Advent with Mary – the Immaculate Conception
During the sacred time of Advent, we think of Mary as she nears the end of her pregnancy.
Ever since the Word was made flesh in her womb, Mary has tasted and enjoyed the delights of the divine. Not only does her soul overflow with grace, thus bringing her spiritually closer and closer to God, but now her body, under the action of the Holy Spirit, produces the very author of grace, Jesus Christ!
It is not by chance that the feast of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception (8 December) falls at the beginning of Advent. The Immaculate Conception and Our Lady’s Divine Maternity are intimately linked.
Our Lady was preserved from all sin from the very first moment of her conception in order that the flesh and blood she was destined to provide to her divine Son, would be untainted and free. Satan would never be able to boast that he had once dominated something belonging to Our Lord. Our Lord’s divine humanity was destined to be invested with dignity divine, and then offered to God in sacrifice for the remission of sins. The offering had to be pure and untainted. Satan must have no hold or influence over it, however small, however short.
Mary’s humanity, from which the second Person of the Trinity would take, was preserved from all sin from the very first moment of its existence. But this is only half the mystery.
Mary was not merely born clean. She was made holy of a holiness that God alone can look upon without being dazzled and dazed.
When the angel Gabriel greets Our Lady, his words express delight, admiration and wonder: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. We could imagine what is going on in Gabriel’s mind: Such beauty, such virtue, such power, such love and submission, such dedication! The Lord is truly with this Lady, and she with Him!
In his dogmatic declaration on the Immaculate Conception (Ineffabilis Deus), Pius IX says: “From the first instant Mary was loved by God more than all creatures. He found most extreme pleasure in her. He loaded her with his graces in a wonderful way, more than all the angels and the saints.”
Mary’s fullness of grace was not static but dynamic. It grew in proportion to her love and devotion and the various steps of her participation in the plan of redemption. Her fullness was exponential, and her progress ever more rapid as she approached ultimate sanctity.
Mary’s initial fullness of grace, which she received at the very moment of her conception in her mother’s womb, surpassed the grace of all the saints put together. Her virtues, in their initial state, surpassed the heroic virtues of the greatest of the saints.
Along with grace, Mary received a plenitude of the moral virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. She was supremely virtuous of supernatural virtue, whereby she merited not only her place in heaven but ours as well. For just as a queen may earn for others pardon and recompense for all her subjects, so too Mary, our most excellent family member (after Our Lord), merited for us all the joys of heaven.
It is commonly taught that Mary also received the use of reason and the gift of infused knowledge along with her plenitude of grace. This means that Mary knew God and loved Him from the very first moment of her existence. It also means that Mary’s merits began from the very moment of her conception. Her infused knowledge would have taught her all that she needed to know to fulfil her vocation in the best way possible. For example, it allowed her to easily comprehend the archangel Gabriel’s mysterious words at the moment of the Annunciation.
Mary was therefore, after Her divine Son, the first in the order of creation. God contracted with His Mother the tightest and most intimate union possible between God and creature. The only union more intimate still would be the hypostatic union, when the Word became flesh. Mary’s supreme holiness makes her the first in the order of divine adoption. To her is given the privilege of primacy in the order of grace, making her, in union with her Son, mediator between God and man. God commits to Mary every grace destined for man.
But there is something more extraordinary. Her fullness of grace also makes her the worthy Mother of God. Think of it! The divine Child has a Mother worthy of Him.