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Catholic Activity: Nameday Ideas for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Feast is December 8. Includes dessert ideas, prayers and hymns.

DIRECTIONS

The singular privilege of Mother Mary's Immaculate Conception stands out as a splendid light at the beginning of her earthly journey. On this day is celebrated the grace by which she, alone of human creatures, was exempt from original sin and filled with grace from the first moment of her existence.

"The Blessed Virgin Mary by an unique grace and privilege of almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, was in the first instant of conception preserved exempt from all stain of original sin," Pope Pius IX declared on December 8, 1854. In the Anglican Book of Common Prayer December 8 is listed as the "Conception of the Virgin Mary." Byzantine Catholics call the feast "The Child-begetting of the holy Anne, mother of the Mother of God." Many people erroneously believe that the feast refers to the virginal conception of our Lord by Mary, whereas it is Mary's own conception that is the object of this feast.

The veneration of Mary as immaculately conceived is one of the most popular Marian devotions. She was declared patroness of the United States under this title by the First Council of Baltimore, eight years before the doctrine was defined.

The poet Wordsworth's words come to mind when treating of this feast:

Mother whose virgin bosom was uncrossed By any shade of thought to sin allied, Woman above all women glorified, Our tainted nature's solitary boast.
Desserts and decorations. A crown cake with twelve stars (Apoc. 12:1) makes an appropriate nameday dessert today. The lily of the valley is the flower of the feast because of the whiteness of its flowers and the sweetness of its scent, a meaning based on the Canticle of Canticles (2:1): "I am a rose of Sharon and a lily of the valleys." Thus the feast becomes a nameday for Sharon, Lillian, and Rosemary if you wish, who honor Mary as the Lily of Israel, as well as for Mary Immaculate, Maria Immaculata, Alba, Farida, Concha, Concepcion, Gwen, Candida, Blanche, Bianca.

We in the city force lily of the valley pips in order to have the flowers bloom for the feast. Lily of the valley symbols come in gummed seals to decorate nameday place-cards, paper plates, or even white frosting on cakes or cupcakes. An artistic mother or the local baker can add the symbol to the nameday cake with frosting. Sixty-five Buttercream Flowers, a book by Richard Snyder, tells how to portray lilies of the valley in icing [CC Editor's Note: This book is out of print, but there are many books on cake decorating, or you can go to the Wilton site for instructions on how to make lilies of the valley. JGM]. Ready-made lilies of the valley in icing are also available by mail. However, it's a great satisfaction to make one's own and gives a mother a chance to use her talents.

Family Prayers. For today's nameday, families may pray the following from the breviary and missal:

Father: Let us celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. All: Let us adore Christ the Lord, her Son.

Father: This day a rod came forth out of the root of Jesse; this day Mary was conceived without any stain of sin; this day the head of the serpent was crushed by her. All: Alleluia.

Father: From a homily of St. Jerome: The nature and greatness of the glorious and blessed Mary ever Virgin were revealed by God in the message of the angel: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women." It was fitting that the Virgin should be endowed with such gifts as to be full of grace, for she it is who has given to heaven glory, to the earth the Lord to the world peace, to the nations faith; she it is who has put an end to vice, brought harmony into life and purity into morals. All the holy patriarchs received grace, yet it was not in its fullness; to Mary was infused the plenitude of grace which is Christ. This is the reason the angel said: "Blessed art thou among women." Thus the curse incurred by Eve was totally removed by Mary's blessing. It is in praise of her that Solomon says in the Song of Songs: "Come, my gentle one, come, my pure one."

All: Thanks be to God.

Hymn: IMMACULATE MARY

1. Immaculate Mary, your praises we sing. You reign now in splendor with Jesus our King. (Refrain)

Refrain: Ave, Ave, Ave Maria! Ave, Ave Maria!

2. In heaven the blessed your glory proclaim, On earth we your children invoke your sweet name. (Refrain)

3. We pray for the Church, our true Mother on earth, And beg you to watch o'er the land of our birth. (Refrain)

Mother: Let us pray. Through the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, O Lord, You prepared a worthy dwelling-place for Your Son; You preserved the Virgin from all stain by letting her benefit in advance, from the sacrifice of the Cross. We entreat You: may her intercession purify our souls and help us to come into Your presence. Through the same Christ our Lord. All: Amen. Christ conquers, Christ reigns!

Activity Source: My Nameday — Come for Dessert by Helen McLoughlin, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1962

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