- The Little Office
- 1 Mirror of Justice
- 2 The Saviour
- 3 The First Years
- 4 In The Temple
- 5 Nazareth
- 6 The Annunciation
- 7 The Visitation
- 8 The Magnificat
- 9 The Benedictus
- 10 Christmas
- 11 The Magi
- 12 At The Manger
- 13 Nunc Dimittis
- 14 The Presentation
- 15 Flight into Egypt
- 16 The Holy Innocents
- 17 Life at Nazareth
- 18 Jesus in the Temple
- 19 Jesus at labour
- 20 Death of St. Joseph
- 21 Baptism Of Jesus
- 22 Jesus In The Desert
- 23 Calling The Apostles
- 24 Marriage at Cana
- 25 Silence Of The Gospel
- 26 Start Of The Passion
- 27 Foot Of The Cross
- 28 Jesus Laid In The Tomb
- 29 Resurrection
- 30 Ascension, Pentecost
- 31 The Assumption
The Lady Was Immaculate By Daniel A. Lord, S.J. Part 6.
All men and women are conscious of what St. Paul calls the “war in our members.” The pagan poet referred to this in that familiar expression: “I see the better things and approve of them, and then find that I go chasing off after the worse.” We are often amazed at ourselves: What makes us, in the midst of good resolutions, suddenly find ourselves acting like beasts? Why do we in holy places have evil thoughts? Why does the flesh lure us to stupid and criminal acts?
Why does my mind say “Do” while my senses say “Don’t?”
Why am I so easily thrown off balance? So easily upset? So quick to break my best resolutions So prone to evil?
What about all this that is called concupiscence, the concupiscence of the eye, the concupiscence of the flesh, and the pride of life?
Was man made that way?
Does God delight to see him torn apart between resolutions and failure, high ideals and low temptations?
All this is part of Original Sin. Adam and Eve were created in perfect balance. They saw things clearly. Their will was strong and firm. They could measure temptation with a just appraisal. Their flesh was under control and never rebelled against them. They were part of the perfect balance that they saw in the world around them. The stars followed the paths marked for them without erupting into fantastic forays on other stars. Nature moved in its calm and beautiful cycles. Even the animals obeyed God’s natural law. And so did Adam and Eve.
But their rebellion threw all that out of balance. It was a strange, cruel, unreasonable, illogical thing which they did
- to turn from God to the serpent, to believe the lies of the Adversary instead of the firm and beautiful promises of their Father and Creator. They did not sin out of a great, fierce temptation, coupled with hot rebellion of the flesh. They sinned almost coolly, gravely, calmly, without great pressure and in the face of sublime knowledge and great internal power.
OUR LOSS FOREVER
So it was that their minds were clouded and darkened. They had thrown their natures out of balance; their wills were sick and weakened. Concupiscence, formerly in calm control, now broke loose and caused endless trouble. They had unsettled themselves and unsettled the whole human race. And that unsettlement too came to us with Original Sin.
We find it slow to learn. We see darkly and often confusedly. We swing wildly between right or wrong, good and bad. We find ourselves ever battling with our flesh. We are unsettled, unbalanced, at war with ourselves and often at odds with the universe around us.
Had Adam been faithful, we would have known his calm and balance, clear vision and strong will. He sinned, he lost this almost automatic control of himself; and his confusion and unbalance and rebellions came down to us.
So Original Sin is really not a personal sin at all. It is an inherited loss. It is a deprivation of something God wanted me to have and Adam threw away before I even got the chance to inherit it. It is a kind of spiritual bankruptcy, a sort of susceptibility to spiritual bad health passed on from my ancestors, as material bankruptcy and bad health pass along from careless or wastrel forebears.
Original Sin shows itself in a weakness of soul and a sinister strength of rebellious flesh. It is clearly shown in my inclination to senseless and stupid and destructive ill and evil. It accounts for the fact that repulsive sin seems attractive and the Devil in a thousand disguises can trick us with apparent ease.
CHRIST WINS BACK
But in the Providence of God, things were not to stay wrecked.
What one disobedient son had ruined, an obedient Son would restore. The wreckage of the first man was to be rebuilt into order and beauty by the Greatest of the Sons of Men. Since man had destroyed, man must repair. Since a son had gone bankrupt, a Son must win back the inheritance. What Adam had thrown away in reckless prodigality, Christ would regain in labour and suffering and final death.
That is the simple Christian belief.
Christ came into the world, the perfect Son of God.
As man He was and had all that Adam had once been and possessed.
As man He would win all this back for all mankind.
But this time God would not give it freely as He had to Adam. Each man who would come to the age of reason would have to decide for himself whether he wanted to be God’s son, to inherit Heaven, to possess the divine life or grace, and to win those strengths and aids that would help him rebalance his nature.
Christ won all this on Calvary.
He gave the sacramental system to the Church, beginning with Baptism, by which men can with God’s grace take for themselves what Adam had lost, what Christ Himself possessed and won for all of us, and what God in His Providence desires us all to hold now and forever.
AS FOR MARY
We are all conceived in Original Sin.
But we all have it in our power to win back, as life progresses, the things which were lost in Original Sin. Was this the case of Mary?
Christians who thought rightly never really believed that it was. They knew that the Mother of the All-Pure must be immaculate. Since Christ was to be born as the new Adam, Mary could not be like the sinful Eve. Since He was to conquer the Adversary, how could He bear the scornful laughter of that Adversary who would cry out, “Once on a time, your Mother was in my power. The flesh that gave you birth was once inclined to evil. You are the Son of God, but once on a time, your Mother was not the daughter of God. You are the Fountain of Grace, but once at her conception your Mother was graceless. Yes, you are with her now; but there was a time when the Lord was not with her.” Such mocking laughter might well make hideous disharmony in the plans of Christ.
So Christians knew that Mary could never have been stained and soiled and tainted by Original Sin. She had to be God’s daughter always. She must ever be full of grace. The Lord would have been with her from the beginning. And her flesh could never have known the concupiscence, or her nature, the constant unbalance that is the consequence of Original Sin.
They all knew it had to be.
REASON FOR DELAY
That is why the proclamation of the dogma came so late. The Church had always believed Mary was immaculate.
The Saints called her Mary Immaculate. Theologians were sure this was true. But they had a difficulty: In point of time, Mary comes before Christ.
She was conceived and born long before He had brought about our salvation.
So since our salvation had not been won until Christ died on Calvary at the age of 33, when His Mother was at least forty-eight, how could she have been free from the guilt of Adam at the moment of her conception, almost five decades before?
Slowly they saw the explanation.
They had always been sure of the fact. Original sin in Mary? How dreadful! How out of line! How totally undignified for the Mother of the world’s Saviour.
Well, they knew that there were Saints in the days before Christ came to earth. True, when they died they did not go to Heaven, however holy they might be, not until Christ had come, died, and released them from Limbo (the Limbo of the ancients). They had been forced to remain in Limbo until our Redemption had been completed. Yet they had won back their right to Heaven; they had become adopted sons of God; they had gained grace, and the strength to balance their lives and hold their passions in check. This they had done by faith in the Messiah and the hope that He would come to save them. They had anticipated His death; and in anticipation of His death and because they believed He would come and save them, they got the grace before He actually died. They could not enter Heaven. Yet they had been saved by what He would do when His time had arrived.
So, said the theologians in a sudden burst of light, it’s really very simple:
Mary as a daughter of Adam would have been in Original Sin.
God, however, looked ahead and saw how pure and holy her life would be under any circumstances. She would have shunned temptation and lived without personal sin.
Here was someone who might well be chosen to be the Mother of the Saviour.
But the Mother of the Saviour must be protected against those evils which lie in Original Sin. She must always be the adopted daughter of God. She must always have the divine life of grace. If she is to welcome God from Heaven, she must have the right to Heaven. And God must see that she has the balance of life, the clearness of mind, the strength of character and will which befit the Perfect Mother of the Perfect Man.
So in anticipation of the death of her Son, because He would win back all that Adam had lost, God gave to Mary in advance what He gave to the people of the Old Law through their act of faith and gives to us today through Baptism and the other sacraments.
As Pius XII states in his Marian Year encyclical, the infinite dignity of Jesus Christ and His office of universal redemption is not diminished by this, but rather is greatly increased.
In an age when the purity of women is so attacked and smirched, at a time when pure mothers are vitally important, when sin must be conquered at its roots, and the Adversary, now winning so much support in powerful quarters, must be completely vanquished, the Church determined to remind the world of what Christians had always believed.
The Mother of the Immaculate Christ is herself immaculate.
Of course, she never knew personal sin. She loved God too much for that.
But because she was to be the Mother of the Saviour, she was saved from taint in advance of His death. She was without touch of Original Sin from the first moment of her being. She was brought into the world with all the gifts that God had given to Eve. Never even slightly was she under the power of man’s enemy and God’s Adversary.
Mary is our pure Mother and the spotless example for womankind.
This is the meaning of the Immaculate Conception.
Could anything be more reasonable?
Could anything more completely explain the facts?