Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Why an Immaculate Conception.

This day a shoot came forth from the root of Jesse; this day Mary was conceived without any stain of sin; this day she crushed the head of the serpent.
(Traditional Antiphon, via Magnificat)


This antiphon really clarified today's solemnity for me. The amazing thing about the Immaculate Conception is that today we remember how a one-celled zygote--at the very moment Mary came into being--a tiny new person crushed the head of Satan. How audacious is that? (Only the Church would celebrate a one-celled person. This is one reason why I love being Catholic.)

Today, like the great feast of the Annunciation (when Christ became a one-celled zygote), we get a special glimpse into the mystery of God's will. The One who is Absolute Love--whose ways are beyond our ways--shows us it is his perfect will to defeat all evil and sin through the participation of a tiny person. Through Mary, who begins life today, He will take on flesh and make it possible for each one of us to take on divinity.

Celebrating a conception is truly odd. Celebrating the conception of God's mother is truly necessary. Necessary to knowing Him more.

But I was still having a hard time understanding why Mary was free of original sin. (Part of the answer is, of course, that she didn't have to be--Absolute Love does all sorts of unnecessary things.) Then Hans Urs von Balthasar gave me this:

"We [Christians] do not represent the proper measure of absolute love in human form to the world as isolated individuals. We do not have a monopoly on its spirit; we are merely failing members of a comprehensive whole who have been allowed to share in this spirit. Whatever is impure and fallible in us becomes immaculate and infallible in the innermost core of this whole.... As members [of the whole], we participate in the humility of the handmaid, in her perfect obedience to the Lord, to the extent that we are obedient as parts to her whole.... She is an essential step in the process of our integration on the way to the Parousia." ("Love as Deed," in Love Alone is Credible)

We don't do this alone. We can't become holy alone. God chose to place Mary, a singular woman preserved from original sin, on the way from what we are to what we must become. As we become more and more obedient to the Church--the whole of the Body of Christ--we become more and more one with Mary's own obedience to the whole of God's will. And that is the essential step in our salvation.

6 comments:

Young Mom said...

This question is a puzzler for me. It seems like it just moves the miracle of Jesus immaculate conception back one generation. I appreciate your write up on it.

Erika said...

Yes, I know what you mean. I think that the Immaculate Conception of Mary can also emphasize what a DIFFERENT thing Jesus' conception was. Not only was he free of original sin... but he also was GOD. Which she wasn't.

Whew. So much to chew on.

Melanie B said...

Erika,

"The amazing thing about the Immaculate Conception is that today we remember how a one-celled zygote--at the very moment Mary came into being--a tiny new person crushed the head of Satan. How audacious is that?"

This is lovely. Thank you.

That Married Couple said...

The zygote part is great!

Kristen Laurence said...

Beautiful!

I loved the zygote part too. LOL!

CM said...

I love this post! This has always been something that I accepted with no doubts, but I have had a lot of questions. I am starting to understand some of the answers, and I loved your quote from von Baalthasar. Also, I never thought about the fact that we had feast days to celebrate conception; I love that we do!