Manila Archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula leads the Mass for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Friday, Dec. 8, at the Manila Cathedral. (Photo by Jana Francesca D. Yao/ The Varsitarian)

THE CONCEPTION of the Blessed Virgin Mary testifies to God’s capability to do things despite the hindrances confronting the faithful, UST Parish Priest Fr. Paul Talavera, O.P. said during Mass for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on Friday, Dec. 8, at the Santisimo Rosario Parish Church.

“Nothing is impossible for God,” Talavera said in his homily. “Yes, we are limited, but because of God’s grace, we are given the task […] to go beyond those limitations.”

The Immaculate Conception marks the beginning of St. Anne’s pregnancy to Mary, who was “preserved free from every stain of original sin” by “a singular grace and privilege of almighty God,” according to Pope Pius IX’s 1854 bull “Ineffabilis Deus (Ineffable God),” declaring this episode as one of the four Marian dogmas of the Church.

Mary has played a central role in the salvation story by giving birth to mankind’s savior, Jesus. Talavera said she showed how wholeheartedly heeding God’s call could make a difference.

“God calls for us [to] say our yes to [Him] and commit ourselves to [Him],” he said. 

“[W]e hear the story of how Mary said yes to that invitation of the angel Gabriel […] Because of her yes, that became true. Why? Because, as it is said here, nothing will be in vain,” he added. 

But can mortals, subjected to never-ending temptations, also be freed from the chains of sin just like Mary? Yes, said Talavera, but one must “ask for that grace.” 

Hindi man tayo ma-preserve from original sin katulad ni Maria, mabigyan [man lang] tayo ng lakas na labanan ang kasalanan at labanan ang kasamaan sa ating paligid,” he said.

‘A branch of providence and humility’

For Manila Archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula, Mary’s life draws parallels to that of a cypress tree, palm tree, olive tree and plain tree – four trees, drawn from the book of Sirach, that also signify the four column capitals of the Manila Cathedral.

“They offer us Biblical symbols of a woman marked by bearing God’s presence, enduring in hope, trusting in God’s providence, and modeling honesty and humility,” Advincula said in his homily at the cathedral.

The cypress tree, the archbishop explained, showed Mary’s willingness to be an instrument of God when she gave birth to Jesus, while the palm tree underscored the Blessed Mother as a beacon of hope.

He added that the olive tree is a reminder of Mary’s unwavering trust in the providence of God and the bareness of a plain tree exhibited the mother of Jesus as “a woman of honesty and humility.”

An hour-long public veneration of the Immaculate Conception’s image at the altar of the Manila Cathedral was held after the 12:10 p.m. Mass.

Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Charles John Brown concelebrated the Mass.

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception also marks the anniversary of the Dominican Province of the Philippines, which was established on Dec. 8, 1971.

Pope Pius XII declared the Immaculate Conception the principal patroness of the Philippines on Sept. 12, 1942, “upon the request of the bishops.”

Congress passed a law in 2017 declaring Dec. 8 a special non-working holiday. Sheila May S. Balagan


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