Immaculate Conception of Mary 2011
Today the universal Church rejoices in the stupendous gift made by God to the human race of a woman who is conceived without Original Sin ever tainting her humanity. She is the immaculate one, the beginning of a new humanity, and she will become the mother of all who will be part of that new humanity. She is the New Eve who will give birth to the New Adam, the Son of God, who becomes flesh from and in her holy womb. The son she conceives and gives birth to is testified to by the Angel Gabriel: “the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”
Our first parents brought death and destruction upon the human race by the first sin, the Original Sin that is inherited by all their children, except the Virgin Mary. She is to be the first of the redeemed, and because her mission is so great, God does not allow the guilt of Original Sin to touch her soul when he creates it. She who will one day give flesh to the Holy One of God, the Eternal Son who enters our humanity and human history to redeem us, is to be holy from the first moment of her existence, for she will be the immaculate Eve who says yes to God, unlike the first Eve who said no, and receives the power of the Holy Spirit in a marvelous way that allows her to conceive a man without the cooperation of man.
Thus all creation rejoices, said St. Anselm in an ancient homily regarding this Virgin, for as all creation was once corrupted by man’s Original Sin, so now the history of man is reversed, and creation itself can once again serve the primary purpose of its creation, to give glory to God through the ministry of the new humanity redeemed by her Son, and united to her Son in one great mystical body, the Church.
Moreover, Mary is conceived not only free from all sin, a negative privilege, but she is also conceived endowed with Grace, as the vessel of God’s grace and presence, as had been the case with the first Adam and Eve before their sin. They did not sin because they were lacking anything, including the life of God through the grace in their souls. They sinned in spite of that great endowment in their souls, as we do when we sin after Baptism. But Mary was full of grace, her soul being the special dwelling place of God from her beginning, and she would never lose that grace or even taint it by the slightest sin, so perfect was the harmony between hew will and God’s will.
Mary was given this extraordinary gift of grace not only because she was to be the mother of the Son eternally begotten by the Father, but because she was to suffer with her Son in the great struggle with the ancient enemy of mankind, the serpent who declared war on man and God by his role in the first sin. But recall the promise God made to mankind in the Garden: The Lord pledged future victory over the serpent, but only as the result of a great struggle of cosmic proportions. Genesis testifies moreover that a Woman would be intimately involved in the victory. God said to the serpent, I will put hatred between you and the woman, between your seed and hers. He will crush your head and you will strike at his heel (Gen. 3: 1).
Her Son will crush the serpent after he strikes at his heel by engineering His death on the Cross. He will crush him by rising from the dead and communicating the fruits of His victory over death and Satan, the grace of salvation, the new life of a new human race. Mary will be a player in that victory as she says yes beneath the Cross, accepting the will of the Father as her Son does. She will continue to share in that victory as she cooperates in the birth of the Church and in the rebirth of each of the Church’s children through her merits and prayers.
When one sees a great painting, a masterpiece by a great artist, one is filled with wonder and joy. Mary is God’s feminine masterpiece just as Her son is the masterpiece of all humanity. We rejoice in her privileges as the strokes of God’s artistry, her Immaculate Conception, her sinlessness, her fullness of Grace, her virginal motherhood as Mother of God, her role as Mediatrix of graces and her role as mother of the Church. She is the beginning, and what she now possesses we have hope to possess, because of her, the crowning of her mission and person in the Communion of God’s chosen ones. Holy Mary, pray for us your children now and at the hour of our death. Amen.