For Catholics, today (December 8), is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. We mark the day to celebrate our belief that the Virgin Mary was sinless to prepare her for her role as the mother of Jesus.
Tonight, at Mass, the Gospel reading was from the Gospel of Luke (1: 26-38):
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “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. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Related Aside: One of my favorite places is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the grounds of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. They recently completed the installation of a mosaic on the interior of a dome in basilica's Upper Church. It's called the Redemption Dome.