By Fr Walter de sa
A young girl, highly favoured, was chosen by God the Father to be the mother of His Son, Jesus. Her name was Mary, daughter of Joachim and Anne. She was betrothed to Joseph. She gave birth to Jesus. His birth was a miraculous one in that it transcended the natural way of begetting a child, as revealed to Mary by the angel Gabriel: “The Holy spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God”.
Mary’s birth too was, as taught by the Church, an extraordinary one as she was conceived without sin. For this reason, she merited the title of Immaculate Conception, conferred upon her through the papal bull, Ineffabilis Deus (God Ineffable) of Pope Pius IX, promulgated on 8th December, 1854, officially declaring that the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved from all stain of original sin.
In the year 1600, on the hillock of Panjim, a church was built and dedicated to Mary, and which was named ‘Our Lady of Immaculate Conception”, whose feast is celebrated on 8th December.
For parishioners of Panjim, it is an event of great significance, and also an occasion of great joy to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception who is the patroness of the parish.
The feast is preceded by a 9-day spiritual preparation that consists of Rosary, Mass Sermon and Salve. The little children, dressed up as angels, sing a hymm in honour of Mary. The confrades vested in white and red cape, and holding a candle in their hands lineup in a procession to venerate Mary. The Eucharist and the proclamation of the Word of God constitute the essential means of the spiritual preparation.
“The life of Mary is the true model of the life of the Church” was the theme of the entire celebration. The preaching on the theme was done with great unction by a team of Discalced Carmelites who enlightened and motivated the faithful to imitate and walk in the steps of Mary who is acknowledged to be the “type and outstanding model” of a Christian living in faith and charity.
All peoples, irrespective of religion and creed, venerate her and pay their respects to her. They seek her protection and blessing on their families. Mary portrays an attractive personality who gave primacy to the will and word of God and shared together with her Son in God’s salvific plan.
The celebration of the feast of Immaculate Conception drives home to all the faithful and others an important message of living a life marked by honesty, integrity and truthfulness. As we entrust ourselves to her maternal care and protection, may she always intercede for us in all our necessities and afflictions.