Monday, December 9, 2013

Advent - Season of the Immaculata

The time of Advent is absolutely essential for our contemplation, too. If we have truly given our humanity to be changed into Christ, it is essential to us that we do not disturb this time of growth.

It is a time of darkness, of faith. We shall not see Christ’s radiance in our lives yet; it is still hidden in our darkness; nevertheless, we must believe that He is growing in our lives; we must believe it so firmly that we cannot help relating everything, literally everything to this almost incredible reality.

This attitude it is which makes every moment of every day and night a prayer. In itself it is a purification, but without the tense resolution and anxiety of self-conscious aim.

How could it be possible that anyone who was conscious that Christ desired to see the world with his eyes would look willingly on anything evil? Or knowing that He wished to work with his hands, do any work that was shoddy, any work that was not as near perfection as human hands can achieve?

Who, knowing that his ears must listen for Christ, could listen to blasphemy or to the dreary dirtiness of so much of our conversation, or could fail to listen to the voice of a world like ours with compassion?

Above all, who, knowing that Christ asked for his heart to love with, for his heart to bear the burden of the love of God, could fail to discover that in every pulsation of his own life there is prayer?

This Advent awareness does not lead to a selfish preoccupation with self; it does not exclude outgoing love to others—far from it. It leads to them inevitably, but it prevents such acts and words of love from becoming distractions. It makes the very doing of them reminders of the Presence of Christ in us. It is through doing them that we can preserve the secrecy of Advent without failing to offer the loveliness of Christ in us to others.
Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God

Reflection – Happy Feast Day! The Immaculate Conception has dawned upon us, and we rejoice in the Immaculata, the one who God chose. Heaven has decided to celebrate the feast this year by making the world just a little bit whiter, as snow is pouring down from the sky in these parts at an alarming rate.

Now, we’re all clear, right (since no one else is, apparently) that the mystery we celebrate today is not the Virginal Conception and birth of Jesus from the womb of Mary. It is Mary’s own conception in the womb of Anne, which occurred by the normal processes of human conception, but in which by a unique grace of God she was preserved from the stain of original sin in light of and in anticipation of the saving merits of Jesus. Just thought I’d slip that bit of catechesis in, as this seems to be one of the most misunderstood doctrines in our Catholic faith.

Back to Houselander’s meditation, which follows up on yesterday’s, we see then that Mary’s immaculate being is not simply a special gift God gave her for herself alone, so that she could be a fit vessel to receive the Son, and so that the unsoiled and integral human nature, as it was created by God in the beginning, could be given by her to Him.

All of that is very true, but we must understand that what Mary achieved in a perfect, immaculate way, we are called to emulate and become, with much struggle and failure no doubt, but nonetheless. Mary is immaculately conceived, and lived her whole life free of the wound of original sin and without committing actual sin (two very different things, as Adam and Eve were free of original sin, too, and still were able to commit actual sin).

We are not free in this way, but the whole action of Christ and the Holy Spirit in us is towards making us so, towards making us immaculate. We are not meant to languish in sin and mediocrity, in compromise and half measures and all sorts of shabby attachments to sin.

God has created us and redeemed us to win those battles and to become pure as Mary is pure, free as Mary is free, radiantly filled with Christ as Mary was and is. And it’s not driven by some terrible Jansenistic fear and shame—God being terribly disgusted with our filthy human sin, yuck, gross—but that God is so deeply in love with us that He wants us to be as beautiful as He knows we in fact are.

And He gives us Mary to truly and deeply help us in all this. Her immaculateness does not draw her away from us or make her remote from us; it fills her with a tender motherly love for us and makes her ‘all for us’ in a way that beggars our imagination. Mary’s got our back, and our front and every other side of us.

So, happy feast day – do something happy today! It’s a great day to be human, really it is the feast of our redeemed humanity, so rejoice and be glad – God did not and is not going to leave us in our sins and brokenness. Humanity has been healed; Mary is the great sign of this, and we are following along in her wake and receiving the grace of Her Son to be healed ourselves. Alleluia.


  1. Now I know the woman in the picture in the left hand column. And I shall endeavor to read more of her (as I hope to do with all those pictured left of your articles; as I identify them). Lou

    1. Yeah, these are all my buddies... I should do a special post some time, just to talk about why I like each of these people so much, and why I have them lined up like a non-rogue's gallery.


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