The solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is one of my favorite solemnities (I think I say that for every one, but I really mean it this time!) I used to see this great privilege as something that separated Mary from us: she’s pure, sinless, and immaculate and we’re not. But if we look deeper, we discover that we are closer to Mary than we realize and her Immaculate Conception gives us great hope.
Mary's preservation from original sin was a unique privilege. No other non-divine human being in history received such a grace. However, she couldn't have done anything to merit it since it took place at the very moment she came into being. Like us, she could not even have willed to be conceived, let alone to be immaculately conceived. This is infant baptism taken to the extreme! Babies are cleansed of original sin through a baptism of which they are not even aware, much less able to merit. But Our Lady was entirely preserved from original sin at the very moment that she came into existence, before she was anything more than a single cell; before she had ears to hear the Word of God or a tongue to profess it. In a sense, she is more saved than a wretched sinner who repents, because Christ saved her from falling into the pit of sin in the first place. What a grace!
The fact that this was a total gift gives us hope because He who preserved the Immaculate Virgin can save us from our sins. Grace, even the greatest grace of being the immaculate mother of God, is not earned or merited. It comes from the overflowing, overwhelming love of God! We must, of course, cooperate with this gift, as she did throughout her whole life. But the gift itself is freely given, and that is great cause for rejoicing! Thus, we can say with Mary: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord! My spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant...The Almighty has done great things for me and Holy is His name!” (Luke 1:46-49)
“O sweetest Virgin Mary, most pure daughter of the Father, most perfect mother of the Son, most chaste spouse of the Spirit, you are more saved than the greatest sinner: for you were saved before you sinned, you were raised up before you fell, you were healed before you were wounded, you were transformed before you were disfigured, you were raised to life before you suffered death. Pray for us, that we may receive as you did the great things that the Almighty wants to do for us.”
+ Br. Ignatius Pio Mariae, CFR
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