Today we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of Mary. This, for visitors who are unaware of the finer points of Catholic Mariology, is the celebration of the doctrine of Mary’s preservation from the stain of Original Sin and all effects. From the moment of her conception, Mary was special. The angel Gabriel’s salutation “full of grace” is more than just praise but the statement of a unique reality.
The Church has always believed this in some form, although it has takes different forms in history. From Mary’s sinlessness espoused by Augustine, to St. Thomas Aquinas belief in Mary’s never commiting a sin,
the Church the Fathers and Doctors of the Church have with few (but notable) exceptions taught that Mary, by the unique gift of God, was preserved from the stain of Original Sin and did not sin her entire life. The celebration of the doctrinal definition in 1854 calls for us to reflect on Mary and the unique gift she was given. For while this unique gift was to Mary and her alone, Mary herself is a gift to us.
Mary’s preservation from Original Sin reveals to us who mankind originally was in Garden of Eden. Free from the temptations that come through concupiscence Mary was able to live her life in full freedom. Her life is a sign and symbol of the glory of man that Adam and Eve traded for their own “freedom” from God. By desiring to be gods themselves they became less than fully human. Mary’s gift reminds us of what was lost in the Fall of Man at the beginning and what God had desired Man to be. She is “full of grace.” And the Grace of God is what allowed her to live this life.
Because of this unique gift Mary was able to live her life completely devoted to God. She was her Son’s first and greatest disciple. She followed Him from His first steps to the foot of the Cross where His earthly life ended. She was there at the birth of the Body of her Son, the Church. Hers was the unique joy of giving birth to the salvation of Mankind and the unique sorrow of watching her Son tortured and killed. Hers was the unique glory of knowing that His rising from the dead conquered death once and for all, reuniting God and Man and restoring what was lost in the Garden eons ago.
Mary would be the first to point out that her glory is due to the grace of God alone. He “raises up the lowly” and because of Him “all generations will call her blessed.” In a way, the Immaculate Conception is really about the power of God’s grace, and His love for Mankind. Mary is a shining beacon “clothed with the sun,” pointing us to that love that God has for us. And because not only was she gifted with such unique grace but chose to follow her Son to the cross, she deserves the title “full of grace.”
Mary’s Immaculate Conception also points to who we are. Or more precisley who we were meant to be. Mary is truly how God designed the human to be. Sadly as a race we lost such grace during the Fall and the sin of our first parents. Mary’s sinlessness points to what we were supposed to be, and combined with Her Queenship, point to our destiny as children of God. She is all that God wants us to be.
As we prepare for the coming of Christ it is only fitting that we take a moment to look at Mary. To reflect on who we really are. On what we as a race have lost. And with the birth of her Son, the fulfillment of the promise made after the Fall. She is a living symbol of the glory of God and His love for all of us. So this Advent, let us prepare ourselves that we may follow Christ, with Mary as our mother and our example as the perfect disciple. For all things are possible with God’s grace.