Fr. Tony’s Midweek Message
Tuesday December 8, 2020
“Almighty and Everlasting God, who stooped to raise fallen humanity through the child-bearing of blessed Mary: grant that we, who have seen your glory revealed in our human nature and your love made perfect in our weakness, may daily be renewed in your image and conformed to the pattern of your Son Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”
Today in the Church of England’s Calendar is the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the Roman calendar, it is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. “Immaculate” in Latin means “spotless, or stainless” since macula means a stain. This doctrine is not to be confused with the virginal conception of Jesus Christ by Mary; rather, it celebrates Mary’s own conception in the womb of her mother St. Anne. The Roman doctrine was defined only in 1854, and is rejected by most Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants. Though most of us agree in greater or lesser degree that Mary was free of personal sin (Martin Luther himself called her “a spotless virgin”), we shy away from the Roman doctrine because it assumes Augustine’s doctrine of Original Sin (explicitly rejected by the Orthodox), and obscures the fact that Mary was merely human like all of us and makes it harder to affirm that Jesus was not just True God, but also fully human. However you understand it, the feast is timed to be eight months ahead of the September 8 feast of the birth of the Mother of our Lord.
Just as the Jews were chosen to be God’s agents of salvation for the nations, Mary was chosen to be the means by which God would be made flesh. C.S. Lewis writes:
“To be quite frank, we do not at all like the idea of a ‘chosen people’. Democrats by birth and education, we should prefer to think that all nations and individuals start level in the search for God, or even that all religions are equally true. It must be admitted at once that Christianity makes no concessions to this point of view. It does not tell of a human search for God at all, but of something done by God for, to, and about, Man. And the way in which it is done is selective, undemocratic, to the highest degree. After the knowledge of God had been universally lost or obscured, one man from the whole earth (Abraham) is picked out. He is separated (miserably enough, we may suppose) from his natural surroundings, sent into a strange country, and made the ancestor of a nation who are to carry the knowledge of the true God. Within this nation there is further selection: some die in the desert, some remain behind in Babylon. There is further selection still. The process grows narrower and narrower, sharpens at last into one small bright point like the head of a spear. It is a Jewish girl at her prayers. All humanity (so far as concerns its redemption) has narrowed to that.” (Miracles: A Preliminary Study (pp. 187–191). New York 2001: HarperOne.)
We honor the Blessed Virgin as our Lord’s mother and model for us all, and see in her birth the first glimmerings of the light of his incarnation and saving work. We see in it the love of God for us all.
Thanks be to God.