Ineffabilis Deus: The Immaculate Conception

Today is December 8th, Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It was wholly fitting that so wonderful a mother should be ever resplendent with the glory of most sublime holiness and so completely free from all taint of original sin that she would triumph utterly over the ancient serpent. To her did the Father will to give his only-begotten Son — the Son whom, equal to the Father and begotten by him, the Father loves from his heart — and to give this Son in such a way thhat he would be the one and the same common Son of God the Father and of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was she whom the Son himself chose to make his Mother and it was from her that the Holy Spirit willed and brought it about that he should be conceived and born from whom he himself proceeds.

The Glorious and Immaculate Virgin Mary was already more holy at the moment of her conception, as a mere zygote, than all the saints at the end of their earthly journey. Preserved from Original Sin by the retroactive application of the redemptive act of Calvary, she was “full of grace” from the very beginning, and would remain so unto her Assumption.

“Concerning the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, ancient indeed is that devotion of the faithful based on the belief that her soul, in the first instant of its creation and in the first instant of the soul’s infusion into the body, was, by a special grace and privilege of God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, her Son and the Redeemer of the human race, preserved free from all stain of original sin. And in this sense have the faithful ever solemnized and celebrated the Feast of the Conception.”

It is a great and terrible mystery that for all mankind since the fall, save for Mary, that our natures are wounded. When you were conceived, your first instant of life as a unique human being was marred by the transmission of Original Sin from our first parents, later remedied at your Baptism. Yet concupiscence never leaves us, and we remain wretched in plodding toward our reward. Not so for Mary, and she is always there to help us. She wants you to fly to her, so she can dispense the graces you need.

When the Fathers and writers of the Church meditated on the fact that the most Blessed Virgin was, in the name and by order of God himself, proclaimed full of grace by the Angel Gabriel when he announced her most sublime dignity of Mother of God, they thought that this singular and solemn salutation, never heard before, showed that the Mother of God is the seat of all divine graces and is adorned with all gifts of the Holy Spirit. To them Mary is an almost infinite treasury, an inexhaustible abyss of these gifts, to such an extent that she was never subject to the curse and was, together with her Son, the only partaker of perpetual benediction. Hence she was worthy to hear Elizabeth, inspired by the Holy Spirit, exclaim: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

What does “full of grace” mean? It means FULL… no room for anything else. How could it be otherwise? Could the almighty and eternal God reside inside a stained vessel? Well, He could have done anything He wanted, but would it have been proper? Or does it make more sense, perfect sense, that He should have preferred His Mother… our Mother… to be Immaculate? Certainly we would never question his power to make it so.

Just as Christ, the Mediator between God and man, assumed human nature, blotted the handwriting of the decree that stood against us, and fastened it triumphantly to the cross, so the most holy Virgin, united with him by a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with him and through him, eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with her immaculate foot.

The Blessed Virgin Mary was to have such a unique bond with God, in both the natural and supernatural sense, that she could have no relation whatsoever with the serpent; he would be powerless against her from the very beginning and for all time. The Holy Ghost, infused in her soul at the first moment of her life, would later overshadow her to conceive the Second Person of the Trinity. She cooperated with the divine will by conforming her own free will to His; “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.” In this way we know her also as Co-Redemptrix, as she gave life to the Redeemer and participated intimately in His life, Passion, and death. Her subordinate role in all of this in no way diminishes her glory.

The Virgin Mother of God would not be conceived by Anna before grace would bear its fruits; it was proper that she be conceived as the first-born, by whom “the first-born of every creature” would be conceived. They testified, too, that the flesh of the Virgin, although derived from Adam, did not contract the stains of Adam, and that on this account the most Blessed Virgin was the tabernacle created by God himself and formed by the Holy Spirit, truly a work in royal purple, adorned and woven with gold, which that new Beseleel[26] made. They affirmed that the same Virgin is, and is deservedly, the first and especial work of God, escaping the fiery arrows the the evil one; that she is beautiful by nature and entirely free from all stain; that at her Immaculate Conception she came into the world all radiant like the dawn. For it was certainly not fitting that this vessel of election should be wounded by the common injuries, since she, differing so much from the others, had only nature in common with them, not sin. In fact, it was quite fitting that, as the Only-Begotten has a Father in heaven, whom the Seraphim extol as thrice holy, so he should have a Mother on earth who would never be without the splendor of holiness.

Immaculate Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Blessed feast!

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