Lead by example and celebrate
John Gallagher SJ holds up Mary's lesson on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception
ON December 8 we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God. Mary was free from the guilt of original sin. She was conceived immaculate. She shared the pain of our world but not its wickedness. She is our sister in suffering but not in evil.
This was due entirely to Christ's redemption. Christ was perfectly obedient to His Father. Following her Son's example Mary too was perfectly obedient. Christ is the Light of ir-jhe worldIVry__is the lamp through which the Light shines.
Mary has been given this high privilege, but she is still very human. At the Annunciation she trusted in God but she was humanly anxious. "The angel left her." This is the stark ending of the account.
Then Mary heard that Elizabeth, aged and barren, had conceived. She quickly went and stayed with her, Her Child was born in poverty away from home. God was among His people. Mary was the favoured one, but suffering was already present. The road to Calvary had begun.
Some days later, Simeon spelled it out for her. Both mother and Son would suffer. Her first months as a mother were also months of adapting to life in a new country.
The appearance of Mary in human history marked the beginning of a better world. Pope John Paul tells us that Mary's real name is Immaculate Conception "ultimately far deeper and far more important than the name used by her parents or by the people she knew." The Immaculate Conception was God's way of preparing Mary for the unique role she had to play in the work of salvation.
It was the starting point, the foundation upon which everything else was to rest.
Because she was to be the mother of God and closely connected with Christ' s mission God saw to it that from the very first moment she was to be completely enveloped in His love.
In his striking meditation on the meaning of Advent Pope John Paul returns again to this idea of the eternal origin of Mary in the mind and heart of God. Advent, he says, is the name of God's preparation for
—thestilvation-offnankind Christ. This is continued in a second Advent which has an historical character. Mary is present in the second Advent right from the beginning. Christ's coming is also the revelation of the third and final Advent. Every stage of the history of our salvation is centred in Christ.
And Christ is always the "Son of the Woman". God's choice of Christ extends ultimately to all His brothers and sisters but first to Mary.
That is why Pope John Paul describes the Immaculate Conception as the "decisive point, the turning point in the history of man's salvation. At the same time he stresses that this unique position of Mary is completely dependent on Christ and on the redeeming sacrifice of the Cross.
In bestowing on Mary the privilege of the Immaculate Conception the eternal Father safe-guarded the dignity of his Divine Son whose human origins were not to be affected by any taint of sin. At the same time, the Father prepared Mary for the active part she was to play in the Son's redemptive work. This was to be a completely free choice on her part, a deliberate consent to place herself wholly at God's disposal and to associate herself forever with the destiny of her Son.