The Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.

“Immaculatam Conceptionem Virginis Mariae celebremus: Christum ejus Filium adoremus Dominum.”

“Let us celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary: let us adore her Son, Christ the Lord.” (Matins: Invitatory respond)

St. Norbert receiving the habit from Our Lady Immaculate, Philips de Champagne, Park Abbey (Leuven), detail

Our Holy Father Saint Norbert (ca. 1080 – 1134) had a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and in particular to her Immaculate Conception, over 800 years before the eventual proclamation of the dogma by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

Several writers attest that he founded the Order of Prémontré in honour of the Immaculate Conception, which is confirmed by the “common and unanimous tradition of our Order”. Guerric, the pious disciple of St Bernard, for example, says that St Norbert founded his Congregation “in order to preach to the world of his time two particular mysteries, namely the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Immaculate Conception.”

Johannes B. Keyl o.praem. writes that St Norbert is understood to have written a Little Marian Office in honour of the Immaculate Conception which has not, alas, survived. However, one antiphon written by St Norbert has survived, and was inserted into the Premonstratensian Breviary. It is still the proper antiphon for the Nunc Dimittis for Compline of today’s feast:

Ave Virgo quae Spiritu Sancto praeservante de tanto primi parentis peccato triumphasti innoxia!”  

This is what St Norbert has to say of devotion to Our Lady among his canons:

“Sanctissimae Deiparae Virginis non est filius, qui ei tota anima non servit. Intentio hujus Matris pulchrae dilectionis nos decorantis candida veste, symbolo puritatis, non alia fuit, quam ut vera devotione ad suam immaculatam conceptionem indueremur. Igitur si hoc non accenderis amore, si in moribus istam non assequeris virgineam castitatem, veste et nomine tantum es Canonicus Praemonstratensis.”


“He is not a true son of the Most Holy Mother of God who does not serve her with his whole heart. The intention of this Mother of Fair Love in conferring upon us the white habit, the symbol of purity, was none other than that we might be clothed with a true devotion to her immaculate conception. If, therefore, you are not set aflame with this love, or do not strive to immitate in your own life her virginal chastity, you are a Premonstratensian Canon in name and vesture alone.”

O Mary conceived without original sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.


About stephanusopraem

Norbertine of the Canonry of Our Lady of Sorrows and St Philip Benizi, Chelmsford, UK
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