Friday, December 9, 2011

God Has Not Failed

We must ask ourselves: What does "Mary, the Immaculate" mean? Does this title have something to tell us? Today, the liturgy illuminates the content of these words for us in two great images.
First of all comes the marvelous narrative of the annunciation of the Messiah's coming to Mary, the Virgin of Nazareth. The Angel's greeting is interwoven with thread: from the Old Testament, especially from the Prophet Zephaniah. He shows that Mary, the humble provincial woman who comes from a priestly race and bears within her the great priestly patrimony of Israel, "the holy remnant" of Israel to which the prophets referred it all the periods of trial and darkness.
In her is present the true Zion, the pure, living dwelling place of God. In her the Lord dwells, in her he finds the place of his repose. She is the living house of God, who does not dwell in buildings of stone but in the heart of living man. She is the shoot which sprouts from the stump of David in the dark winter night of history. In her, the words of the Psalm are fulfilled: "The earth has yielded its fruits" (Ps 67:7).
She is the offshoot from which grew the tree of redemption and of the redeemed. God has not failed, as it might have seemed formerly at the beginning of history with Adam and Eve or during the period of the Babylonian Exile, and as it seemed anew in Mary's time when Israel had become a people with no importance in an occupied region and with very few recognizable signs of its holiness.
Homily: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 2005
Reflection - God has not failed - what a lovely message from yesterday's feast. So often, we can struggle with just that. Where is God in my pain, in my struggle, in my problems, in my own failures? Where is God? What is He doing? And so often the specific answer is nowhere near being clear. Sometimes it's all very dark indeed.
And so with Mary we see that God has not failed. That's all. There is a woman in whom his perfect designs are achieved, and from her flesh comes the flesh of Christ who saves us in all our distress. God has not failed.
Advent is a time when we enter with the earth the season of darkness (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) and so touch the darkness of the world and our own interior darkness. It is a time of cold, of damp (in these parts, anyhow) and of a strange quiet upon the land. In this strange quiet, the figure of the Woman is unveiled before us, the one in whom God achieved his perfect purposes.
As we slip and slide on the ice of our lives, shiver in the cold and dark of our times, we draw near to this Woman, and draw warmth from her. God has not failed; we will not fail, if we stay close to Her and let Her lead us close to Her Son.
This is Advent hope; this is Christian hope. And its great icon is the Mother of God, the Immaculate One, the one who did what we long to do but fall short. Let's stay with her for a few more days on this blog (maybe until Dec 12, the next big feast day of hers!), so that she can renew our hope and assure us of God's perfect plan to make our life, and the life of the world, a success.


  1. Fr Denis I am going systematically through your blog, which I love! And this, one of your earlier posts, tells of something almost ineffable: Mary as "immaculate Mother of God" is a term that has always sent goose pimples down my spine. Cardinal Ratzinger's "in her [God] finds the place of his repose" is a wonderful summary of just WHY she is immaculate. I once asked a priest what he thought "immaculate heart" actually meant, and he said it was a "space" for God to reside. This I think is what Ratzinger is saying too of the same thing. And how we need that space! By "sticking close" to Mary, the "space" for the divine Word, we cannot fail to receive, like her, grace in abundance.

    1. I don't know if I should be impressed, flattered, or a bit worried for you that you're going through my blog systematically! Your reflection, though, is quite wonderful. I've been delving into Maximillian Kolbe's Mariology lately - he really takes this whole business of the Immaculata to a new level for me - quite startling in his boldness of language (Mary as immaculate is quasi-part of the Trinity, for example!), but I think he is quite right about it. Have you ever read any of his stuff?


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