Friday, December 08, 2006

I Love that Woman! My Unworthy Reflections on The Immaculate Conception

...a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful that the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, was, by a unique grace and privilege of Almighty God in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, preserved exempt from all stain of original sin.
–Ineffabilis Deus
by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Immaculate Conception, 1665-70, Oil on canvas, 206 x 144 cm, Museo del Prado, MadridToday's feast day is more than Pope Pius IX's 1854 infallible proclamation, as important as that Dogma was and is. Today's feast day, which issues not only from the Papal Bull Ineffabilis Deus but its echo at the Grotto in Lourdes four years later, demonstrates that the Virgin Mary, with all her wonderful titles, wants to be known by that name. And the reason is not so much that she was conceived without sin, but that through her humility before God she continued without sin until the day she was assumed into heaven. It is for this reason her prayer is so powerful, her intercession so necessary.

While salvation is assured to anyone who lives a Christ-like life and is baptized in the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to reach sainthood two further questions must be asked. First, can "The Word" become "Flesh" without the Eucharist? And second, can we truly know (and then, follow) Christ if we don't love Mary?

As a Catholic, who has come to know Jesus "in the Breaking of the Bread" (Luke 24:35), I believe one's knowledge (and thus belief) in Christ can never be fully realized without the Eucharist, and without it one instead develops a sort of two-dimensional faith that allows errors to infiltrate the spaces in the soul that grace has not filled in. Similarly, one cannot have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ without Mary. A person can attempt to be friends with another without sharing in the lives of this person's close friends, but that relationship is always doomed to be flawed or incomplete. Plus, Christ chose Mary as THE friend of any Christian, when He gave her to John as His mother (John 19:26-27). And the reason Mary was named first among a Christian's friends is because she finished the Salvation Race first in humility. Being the first and only person who followed God completely, she is the only person God calls "Full of Grace" (Luke 1:28).

Of course, a charismatic Christian will correctly claim one can appeal for God's grace without the sacraments and go directly through the Holy Spirit. But without perfect humility, these appeals are always open to deception (i.e. the devil), which is obvious to anyone who observes two or more Christian leaders claiming the Holy Spirit's inspiration on a subject when their doctrines flatly contradict each other. And, of course, this need heads us directly back to Our Lady. One needs perfect humility to correctly invoke the Holy Spirit, and that is available only through the prayers of the perfectly humble one, Mary The Immaculate Conception. And Mary never fails to lead those who seek her Intercession back to her Son, especially in His humblest form, under the Appearance of Bread and Wine.

Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!


Anonymous said...

Tom, thank you for this excellent reflection, both on our Virgin Mother and on the Eucharist. If only more Christians would appreciate and know what truly happens in the Eucharist (and this includes Catholics, because it is sad how few Catholics actually recognize this), the world would be transformed. I honestly believe that if every Christian would simply receive the Eucharist faithfully and in true faith every Sunday, evil would be conquered.

And, of course, that day will come. And leading the Communion line will be the one who always leads us directly to Christ. It is certainly through Mary that we will finally learn to love her Son.

And my word verification includes the word "booze." Perfect for one Irish Catholic writing to another :)

JimAroo said...

The Pope's 1854's Proclamation was confirmed by God Himself in allowing the appearance of Mary to St Catherine Laboure in 1830 in which she dictated the words: Oh Mary Conceived without sin and to St Bernadette in 1858 where she called herself the Immaculate Conception to a girl who had never heard that phrase!

Tom O'Toole said...

Michael - Thanks for the comments on the Immaculate Conception post. I sometimes hesitate to write theology as I'm not a theologian but on the other hand, when you believe in the Real Presence and Mary conceived without sin, it's hard to go wrong.

Thomas Augustine is my baptismal name(s); my mom actually named me after Aquinas and Augustine. So how could I not be a writer?!?

P.S. Some cloistered nun in British Columbia just wrote a poem about being spiritually mellow and drinking gin -- and she dedicated it to me! Perhaps she has the "booze" verification too ... I don't even drink gin!!