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Friends, today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the dogma of the Immaculate Conception—the truth that Mary, through a special grace, was preserved free from original sin from the first moment of her conception. Were this not the case, the angel would not have referred to her at the Annunciation as kecharitomene (full of grace). Why would God do such a thing? And wouldn’t this imply that Mary does not need to be redeemed?

The traditional answer is that God wanted to prepare a worthy vessel for the reception of his Word. Just as the Holy of Holies in the temple was kept pure and inviolate, so the true Ark of the Covenant, which is Mary herself, should all the more be untrammeled.

Bl. John Duns Scotus explained that Mary is indeed redeemed by the grace of her Son, but since that grace exists outside of time, it can be applied in a way that transcends the ordinary rhythms of time. Therefore, Mary, by a kind of preemptive strike, was delivered by Christ’s grace from original sin.