On December 8, the church celebrates the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Holy Day of Obligation). The belief and dogma is that she prepared a worthy dwelling for Jesus, but also that she was conceived without sin and faithfully said yes to God all her life. Mary’s immaculate conception in her mother’s womb is not found anywhere directly in Holy Scripture. It is and has been a long-held belief in the Church and was defined as a dogma in 1854 by Pope Pius IX. This mystery of God’s mercy and love for Mary continues through the life of Jesus.
Another important aspect of this day is that Pope Francis has declared this very day the beginning of the Year of Mercy in his letter Misericordae Vultus. This day the “Holy Door” in Rome will be open together with the door of every Cathedral. This is meant to symbolize the portal of Mercy and welcome offered to all for the healing and forgiveness of all the world. Mary Immaculate is called the “Portal of Grace” and it was through the portal of her womb that the Person of the face of God was to take flesh. Her openness to the mystery of God becomes our invitation to our being available to His healing and our mission of also being the Face of our merciful God. Each of us might take the opportunity to step through that “Open door of Mercy” both to receive that gift and then to be ourselves doors of mercy.