Preservation from original sin… signifies that Mary reserves no area of being, life, and will for herself as a private possession: instead, precisely in the total dispossession of self, in giving herself to God, she comes to the true possession of self. Grace as dispossession becomes response as appropriation. Thus from another view point the mystery of barren fruitfulness, the paradox of the barren mother, the mystery of virginity, becomes intelligible once more: dispossession as belonging, as the locus of new life.
, 70 Zion
Reflection – Deep stuff here, deep, deep stuff. It is worth, as a preparation for tomorrow’s great feast of the Immaculate Conception, to simply go through this short passage from Daughter Zion and meditate on it.
Original sin as reserving some part of our being, life, and will as a private possession: the woman took the fruit and ate it, and gave to her husband, and he ate it. My life is my own, and I will do as I please. This is the one thing Mary never said, never did.
Ratzinger calls us here to a deep reflection on what it means to be a person, what it means to be a ‘self’, an individual. The world shaped by original sin says that it means precisely that attitude: I will do what I will do. Mary, as immaculately conceived reveals something entirely different. She opens up for us, or rather God by working this grace in her opens up for us an entirely different picture of what it means to be human. ‘In giving herself to God, she comes to the true possession of self.’ That is a sentence we could meditate on for the rest of our lives. Self-possessed usually means for us someone who is in total control of themselves at all times. God offers us a different path of self-possession: one who is giving himself or herself away at all times.
And the next one: ‘grace as dispossession becomes response as appropriation.’ As Mother Theresa put it, ‘God cannot fill what is already full’. And to be filled by God with God is the whole substance of our humanity, its divine purpose, our glorious human destiny. All these realities in human spiritual life that we find so painful and messy: loss, purification, grief, death to self, humiliation—they all are about emptying that inner space that God means to fill with Himself. Mary, immaculately conceived, shows us that the truth of our humanity, our unmarred nature, is precisely this mystery and this glory. To be filled with God – this is Mary’s one role, her one purpose, her vocation. As is ours.
And so Ratzinger links all of this to what most of this book is about: the long feminine line in the Old Testament of barren mothers, of women made fruitful by the action of God, of Israel held in being by the action of God, of all creation opening up to receive the action of God with joyful response. In Mary all of this is brought to perfection: what God did in the history of his sinful people he now shows forth in the very being and person of this one little girl who He preserves from that terrible mysterious ‘drift’ of original sin, and so makes her into a living icon of creation, of the human person, and thus of the Church, humanity made into a living temple of God.
The Immaculate Conception, which we celebrate tomorrow, is utterly relevant and important to your life and mine. It shows us who we are, really, by showing us what humanity looks like when all the distortions and lies are removed from it. And so we see who we are, what we are meant to do, what our already glorious present and still more glorious future holds for us, and how we are to get there: let God empty us of self, so we can be filled with Himself.All wrapped up in the most delightful and charming thing God ever made: a truly beautiful woman. So we don’t have to be theologians or philosophers or any sort of rubbish like that: we just need to go to our Mama and say, “Teach me what you know.” And she does.