December 8, 2012
Thanks to Colleen at Thoughts on Grace for this great Saturday meme. Today I’m celebrating the feast of the Immaculate Conception by devoting this entire post to her, sharing thoughts from my meditations (Sabbath Moments) on the Immaculate.
“I am she: Immaculate Conception!” These were Mary’s words to St. Bernadette in that grotto spoken so long ago. Please visit Father George Byers’ Holy Souls Hermitage for a really interesting explanation of this announcement from heaven that came not long after Blessed Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception a formal doctrine of the Church. It was Father Byers’ discussion that made me drift into a lengthy meditation on Immaculate Mary.
To be conceived without original sin meant that from the moment of her conception Our Lady did not suffer from the concupiscence the rest of us since Adam fell have had to battle. Her will as well was always perfectly united to God’s and because of these two characteristics, she never sinned but lived in a way that was always rightly ordered to God and neighbor, something we strive for valiantly as Christians but never quite achieve until we have passed from this life into eternity with God.
This does not mean that Mary never suffered. She suffered plenty throughout her life. We know from the Bible of that wearying trip to Bethlehem for the census, the birth of Jesus in the cave stable on a cold winter’s night, the flight into Egypt, and we can guess a great deal more about what daily life was like in Nazareth those days even though the Bible only tells us of the disappearance of Jesus when He was twelve. Then there was the traveling to meet Jesus during His public life and finally the nightmare of His passion and death on the cross.
Being rightly ordered in our relationships with God and neighbor means being perfectly pure of heart and full of grace as the angel Gabriel addressed her. Nothing could crowd God out of Mary’s heart. No earthly attachments, no inordinate cravings, not one iota of enslavement to a will that was at odds with God. No creature but Mary can claim this, but as in all things, her joyful declaration, “I am she: Immaculate Conception!” points directly to God. It isn’t a brag but a glorification of the Lord in whom she rejoices.
I thought about how perfectly timed the appearance at Lourdes was for the world. Purity of heart carries great power over evil and God meant for us to turn to Our Lady as the Immaculate Conception to live in purity of body and soul, heart and mind. By sending her at a time not long before communication tools allowed easy access everywhere to all that is impure and destructive to relationships, especially to the family, He gave us a public icon to stand against all the foul images of our day.
The United States is consecrated to the Immaculate Conception. Our Catholic national cathedral is named Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. As we gaze with dismay on the galloping culture of death that seems to be about to swallow the entire population (don’t kid yourself – no one will be untouched before it’s over), we can still have peace of heart and confidence in the love God has shown us by giving us a Mother with an Immaculate Heart.
We must love her as Jesus loves her, as the Father and the Holy Spirit love her, and know that, we being her children, she will never abandon us but will obtain graces that will strengthen us in the battles we face. We must imitate her in our detachment from the world, offering our prayers, works, sufferings, and joys to God, and by so doing tame our self will and concupiscence and grow daily in grace
It sounds like an easy formula, but we all know it isn’t easy in practice. Yet with the help of our Mother who is always at the side of Jesus, we will become ever more formed in His likeness. Let us not arrive at the end of our lives saying, “Why did I think this or that was so important?” Only living with the obedience of Mary and Jesus in unity with God’s will is really important. Only that is of real and lasting worth.
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