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Today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary; the one where we remember that Mary was conceived without stain of original sin.

I have always thought of this as a ‘modern’ thing, because although it has pretty much been believed in the church for ever,  the doctrine was only formally defined in 1854 (shortly before Our Lady appeared to St Bernadette at Lourdes), but Wikipedia tells me that the prayer Tota pulchra es Maria was written in the fourth century.

Here is a setting of it by Bruckner:

Here are the words (which I got from Wikipedia):

Tota pulchra es, Maria,
et macula originalis non est in te.
Vestimentum tuum candidum quasi nix, et facies tua sicut sol.
Tota pulchra es, Maria,
et macula originalis non est in te.
Tu gloria Jerusalem, tu laetitia Israel, tu honorificentia populi nostri.
Tota pulchra es, Maria.

You are all beautiful, Mary,
and the original stain [of sin] is not in you.
Your clothing is white as snow, and your face is like the sun.
You are all beautiful, Mary,
and the original stain [of sin] is not in you.
You are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you give honour to our people.
You are all beautiful, Mary.

 

Of course, nobody knows when our Lady was born or conceived, and these dates are ‘official’, much like the Queen’s ‘official birthday’. Notice that the immaculate conception comes exactly 9 months before the nativity of our Lady, which is celebrated on the 8th September, because ‘everybody knows’ that a woman is pregnant for 9 months before the baby is born.  Nowadays, we know that the expected time for pregnancy is 40 weeks from the beginning of the last period, and the usual time of conception is two weeks from the beginning of the last period.  If you get out your calendar, you should find that (give or take a day, depending ), 40 weeks is 9 months and 1 week, and that if you calculate Our lady’s birth as 40 minus 2 (for the fortnight between period and conception) weeks after the 8th September, you would get an official birthday of the 31st of August…

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