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- PRAYER & DEVOTION
To commemorate the 50th anniversary and Jubilee of the promulgation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Pope St. Pius X issued the encyclical Ad Diem Illum (Feb. 2, 1904), which is a superb and edifying presentation of Marian doctrine. What follows are excerpts from this beautiful Papal document.
Our Lady of Peace bows Her head in prayer amidst the beauty of God's Creation.
Venerable Brethren, although we are separated by half a century from that event (the promulgation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception), can we not also rightfully hope that if we recall the glory of the Immaculate Virgin today the same holy joy will, like an echo from the past, resound in our souls? Can we not rightfully hope that those previous magnificent demonstrations of faith and love toward the venerable Mother of God will be repeated? We ardently desire to achieve these same effects because of the devotion We have always had for the Blessed Virgin as well as Our deep gratitude to Her for the favors We have received. A certain pledge that Our desires will be fulfilled is the ever ready and willing zeal of all Catholics to show their love and honor for the great Mother of God.
Our chief reason, Venerable Brethren, for commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God is the fact that it should enkindle an ardent zeal in the Christian people for restoring all things in Christ. Mary is the surest and easiest means for uniting all persons with Christ and obtaining through Him the perfect adoption of sons. In such a way we become holy and immaculate in the sight of God. To Mary it was said: “Blessed is She Who has believed, because the things promised Her by the Lord shall be accomplished.”1 The promise was that She would conceive and bring forth the Son of God ... Therefore, since the Son of God made Man is the “author and finisher of faith,”2 we must recognize His Most Holy Mother as the partaker and, as it were, the custodian, of the divine mysteries. We must acknowledge that, after Christ, She is the noblest foundation on which is built the house of faith for all ages.
God could most certainly have given us the redeemer of the human race and the Founder of the Faith in another way than through the Virgin. However, since Divine Providence willed that the God-Man should come to us through Mary, who conceived Him by the Holy Spirit and bore Him in Her womb, we can now receive Christ only from the hands of Mary. For that reason, almost every time Holy Scripture foretells the grace that is to appear among us, the redeemer of mankind is associated with His Mother ... Adam saw none other than Mary crushing the serpent’s head, and so he dried the tears the curse brought to his eyes ... Noah ... Abraham ... Jacob ... one and all, they were contemplating Mary. Second only to Christ, Mary is seen as the image and truth of prophecies.
The Virgin, and chiefly She, has opened the way for us to acquire knowledge of Christ. In preference to all others, She alone was united to Jesus for thirty years in the intimacy of domestic life. Who better than His Mother could fathom the wondrous mysteries ... but also shared the very thoughts and secrets of Christ. Rightly, then, may She be said to have lived the very life of Her Son. No one ever knew Christ as profoundly as She knew Him. No one can ever be a more competent guide and teacher in the knowledge of Christ.
Is not Mary Christ’s Mother? Therefore She is also our Mother. Everyone must unhesitatingly believe that Jesus, the Word made flesh, is also the Savior of the human race ... Therefore in the one and same womb of His Most Chaste Mother Christ simultaneously assumed human flesh and united to Himself a spiritual body composed of those “who are to believe in Him.”
It can, therefore, be rightly stated that while Mary was bearing in Her womb the Savior, She also bore all those whose life was contained in the Savior’s life ... Hence, in a spiritual and mystical sense, we are called the children of Mary and She is our Mother ...
Since the Most Blessed Virgin is both the Mother of God and the Mother of men, She undoubtedly spares no pains to bring it about that Christ, “the head of his body, the Church,”3 infuse His gifts into us, His members, and, above all, that we might know and “live through Him.”4
Moreover, the Most Holy Mother of God had the honor of “having supplied the substance of Her flesh to the Only-begotten Son of God, who was to be born of the human race,”5 and by this flesh the Victim for the salvation of mankind was prepared ... She was entrusted with the task of rearing and nourishing this Victim ... of offering It on the altar. Finally, when the Son’s last hour arrived, “there stood by the Cross of Jesus His Mother.”6 She was not merely occupied in contemplating the cruel spectacle. She was also rejoicing that “Her Only-begotten Son was being offered for the salvation of the human race. She suffered so much together with Him that, if it had been possible, She would have been more than willing to bear all the torments that Her Son suffered.”7 Through this community of suffering and intention between Christ and Mary “She merited to become in a most noble manner the Reparatrix of the fallen world.”8 As a result of this, She is the Dispenser of all the gifts that Jesus acquired for us by His death and Blood.
We do not deny that the distribution of these gifts belongs by strict and proper right to Christ. They are the fruit He alone acquired for us by His Death. He is in His own right the Mediator between God and man. However, that community of suffering and sorrow between the Mother and Her Son (which We have already described) has merited the venerable Virgin to be “with Her Only-begotten Son the most powerful Mediatrix and Conciliatrix of the whole world.”9 Christ, therefore, is the source ... “From him the whole body ... derives its increase to the building up of itself in love.”10 Mary, however, as Saint Bernard rightly observes, is “the channel”.11 ... This should make it clear that We are certainly very far from attributing to the Virgin the power of producing supernatural grace. Only God can do that. However, She surpasses all creatures in holiness and in the degree of Her union with Christ. She was chosen by Christ to be His associate in the work of human salvation. She has, therefore, merited for us congruously (de congruo), as they say, what Christ has merited for us condignly (de condigno) ... She is the safest refuge and the most trustworthy helper of all who are in danger. Under Her guidance, patronage, kindness and protection nothing is to be feared or abandoned.”12
Where else can we find a greater or more secure helper in arriving at the knowledge and love of Christ? The wretched condition of those who, either through diabolical deceit or false opinions, boldly refuse the Virgin’s help is a striking proof of that truth. They are miserable and unhappy. Under the pretext of honoring Christ, they neglect Mary. They do not realize that the Child is found only with His Mother Mary.
Because God so thoroughly detests sin, He willed that the future Mother of His Son in no way be subject to any kind of stain. More than that, by a most singular gift granted through the merits of Christ, He preserved Her from that hereditary stain which marks all the children of Adam. Everyone, then, who sincerely desires to win Mary’s favor by his homage must amend his sinful and corrupt habits and subdue the passions which turn him toward forbidden things.
Moreover, if anyone desires (and we all should so desire) to make his devotion to Mary worthy and in every way perfect, he will make progress by trying to imitate Her example. God’s law is that anyone desiring to attain eternal happiness must reproduce in his life the image of Christ’s patience and sanctity ... Our weakness, however, can all too easily cause us to be frightened by this Exemplar’s majesty. Divine Providence, therefore, has given us another model. This model, who is the Mother of God, is at one and the same time closer to our weakness and also the most perfect reproduction of Christ’s image that can be found in human nature.
We earnestly desire that everyone in the world who is called a Christian will draw near to this love of the Virgin during this time when we honor the Mother of God in a more solemn manner. The persecution of Christ and the most holy religion He founded is now raging bitterly and fiercely. At this present time, therefore, there is a serious danger that many will be deceived by the increasing number of errors and ultimately abandon the Faith. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”13 More than that, let us all humbly beg God through the intercession of the Mother of God that those who have fallen from the path of truth may repent ....The Church will always be attacked, “for there must be factions, so that those who are approved may be made manifest among you.”14 The Virgin, however, will always assist us in even the most difficult trials; She will always continue the battle She has been waging ever since Her conception. Thus every day we can say: “Today the head of the ancient serpent was crushed by Her.”15
FOOTNOTES:  Luke 1:45  Heb. C12:2  Col. 1:18  1 John 4:9 Venerable Bede, I. iv, In Luc. .11.  John 19:25  St. Bonaventure, I Sent. d. 48, ad. Litt. dub., 4.  Eadmerus, De Excellentia Virg. Mariae, c. 9. Pius IX, bull Ineffabilis Dei.  Ephes. 4:16  St. Bernard, Serm. de temp., in Nativ. B.M. De Aquaeduern, n. 4  Pius IX, bull Ineffebilis Dei. 1 Cor. 10:12.  1 Cor. 11:19.  *Magnificat Antiphon of the Office of the Immaculate Conception.