Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
It struck me this time, more than before that the Immaculate Conception is celebrated during the Season of Advent. During advent, the Church urges us to renew the memory of the great love God has shown to us by sending his Son to dwell among us. We recall that Christ’s coming was not only for the benefit of his contemporaries; his power extends to all of us, if through faith we willingly accept the grace he brought to the world if we live in obedience to him.
The coming of Jesus the saviour announces salvation. Though we essentially understand this in terms of our communion with God, which is the grace of the incarnation, the readings of the past days, much to our benefit in the situations that we are facing as humanity but also as the Lavigerie family, inspire in us consolation, strength, inner peace and trust in the Lord, and in so doing, lead us to look to our salvation in terms of redemption from all that enslaves us, brief, from the burden and consequences of sin in its various dimensions whether personal or social.
The coming of the Lord announces new times. It announces a new era for humanity and for the universe: where “the lowly will find joy in the Lord, and the poor rejoice in the Holy one of Israel, for the tyrant will be no more and the arrogant will have gone” (Is 29: 18-18), it is a time where sin and its consequences of injustice will be no more! That newness is part God’s eternal and loving plan of salvation as the letter to the Ephesians actually proclaims: We were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy, to be blameless, immaculate, before him in love to the praise of God’s glorious grace. Mary in the dogma that we are celebrating: the Immaculate Conception or the belief that the Virgin Mary was free of original sin from the moment of her conception, appears to be the new and concrete realisation of God’s eternal and loving plan of Salvation. Though we are marked by the story of sin, which is our experience, can still say with Saint Paul in the letter to the Ephesians that like Mary we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy, to be blameless, immaculate, before him in love to the praise of God’s glorious grace
The important thing then becomes for us to seek to live up to this? How can we live up to the God’s call for us before the foundations of the world. It is here that Mary becomes for us, with reference to Eve, the new mother of all the living. With her begins a new era. The era of our forefathers and foremothers, Adam and Eve with its structures marked by Satan’s power have been undone in her. Mary also becomes the example of the new people of God, meant to obey God. We now know, with Adam and Eve, where disobeying to God leads. We know where sin leads. By God’s grace a new era starts with Mary. We may ask what is the example set up by Mary.
Not much is said of her in the Gospels, but one essential feature characterises her, she is a woman of faith and of trust in God, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” This is where her greatness of lies, if we may say so. It is what Jesus indicates as such. Mary’s greatness did not lie, as some thought, in the fact that her womb carried Jesus nor that her breast nursed him (Lk 11: 27-28), but in the fact that she heard the word of God and obeyed it! A thing that Adam and Eve did not do! Jesus’ mother, sisters and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.
As we continue our journey through this season of Advent let us open ourselves more and more to God’s grace for it to remove any obstacles to his presence so that he may come at any moment to dwell spiritually in our hearts and in our lives and the lives of all, for the establishment of his Kingdom among us.