Tag Archives: Immaculate Conception

Feast of The Immaculate Conception

Some question why Mary, the Mother of Jesus, has such a big place in the faith of  our church. The words of the angel in Luke’s gospel, words we often repeat in prayer, offer an answer: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.”

Mary is full of grace, gifted by God with unique spiritual gifts from her conception, because she was to be the mother of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.

She would be the “resting place of the Trinity,” and would give birth to, nourish, guide and accompany Jesus in his life and mission in this world. To fulfill that unique role she needed a unique gift. She would be free from original sin that clouds human understanding and slows the way we believe in God and his plan for us.

“How slow you are to believe” Jesus said to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus. Jesus made that complaint repeatedly as he preached the coming of God’s kingdom. “How slow you are to believe!” “What little faith you have!” “Do you still not understand!” That human slowness to believe didn’t end in gospel times. We have it too.

Mary was freed from that slowness to believe. “Be it done to me according to your word,” she immediately says to the angel. Yet, her acceptance of God’s will does not mean she understood everything that happened to her. “How can this be?” she asks the angel about the conception of the child. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.”  But the angel’s answer seems so incomplete, so mysterious.

Surely, Mary would have liked to know more when the angel leaves her, never to return. There’s no daily message, no new briefing or renewed assurance by heavenly messengers. The years go by in Nazareth as the Child grows in wisdom and age and grace, but they’re years of silence. Like the rest of us, Mary waits and wonders and keeps these things in her heart.

That’s why we welcome her as a believer walking with us. She is an assuring presence. She calls us to believe as she did, without knowing all. She does not pretend to be an expert with all the answers. She has no special secrets known to her alone. “Do whatever he tells you,” is her likely advice as we ponder the mysteries of her Son.

 

Our Eternal Origin

Mosaic of Christ Pantocrator, Cathedral of the Transfiguration, Cefalù, Sicily, 12th century. Licensed by Claire Stracke under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Thursday After Epiphany

1 John 4:19—5:4; Luke 4:14-22a

“…whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.”

1 John 5:4

The origin of the Son and all persons begotten by the Father in the Son transcends the world, time, history, politics, sociology, psychology, beginnings and ends.

“I AM WHO I AM.”

Exodus 3:14

Beyond the vicissitudes of this passing world, the Being beyond beings is, was, and will be, forever and ever.

“You are my son; today I have begotten you.”

Psalm 2:7; Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5

The whispering Spirit of the unseen Father unveiled the eternal Sonship of Christ in a Psalm of David about a millennium before his birth from the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

“I am the Immaculate Conception.”

Our Lady of Lourdes to St. Bernadette Soubirous, March 25, 1858

From the bosom of the Father, the Virgin Mother of God breathed her name to her children, revealing herself as immaculately conceived from all eternity in the mind of God. 

Jesus Christ and Mother Mary have two birthdays like all human beings: an earthly, historical birthday in spacetime, and an eternal, timeless origin in the mind of the Father, Source of all persons.

As St. Paul writes, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ “chose us in him, before the foundation of the world…” (Ephesians 1:4).

Action follows being and identity. Thus the beloved disciple John found the commandment of love “not burdensome” (1 John 5:3), perhaps not even a “commandment” as such, but the very essence and action flowing from divinized humanity. As the light and heat of fire is natural to fire and of its essence, love is of the essence of the Body of Christ.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God, and everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by him. 

1 John 5:1

Believing and loving go hand in hand, as intellect and will, head and heart, light and heat are one and inseparable. 

After decades of prayer and reflection, Jesus’ prayer to the Father for the baffled disciples at the Last Supper finally sank in:

Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ. I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began.

John 17:3-5

Loving faith and faithful love is “the victory that conquers the world” (1 John 5:4) because it originates in the ever bubbling Spirit of Love, Son of Love, and Father of Love from all eternity.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” Jesus declared to the astonished people of his hometown Nazareth (Luke 4:18). The Spirit of the Father divinized our human nature in the Person of the Son of God, enabling us to love as he loves.

St. Cyril of Alexandria writes:

The Father says of Christ, who was God, begotten of him before the ages, that he has been “begotten today,” for the Father is to accept us in Christ as his adopted children. The whole of our nature is present in Christ, in so far as he is man. So the Father can be said to give the Spirit again to the Son, though the Son possesses the Spirit as his own, in order that we may receive the Spirit in Christ… He receives it to renew our nature in its entirety and to make it whole again, for in becoming man he took our entire nature to himself.

From the Liturgy of the Hours, Thursday after Epiphany, Office of Readings, From a commentary on the Gospel of John by Saint Cyril of Alexandria, bishop

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. 

-GMC

The Immaculate Conception and the Trinity

St. Bernadette Soubirous and Our Lady of Lourdes

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.

John 14:9

Jesus’ response to Philip’s request at the Last Supper, “Show us the Father,” is packed with infinite mystery and depth. To know Christ Jesus is to enter into the presence of God the Father in whom the monad of divinity and the triad of hypostasity (unique personhood) are simultaneous and interpenetrating.

As the unique God-man and mediator Jesus Christ, the Son also ushers us into the heart of his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who revealed the secret of her identity to St. Bernadette Soubirous, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” This took place on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1858, at the Lourdes grotto in France.

The Son received his divinity from his Father and his humanity from his mother—Immaculate Son from Immaculate Virgin. The Father is the Virgin unbegotten and unconceived; Mary is the Virgin begotten and conceived in the mind of the Father from “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). The Incarnate Logos in the Father’s eternal plan is inseparable from the Theotokos, for the God-man has no existence as God-man apart from the Virgin Mother. Jesus Christ is the Son of God subsisting in two natures, divine and human.

The Son of God assumed humanity anew at the Annunciation, for without Mary’s consent, the Incarnation would not have taken place. Human nature had to be received, for “the holy Body of Christ” was not “brought from heaven” but bestowed by the generosity of the Virgin Mother, wrote St. Cyril of Alexandria in a letter that was read at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.1

Mary’s role is not “necessary” in the way that the Son is essentially begotten of the Father primordially, but she was conceived from before all ages to play a pivotal role in salvation history.

The Father shaped the Son in the Mother and the Mother in the Son as one Immaculate Conception by the Holy Spirit who “proceeds from the Father” (John 15:26). Ultimately, the Immaculate Conception returns to the Father as Source and Fountainhead of persons.

Mary Immaculata and her Son, Emmanuel, are the staircase and ladder of Jacob ascending and descending between heaven and earth (Genesis 28:10-19). The Theotokos is the door and gate for the earthly missions of the Son and Spirit from the Father, from whose womb poured forth the deifying grace of the Most Holy Trinity. 

“The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God’s creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity.”2 Our return to the Womb of the Immaculate Virgin Father passes through the womb of the Immaculate Virgin Mother: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). 

-GMC

1 Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451).

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church 260.

Mary, Mother of a New Genealogy

Icon of the Theotokos

Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Matthew 1:1-16; 18-23

Happy Birthday, Mother Mary!
Happy Birthday, Mother Earth!

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:1-2).

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1).

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18).

The images in the Book of Genesis reappear with fresh life in the opening lines of the New Testament—a second Genesis and re-creation of the earth. 

The birth of the cosmos and the birth of Christ issued forth by the same primeval Wind, Breath and Spirit beyond all worlds. 

In the first Genesis, the Spirit of God hovered over the waters of the earth (Genesis 1:2) and brought forth life of every kind. In the second Genesis, the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters of Mary’s womb and brought forth Emmanuel, “God with us.”

God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Genesis 1:3). Mary said, “Let it be done to me according to your word,” and Light from Light became flesh in her womb (Luke 1:38).

Mary Immaculate, like Adam Immaculate, was born stainless and pristine, but unlike Adam and Eve, she gave birth to a deified humanity by the power of the Holy Spirit. Person begot person wholly without passion, beyond the union of male and female. In the image of the Virgin Father, the Virgin Mother begot the Word in the mysterious spiration of the eternal Breath. The formless void of Mary’s earthly womb pulsated with the energetic radiance of the Logos enfleshed. 

Mary’s immaculate conception and perpetual virginity introduced an absolute break in the line of biological descent ending with Joseph, the foster father of Jesus Christ. From henceforth, the co-heirs of Christ, born of the Spirit, have God as their Father, Origin and End. Mary, the Mother of God, is the mother of all of Christ’s brethren in their journey back to the Father.

The genealogy of persons born in the Womb of the Father, through the Son, and in the Spirit begins with the Blessed Virgin Mary and continues with St. Joseph, St. Peter, St. Andrew, St. James, St. John, St. Philip, St. Bartholomew, St. Thomas, St. Matthew, St. James (son of Alphaeus), St. Jude, St. Simon, St. Matthias, St. Stephen, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Mary of Bethany, St. Mary of Clopas, St. Priscilla, St. Aquila, St. Veronica, and all the saints throughout the centuries. 

The second Genesis will see the return of the cosmos back to the Source who is Three One/One Three, and the reintegration of all divisions. Persons born again in the Spirit join the Blessed Virgin Mary and her Son in the upswing back to the Trinity—the multi-personal festival of eternal love and glory.

-GMC

From Womb to Womb

Icon of the Visitation

Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Isaiah 49:1-6, Psalm 139, Acts 13:22-26, Luke 1:57-66, 80

Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works. (Psalm 139:13-14)

King David sang with lyre and harp the mystery of his origins. Like a loving mother, God stitched him with needle and thread in his mother’s womb. 

The prophet Isaiah received his name and mission “from my mother’s womb” to be “a light to the nations.” 

John the Baptist was “filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb… to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:15, 79).

The greatest of the prophets, the “Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:14), Zechariah’s son was the first to be sanctified in the womb by the Holy Spirit, marking a turning point in salvation history. The Spirit who hovered over the waters at creation, inspired David’s psalms, and spoke through the prophets anointed the Forerunner of the Son of God in Elizabeth’s womb.

At six months of age, before his body was fully formed, John’s spirit was whole and awake before reason or the senses knew the light of day. At the voice of Mary, John “leaped” in his mother’s womb “and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41). 

Mary, full of grace and the Holy Spirit, was immaculately conceived in her mother’s womb in preparation for her role as the Mother of God.

The Person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was neither sanctified in the womb nor immaculately conceived, but beyond conception itself, though language must grasp at the graspable to express his beginningless beginning. The only-begotten of the Father was conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s immaculate womb, uniting in his Person divinity and humanity, heaven and earth.

The new Eve, the new Adam, and the new Elijah closed the Old Testament and opened the New. The Holy Spirit, who was known only vaguely in the Old Covenant took center stage in the Acts of the Apostles after Pentecost. From womb to womb down the centuries, the Spirit of truth has led us back to the Eternal Womb of the Father from whom all persons originate. 

The spirit longs to soar beyond history to the eternal principle from which everything originates. Beyond the Story (history), beyond time and eternity, beyond the beyond…

“No one has ever seen God; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, has made him known” (John 1:18).

-GMC

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

We tend to see the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, which says that Mary was preserved from original sin from conception, as a gift just for her and not affecting us at all,  a gift that makes her unlike us.

St. Anselm, the 12th century monk, later archbishop of Canterbury, sees it differently. Mary shows us what being human and being part of God’s creation was meant to be. She’s the first to be blessed by Jesus Christ, her son. All of us, yes creation itself,  benefit from the gift:

“Blessed Lady, sky and stars, earth and rivers, day and night – everything that is subject to our power or use – rejoice that through you they are in some sense restored to their lost beauty and are endowed with inexpressible new grace. All creatures were dead, as it were, useless to us or for the praise of God, who made them. The world, contrary to its true destiny, was corrupted and tainted by human acts of idolatry. Now all creation has been restored to life and rejoices.

“The universe rejoices with new and indefinable loveliness. Not only does it feel the unseen presence of God, its Creator, it sees God openly, working and making it holy. These great blessings spring from the blessed fruit of Mary’s womb.

“Through the fullness of the grace given you, dead things rejoice in their freedom, and those in heaven are glad to be made new. Through the Son who was the glorious fruit of your virgin womb, just souls who died before his life-giving death rejoice as they are freed from captivity, and the angels are glad at the restoration of their shattered domain.

“Lady, full and overflowing with grace, all creation receives new life from your abundance. Virgin, blessed above all creatures, through your blessing all creation is blessed, not only creation from its Creator, but the Creator himself has been blessed by creation.”

Ponce de Leon

Just down the road from Immaculate Conception Parish here in Melbourne Beach is a small park on the beach commemorating the spot where the Spanish explorer and 1st Governor of Puerto Rico, Ponce de Leon (1475-1521) touched down in Florida in April 2, 1513. He came with three ships and over 200 crewmen, looking for gold and new land for Spain–not for the  “Fountain of Youth” as later legend claimed.

He called the land “Florida” because it was the Easter season, in Spanish “Pascua florida,”  “Easter of the flowers.”

There’s going to be a big celebration here next April, 2013, 500 years after his arrival.

Certainly, that day brought grief to the native peoples, many of whom suffered death and enslavement at the hands of the newcomers. The Spaniards who came were battle-hardened veterans of the recent triumphant campaign against the Moors and they used the tools of war to get their way.

So what’s to celebrate? Can we say this was in God’s plan that his kingdom come through Jesus Christ. The conquerors were Christians who came here, and  like their Jewish predecessors who invaded Canaan from the Sinai desert centuries ago,  they came by way of the sword. Unfortunately, we learn the teachings of Jesus slowly, “Put your sword into its place, for those who take up the sword will perish by the sword.”

Religion, in spite of what many think, looks to the future more than the past. It’s about what is to come and how we can get there. Our nation is dedicated to Mary, under the title of her Immaculate Conception. She was free from the sin that marked her ancestors and ours. The dedication expressed a hope that this new land be unmarked by the old rivalries, ambitions and sins of the Old World.

That hope may still be unfulfilled, but it’s interesting that close by the site where Ponce de Leon came ashore, where the 500th anniversary celebration will occur next Easter, is the Church of the Immaculate Conception, dedicated to the humble woman who carried no sword.

Can our Catholic faith offer that noble hope for the years to come?