December 8, 2011

The Immaculate Conception

We Catholic Christians believe that the Mother of God was conceived without sin because it deepens our confidence that all things are possible for God. This is a luminous feast in the midst of the dark days of winter.  In what should be a season of hope, so many are weighed down by discouragement.  The heart needs reason to hope.  Here, what we believe about the Immaculate Conception contains the substance of our hope and helps us find encouragement to persevere in our conversion to Christ.

At the moment of Mary’s conception, in the primordial sacrament of married love, the grace of Christ reached into history to preserve his Mother from the law of sin.  In that instant of love and life, an ancient curse was lifted, the futility under which all of creation struggled was relieved, and the original splendor of humanity peaked out.

Marriage is part of this mystery.  The sacred character of this primordial institution is revealed in this proposition of our faith.  No mere legal arrangement, marriage  - so maligned and so betrayed in our culture - is holy and so is the conjugal love it safeguards.  The vowed indissoluble friendship of married love lived faithfully out of devotion to God and to one another is a wellspring from which God flows into humanity.  In the case of Mary's parents, in their exchange of hearts, in the kiss and embrace their friendship knew, carried by grace and sustained by the Almighty Hand of God, new life was permitted to enter into our dying world.  In that moment, the tender affections of marriage attained their greatest accomplishment.  The inestimable gift of self which marriage originally enjoyed but rejected was given another chance, and in that gift a new life was conceived with the fullness of life.   A beatitude that had been lost to human experience was restored - and exceeded.  In Mary, the Immaculate Conception,  we have a sign of the victory of Christ over the power of sin, a sign raised up on high from the fruit of married love's conjugal embrace, a sign of the culture of life and civilization of love which lies open if we will return again to God.

This mystery of new life at work in the conception of Mary is a singular instance of God accomplishing his hidden purpose with unanticipated power.  In her, the weary world received the first inkling of the splendor of the Lords' faithfulness to his promises.  Where no eye could see, a hidden foretaste of a deliverance about to dawn in the world began to unfold.   For the first time, we experienced - unknowingly - the first glimmer of the  fullness of grace Christ's death on the Cross won for us.   The result? Humanity on fire with the obedient love of the Holy Spirit in a mother's womb.  In the conception of Mary there is a disclosure of God's unfathomable love for humanity, the greatness of married love, and the renewal of the gift of life.  The mystery of the Immaculate Conception is meant to capture the heart in this radiant beauty, a hidden glory accessible only to the eyes of faith.

Since it is good for us to be bathed in the splendors of this radiance, the Church proposes the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, inviting us to go deep into the hiddeness of our faith, deep in to the divine secret entrusted to us at baptism, deep into the abyss of God’s mercy. To say yes to this sacred truth, to choose to live by it, we open ourselves to the gift of Mary -- her prayers, her purity, her love wait to fill our faith in Jesus. Accordingly, when we dare to believe that the salvific power of Christ saved his own Mother from sin at the moment of her conception, she shines for us like a star in this sea of life, giving us even deeper reasons to be confident as we sail for the safe-harbor of the Lord's infinite love.