Thursday, December 8, 2011

It's Not a Competition

The doctrine of the immaculata testifies accordingly that God’s grace was powerful enough to awaken a response, that grace and freedom, grace and being oneself, renunciation and fulfillment are only apparent contradictories; in reality one conditions the other and grants it its very existence.
Daughter Zion, 71
Reflection – Happy Feast Day to you all! It is the feast of the creation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the awesome grace God gave her from the very beginning of her life, to be preserved from original sin, so as to be a fit vessel for the Incarnate Word.
It is one of the most common complaints against Catholics by Protestants that we exalt Mary at the expense of Jesus. To give honor and praise to the Mother detracts from the Son, goes the usual drill.
If we look carefully at this feast and this mystery of the Immaculate Conception, though, especially in light of this passage from Ratzinger, we see that this is not true. In this mystery, we see that Mary’s very being was itself a gracious gift of God. There is nothing about Mary, from the first moment of her being, that was ‘hers’, that she had as her own apart from, over and against God.
Her soul magnified the Lord, and her spirit rejoiced in God her savior. Mary was all God’s, from the beginning. So, nothing that is said of Mary, no matter how exalted and fulsome it may be, deprives God of any glory, since Mary is entirely his creature, his work of art. To praise the painting does not detract from the artist, obviously.
Deeper than the immediate concern with Our Lady is what this reveals about all of us. And this is what Ratzinger meditates on above. God and man are not in a competition. God’s gracious gift and human freedom are not opposed to each other. So often the modern world ‘illuminated’ by such thinkers as Sartre or Nietzsche considers it thus: if God exists, man is not free. For human beings to attain full freedom and dignity, we must shed the burden of God. In traditional Protestant theology the same idea is expressed alternately; to preserve the awesome majesty of God, any goodness or dignity in man must be denied.
God in his action of creating Mary shows us that neither is true. His gift to her from her conception makes her freely able to consent to being the Mother of the Redeemer. The entire action of grace is not meant to override our freedom, to make us slaves of God, but to awaken in us the response of faith and love: let it be done to me according to thy word… my soul magnifies the Lord.
So this is the great joy of this day, the great joy Mary brings to us who honor her. Human life is not essentially tragic or all grubby and soiled or a nasty brutal struggle for survival. Human life, in its divinely mandated essence, is an encounter with love, an encounter with grace, an encounter with God who fashions us, refashions us, pours mercy upon us, comes to our assistance in every turning, and who promises to see us through to the completion of our journey.
Happy Feast day to all, and may our joy in it bring us a little closer to that happy completion.


  1. Wonderful reflection Fr. Denis.
    Pope Benedict's homily of 2005 came to my inbox this morning and I thought I would share it here with you and your readers.
    There is a richness in his writings, no matter how few or many words he writes. Thank you for providing bite size to digest regularly.

    Happy Feast day to you and all at MH.

  2. Thanks, Carole - I'm going to look at it now, and hey - maybe blog about Mary some more from it!


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