+ from the Gospel according to Luke 1:26-38
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[c] will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
The solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the second Sunday of Advent this year are in days of rapid succession. At this time which prepares us for Christmas, the Church wants to introduce us to Mary, the Woman whom God has chosen throughout eternity to be the Mother of His Son, Jesus. To be honest, Advent is actually a Marian time: the time when Mary made room in her womb for the Redeemer of the world; the time when the Virgin brought within herself the expectations and hopes of all of humanity.
Advent signifies the first historical coming of Jesus, Mary has not only been waiting for Him with her people, but has prepared for Him and made it possible because she is the Mother of the Expected. If Advent then tells us of the second and last coming of Christ when He brings liberation and definitive salvation, Mary – who is already in glory – anticipates the future that the Church expects. Mary is now already what the Church will be, when her Lord will come.
The Immaculate Conception is a dogma of faith, an undisputed truth affirmed by Pope Pius IX on 8 December 1854, who wrote: “The most blessed Virgin Mary in the first instant of her conception, by singular grace and privilege of almighty God and in view of merit of Jesus Christ, saviour of the human race, has been kept immune from all stains of original sin”.
Four years later the Virgin appeared at the grotto of Lourdes to St. Bernadette announcing herself with the words: “I am the Immaculate Conception“.
The texts of the words of God of this solemnity lead precisely to this mystery of weakness and sanctity of humanity.
Genesis refers to a rebellion against God at the beginning of creation. For his part, the apostle Paul in his Letter to the ancient inhabitants of Ephesus recalls the great dignity to which God has elevated all of mankind, predestining them to be holy and immaculate in His loving presence.
The Gospel of Luke narrates in great detail the moment of the annunciation. The Archangel Gabriel called Mary full of grace and announced to her the birth of the Redeemer in her virgin womb, after giving her assent to God who chose her throughout eternity to be the Mother of His Son. Imagine her shock, her fears! What must have gone through her mind. Yet her love and trust in God made her accept this gift and great responsibility. It is likely that Luke may have met Mary of Nazareth in person. Tradition tells us that Luke was first to paint the image of the Mother of God with her Son cradled in her arms.
God has not yet finished to be filled with wonder by what he has achieved in Mary. God never tires of contemplating her, astonished and captivated in light of the work that has been so perfectly successful. Our joyful wonderment before Mary shares the very wonder of God. With her saying YES to God, Mary has traveled her path of faith to the feet of the cross. In imitation of the Mother our faith must also be translated into daily works, coherent choices and obedience of love to God. It is a strenuous YES to be verbalised to God, after the equally fatiguing NO that we must say to sin.
Mary is immaculate also because she has never said NO to God.
The feast of the Immaculate reminds humanity that there is only one thing that truly pollutes mankind: saying NO to God, which is sin. It is a very urgent and valuable message to be shared. Mankind have lost their perception of sin. Mary is our point of reference, the polar star of our purity and of our hope of living in this world more holily and in a manner responsive to God’s plans and to his divine will.
She is our model for a holy life. Woman all of God, Mary. She is the mother and sister of those who are on the way, seekers of meaning and truth, to find a final and definitive harbour to their thirst for the infinite. For this reason we must never tire of looking at her, of invoking her, of imitating her in her virtues and in her daily following of Christ and of his Gospel. She, the YES Woman, facilitates total and trustful adhesion to the Word which, alone, is able to change the history and the hearts of those who welcome it and let it flourish in all its beauty and goodness.
Mary leaves us an example to follow. If the work of salvation is a gift of God’s love, its realisation in us then requires our availability. As God asked Mary for her collaboration for the birth and human nurturing of Jesus, so it requires from us all a “yes” of faith, a yes through which He invites us to trust Him and that we entrust ourselves to Him.
His Holiness Pope Paul VI recalled:
“The purity of Mary is a purity conceived in the first moment, deeply inserted into the being and the history of this exceptional creature.We must bring our purity, our love to the virtue in the heart, where our thoughts are born, where we truly are ourselves, in the cenacle of our thoughts, there we must be God’s love, there, desiring to be good and pure, there to try to filter out the bad impressions that arise inside and outside of us and look for the flame of purpose there Christian is pure, and if we do not succeed in doing so, then the Mystery of purity and of victory that we have contemplated puts this invocation on our lips: Our Lady, give us strength, give us virtue, give us what we lack. Mary, who is not a distant and alien being, but is our Mother, marvellous and infallible Mother, to whom she invokes her she will give this strength and this purity”.
We should be fascinated by the beauty that radiates from the Immaculate Virgin. It reflects an image pervaded by the love of God that makes us capable of love, inhabited by the fullness of life that comes from Him and is an advance of eternal life.
Let us therefore continue to look to Mary as a sign of consolation and sure hope and learn from her this simple but profound lesson: “The more you renounce what is yours, the more God will offer you what is his.”
May the Lord grant us, through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin, our Mother, our exemplar and our guide, to go and meet Him in holiness and purity of heart and spirit.
PRAY WITH ME:- O Father, who in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed ever Virgin Mary prepared a worthy abode for Your Son, and in anticipation of His death You have preserved her from every stain of sin, grant us also, through her intercession, to come to meet You in holiness and purity of spirit. Amen.