Thursday, December 07, 2006

Feast of the Immaculate Conception: Honoring Mary, the New Eve and Mother of the Redeemer!

This evening we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

From the new Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

96. What does the “Immaculate Conception” mean?

God freely chose Mary from all eternity to be the Mother of his Son. In order to carry out her mission she herself was conceived immaculate. This means that, thanks to the grace of God and in anticipation of the merits of Jesus Christ, Mary was preserved from original sin from the first instant of her conception.

God freely chose Mary from all eternity to be the Mother of his Son: Did you ever think that maybe Mary was just randomly selected at a young age to be the mother of the Incarnate Son of God? Not likely. Just like us, God the Father chose Mary “before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Ephesians 1:3-4). God had predestined all of us for some role in his plan of salvation. He knew us before we were created (Ps 139). If God also would have chosen a woman to freely say “yes” to his plan of salvation… don’t you think that He would have put a great deal of thought into how this woman would be created? How beautiful would you create a woman who was to be “the mother of the Savior”?

In order to carry out her mission she herself was conceived immaculate: Mary’s mission was to be the one who would say “yes” to God’s plan of salvation. Remember, God never forces his love upon the creatures that he made free. I once heard it put rather bluntly—God would not “rape” humanity. He would not force the incarnation against our will. He desired our free assent. It was in the disobedience of Eve (which led to the disobedience of Adam) that led to the first Fall. In order to redeem the human race, God posed the question of his Incarnation to a New Eve...a new representaive for the entire human race.

It is because Mary said “yes” (her “fiat”—"let it be done to me according to your word") that Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God (and “the New Adam” see Romans 5:12-21), entered the world, and eventually redeemed the human race by his obedience to the Father on the Cross (reversing the disobedience of Adam).

Once again, in order to be most free to say yes or no, God created Mary free from the stain of Original Sin. Without such a burden she was completely free in her will to obey God… she was not a slave to concupiscence (the tendency that we all have towards sin—even after baptism).

“thanks to the grace of God and in anticipation of the merits of Jesus Christ": If Mary was created free from the stain of Original Sin does that mean that she still needed a savior? Yes, without a doubt! The Immaculate Conception was a unique and extraordinary GRACE from God… a gift to Mary. And, it was given “in anticipation of the merits of Jesus Christ.” This is tricky for us to contemplate, but remember that God is eternal—outside of time. There is no past, present, or future with God. He sees everything as an eternal now. God could apply graces won by Jesus on the Cross to Mary at the time of her conception (before the sacrifice on the cross occurred in history). He is God—He is not limited by categories of time as we are.

Scriptural evidence

The Scriptures that are mentioned most in relation to this dogma of the Immaculate Conception are Luke 1:28 where Mary is addressed by a name (which expresses a characteristic quality, an identity) as “full of grace” (Greek: kecharitomene). [this is a better translation than what you find in the New American Bible, for example, “favored one”]. In addition, the Church points back to the proto-evangelium (first announcement of the Gospel) in Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.’ This is directed to the devil and Eve. However, it also points forward to the woman who whose offspring (Jesus) would do battle with the devil and his offspring. For this woman to be at total enmity (hatred) with the devil, she had to be completely free from the stain of Original sin.

The Bible also has other clues to the Immaculate Conception. The Ark of the Covenant also is a “type” that foreshadows and points ahead to Mary who is the "New Ark of the Covenant" (compare Luke 1:26-44 with Exodus 40:34-35 and 2 Sam 6:9-16). The Ark of the Covenant was the holiest object in the Old Testament. It was beautiful box created of precious materials… it was to be spotless in construction. [See Exodus 25 where God gave meticulous instructions for constructing the Ark: it was to be made of acacia wood—supposedly incorruptible—plated inside and outside with pure gold, it had to be kept free from all impurity and profanation. In 2 Samuel 6:6-7 God struck Uzzah dead because he dared to touch the Ark!.]

The Ark held the tablets of the 10 Commandments (the Word of God), the manna (bread from heaven) that fed the Israelites in the desert, and Aaron’s staff. Mary was the spotless carrier of Jesus—the Word of God Incarnate, and the Bread of Life (John 6). If such care was taken in the creation of a pure and perfect Ark of the Covenant, how would Mary the Mother of God be created? How pure would God create the woman who would bear the Divine Redeemer?

Do not forget to be familiar with the dogma of the Assumption of Mary:

What did the ancient Church fathers teach about Mary's holiness?: and

More notes on how to explain and defend belief in the Immaculate Conception:

St. Anselm on the Immaculate Conception:

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