Every year on December 8th, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary: The celebration that the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived without original sin. From her conception, she was given a unique gift from God: the fullness of grace. This gift was necessary to freely answer the call to be the Mother of her Savior. The Eternal Father chose her “from before the foundation of the world, to be holy” (Ephesians 1:4). Knowing that her Son would redeem the world through His death and resurrection, the Father applied the gift of redemption to her at the moment of her conception. Therefore, benefitting from the fullness of grace, she remains free from sin her entire life, as a New Eve, Mother of Life Himself, and all the living, in the new creation, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
To understand this more deeply, we must look at the first Adam, the first Eve, the first creation, and the effect of man's lack of trust and disobedience on all their children. In the beginning, mankind was simply Adam and Eve. They were the entire human family, and humanity was very intimate with God. He was their Father, and they were His children. One day, Adam and Eve, with full knowledge and complete capacity to choose otherwise, disobeyed their Heavenly Father. They bought into the lies of the Devil and in a way became Satan’s children. Thus, in this single act, all of humanity was separated from their Father. One helpful way of looking at it is: Their inheritance was given away. A person cannot give what they do not have; thus all of their children are also missing this deep, intimate relationship with God, which only grace, God’s own life, can restore.
God promises to restore this relationship almost immediately after Adam and Eve sin against Him, or fall from grace. He promises in Genesis 3:15 that a woman would bear a Son who would crush the head of Satan, while Satan bites at His heel. The Father also says that He will place total and complete opposition between the Mother of the Child (who is Mary) and the Devil. The promise of crushing the head of Satan is fulfilled in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through the actions of Jesus, all sin is conquered, death loses its sting, and hell has no victory (see 1 Corinthians 15:55). Through this total and complete defeat of the powers of sin, death, and darkness, the grace of the total opposition to sin is granted to Mary, by the Father, in view of the death and resurrection of Christ, who would be her seed. Thus, through the obedience of the New Adam (who is Jesus) all can be saved (see Romans 5:19).
While this particular gift of grace given to the Virgin Mother of God is unique, it teaches us about ourselves and our relationship with God. We are children of Adam, and thus inherited a deep separation from God due to sin. Though He longed for us to return to Him, as a Father searches anxiously for His missing child, we were distant from Him. However, in Baptism we are conceived anew. The Blessed Virgin was restored to that deeper intimacy with God by means of the death and resurrection of the Lord through the grace of the Holy Spirit given to her by the Father. In a similar way, we are united to the Son through Baptism. If she is the New Eve and Christ is the New Adam, then those who are Baptized are part of the New Creation, and the restored human family. For in Baptism, not just is original sin healed, but Divine Life, the Love of God, God Himself, dwells within you. The same God that dwells in the Immaculate Conception, lives in you. The same God who suffered, died, and rose from the dead as the firstborn of the new creation, lives in you, and you in Him.
In the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel, the Archangel says to Mary before she conceived the Lord: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” I could say to you: “Hail, child of God, the Lord is with you!” Another way of understanding both greetings could be: “Rejoice, Immaculate Conception, the Lord is with you,” and to you: “Rejoice, Baptized soul, the Lord is with you.” Indeed, let us rejoice! Again I say, “Rejoice in the truth that the Lord of love and mercy lives in you!” Truly, as the human race was, in a sense, remade in the Immaculate Conception, as St. Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians: “you have been remade by God in justice and the sanctity of truth.” As St. Peter says in his second letter: “you are sharers in the Divine Nature.” St. John says it best in his first letter: “See what great love the Father has given us, that we should be called Children of God.” Therefore, let us not only be filled with joy but live as if God is truly alive in us. Love Himself dwells in our souls: The same love who dwelt in the soul of our Lady.
If the Father provided for Mary to live out His will, He will provide for us. We must trust in His providence facing the many difficulties of life knowing that if Christ rose from the dead, and we rose with Him in Baptism, then we live in Him, and He in us, by the power of the Holy Spirit. We have not been given a spirit of fear that leads to slavery, but the Spirit of adoption (see Romans 8:15). Therefore, enjoy the freedom of the sons of God (see Romans 8:21). Let us then boldly live our lives loving as Mary did, even to the point of a sword piercing our hearts (see Luke 2:35). Let us live our lives loving as Christ does, even to the point of death, death on a cross (see Philippians 2:8). By living out of the love that lives in us, we will radically transform the world, through the power of God, in the Holy Spirit.
May the Lord grant you peace.
For further prayerful reading, I would encourage reading The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 396-409, 490-492, 1262-1274, 1730-1742 and 2673-2679
Tyson Murphy was born and raised in California, USA. He received a Bachelor's and Master's degree in theology from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. He is currently a postulant for the Franciscan TORs in Loretto, Pennsylvania and is there praying his way to becoming a Franciscan Friar with the TORs. Having spent nearly a month in Gibraltar during the summer of 2016, he has developed a special love for the people of the Rock.