Honoring Mary in Advent is Honoring Christ
By Bishop David J. Malloy
The Christian tradition and particularly our Catholic faith have long been known for honoring Mary and her role in the plan of salvation. 
Because of Mary’s closeness to Christ, attested to by the Gospels and the faith of the Church from the earliest days, the faithful have long reflected on the special role that Mary has in the plan of salvation.
Think of how often we find Mary depicted in the manger scenes in our churches, our houses and our neighborhoods at this time of year. Likewise in seasonal music from the “Ave Maria” to “The Little Drummer Boy,” the presence of Mary helps us to enter into a deeper reflection about Christmas.
How fitting it is that in this coming week there are two celebrations of Mary that help our Advent preparation for Christmas.
First, on Dec. 8 the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. That feast is the patronal observance of the United States. It serves as a special means of dedicating our beloved country to the prayers and protection of Mary. She is also the patroness of our own Rockford Diocese.
The Immaculate Conception of Mary celebrates her sinlessness from the very first moment of her existence. It recalls that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were created in a situation of total harmony with God. 
As our parents that gift of unity with God was meant to have been passed on to all who came after them, as a parent blessed with earthly goods could endow the succeeding generations of their offspring.
Instead, the original sin of our first parents ruptured that harmony. They lost those gifts of grace intended for us all by God. Sin entered the world and each of us is now born outside of grace and in need of baptism and redemption.
Mary, however, in the plan of God was the new Eve. As the mother of Jesus, with all of the emotional closeness of a mother for her son, she was deeply attached to Christ. 
But as the earthly channel of Christ’s entry into our flesh, God gave her an even greater gift by keeping her from any sin at the moment of her conception. 
Mary was thus a new beginning for the human race. And unlike Eve, Mary never wavered in her faithfulness to Christ by ever committing a personal sin during her life. 
On Dec. 12, we honor Mary as Our Lady of Guadalupe. On that date in 1531, St. Juan Diego famously fulfilled the task given him by Mary at Tepeyac near Mexico City. 
He was received by the local Bishop Juan de Zumarraga and in his presence opened his garment to reveal the miraculous image of Mary who had appeared to him along with roses entirely out-of-season and impossible to provide naturally.
The result of that apparition was an astonishing widespread conversion of the local people to Christ. It also gave a deep consolation to the indigenous people who had suffered a tremendous shock and desolation with the coming of the Spaniards and the loss of their familiar but pagan culture.
The image of Mary on the garment of St. Juan Diego depicted her as an Aztec woman. But she was clothed in maternity garments, drawing attention once more to her role as the mother of God. 
Additionally, Mary’s care for the Mexican people demonstrated her role as mother of the whole human race entrusted to her by Jesus as he was dying on the cross.
In honoring Mary during this Advent Season, we are honoring Christ Himself. These two celebrations occurring during this time of preparation for Christmas remind us of Mary’s greatness, her humility and her powerful intercession for us.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!