Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and as such, the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has designated it a Holy Day of Obligation. Simply put, this means Catholics (in the United States, at least) have mandatory Church attendance today.
Catholic belief and teaching, in a very brief nutshell, teaches that Mary, the Mother of God, was conceived without the stain of Original Sin. She was preserved from the stain of Original Sin, in order to provide Jesus with a perfect vessel through which to enter our world – as both fully human and fully divine, he needed a womb which reflected His dual nature of fully human, fully divine. This is the belief and teaching behind today’s feast day.
After Mary’s conception and birth, she chose to remain without sin her entire life!
Most readers of my blog know I routinely write about Mary as the Mother of God, and the awe I have surrounding Mary. I maintain some sort of skepticism regarding apparitions of her to others, but I definitely don’t discount the possibility that she does appear from time to time throughout history.
Most of you have probably seen this meme that circulates social media randomly:
Not too long ago, I was sitting in the chapel, contemplating Mary’s “yes” to God (known as her Fiat), and remembered this meme. And, I got defensive – on behalf of Mary. As I sat there, I realized that, even though this is supposed to be funny, it is not funny!
Mary was without sin. She chose to remain sinless throughout her entire life!
And, boasting in a manner with which parents frequently boast about their children’s accomplishments would not be something Mary would have done!
To be God’s mother, Mary had to be willing to say she would stand by, support her son, and raise her son in a manner which would nourish Him and cultivate Him toward His ultimate sacrifice for our sins and everyone’s salvation (Mary’s salvation included).
Logically, she knew the Old Testament – she knew Scripture. She knew He would have to die for our sins to be forgiven. Many friends I know abhor the song, “Mary, Did You Know?” because they don’t find it theologically sound; of course she knew. But, it is my favorite Christmas carol because it displays the true internal struggle between your head knowing the facts, and your heart learning the hard, bitter truth of reality, which will be another post for another day.
Throughout her life, Our Lady stood by, encouraged her Son to perform His first public miracle, and supported Him in His public ministry. She followed Him, and sank to her knees at the foot of His cross, when He gave His life for our sins. And, she was there as He rose, appeared to His followers, and sent the Holy Spirit to His disciples after His Ascension.
She loved Jesus with a perfect love.
And, if nothing else, she deserves all the respect and awe each of us can muster.
She provides us with a shining example of selfless love and devotion to God the Father, and to Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior.
Unlike her Son, who was/is perfect, Mary chose – made the conscious decision every single day of her life – to be perfect!
How cool is that?!
And, how hard is that?!
Talk about an example, and a role model for all of us.
Without her yes, we would not be celebrating Christmas in a couple weeks’ time.
Without her yes, we would not have the full grace and mercy of God extended to us.
Without her yes, our salvation thousands of years later would not be possible!
So, as we continue to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ, I will continue to ponder Mary, and reflect upon the example of faith, love, and fidelity – to God and His will in my life.
Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception!