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On December 8 we commemorate the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a feast which has its origins in a legend from the second century.

The story goes like this:  In Israel there lived a husband and wife named Jo’-a-chim and Anne; they were righteous and kept all the commandments of God, but they had not been able to have any children. Their neighbours reproached them for their childlessness and even refused to let Jo’-a-chim present his sacrifices in the Temple, saying, “It is not fitting for you to offer your gifts first, because you have begotten no offspring in Israel.” Jo’-a-chim admitted the justice of this reproach and in his grief departed into the wilderness to fast for forty days and forty nights.

Meanwhile his wife Anne remained at home and carried her own grief in her heart. One afternoon she went into her garden and sat down beneath a laurel tree. She looked up and, seeing a nest of sparrows, uttered this lament: “Woe is me, to what may I be likened? I am not like the birds of heaven, for even the birds of heaven are fruitful before you, O Lord. Nor may I be likened to this earth, for even this earth brings forth its fruit in due season and praises you, O Lord.”

Immediately an angel visited her with this message: “Anne, Anne, the Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive and bear a child, and your offspring shall be spoken of in all the world.” True to God’s word, she conceived and gave birth to Mary — who did indeed come to be spoken of in all the world as the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ.


O God,
who appointed the Blessed Virgin Mary
while yet in her mother’s womb
to be the Mother of our Lord,
grant that with her
we may share full adoption
into the life of your heavenly family;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.