The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception falls within Advent, and it is not out of place. Our Lady, conceived without original sin, preserved from stain from the very moment of her conception was the dawning of our redemption. Isn’t that a lovely thought? How else could God send His own Son to us if not in a vessel pure and immaculate. He could not.
Advent is so full of wonderful and rich opportunities for living out the liturgical year, but this year I wanted to come up with a craft to honor Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception. It would have to be something simple – crafting in my home is like herding cats. I thought and prayed for a long while before Advent and in meditating I kept coming back to a verse in the Song of Solomon Chapter 4, verse 12:
A garden enclosed is my sister, my bride, a garden locked, a fountain sealed.
I just love that imagery, don’t you! A garden enclosed. In digging around a little more I found that this is one of the oldest symbols of Mary’s sinlessness and immaculateness. It was even included in the original Litany of Loretto (which I’ll include at the end of this post – it’s lovely to pray and would make a fitting prayer on the Solemnity.)
So, with the rich imagery from Solomon and the wisdom of the Church, I decided to come up with a little enclosed garden shrine for Mary. This was so simple to make and the children are very excited to make their own. It is simple enough for a small child to accomplish with a little help and these mini shrines would make lovely holy reminders on the children’s dresser throughout the year as well as for other Marian Feasts.
:: Small pot (I found some tiny terra cotta pots at the thrift store)
:: Styrofoam (A small piece to fit inside the pot to hold the flowers)
:: Spanish moss (This is optional. You could use a little felted wool, or if you have enough flowers you need nothing at all. This is just to disguise and cover the styrofoam in the bottom of the pot.)
:: A craft stick (available in a myriad of colors at any craft store…you can see mine is blue)
:: A picture of Our Lady or a Miraculous Medal
:: Small flowers with wire stems (these can be found in the wedding section of any craft store. I chose roses and lilies for our gardens as they are traditional symbols of Our Lady’s purity.)
Putting this together couldn’t be simpler. You might want to complete a couple of steps in advance of the children arriving to prevent spanish moss from decorating your couch and floors for the next century – not that I would know anything about that!
- Cut the styrofoam piece to fit snugly inside your pot. You don’t want the styrofoam to come to the top of the pot – leave about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of space so your flowers once “planted” will seem enclosed by the wall of the pot.
Glue or otherwise affix your holy card or Miraculous Medal to the craft stick you have chosen. Don’t glue all the way to the top – you want the image to be just above the flowers once you arrange them.
Push the craft stick into the styrofoam.
Add the spanish moss – it won’t take much. In retrospect, I think I would have left this step out or used the felted wool – it’s so much easier to work with. In any case, if you use it, just squish it in around all the corners of the styrofoam and on top of the styrofoam of your little pot.
Now, arrange the flowers in the pot.
If you have some stickers you could add them to the pot. The children will add a small sticker of the Divine Child Jesus to the front of their pots as a reminder that Jesus is the fruit of Mary’s womb. Another idea is to get some of those tiny baby Jesus figures and nestle Him amongst the roses and lilies in Mary’s garden.
With your older children you could discuss the connection between another garden enclosed – the garden of Eden. Intended to be a place of paradise and beauty and grace, the garden of Eden was lost as a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Lost to us by our first parents, God restores it to us through our Mother, Mary. Mary, the new Eve, was humble and obedient enough to accept God’s own Son into her womb, thus opening for us the gates of the eternal garden enclosed – Heaven.
Our homes, too are to be enclosed gardens – havens of peace shut away from the dangers of a culture permeated with ugliness, a garden fertile and rich for growing vocations and multiplying grace.
I found this beautiful original Litany of Loretto along with a wonderful explanation of the current Litany and the original at Rubrics and Ritual. It would make a perfect Litany to offer on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis
Sancta Dei Genitrix
Sancta Virgo Virginum
Mater pulchrae dilectionis
Mater sanctae spei
Desiderium collium eternorum
Speculum sine macula
Lilium inter spinas
Rubus ardens incombustus
Puteus aquarum viventium
Navis institoris de longe portans panem
Pulchra ut Luna
Electa ut Sol
Castrorum acies ordinata
Solium gloriae Dei
A cunctis periculis, libera nos Virgo gloriosa
Per salutarem Conceptionem tuam
Per sanctam Nativitatem tuam
Per admirabilem Annuntiationem tuam
Per immaculatam Purificationem tuam
Per gloriosam Assumptionem tuam
Peccatores, te rogamus audi nos.
Ut veram poenitentiam nobis impetrare digneris
Ut societates tibi peculiari obsequio devotas conservare et augere digneris
Ut Ecclesiae sanctae, cunctoque populo christiano pacem et unitatem impetrare digneris
Ut omnibus fidelibus defunctis requiem aeternam impetrare digneris
Mater Dei te rogamus audi nos.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: Parce nobis, Domine.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: Exaudi nos, Domine.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: Miserere nobis.
Ora pro nobis, sancta Dei Genetrix,
Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi
Oremus Pietate tua, quaesumus Domine, nostrorum solve vincula peccatorum, et intercedente Beata Maria cum omnibus Sanctis tuis, nos famulos tuos, benefactores atque loca nostra in omni sanctitate custodi, omnesque consanguineitate, affinitate atque familiaritate nobis coniunctos a vitiis purga, virtutibus illustra, pacem et salutem nobis tribue; hostes visibiles, et invisibiles remove, carnalia desideria repelle, aerem salubrem et fertilitatem indulge, amicis et inimicis nostris charitatem largire atque oppidum Lauretanum cum omnibus in eo habitantibus ab omni peste, infideliumque feritate et potentia illaesum conserva, et omnibus fidelibus vivis et defunctis in terra viventium vitam et requiem aeternam concede, et Pontificem nostrum N., protectorem, omnesque Praelatos et cunctum populum Christianum ab omni adversitate custodi, et benedictio tua sit super nos semper. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen
Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy
Holy Mary pray for us
Holy Mother of God
Holy Virgin of Virgins
Mother of the living (Gen 3:20)
Mother of fair love (Sir 24:24)
Mother of Holy Hope (Sir 24:24)
Paradise of pleasure (Gen 2:8)
Tree of life (Gen 2:9)
House of wisdom (Prov 9:1)
Gate of heaven (Gen 28:17)
Desire of the eternal hills (Gen 49:26)
City of refuge (Num 35)
Glory of Jerusalem (Jud 15:10)
Sanctuary of God (Ex 15:17)
Tabernacle of the Covenant (Ex 25; Ex 31:7)
Altar of incense (Ex 30:1)
Ladder of Jacob (Gen 28:12)
Mirror without stain (Wis 7:26)
Lily among thorns (Songs 2:2)
Burning bush not consumed (Ex 3:2)
Fleece of Gideon (Judg 6:37-40)
Throne of Solomon
Tower of ivory (Songs 7:4)
Dropping honeycomb (Songs 4:11)
Garden enclosed (Songs 4:12)
Fountain sealed (Songs 4:12)
Well of living waters (Songs 4:15)
Merchant’s ship bringing bread from afar (Prov 31)
Morning Star (Sir 50:6)
Rising Morning (Sir 6:9)
Fair as the moon (Songs 6:9)
Bright as the sun (Songs 6:9)
Army in battle array (Songs 6:3)
Throne of God’s glory (Jer 14:21)
From all dangers, deliver us glorious Virgin
By your saving Conception
By your holy Nativity
By your admirable Annunciation
By your immaculate Purification
By your glorious Assumption
Sinners, we beseech you to hear us
That you would graciously obtain for us true penance
That you would graciously preserve and strengthen the society which is singularly loyally devoted to you
That you would graciously obtain for the holy Church and all Christian people peace and unity
That you would graciously obtain for the faithful departed eternal rest
Mother of God we beseech you to hear us
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Pray for us, Holy Mother of God
That we might be made worthy of the promises of Christ
Let us pray Out of your kindness, we beseech you ,O Lord, loose the chains of our sins, and through the intercession of blessed Mary with all your saints, keep us your servants, our benefactors and our dwellings in all holiness; cleanse from sin all those who are joined to us by kindred, affinity and friendship, and adorn with virtues, grant unto us peace and salvation; remove our enemies, visible and invisible; curb our carnal desires; grant us wholesome and fertile air; bestow your charity upon our friends and enemies, and preserve the town of Loreto and with all who dwell in it from all plagues, and the wickedness and power of the infidels; and to all the faithful living and departed, grant life and eternal rest in the land of the living; protect our Pontiff N. and defend all prelates and all the Christian people from all adversity, and let your blessing be evermore upon us. Amen.