I was reading comments on a picture posted to the Facebook group Things Jesus Never Said (almost always a mistake). I saw some questions about the Virgin Mary, and of course thought, "Hey, rather than get caught up in a forum where charity and good will are almost impossible, how about I blog about it!!!" What could possibly go wrong?
I've already written on the topic of Mary here, but I will certainly never exhaust all there is to be said about our Blessed Mother.
I want to take a moment to remind you all that when I speak of prayer, to and honoring of Mary, we are speaking of "Hyperdulia," that is, an exalted form of the reverence and veneration given to the Saints (dulia), which is distinct and lower than the adoration and worship given to God alone and to the Sacred Eucharist which is the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the Second Person of God (latria).
I was listening to the Catholic radio station where I live (Iowa Catholic Radio @ 1150 AM, 88.5 FM, & 94.5 FM in central Iowa) when I heard someone speaking on the topic of Mary and Her Immaculate Conception, and I wanted to share that.
So many things about Mary are fitting, not necessary. It was not necessary for God to save us, or to save us in this way thus requiring a human mother, &c, &c. However, He did, and given that He followed the decision He made very consistently.
One of the biggest confusions regarding the Immaculate Conception is to think that it was Christ who was immaculately conceived, when in fact it was His mother, who at the moment of her coming into existence, was granted the special grace of being free from original sin.
Fine, but why is that necessary? Aren't Catholics just saying that Mary didn't need a savior?
It is important to remember that while He does act in time (at times), God is Himself eternal, outside of time. Time is one of His creations, subject to Him. Mary received the grace of freedom from sin before the physical reality of Christ, but not before the Second Person of the Trinity existed. It is a gift given by her Son to prepare her to be His mother. It is a very deep mystery, but suffice it to say that while it is not in the normal order of salvation, it is still accomplished by Christ, and is not anything innate of Mary, or anything of which she was meritorious (other than her Fiat, but that was greatly enabled by her freedom from sin, but that was due to the immaculate conception, which happened before the Fiat, but...).
As the Doctor would say, it's all timey-wimey.
So for a moment, accept that should God will that the Virgin Mary be free of original sin from the moment of conception, He is capable of it. That still doesn't explain why it should be so.
Well, as with all things pertaining to Mary, her identity as the Immaculate Conception actually points to a reality about Jesus, and therefore about God.
Christ of course was "...like us in all things but sin...," and that includes original sin. For Jesus to be the unblemished Lamb of God, He had to be, well, unblemished!
Where do we get our stain of original sin? From our parents.
If Mary had had upon her the stain of original sin, she would have passed it onto her Son. As He partook of her humanity, He would have partaken of our stain, but that is simply impossible. Else how can Paul say in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that: For our sakes God made Him who did not know sin, to be sin, so that in Him we might become the very holiness of God?
Well, I suppose one could simply answer that it was Christ who was immaculately conceived, that by the fact of His Deity, His humanity was preserved from original sin.
But wait there's more...
In the 6th chapter of Isaiah, the prophet recounts his call from the Lord. In verse 5 he proclaims Woe is me, I am doomed!. In other translations it is rendered as, I am unravelling! What causes this? He goes on to explain that I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!"
The mere sight of God is causing him to come apart. Why? Because as the Seraphim cry out in verse 3, God is "Holy, Holy, Holy!" The speaker noted that His Holiness is the only attribute of God which is repeated thrice in this manner. God is never "Merciful, Merciful, Merciful," or "Just, Just, Just," but He is "Holy, Holy, Holy!" So much so that whereas our first parents walked with God every day in the garden of Eden, from the Fall to the Incarnation, it was death to look upon the Face of God, or to even touch such holy things as the Ark of the Covenant, save for a very very few (e.g. Moses).
In other words, had Mary not been pure, herself holy as God intended us to be, free of original sin, immaculate, she could not have survived the very act of incarnation. To have God indwell in her physically, she had to be pure lest she "unravel."
It is only after the incarnation that we who are sinful may look upon the face of God, which is Jesus.
It is only after the incarnation that we who are broken are given intimate contact with all of the Godhead, for it is Christ who reveals to us the Father, gives Himself to us in the Eucharist, and sends to us the Holy Spirit.
It is only after the incarnation that we who are fallen able to receive on our tongue what the Immaculate Conception gave to the Son - His Body and Blood.
O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
didst prepare a worthy dwelling place for thy Son,
we beseech thee that,
as by the foreseen death of this, thy Son,
thou didst preserve her from all stain,
so too thou wouldst permit us,
purified through her intercession,
to come unto thee.
Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son,
who livest and reignest with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost,
world without end.