DECEMBER 8, 2011-THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION: Gen: 3:9-15; Eph 1:3-12; Luke 1:26-28

 

BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN, VIRGIN MARY. That Mary is uniquely blessed among all women by being chosen by God to become the mother of his Divine Son is the meaning of her singular condition as the most holy of all creatures. Her primacy is not confined to the women of her nation, or even of her time, but includes angels as well as men and women of all times and places. Thus blessed, and in view of preparing her for her role as Mother of the Messiah who is Savior of all persons of all times, she was uniquely endowed with such grace by God that from the beginning of her life she enjoyed God’s favor in a measure that no other human person has known. So fully did she belong to her Creator from the beginning, that, unlike the rest of us, she was never drawn aside from Him by any interior attraction. The many trials and sufferings she experienced did not arise from any disordered impulses of her nature but came to her from the outside. This unique privilege derived from what came to be called her Immaculate Conception, and is this mystery that we commemorate at this altar today

 

If we celebrate this singular favor bestowed on the Blessed Virgin of Nazareth with the offering of the Eucharist, we do so being keenly aware that the grace she was favored with was, and ever remains, the fruit given in anticipation of the suffering, death, and resurrection of her divine son. No one was more aware than she that she owed to the Son she bore and reared all that she was and all the high spiritual gifts that were hers. The first verses of the Magnificat reveal how conscious she was of receiving such gracious favors from God. Strikingly she cries out with joy expressing the exaltation she experiences is being so uniquely the object of God’s choice for the greatest of all undertakings- the salvation of the whole of humanity and the eventual spiritual transformation of the whole of the cosmos. She immediately acknowledges her personal lowliness for so unique an honor as being made the mother of the Savior. All is positive in her Annunciation. The angel speaks only of the high dignity and future achievements of the Son she is to bear and rear; nothing is stated or even hinted at concerning the suffering she was to undergo through her intimate bonds with her Son. Only after forty days, when Christ is presented to the Father in the Jerusalem temple, does Simeon’s prophecy reveal to her that her role as mother of the Messiah was to be a source of sharp pain for her as her Son fulfilled his mission that led to the fall as well as the rise of many. He was to be “a sign that is contradicted” as well as the salvation of many others.

 

This feast paradoxically, in celebrating Mary’s singular grace of being in God’s favor from the moment of her conception in the womb, draws to our attention the fact that all of us, at the beginning of our existence as human, are alienated from the God who creates us. Moreover, the world we enter upon our birth is in a fallen state. Revelation has only uncovered this fact; we are not supplied with a detailed explanation that clarifies the mysterious workings of the universe and of the human state in such a way as to render clearly the original circumstances of creation sufficiently as to allow us so to understand the world prior to the Original Fall from grace. We know what the Genesis imagery and sketchy description do tell us, in an account that takes the form of a myth that tells of a true happening in terms that are consciously symbolic and evocative. What emerges, to be sure, is summed up by Saint Paul’s observation that “through sin death entered the world.” The prophet Isaiah was given a further revelation that does depict a state of things free from the aggression and alienation that is so prominent in the world we now live in. Even animals, he tellingly asserts, that are presently dangerous to their prey, will become gentle and friendly when the world is transformed in a future and dramatic transformation. The Apocalypse portrays the end of the Cosmos we now know; a New Heaven and New Earth will descend from God to replace the fallen world of time and God will be all in all for his faithful ones. Mary, in her person, was created a pledge of that future transformation that is offered to each of us if we but put our loving, trusting faith in her Son. By the grace he has won for us all, along with Mary who became his mother, we already share in that world that enjoys the light that shines in the present darkness. Through the grace of this Eucharist and the intercession of her who is the Immaculate Conception may each of  us live and walk in that light until we encounter the day of Christ Jesus in the glory of God our Father.&

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger


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