In 1854, Pope Pius IX declared it a dogma of faith in his bull, _Ineffabilis Deus_, that, “by the singular grace of God and merit of being the mother of Jesus Christ our saviour, the blessed virgin Mary was from the very moment of her conception, preserved from original sin”.
From the significance of this Solemnity, I will like us to reflect on becoming human.
Mariology begins on page 1 of Genesis, when God created humans in his image as male and female. Reflecting from the first reading (Gen.3), it could be deduced that the fall of man began as a result of human quest to become like God. And as a consequence of this quest, man blamed God saying” it is the woman YOU gave me to be with me that caused it”. By implication, God is blamed for providing a helper. Coming to the woman, she blamed satan saying “the satan beguiled me and I ate”. Thus the origin of human weaknesses upon which we find it difficult to accept our faults. Every problem is regarded as the work of the devil. Some even extend to blaming God. Nonetheless, it was at this point that God began to plan for a Woman from whom the saviour would come. Hence the need for Immaculate Conception of Mary (a woman who was already comprehended within God’s grace and love to be preserved from sin).
No wonder the psalmist of today (Ps.98) recognising God’s abundant love for man in spite of the fall, enjoined us to sing a new song to the Lord for he has worked wonders. And that is the wonder of our salvation. A salvific project that began immediately after the fall. A fall that necessitated God’s comprehension of the preservation of Mary from sin within his grace and love. God offered us humanity in his image and we lost it as a result of our quest for his divinity. Now, Christ came, took this flesh, restored its dignity and taught us how to be human.
And so, our elder brother St. Paul, in the second reading (Eph.1:3-6. 11-12), expressed our heartfelt sentiments of gratitude to God for the successful project of salvation through Christ.
Meanwhile, the teaching on how to be human began with a mysterious event that was humanised by the acceptance of our Blessed Mother Mary to be the mother of God. That is the incarnation. The risk of this free will acceptance by a young beautiful Virgin that the almighty God made in finest definition could be deduced from the gospel itself (Lk.1:26-38). A barren woman who is in dare need of a child, will obviously accept the message of Angel Gabriel as a very good news. But a religious woman (Rev. Sr) receiving the message of getting pregnant will definitely find it unacceptable considering her religious position. Our Blessed Mother, prior to the annunciation was popularly known to be a a very pious woman and a Virgin betrothed to Joseph but not yet consumated. Taken for granted that she will marry soon, expected the angel to tell her that her pregnacy will come through Joseph, Gabriel gave an incomprehensible response, difficult to be reconciled by mere human reasoning. A conception by the power of the Holy Spirit. Imagine the sorrows of a young lady who will be getting married within this month of festivity and told her husband that she’s a Virgin only to be discovered that she’s already pregnant. What sort of man will accept the story of his future wife’s conception through the Holy Spirit?
Now, the response of Mary to the message of Gabriel is very spectacular. Ecce ancilla Domine; Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum (behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy will. By the singular virtue of this response, the salvific project was signed, heaven rejoiced and the earth began to enjoy in earnest the contract of salvation that was established long ago.
Following from the above, it could be observed that the free decision of our Blessed Mother Mary to bear this child makes the incarnation a human event and nudges Jesus’ eternal mission consciousness into human awareness. Mary is therefore the image that enabled us to envisage the human comformity to Christ. Far more significantly, Mary is the fulness of Israel’s faith. This means that the conception Jesus demands an act of faith which infinitely surpasses that of Abraham. This is because, Abraham’s faith to sacrifice his son, Isaac was built upon the experience of God’s power that offered him a son at old age while the faith of Mary to sacrifice her virginity and bear a son had no prior experience of God’s power other than the passing news of Elizabeth pregnancy at old age. Her faith also surpassed that of the apostles who believed in Christ after the experience of his first miracle at the wedding in Cana. I will therefore agree with von Balthasar that Marys chronological priority over the apostles is the mark of theological priority since the Church was already present in her before men were set in office.
Note this before I conclude: Faith fertilizes reason in the Marian Church because the gift of faith can be shared out in a way in which that of being an eye-witness cannot. Moreover, Mary’s faith perceptions make her the memory of the Church. No one else has a similar unbroken memory from the first moment of incarnation to the Cross, to the taking down from the Cross, to the burial and resurrection. In the practice of the rosary which is an embodiment of the mystery of our salvation, we share this powerful memory with our Blessed Mother Mary.
Furthermore, Mary remembers what it means to possess Christ as an object of faith. It would be odd if in Heaven Mary had denied her earthy experience of faith and had changed over to giving Christians only prophetic revelations about the future (the conversion of Russia and so on). Under the Cross she also taught us that one must say Yes to what is most incomprehensible. All this remains steadfastly in her memory.
Against this backdrop therefore, it is not incongruous to place this virtuous woman immediately after the hierarchy of the Trinity. This is predicated on the fact that she is the mediatrix of the inner trinitarian love. A title that became possible because the Spirit of love, issuing from the bosom of the Father, becomes the principle of the life of the Son in the bosom of the Virgin. Mary conceives in herself the mystery of the Love which binds the three persons of the Trinity, and thus becomes she who is rightly called Theotokos that is Mother of God. She’s therefore the mediatrix of the graces of the Trinity, mediating the Trinity in and with the Church.
In sum, Jesus taught us how to be human through his incarnation that concretely expressed love and humility, which theologians would call kenosis meaning total self emptying. And the Mother presents what is most human in us which is freely receptive and giving of ourselves to God’s will. Let us learn to follow them for they know the WAY!
HAPPY SOLEMNITY FROM FADATEC