December 8th is the Feast of the Conception of St. Ann (according to the Gregorian Calendar) which is similar, yet different than the Latin feast of the Immaculate Conception. In the Byzantine Tradition, the feast is celebrated on December 9th. But since the Immaculate Conception is the Patronal Feast of the United States, It has been transferred to December 8th, so we can celebrate this feast together with our fellow Americans.
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you”. Mary is puzzled at such a greeting. She was certainly familiar with God’s mysterious presence in the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple. But this greeting is now made to her. The Lord’s presence is with her. She is called “full of grace”. The Greek work for grace might better be translated “favored one”. In what specific way was she so graced and favored? There was good reason for her to “be greatly troubled by what was said”.
Mary was graced with a significant role in the salvation of the world. She was to carry within her body the “Lord With Us”, Emmanuel.
Everything to do with Mary, the Mother of God, was graced. She was graced from the very instant of her conception. She was graced in such a way that sin did not touch her. She was graced because God With Us would always be with her. This is the mystery we celebrate on the 8th of December.
“Today the great mystery which has been announced from all eternity whose depths angels and human beings cannot gauge. Appears in the arms of Anne: Mary, the Maiden of God. She is prepared to be the dwelling place of the King of Eternity, Who will renew our human nature. Let us entreat her with pure consciences and say, “Intercede for us with your Son and God, that he may save our souls, for you are our intercessor.” (From the Vesper service)
Originally published on December 7th, 2003