08 December 2011

On the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary


Hail, full of grace, the Angel Gabriel saluted our Lady. She surely had to be in the fullest state of grace possible in order to be worthy to be that vessel by which our Lord was to be brought into the world. We each receive graces through the Sacraments and by other means that God has established, but only the Blessed Virgin was so endowed by God with grace that she was indeed full of grace. This state of grace began at her Immaculate Conception, defined infallibly as dogma by Pius IX. In order to be in this state of grace, it was necessary that she be preserved from original sin. And she was so preserved from the very instant of her conception. This was a singular event, a special exemption granted by God from universal law to Mary for the special purpose of bringing into the world our Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of all Mankind.

Neither could our Lord be born by the work of man, for man is in a fallen state. What good would it do for the vessel to be pure, only to be contaminated? This would not do as a worthy means for our Lord to be born into the world. If the purest golden cup receives even the most infinitesimal drop of poison, it is no longer worthy to hold wine, let alone the finest fruits of the vine. As Mary was pure, spotless, and white as snow, only the Holy Ghost could be upon her to make her conceive. And, for our Lord to be wholly man and wholly God, being of one substance with the Father, then if he was to be born of woman, he must be conceived of God, and specifically God the Holy Ghost, the Holy Paraclete. Considered in the reverse, as our Lord was wholly man and wholly God, being born of woman and conceived of the Holy Ghost, then only a woman pure and spotless, born immaculate, without the stain of Original Sin, would be fitting.
Mary is sometimes referred to as the Second Eve, for just as Eve was the vehicle by which loss came to the human race, Mary was the vehicle by which its Redemption would come. Just as Eve had a choice, Mary had a choice. Eve made the wrong choice, with all its negative consequences for the world. Mary, on the other hand, made the right choice. She accepted the work of the Holy Spirit and bore the Son of God, saying "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word." Her acceptance was essential for salvation, for without it Christ would not have come into the world. There would be no ministry of Christ, there would be no Passion, no Cross, and no Resurrection. However, Mary's acceptance of the weighty task was only one necessary factor. Our Lady was given the choice of accepting conception by the Holy Ghost because she had been made ready and acceptable for it through her Immaculate Conception. God gave the fallen world the gift of a special woman, full of grace, upon whose free will depended the salvation of mankind. As Eve lost paradise for all mankind, Mary brought back into the world the hope of salvation for all mankind.

Though we can never have the fullness of spiritual grace that Mary possesses, nevertheless we are all endowed by God individually with certain gifts and abilities. As was the choice our Lady faced, we also face the choice of accepting those gifts and using them for the glory of God or using them either not at all or for some ignoble purpose. This is the choice we each face in our daily spiritual struggle. The general life choices we make affect ourselves, of course, but as with Mary's choice, they may also affect others. Nowhere is this more evident than in the spiritual decisions we make. We may uphold the Catholic Faith, or we may choose not to. We may accept what God has has revealed to us, or we may reject his saving graces. The choice is ours. The consequences are not only ours, though. Whenever we stray into apostasy or even act weakly in our faith and morality, it makes it all the more difficult for those in our lives to maintain their faith and morality. Moral courage is so often absent in human beings because a lack of moral courage is so contagious. People would so often rather merely get along and serve worldly or selfish interests than uphold the Holy Truth and stand up for right and wrong. It is a constant battle against the ways of the world, for the path of God is rarely easy. The path of God, however, is the only way to true and everlasting happiness.