In remembrance of today’s glorious feast of the Immaculate Conception, Karen Hall linked to a must-read homily by Father Paul Mankowski, SJ.
Here are a couple of excerpts to whet your appetite:
… It may seem pointless at such a time, in such a place, to hold up the Virgin Mary, and especially her Immaculate Conception, as a source of nourishment for our lives as Christians. For her perfection can appear so remote from the moral sweatiness and squalor in which our personal struggles occur that it recedes entirely into the background; it is swallowed up by our furious temptations and enthusiasms, and so is lost to us. This remoteness is widened, and not helped, by a way of speaking which would present the Virgin Mary to us as “the representation of an Ideal”, that is, as an abstraction, or at best a personified Virtue, like the Roman goddesses of Wisdom or Moderation. Thus, she, who begins as a real flesh-and-blood woman, “a virgin, betrothed to a man named Joseph”, as today’s Gospel has it, becomes an the end an abstract noun, a figure of speech….
…The Blessed Virgin Mary lived her life in the state in which Adam and Eve lived before their sin. She was as capable of sin as they were; her life, to this extent like ours, was a series of choices between good and bad, self and other, God’s will and her own. her glory, for which all generations will call her blessed, is that in every instance she said, “I am your servant. Let it be done to me in accordance with your word.” She, who was full of grace, said, “Your will be done, not mine.” When she praised God because He had looked on her in her lowliness, she was not feigning humility. She was uniquely aware that it was God’s grace, and not her own merit, in virtue of which she had been set apart. And the consciousness of the gap between her humanity and God’s power was uniquely acute in her case.
C.S. Lewis remarked somewhere that we are not to imagine that Jesus had an easier time with temptation than we. In fact, he said, Jesus Christ was the only one who ever felt the full strength of temptation, because He was the only one who never gave in to it. He said by way of explanation something like this: “After all, you don’t discover the true strength of the German Army by laying down and letting it roll over you; but only by standing up to it and fighting it at every turn.” If I might extend (and correct) C.S. Lewis here, I would say that the Virgin Mary is, apart from her Son, the only one who really knew humility, since it was she who, in every instance, chose obedience, who let God’s will trump her own, who refused to be duped into trusting in her own resources.
Read the whole thing here.
Father, you prepared the Virgin Mary
to be the worthy mother of your Son.
You let her share beforehand
in the salvation Christ would bring by his death,
and kept her sinless from the first moment of her conception.
Help us by her prayers to live in your presence without sin.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.
Also, check out Danielle Bean’s post on her family’s celebration of this feast.
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