10 December 2014

The best gift EVER: The Immaculate Conception

Almighty God, Omnipotent and Infinitely Wise, had to choose his Mother. What would you have done, if you had had to choose yours? I think that you and I would have chosen the mother we have, filling her with all graces. That is what God did.
—St. Josemaria Escriva

For the Lord honored the father above the children, and he confirmed the right of the mother over her sons. Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and whoever glorifies his mother is like one who lays up treasure. Whoever honors his father will be gladdened by his own children, and when he prays he will be heard. Whoever glorifies his father will have long life, and whoever obeys the Lord will refresh his mother.
—Sirach 7:27-28, as quoted in the CCC

Monday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception: a beautiful feast!

Sinless Virgin, let us follow joyfully in your footsteps;
draw us after you in the fragrance of your holiness.
—antiphon from Lauds of the Solemnity

But the dogma of the Immaculate Conception isn't easy for everyone to accept. They might worry that Mary without sin somehow lessens the redeeming power of Jesus on the Cross; or they feel as though Mary's Fiat would have been so much more meaningful if accepted even under the devastating condition of Original Sin; there may even be slight jealous wonderment at why, if Christ could make Mary immaculate, he didn't do it for the rest of us.

They are in good company (at least for the first two hesitations), as St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Thomas Aquinas (Art 2 Reply to Obj. 2), both Doctors of the Church, had reservations about Mary being completely free of  Original Sin. Contrary to those two great Doctors was the piety of the laity who knew in their hearts, no matter what the theologians might argue, that Mary was conceived without stain of Original Sin, and the feast of her Immaculate Conception had been celebrated since the 11th century, though not universally.

This conviction of the faithful flowed from the Holy Spirit through their hearts. They knew that Jesus, who would love His mother as no other son could, whose strong condemnation of the Pharisees for allowing sons to deny their parents anything with the excuse of an offering to God's glory (Mk 7:10-12), who—truly for the glory of God—would glorify his mother as Sirach interprets the Commandment to Honor mother and father, would have made it happen.

Flowing from St. Josemaria Escriva's quote above, the Immaculate Conception is no theological necessity (or problem) for Christ's birth or Redeeming Acts, or any issue of the purity of the Vessel of God, the Living Ark, but what every faithful mother and every faithful son knew what it must be: a Gift from Jesus to his mother ...

God, Eternal Creator, chose his mother in the act of creating her and being a loving son, wanted to give her a gift on the occasion of her conception; as all sons, He wants only to give her the very best, and what is the best present He could give her?

How about an existence without sin? A life free from the sin which mars the relationship between Eve and the Lord, which tempts us to evil, which strains the relationship of all between each other, and would thus place any barrier to the love between a mother and her son.

The Immaculate Conception, which allowed Christ to say to the New Eve, "you are all fair, my love; there is no flaw in you." (Cant. 4:7), was truly thus the only gift that mattered, the greatest gift, he could bestow.

Wouldn't you, if you could, give the same gift to your own mother?

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