Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

“Angelus ad Virginem” Tradition English, 13th century (translated from Latin)

The angel came to the Virgin, entering secretly into her room;

calming the Virgin’s fear, he said, “Hail! Hail, queen of virgins:

you will conceive the Lord of heaven and earth and bear him, still a virgin,

to be the salvation of mankind; you will be made the gate of heaven, the cure of sins.”

“How can I conceive, When I have never known a man?

How can I transgress resolutions that I have vowed with a firm mind?”

“The grace of the Holy Spirit shall do all this.

Do not be afraid, but rejoice without a care, since your chastity

will remain in you unspoilt through the power of God.”

To this, the noble Virgin, replying, said to him,

“I am the humble maidservant of almighty God.

To you, heavenly messenger, and bearer of such a great secret,

I give my consent, and wishing to see done what I hear,

I am ready to obey the will of God.”

The angel vanished, and at once the girl’s

womb swelled with the force of the pregnancy of salvation.

He, protected by the womb for nine months in number,

left it and began the struggle, fixing to his shoulder

a cross, with which he dealt the blow to the deadly Enemy.

Hail, Mother of our Lord, who brought peace back

to angels and men when you bore Christ!

Pray your son that he may show favor to us

and blot out our sins, giving us help

to enjoy a blessed life after this exile.

Today we celebrate not the conception of Jesus, but of Mary; we have this Gospel not only because her Immaculate Conception is not explicitly mentioned in Scripture, but more importantly because were she not conceived free of sin, neither would He have been, and the Annunciation would never have taken place. Why not?

“…you will conceive the Lord of heaven and earth / and bear him, still a virgin, / to be the salvation of mankind; / you will be made the gate of heaven, / the cure of sins.” The Word became flesh to save humanity from sin, as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28) but not for Himself. As He hung dying upon the Cross He was told to prove His divinity by saving Himself; He refused to do so because He came to save us. (Matthew 27:40) We believe that sin is inherited and that our Savior must be free of sin Himself in order to save us: a drowning lifeguard can help no one. How would the Redeemer of human nature, then, redeem His own humanity, without redeeming Himself?

The ancient wisdom of the Church, guided by the very Holy Spirit that overshadowed Mary that blessed night, realized that He could do this by saving His mother. Being God, He was the creator of His own mother, and had her in mind from the time of the Fall: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers…” (Genesis 3:15) Knowing He was to save all mankind by being born of her, He redeemed her from sin at the moment of her conception; hence it is true when she sings in her Magnificat, “…my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:47) She is the first of the redeemed, God’s proof that, even in the case of our own woundedness, “…nothing will be impossible for God.” We celebrate today the first nail in the coffin of Death, the first blow in the war against sin, the turning of the key that unlocked our salvation, leading to Christmas, to Easter, and to “…a blessed life after this exile.”

December 8th, 2016