellectual conviction that God exists or that He can do thus and such.  Faith involves entrusting oneself, abandoning oneself to God, willing to submit to his will.

That’s why Paul talks about “the obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26).  She surrendered her plan for her life, and yielded to God’s plan.  And she did this not once, but again and again, even when he left her to begin his public ministry.  And when that ministry led to the horror of Calvary, her faith stood its ground at the foot of the cross.


So Catholics honor Mary for being the perfect example of the greatest Protestant virtue.  Ironic isn’t it?  And the deepest meaning of that disputed doctrine, the Immaculate Conception, is that it was the grace of God working mysteriously from the moment of conception that made possible Mary’s exemplary life of faith.  Even her faith is a gift of His grace.  It’s all grace, according to Catholic doctrine.

Mary, of course, knew this.  That’s why she responded to Elizabeth’s praise with the humble, exuberant prayer known as the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”  She is like the crystal-clear pool that reflects the suns rays back to the heavens. So no one needs to fear that honor given her will detract from the majesty of Her divine Son.  She deflects all the praise given her right back to God, the source of her greatness.


So the answer is that Marian devotion is indeed necessary in Christian life.  But what is true devotion to Mary according to the fathers of the Second Vatican Council?  Not sentimental piety or gullible preoccupation with every rumored apparition.  But rather, imitation of her virtues, particularly her faith (Lumen Gentium 67).

This article on Mary as the model of faith as the source of Marian devotion is offered as a reflection on the Scripture readings for the 4th Fourth Sunday in Advent cycle C (Micah 5:1-4a, Ps 80, Hebrews 10: 5-10, Luke 1:39-45) and cycle B ( 2 Samuel 7, Romans 16:25-27, and Luke 1:26-38) and for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (Genesis 3:9-20; Psalm 98; Ephesians 1:3-12; Luke 1:26-38).

Originally posted on Dec 04 2018

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio

From a colorful and varied background as a professor of theology, a father of five, business owner, and professional performer Marcellino D’Ambrosio (aka “Dr. Italy”) crafts talks, blog posts, books, and videos that are always fascinating, practical, and easy to understand.  He is a popular speaker, TV and radio personality, New York Times best-selling author, and pilgrimage host who has been leading people on a journey of discovery for over thirty years.  For a fuller bio and video, visit the Dr. Italy page.

Is the Immaculate Conception Biblical?By: Edward Sri’s

Is the Immaculate Conception Biblical?

By: Edward Sri’s

Dear Friends, here’s an article for this week’s Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. It’s based on my new book covering every New Testament reference to Mary: Rethinking Mary in the New Testament

Is the Immaculate Conception just another example of Catholics exaggerating Mary’s role, putting her on par with Jesus?

From the outside, some might look at Catholic Marian doctrines this way: Jesus is a king, so Catholics make Mary a queen. Jesus ascended into heaven, so Catholics say Mary was assumed into heaven. Jesus was like us in all things but sin, so Catholics make up the Immaculate Conception to make Mary untouched by sin as well.

But the Immaculate Conception is actually all about Jesus. In fact, everything Catholics believe about Mary is there not to focus our attention solely on her, but to help us understand and love Jesus more.

This is especially the case with the Immaculate Conception. God didn’t make Mary “full of grace” for her own sake, but to prepare her for the child who would dwell in her womb. The doctrine helps us understand the mystery of her Son better. It points to how the child in her womb is not an ordinary human child, but the divine Son of God. And how fitting it is that the all-holy God would dwell within a woman who was a completely pure vessel—a spotless tabernacle, a holy temple for the divine presence she would carry in her womb!

But is there any Scriptural basis for this doctrine?

Where in the Bible?

Take a moment and imagine the quiet life of one young Jewish woman who from all outward appearances seems to be rather ordinary. She is a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, and she is probably in her early teen years. She lives in a small, insignificant village called Nazareth. Her name is Mary.

Suddenly, in the midst of her simple, routine life, an angel of the Lord appears to her and says, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28).

No angel had ever greeted anyone with such exalted language. Gabriel addresses Mary not by her personal name but with a title, “full of grace.” As St. John Paul II once commented, “‘Full of grace’ is the name Mary possesses in the eyes of God.”1

Mary’s New Name

In Greek, the word commonly translated “full of grace” (kecharitomene) indicates that Mary already is filled with God’s saving grace. Indeed, God has prepared her for this defining moment. Chosen from the beginning of time to be the mother of the Savior, Mary has been shaped by God to be a pure, spotless sanctuary in which his Son will dwell. The all-holy Son of God will enter the world through the womb of a woman who is “full of grace.”

This Biblical revelation of Mary’s unique grace sheds important light on the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, which the Church celebrates on December 8. According to this doctrine, Mary was conceived without original sin, full of grace, full of God’s life dwelling in her.

While the word “full of grace” does not definitively prove the Immaculate Conception (the word itself doesn’t mean, “you who were conceived full of grace”), it does tell us she already had a profound grace working in her before the angel Gabriel every appeared to her. The word could be translated, “you who have been and continued to be graced.”


Edward Sri’s newest book, Rethinking Mary in the New Testement
Mary Already Had Grace
Though some Bibles translate this word “favored one,” it actually indicates much more than God looking with favor on Mary. In the only other instance when the New Testament uses this rare verb, it describes a profound interior transformation having taken place in people’s souls.

He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed (echaritōsen) on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us (Eph 1:5–8).

Notice the impact on the Ephesian Christians being graced. They are described as having “redemption” and “forgiveness of their trespasses” (1:6–7). Indeed, the verb is associated with the saving, transforming power of grace that makes Christians adopted children of God who are redeemed and forgiven of their sins.

By being called kecharitomene, Mary is being depicted as someone who has already experienced the same grace as the Christians in Ephesians 1:6—someone who already has received forgiveness of sins and redemption and has become a child of God. It’s no wonder one of the Mass readings for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is from this very passage in Ephesians 1!

Doesn’t Mary Need Salvation?

Still, some may wonder how Mary could be spared the effects of Original Sin. Isn’t she human? Doesn’t she need salvation like everyone else?

Mary is completely dependent on Christ’s work of salvation. But there are two ways one can be saved. One can be saved from a great disaster either by being rescued from it or by being prevented from falling into it in the first place. If my toddler who does not swim falls into the swimming pool, I can jump in to save her. But if I happened to notice her leaning over the pool and about to fall in, I could catch her just before she hit the water. In both cases, my daughter is saved by her father.

The same is true with how our Heavenly Father can save people from sin. He saves the rest of the human family after we have entered this world devoid of the life of God, wounded by Original Sin. But he could save an individual before being wounded by sin, by filling them with his life from the moment of their conception, by creating them “full of grace.” And that’ what the Church throughout the centuries has seen in this woman from Nazareth—that she was, indeed, conceived “full of grace” to prepare her as the holy dwelling place for the Son of God.

This article is based on Edward Sri’s newest book covering every New Testament reference to Mary: Rethinking Mary in the New Testament





One of the themes of Advent is watching and waiting. A kind of patient, alert spirit is cultivated. The spirit of hope.

We are to sit on the edge of our seats, waiting for the show to begin. We’re at the bus stop, looking down the road any sign of the bus we feel is already late. We’re sitting in stillness and in contemplation waiting to hear the word of the Lord.

The opposite of this patient, watchful and alert spirit of waiting is restlessness. We wander around aimlessly like a madwoman with wild hair. We channel hop looking for yet another entertainment. We fidget and fuss and worry and bite our nails with nervousness. We grumble and complain and bark with impatience.

What is it that makes us so restless and so unhappy?

Some say it is desire. The root of all unhappiness is desire.

We desire what we do not have, and we desire more what we cannot have.

But what is at the root of that desire? I think it is something else.

It is fear. The nameless fear in the middle of the night. It is the fear that haunts our waking hours as a gnawing restlessness that focuses itself in desire.

We desire as we hunger and we don’t know what we desire or for what we hunger.

That desire and restlessness is rooted in fear.

“But what am I afraid of?”

That’s just the thing. We don’t know what we’re afraid of. The fear is formless. The fear is simply there as a ground level anxiety in our human condition.

At times, of course it comes out as real fear and anxiety. Some small thing sparks it or some great concern fans the flames and the fear erupts in full terror. The fear comes out as nervousness and discontent, impatience and irritability and gazing sleepless into the dark.

More often the fear surfaces as resentment towards others, suspicion of others and condemnation of others.

Why do we bad mouth and blame the other? Because we fear. We fear they will have something better than us. They will have something we cannot have. They will be better than us and shame us and their superiority will put us down and we fear.

Why do we strive so hard to succeed and be better than others? Because we fear.

Why do we work so hard to earn so little and then spend it on stuff we don’t need? Because we fear. We fear being alone and not being secure. We fear not being loved for who we are so we try to be loved for what we have.

Why do we put on artificial masks and do things and say things to people who we don’t like in order to win approval from them even though their approval means nothing? Because we fear.

Why do we attack other racial groups, other socio economic groups, immigrants, Democrats, Republicans, the rich, the poor, the Catholics, the Protestants, the bishops, the clergy, the people, the neighbors, the children ,the adults, the parents, the students, the teachers. Why do we attack and blame most anyone but ourselves? Because we fear.

Fear is the root of original sin for the original sin is that of pride: “I am the best. I am like God.” That’s pride, and that ugliness springs forth from fear.

Fear at the foundation which is fear of God.

That is why the proverb is so profound: “The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”

Not fear for its own sake, but the realization that the fear is there, and once we realize that the fear of the Lord is there like a silent beast in the darkened cellar of our lives we can begin to face the fear.

Then one day, if grace is given and the journey leads that way, then one day if the door is opened and we see our way there we come to realize at that very same depth that the message of the angel is always, “Do not fear. Do not be afraid.”

This is an Advent message from the angel to you. “Do not be afraid.”

Do not be afraid because God is with you. He is on his way.

Perfect Love is about to enter the world and as we know, “Perfect love casts out all fear.”


Today’s Advent reflection {12-3-18}

Praying to the Father in Jesus’ Name (16:23-24)

Jesus goes again to the theme of answered prayer that he has addressed several times in these Farewell Discourses (14:13-14; 15:7, 16).

23  In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24  Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (16:23-24)

We discussed prayer in Jesus’ name in Lesson 24 on 14:13-14. Remember that in Hebrew thought, one’s name stands for that person. To pray in Jesus’ name means to pray with his commission, his authority — and in his will. It has similarities to our “power of attorney.” Notice the progression in these verses concerning whom we are to ask.

Ask Jesus. “And I will do whatever you ask in my name…. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (14:13-14)

Ask? “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (15:7)

Father. “Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (15:16b)

Father. “My Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (16:23b)

Jesus’ primary teaching seems to be that we are to ask the Father in his name. Jesus certainly addressed his prayers to the Father. But in 14:14, Jesus says his disciples can ask him for anything, though in 16:23, Jesus, looking forward to the period after his resurrection, says, “In that day you will no longer ask me anything,” but rather speak directly to the Father in his name.

Is it wrong to pray to Jesus? No.

We see a number of examples of prayer to Jesus. People asked Jesus for healing during his ministry; that is prayer, of course. But after Jesus’ resurrection, churches “call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:2). We see prayers to Jesus from Stephen (Acts 7:59), at Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:6; 10-11), the last prayer in the Bible (Revelation 22:20; 1 Corinthians 16:22), and elsewhere (2 Corinthians 12:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13; etc.). The normal pattern is prayer to the Father, but prayer to Jesus is all right also.

Can we pray to the Holy Spirit? Is it wrong to say, “Come, Holy Spirit” or “Holy Spirit, fall upon us”? I think we can. We are called into the fellowship of the Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14). After all, we believe that the Holy Spirit is God, a divine person, one of the Trinity, as we discussed above in 14:16-17. Nevertheless, the normal pattern of prayer taught us by Jesus is to prayer to the Father in Jesus’ name.

Ask and You Will Receive (16:24)

“Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (16:24)

Jesus is inviting his disciples to embark on the joyful adventure of prayer, of asking and receiving. We read something similar in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)  END QUOTES

MY personal reflection on the above.

God IS the giver of all gifts. Far more importantly though is the  reality that God is the giver {conditionally} of the PERFECT gift; Jesus Himself. THAT dear friends is the Perfect Gift; the all giving; the all knowing {our needs before we even express them}, and our all Loving God… What can WE possibly do to thank God for Jesus for such an ineffable GIFT?

Answer:  We can know, love, obey and serve Him, and thus fulfill the very reason for our existence. {Isaiah 43: 7& 21.} …We Can Pray for the grace to do so.


An Advent Examination BY FR. KENNETH G. DAVIS, OFM CONV. 

An Advent Examination

Advent is not a season of penance, but of preparation. Advent prepares us for the two comings of Christ, that is, the Incarnation and the Eschaton. However, amid the garlands and the gifts, we all know how easy it is to become wrapped up in the party planning on earth and forget to plan for the eternal banquet in heaven.

Thus an Advent examination of conscience is not amiss. While not encouraging it as the grump who steals the joy of Christmas, what better way to prepare for Christ than by preparing our conscience? Think of it as a spiritual shopping list that will help us not spend beyond our budget, but rather receive beyond our dreams.

Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas

To begin, I’ll describe a character from a novella with whom you are likely familiar, but whom you may not know as well as you think. Thus, as I describe him, try to guess his name. Here are hints: He’s a tax-paying small businessman who provides employment for several people. Himself a wit, he cares not a whit for either the politically correct or for worldly respect. And a close textual analysis indicates that this character committed no serious sin. Rather he eats frugally, exercises, and is regular in his habits; he’s punctual in his appointments. He’s hard working and he lives in great simplicity, even austerity. He’s chaste, he’s intelligent, he’s articulate, he’s assertive, he’s Scrooge. Ebenezer Scrooge.

Note that I’ve just described Scrooge before his conversion. And, although he’s unpopular and grouchy, he’s committed no serious sin. Hence, Marley’s ghost does not reproach Scrooge for any sins of commission, but only for sins of omission. Marley himself bemoans his own suffering, which is the result of his own sins of omission, that is, the good that he might done while alive, but did not. When Scrooge protests that Marley was just a good businessman, Marley wails: “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business.” And “any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere . . . will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. . . . [N]o space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused!” Opportunities misused were opportunities to do good left undone, or sins of omission. Finally, Marley shows Scrooge other suffering spirits, all miserable for the same reason: They eternally long to do good because that is their nature as creatures made by the Source of all good, but because they have lost forever the opportunity to fulfill their nature by doing good works, they eternally lament that longing.

Scrooge, therefore, is not haunted because of any evil he committed; he is haunted by the good he failed to do. Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol for good Christians like us — hard-working, honest folks enjoying well-deserved comfort but who fail to move out of our comfort zone to consider the suffering of others. Scrooge is indicted not for his sins of commission, but for his sins of omission mentioned always in the second half of a phrase we pray frequently when we repent for “what I have done and what I have failed to do.”

Now, sins of omission may seem minor; but they matter. As the walls of Rome fell and the shades of the Dark Ages rose, St. Augustine proclaimed that evil is the privation or omission of the good God intends. Sins of omission are not minor; they matter. As the unity of Christendom cracked and Henry VIII prepared the martyrs’ rack, St. Thomas More testified that a Christian’s silence before evil gives assent to that evil. Sins of omission are not minor; they matter. As the church bells of Paris fell silent while gleaming guillotines fell strident, Edmund Burke wrote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Sins of Omission

What are some common sins of omission that matter so much? First, individualism begets sins of omission. Scrooge is described as “secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.” The opposite of individualism is the Catholic teaching on the common good, or that necessary good which can only be achieved through our common cooperation. Because each person is not only sacred, but social, sins of omission include: 1) neglecting our civic duty to be informed citizens who vote responsibly; 2) neglecting to care for our parish church and community through contributions of time and money commensurate with our means; 3) putting ourselves and others at risk by ignoring legitimate civil law such as not texting while driving; 4) using social media, television, or videos as procrastination rather than legitimate relaxation.

Second, consumerism also fosters sins of omission because it treats others as only competitors or commodities, such as the following: 1) adding to a polluted environment when wasting energy by leaving on lights and other sources of consumption unnecessarily; 2) failing to acknowledge or thank those who provide for us; 3) spending without need and thus with indifference to the needs of others; 4) not paying our debts or returning that which was borrowed.

Third, relativism expressed when we disregard Church teachings as if they do not apply to us because we don’t agree with or understand them. Fourth, a secularism that is preoccupied with the superficial, like Kardashians, rather than the substantial, like Christians. Other unexamined ideologies also calcify into invincible ignorance that promotes indifference. Such ideologies are expressed through prejudice, bullying, and any callous communication which disregards or discounts the feelings of others.

Sins of omission are not minor; they matter. Judas committed evil, but the other apostles on Good Friday omitted the good they could have done. Jesus’s final request was “Remain with me.” Yet they failed Him. They even failed to give Him a decent burial; the faithful women had to do that. Judas was richly rewarded for what he did; the others bitterly regretted what they did not do. Like Marley, they bemoaned the good they could have done.

Sins of omission are not minor; they matter. The only time Jesus describes judgement day, He describes sins of omission, such as: “When, Lord, did we see you hungry and fail to feed you?” If we’re always dining in fine restaurants, and never serving in a soup kitchen, it’s hard to see the hungry.


The road to hell is paved with good intentions because good intentions not acted upon are sins of omission: time wasted, love unspoken, apologies avoided, forgiveness withheld, thoughtless thanklessness, compliments silenced rather than shared — these are all today’s opportunity’s squandered by sin that accumulate into tomorrow’s regretted could-have-been.

Sins of omission accumulate and habituate. Overlook today’s angelic opportunities and it becomes easier to take without need, hurt without heed, and cover God’s benevolence with casual indifference. Sins of omission matter because they lead to the scandal of habitual hypocrisy.

But the Advent season, like the Ghost of Christmas Past, is as yet young. There is time to examine and confess your sins of omission so that on Christmas morning the only ghost that will visit you will be the Holy Ghost. And, like the repentant Scrooge, that blessed Spirit will help you keep Christmas in your heart all the rest of your life.


Fr. Kenneth G. Davis, OFM Conv.About Fr. Kenneth G. Davis, OFM Conv.
Conventual Franciscan Father Kenneth G. Davis is the visiting professor of spirituality at Saint Joseph Seminary College in Louisiana, who publishes frequently about various aspects of priestly spirituality and ministry.

The Oldest Christian Prayer

Daily Catholic Prayer—St. Clement: The oldest Christian prayer outside of the Bible

We beg you, Lord, to help and defend us.
Deliver the oppressed.
Pity the insignificant.
Raise the fallen.
Show yourself to the needy.
Heal the sick.
Bring back those of your people who have gone astray.
Feed the hungry.
Lift up the weak.
Take off the prisoners’ chains.
May every nation come to know that you alone are God,
that Jesus is your Child, that we are your people,
the sheep that you pasture.

Saint Clement 100 AD

8 Ideas for Celebrating Advent in 2018 BRANDON HARVEY

8 Ideas for Celebrating Advent in 2018

Each December brings the same temptation for Catholics: Join one’s daily focus with the commercially oriented Christmas frenzy in nearly every corner of modern American society or avoid it for the sake of focusing on living and breathing the meaning of Advent in preparation of the real Christmas season. The tension between the movement of society and Christmas is perhaps not too different than what occurred at the time of Jesus.

Saints Elizabeth and Zechariah heard the news that the birth of Jesus was coming (Luke 1:39-45). Mary and Saint Joseph alone traveled to Bethlehem, where Jesus would be born, for the census (Luke 2:1-5). Jesus was not born in a home or inn surrounded by others; it was a modest event to the human eye with the Holy Family alone being present (Luke 2:6-7). There were some shepherds (Luke 2:8-20) and Magi (Matthew 2:1-12) that later arrived to participate in the blessed event. As we can see, from the very beginning the birth of Christ went unnoticed by most of the corporeal world. We too should not fear having a different rhythm and set of habits for the upcoming holiday season as we prepare through Advent for the true meaning of Christmas: The Nativity of our Lord.

The Directory of Popular Piety and the Liturgy provides us many insights into celebrating Advent with the heart and mind of the Church. It provides three key themes for the celebration of Advent: “a time of waiting, conversion and of hope” (No. 96). The theme of waiting is to remember the initial coming of Jesus 2,000 years ago in the city of Bethlehem as well as our current waiting for “his final, glorious coming as Lord of History and universal Judge” (No. 96). Conversion is at the heart of the Advent celebrations as we too seek to repent and be ready for the coming of Christ. Hope speaks of our hope of all that is possible by Christ’s grace as we grow in holiness.

Perhaps it might be beneficial to revisit some less often quoted words concerning Advent and Christmas.

In the period of Advent, for instance, the Church arouses in us the consciousness of the sins we have had the misfortune to commit, and urges us, by restraining our desires and practicing voluntary mortification of the body, to recollect ourselves in meditation, and experience a longing desire to return to God who alone can free us by His grace from the stain of sin and from its evil consequences.

With the coming of the birthday of the Redeemer, she would bring us to the cave of Bethlehem and there teach that we must be born again and undergo a complete reformation; that will only happen when we are intimately and vitally united to the Word of God made man and participate in His divine nature, to which we have been elevated.

Mediator Dei by Pope Pius XII, Nos. 154-155

This is a profound call the Church has for us this Advent and every Advent. It is truly to make Advent more than religious activities but rather a period of grace-filled waiting, authentic and deeper conversion, and a renewed sense of hope. Returning to the Directory mentioned above, here are some of the suggested, although not exhaustive, means of celebrating Advent with the mind and heart of the Church:

1. The Advent Wreath is a four-candle wreath used to solicit a sense of waiting and progression while recalling the “various stages of salvation history” that culminates with the coming of Christ (No. 98).

2. Advent Processions have either been to announce the birth of Jesus Christ to the world or to recall the journey of the Holy Family to Bethlehem (No. 99). This is seen in many parishes and neighborhoods under the name posadas.

3. Marian Devotion throughout the season of Advent recalls both the “women of the Old Testament who prefigured and prophesied her mission” (No. 101) and recalls Mary’s faith and role in the events preceding the birth of Christ. Some examples of such devotion include: the Novena of the Immaculate Conception that progresses through the Marian passages from Genesis 3:15 to Luke 1:31-33, and devotions to Our Lady of Guadalupe. These devotions are rooted in and flow towards their corresponding liturgical celebrations (No. 102).

4. Vespers [Evening Prayer] from the Liturgy of the Hours is a means of preparing for Christmas through the daily rhythm of the Church’s liturgical prayer and in a special way through Vespers from December 17th-23rd with the “major antiphons” (No. 103). There are many apps for smart phones for accessing the Liturgy of the Hours easily and the clergy are already praying these liturgical prayers (Code of Canon Law 1174 §1).

In the hope of promoting the themes of waiting, conversion, and hope, I would like to humbly add some additional ideas for celebrating Advent in 2018:

5. The Sacrament of Confession to renew and deepen our conversion to Christ. Confession is also called the Sacrament of Conversion (CCC 1423).

6. Daily Reading of Scripture to recall the major events of salvation history and prophecies related to the coming of Christ by reading these passages, within their broader context. Some examples: Genesis 3:15, Genesis 49:10, Numbers 24:17, 2 Samuel 7:16, Isaiah 11:1, Isaiah 7:14, Jeremiah 23:5, Micah 5:2, Luke 1:1-80. The Jesse Tree is also a wonderful tool in this practice.

7. Eucharistic Adoration to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament, the Sacrament of the Presence of Christ. This is an excellent opportunity to contemplate the mystery of Jesus as Emmanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

8. Increased Care for the Poor to remember Jesus who was born in the humblest of circumstances and “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7).

There is not a person on earth that does not hunger for the gift of joy, hope, and meaning. Especially in the times we find ourselves in, we hunger for it even more. Nothing will bring us a better sense of these gifts during the Advent Season than celebrating Advent with the heart and mind of the Church, basking in the grace of God as we prepare for Christmas Mass and Christmastide.