The Church learns concretely what she is and what she is meant to be by looking at Mary. Mary is her mirror, the pure measure of her being, because Mary is wholly within the measure of Christ and of God, is through and through his habitation.
Mary, the Church at the Source, 66
Reflection – A very happy feast day to you all. The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, alleluia!
Isn’t it beautiful to think of Immaculate Mary as a mirror of our being, as Ratzinger suggests above? Beautiful… and perhaps a bit hard to embrace.
I… am not immaculate. Don’t know about you, but I can definitely say that I am not preserved from original sin from the moment of my conception, and free of all actual sin in my life. Uh, no. I leave it to you to figure that out for your own case, but me, I’m a sinner.
But nonetheless, Mary is my mirror, and this fills my heart with joy and gratitude to God. Mary is like the opposite of a funhouse mirror in a carnival. Those mirrors ripple and distort, stretching out and fattening up and twisting for comic effect. They show us precisely what we are not.
Sin is a funhouse mirror, the distortion of our humanity in a million lying shapes—and the effect is anything but comic. Mary is just the opposite. The undistorted image, the pure and perfect reflection, the real picture of humanity before God.
And this is what I really am, what you really are. We are not made to rebel and run away from God, to dissipate our being in a thousand empty pleasures, to spend our money on what fails to satisfy. We are not made to die. We are made to go home, and this home is our radiant communion with the Father in the grace of Christ.
This is where Mary lived every moment, every second of her existence, and where she lives now. And so it is only by looking at her that we see what a human creature really is. And what do we see? Total openness to God, through a total gift of herself, which takes the shape of a total fiat, a total act of obedience and love.
And then… a quiet, simple disposition to follow Christ wherever he goes. Mary is sort of always there in the Gospels, but almost always in the background, a quiet presence, a silent witness. But there nonetheless—and she never leaves him, not to the very end.
This is what we are called to be individually and as a Church. The Church can only learn what She is to be and do by turning to Mary who was and did exactly what God pleased. There are so many questions—so dreadfully many questions—about the Church, its struggles, its failures, its scandals, its mission, its inability to do its mission—on and on and on. None of those questions can be solved by human cleverness, bold pastoral programs, decisive leadership, and a good social media presence (ahem).
All of those have their place, but it is the way of Mary that is the way of the Church, now and always and forever. Only that way, the way of living ‘wholly within the measure of God and of Christ, of being through and through his habitation’, will bring the light of God and the beauty of the Gospel alive in the world.
Well, I don’t have all the answers, not that that stops me from writing every day like a lunatic. But I know we need to go to Mary very simply, like the little children of hers that we are, and beg her to show us how to let Christ in as she let him in, how to let God take possession of our lives as she let God take possession of her life, and how to become free of all spot and stain of sin as she was, so that the radiant vision of redeemed humanity can shine forth from the Church and from our own faces and hearts, so that the world can come to know and believe in the One who loves us and has come to save us and bring us to glory with Him
.A very happy feast day to you all.