The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception – December 8, 2020
Love began with a dream. It was more than a dream, really… it was a plan. A plan in the mind of God that He would eventually carry out for the sake of our salvation. Something so beyond our comprehension… something that is practically inconceivable… something immaculate. Today, we celebrate the fact that Mary, the Mother of God, from the moment of her conception in the womb of her mother, was preserved from every stain of original sin by the foreseen merits of the sacrifice of her son, Jesus Christ, Who mounted the wood of the Cross for the salvation of the world. We are told as much in the collect, the opening prayer, which is heard today at the celebration of Mass:
“O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin prepared a worthy dwelling for your Son, grant, we pray, that, as you preserved her from every stain by virtue of the Death of your Son, which you foresaw, so, through her intercession, we, too, may be cleansed and admitted to your presence.”
Fulton Sheen’s Influential Thoughts
The title of this post, “Love begins with a Dream”, is not original. It comes from the first chapter of a book called World’s First Love by Fulton Sheen, who has been declared venerable and will soon be beatified, before, God willing, being canonized a saint! So, he has a lot of original (and saintly) thoughts to share with us. His thoughts on the Immaculate Conception are illuminative and point to what we are celebrating today. Sheen writes,
“If you could have preexisted your mother (not artistically, but really), would you not have made her the most perfect woman that ever lived – one so beautiful she would have been the sweet envy of all women, and one so gentle and so merciful that all other mothers would have sought to imitate her virtues? Why, then, should we think that God would do otherwise?” (World’s First Love, 19)
Perhaps we might object to this idea of Our Lady being immaculately conceived – after all, why couldn’t this happen to us? But Sheen has an answer:
“The Immaculate Conception does not imply that Mary needed no Redemption. She needed it as much as you and I do. She was redeemed in advance, by way of prevention, in both body and soul, in the first instant of conception. We receive the fruits of redemption in our soul at Baptism… Mary was the first effect of redemption, in the sense that it was applied to her at the first moment of her conception and to us in another and diminished fashion only after our birth.” (World’s First Love, 21-22)
The sacrifice of Christ on the Cross was applied to Mary at the first moment of her conception because God loves us – because He wanted to prepare for His coming into the world in a marvelous way. “Had there been no Immaculate Conception, then Christ would have been said to be less beautiful, for He would have taken His Body from one who was not humanly perfect! There ought to be an infinite separation between God and sin, but there would not have been if there was not one Woman who could crush the cobra’s head.” (World’s First Love, 23)
The Immaculate Conception as hope for humanity – where we fit in…
Hopefully, it’s clear where we fit into God’s plan – Mary was immaculately conceived for our sake; to prepare a place for the Incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ, when He entered into the world to save us. The Immaculate Conception is also a lifting up, a raising, of our hope for the restoration of our humanity. You and I know that we are broken and in need of a Savior. It helps, in our necessity, to have recourse to someone who shares our nature – a human person who can help us understand the love of a Divine Person. Sheen says this:
“Having lifted up one woman by preserving her from sin, and then having her freely ratify that gift at the Annunciation, God gave hope to our disturbed, neurotic, gauche, and weak humanity. Oh, yes! He is our Model, but He is also the Person of God! There ought to be, on the human level, Someone who would give humans hope, Someone would could lead us to Christ, Someone Who would mediate between us and Christ as He mediates between us and the Father. One look at her, and we know that a human who is not good can become better; one prayer to her, and we know that, because she is without sin, we can become less sinful.”
The Immaculate Conception of Mary, then, is a great source of hope for us. We know that there is someone to whom we may have recourse in our broken humanity; we know that there is someone who loves us with the tender love of a mother. Mary humbly carried out the tasks given to her by God, proclaiming His mercy and His kindness toward her and for each one of us. Mary is leading us by her hand to her Son, Jesus.
So, let us have recourse to her today – “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!” Let us ask Mary to lead us by the hand to her Son, Jesus, for Whom we wait in expectant hope that He will come to us anew at Christmas and at the end of time.