The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, assumed into heaven. Each of the four Marian doctrines complements and informs our understanding of the others, such that we might see in this Year of Faith that the entire life of Mary is not only a model, but the model for each of us, both in our earthly lives and in the eternal life which her Son offers to us.
When the angel Gabriel appears, he calls Mary “Full of Grace” (Lk 1:28), as if that were her name, describing not only who she is, but what she is – the New Eve who said “Yes” to the Lord’s proposal and, by the grace won by Christ on the Cross, remained free of sin her entire life, including being preserved from Original Sin from the first moment of her existence (Ineffabilis Deus (1854), CCC 493). This dogma of the Immaculate Conception, like all the Marian doctrines, really says more about Jesus than it does about Mary. That is because, in all things, just as when she said at Cana, “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5), Mary always points us toward Jesus. But in doing so, Mary, Mother of the New Evangelization, also points us toward the people that God intends for us to be in holiness, the people we can be if we trust in the Lord, repeat her “fiat,” and allow Him to reside within us, both in grace and in reception of the Eucharist.
Some may hesitate to look to Mary as a model, concluding that they could never live up to her purity and greatness. But she is exalted because of her lowliness. To be blessed, we need only be like the humble handmaid of the Lord, giving ourselves over to Him to use as His instruments (Lk 1:38, 48).
“Blessed are you who believed,” Elizabeth said to Mary (Lk 1:45). She is our model in faith, truly the Star of the New Evangelization to whom we can confidently entrust ourselves. As she demonstrates, real Christian faith is belief that gives rise to a living relationship with Christ, a relationship that must be shared with others. It was because of her faith that the Word of God entered into our world. In imitation of Mary, we can bring about through our faith and witness to the life of the Spirit a change in the world in which we live.
Like the Virgin Mother, we should be a witness for Jesus in our very lives. Like Mary Immaculate, we should be a joyous witness for Jesus in our words, proclaiming the Good News of the greatness of the Lord, rejoicing in our Savior. Like the Sorrowful Mother at the foot of the Cross, we should have unfailing trust in God, even in the worst of hardships and sufferings.
Mary prayed in the Upper Room with the nascent Church (Acts 1:14) and she continues to pray for us now (Lumen Gentium, 52 et seq.). So in addition to emulating Mary and following her holy example, we would do well to recommend that others accept that relationship with her, encouraging them to love her as the Blessed Mother she is, to allow her to hold them in her maternal arms, smiling upon them, as she takes them to meet her Son.
This world can be a cold and dark place, but we are assured that her Immaculate Heart will triumph in the end. In the Blessed Virgin Mother, a new creation took place – because of her fullness of love for the Lord, because of her unfailing faith, humanity now has hope. Because of her, Emmanuel has come and ransomed His captive people and given them victory even over the grave.
O Immaculate Mary, Star of the New Evangelization and example for every disciple, missionary and evangelizer, intercede for us that the work of the faithful ambassadors for the Kingdom may result in abundant fruit for the glory of God and the salvation of all men and women. Amen.