8 Dec 2016
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
With the Immaculate Conception of Mary, we celebrate the “marvelous deeds” of God. Even though you won’t find any explicit reference to this work of God in Scripture, the faithful have known and believed since the first centuries of Christianity that God had done something different when he created Mary, the daughter of Anne and Joachim.
We don’t celebrate Mary’s immaculate conception in the womb of her mother as a miracle. Instead, we see it and we celebrate it as God bringing into creation a new creation, a new standard, a new beginning for humanity. The Fathers of the Church were very quick to pick up on Mary as the new Eve; where Eve failed, Mary succeeded . . . by a special grace from God. And what God succeeded in doing through Mary’s immaculate conception is that he “set the stage” for the world’s Savior to born.
In fact, that’s one of the “proofs” we have as a reason to believe in Mary’s Immaculate Conception: the fact that the Word of God became incarnate through her. There was only one Christ born, and he came into the world through her alone. Something about Mary was unique; more unique than any other woman before or since. And the angel Gabriel says very clearly what it was: “Hail, full of grace!”
Of all women (and men) she alone was “full of grace” (emphasis on the word “full”). In Greek, the idea is that God’s grace was freely and fully received by her—not just in that moment when Gabriel came, but from the beginning in her mother’s womb, in her created being. The angel Gabriel declares to her (and to us) the nature of this woman—she is “full of grace” because there is nothing in her that obstructs God’s grace—there is no stain of sin in her. And because she is so “full of grace” she is the one who carries God himself in her womb and gives him to the world.
Eve could’ve been the one (perhaps), but she turned from God and let just enough sin into her to not be “full of grace.” God could still work through her and Adam, but in a limited way. From Eve—the “mother of the living”—all of humanity became a carrier of that spiritual disease we call “sin.” But with Mary, God gave humanity a new start. Sin never took root in her heart, and so she could give birth to the Sinless One—Jesus the Savior.
But, you know, on the Cross (in the Gospel of John), Jesus says to his mother: “Mother, behold your son” (meaning, the beloved disciple standing there by Mary). And he says to the beloved disciple: “Behold, your mother.” In that instance, Jesus says to that disciple (and to all of us): “I want you to have a new start, a fresh start. You are no longer to be children of sinful Eve; you are to be children of my mother, the sinless Mary.”
God desires us to be sinless, to be immaculate in heart and soul. What better way to accomplish that than by giving us his only Son to be our Savior and Lord, and the uniquely Immaculate Mary to be the mother of us all.
With the Immaculate Conception, we celebrate something new in the annals of human history: a fragile and otherwise average human being kept free from sin. We celebrate a “marvelous deed” of God, done so that God’s re-creation of heaven and earth could begin. How blessed are we to hear Jesus say: “Behold, my disciples . . . behold your mother, full of grace, who will help you into a life of grace.”