Immaculate Conception: the Unprecedented Gift of God

The Immaculate Conception

By Fr. Tim Henderson:

The Immaculate Conception does not celebrate the virgin conception of Jesus Christ.  The Immaculate Conception does not celebrate the Virgin Mary’s yes to God, though there can be no doubt that that ‘yes’ is the most important ‘yes’ ever made by a human being.  What we celebrate is the Grace behind the ‘yes.’  We are often asked, ‘where does it say in Sacred Scripture that the Blessed Virgin Mary never sinned?’  Or to say it in the most accurate way possible, ‘where does it say that the Blessed Virgin Mary had the contagion of original sin, but that contagion never incubated into a full fledge virus of sin?’  To answer this, all we needed from our Gospel was, ‘Coming to her, [the Archangel Gabriel] said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”’  The translation to Latin from the original Greek leaves us with puny words.  The original Greek word can be translated into almost a full sentence, ‘you who were Graced in the past; you who are Graced now; and you who will be Graced into the future.  Or to say it another way, a way which completely eliminates any thought that this was only about the Blessed Virgin Mary being the Mother of God… you could also translate the Angel St. Gabriel’s words as, ‘you who have Grace perfected in you.’

And yet, I wondered, how can I further prove this unprecedented Gift of God to the world, and to the Blessed Virgin Mary her self?  What struck me, and perhaps the best way to show the Gift of Grace that God gave her, and us was the one place – the one place that the Blessed Virgin Mary speaks her understanding of God in more than just a sentence or two… where she really makes a statement to St. Elizabeth and indeed to the whole world.

If the Our Father is the prayer from the Mouth of the Savior, second to only the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, then this prayer called the Magnificat – from the mouth of the Blessed Virgin Mary comes in third.  It has many of the same elements or at least similar elements in this prayer as the Our Father.  And the two times she speaks of her self, she speaks only to praise God for what God has done on her behalf, and behalf of the whole world.  There is not a selfish part of this prayer.

‘Our Father who art in heaven’; Mary, ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…’ ‘the Almighty has done great things for me’.  ‘Hallowed be Thy Name’; Mary, ‘holy is his Name’.  ‘Thy Kingdom come, They Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven;’ Mary – well frankly, this whole prayer from the mouth of the Blessed Virgin Mary is about God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven.  ‘Give us this day, our daily bread’; Mary, ‘He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.’  ‘Forgive us of our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us’; Mary, ‘He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation’ – indeed from the beginning, Israel was told to forgive. ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’; Mary, ‘He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.’  Through Christ, she – Mary – and us have been delivered from evil, the ‘promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.’

This is a perfect prayer – never selfish, always pointing to God, and similar and sometimes identical to what is stated in the Our Father.  Catholics often stand accused of making Mary into a goddess… but this prayer is our greatest insight to how Mary thought of her self – as being unfathomably Graced by God, and always… always in relationship to what God has done for her.  Her words reveal the workings of her heart and mind; it is our greatest insight into how God blessed this unfathomably Graced soul – and is similar to how Jesus asked us to pray.

‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.  From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.  He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.  He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit.  He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.  He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.  He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.’

Amen.’

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