Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Genesis 3:9-15, 20, Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12, Luke 1:26-38
As he stood beside Adam and Eve in the garden, God saw how quickly the newly created world had grown old in sin. The crown of creation was mired by guilt and shame and no longer reflected the likeness of the Creator. Moved with pity for His erring children, the Master of the Universe decreed a plan whereby he would complete the first work of his goodness by a mystery yet more wondrously sublime through the Incarnation of the Eternal Word. To bring creation into being, God spoke a word. To make all things new, the Word would become a man. I was reminded of the vision of Julian of Norwich: “And in this he showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, “what may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so, have all things their beginning by the love of God. “In this little thing, I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it.”
Today’s solemnity is a demonstration of how God is making all things new out of love and mercy. God passed sentence, standing under the shade of the tree. The usurper was to be cast underfoot, and God would manifest His authority through the offspring of the woman. From the very beginning, even before time began, God chose and prepared a Mother for his only-begotten Son in whom the Eternal Word would become flesh and from whom, in the fullness of time, he would be born into this world. He who walked the garden at the beginning of time would walk among us in the fullness of time. That which was lost by Adam and Eve when they ate the fruit of the tree would be restored by the fruit of Mary’s immaculate womb. Listen now to the words with which Pius IX declared the dogma of the Immaculate Conception: “We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful” (Pope Pius IX).
Doing what He sees the Father do, the Beloved Son continues to make all things new. He was “at the Father’s side (CF. Jn. 1:18) as he looked down at the newly created man and woman and was very pleased (CF. Gen. 1:31). Seeing the transformation that had come over them as a result of their fall from grace, His Sacred Heart was moved to pity. The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by the freely given assent of the predestined mother. Just as a woman had a share in bringing about death, so too a woman would share in bringing about life. This is preeminently true of the Mother of Jesus, who gave to the world the Life that renews all things, and who was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role. The Father was well pleased with Mary (CF. Lk. 1:30). God endowed her with an abundance of heavenly gifts that issued from the treasury of his divinity” (Ineffabilis Deus).
The Immaculate Conception was given to Mary in light of God’s plan to make all things anew. Mary was always the recipient of grace, being always surrounded by grace even in her conception in the love of her parents. In her, the Savior of mankind has demonstrated his victory over all difficulties in the way of our redemption. Recall Gabriel’s greeting. “Greetings, you who are highly favored, and full of grace. The Lord is with you; blessed are you among women” (Lk. 1:28). The Mother of God was the delight of the Son before the foundation of the world. She was set apart and sanctified by the Holy Spirit in light of Christ’s self-sacrificing victory over sin and death. In love, Mary was specially chosen and favored of the Most High, to attain the honor as the handmaid of the Lord (CF. Lk. 1:38). It was she whom the Son himself chose to make his Mother.
Mary is the first fruit of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. She is a masterpiece who reflects “the beauty of God who is all love, grace and self-giving” (Pope Francis). The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and her body and gave Life to the world, is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God. Because of this gift of sublime grace, she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth. Mary has by grace been exalted above all angels and men to a place second only to her Son, as the Mother of God who was involved in the mysteries of Christ. Today’s feast teaches us that the fullness of grace can transform the human heart and enable it to do something so great as to change the course of human history.
O God, by the Immaculate Conception of the Ever-Virgin Mary you prepared a worthy dwelling for your Son. Grant, that, as you preserved her from every stain of sin in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, you would create a new heart in us and give us a steadfast spirit so that we might run the path of your commandments. We ask you to bring us all together into the heavenly kingdom through the intercession of your chosen handmaid.