Scripture: Lectionary 689: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Genesis 3:9-15.20. Psalm 98:1.2-3.3-4. Ephesians 1:3-6.11-12. Luke 1:26-38:
This is a personal reflection based on the text of Ephesians. I was led to study and reflect on the meaning of the Immaculate Conception through this text which led me to appreciate the liturgical texts of the Mass. They fit in perfectly with the thought of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade and the Marianist tradition. The Psalm response led me to appreciate how Mary is the new song of the Lord that centered again and again on her unique and primordial “Yes” to God and to her role in salvation history.
“Sing to the Lord a new song, for he (God) has done marvelous things.” (Psalm 98:1).
On this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ we approach the hymn that Paul used in his thanksgiving and prayer in chapter one of his epistle to the Ephesians. This hymn is a baptismal hymn of the early Church similar to the thought found in I Peter, a baptismal homily or sermon. The Epistle gives us the noble call we all have to be “saints” as Paul addresses those who believe. It is a positive message that offsets some of the pessimism that occurs when we think only about original sin in this dogma of the Immaculate Conception. The hymn is about sanctification. And in looking more deeply into the mystery contained in these words we can see why it was chosen for the liturgical celebration of this feast in honor of Mary’s absolute sinless beginning. It is fitting for us to celebrate her calling, which in many ways, is similar to ours but somehow her “Yes” resonated in eternity and she brought forth the one who is to come, the Messiah Jesus who was born of her virginal flesh and blood.
Mary, as “our nature’s solitary boast,” responded with her “Yes” to God’s universal plan of salvation for all humankind. She became through this “Yes” the “world’s first love.” Mary is that new song that we sing today as we honor her integrity and sanctity. God’s grace is the foundation of her Immaculate Conception and of our “being born again from above.” (John 3:7).
Saint Irenaeus of Lyon was the first to reflect on the Genesis passage in the light of Mary and Eve. Both are called a “Mother of the living.” Mary through Jesus became the universal mother of the living, who, according to Irenaeus renewed the “original blessing” bestowed on humankind at its moment of creation. Adam and Eve bound us up with the rope of disobedience to the divine will and plan for happiness; Mary through Jesus was able to untie and unravel completely that contortion and twisted series of knots which we call sin.
Irenaeus saw that the word “recaptitulation” (anakephalaiosastho in Ephesians 1:10) was the way back to rediscover the original plan of God and thus to restore the original blessedness of joy and peace to humankind.
It took almost two millennia till John Cardinal Newman rediscovered the importance of Irenaeus’ thought for a foundational principle in Marian theology. The long history of the tradition about this New Eve teaching was intimately connected with Paul’s thought of Jesus as the New Adam. Irenaeus then saw Mary as the New Eve. She, therefore, was the mother of the living whom her son had restored to original blessing through the gift of his absolute unconditional love on the Cross for everyone past, present, and future. It was a “kairos” (timeless) not only a historical “chronos” event. Mary cooperated with this love plan of God and thus had a cooperative role in the mystery of our salvation.
The Annunciation narrative is extremely important in the mystery of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Here we have the Evangelist giving us the inspired moment in which that “Yes” of Mary was first heard. She said her “Yes” with full human consent after dialoging with the angel named Gabriel, God’s special messenger to us as humans. Her “Yes” reverberated in her each day of her life and her Son Jesus was an eternal “Yes” that harmonized with her own sung “Yes.” St. Paul tells us, “Jesus Christ, as Son of God, was not alternately “yes” and “no”; he was never anything but “yes.” Whatever promises God has made have been fulfilled in him; therefore, it is through him that we address our Amen to God when we worship together.” (II Corinthians 1:19-20), In our own receiving the sacrament of so fully within her mind, heart, soul, and body. She was called “You who have been graced and fully blessed” (kecharitomene). Gabriel had been entrusted by God to give her this new name so that she could sing God’s praises in her own song based on the love of God had for her from all eternity.
The call to integrity or holiness involves our full cooperation with God’s universal plan. We needed someone who was totally human and not divine to offer us the joy of cooperating with God in the plan of salvation accomplished by Jesus. Mary’s “Yes” to this plan showed us the way.
The ongoing mystery of a living tradition about Mary’s Immaculate Conception makes her an exemplar of the splendor of God’s grace in our humanity. Jesus, as the New Adam and Savior, was divine and human and thus we all were brought back to the original plan of God. Mary simply untied the rope that had bound us while cooperating with her Son in his continued “Yes” to the Father.
Blessed Chaminade and Adele cooperated in Mary’s Immaculate Conception not only in their mission as apostles of Mary, but also in understanding the importance of naming communities of religious as “Daughters of Mary Immaculate” and participators in Mary’s sodalities under the title of the Immaculate Conception.
In article seven of the Rule of Life of the Marianists these words are dedicated to the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary: “In Mary is summed up the longing and searching of the whole human race for God: she is the first among those who believe in Jesus Christ and the first to be saved from evil and death.” Amen.
Copyright 2012 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.