This piece was very popular last year, and since there are a lot more eyes here than a year ago, it is worth a repost today, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Here’s your Christian catechesis for the weekend. First, who exactly is the Immaculate Conception? Most Catholics today are so incredibly ignorant and poorly catechized in their faith that a sickening number would say that Jesus is who the term Immaculate Conception is referring to. That would be wrong. Mary is the Immaculate Conception.
And here is where all of the non-Catholics begin to feel a distinct tightening in the solar plexus, a rush of blood to the face, a clenching of the jaw and a grinding of the teeth. Why? Because any mention of Mary other than as a human brood mare, and only around Christmastime – engenders RAGE amongst the Protesters. Why? Because, apparently, Mary draws people’s attention away from Jesus instead of pointing people TOWARD Him. Because, apparently, Jesus takes absolutely no delight in any of us, most especially His own mother, is insanely jealous of His own creation and thus hates His own mother, and demands that nobody EVER so much as LOOK at her, much less LOVE her, because Jesus is extremely insecure and just can’t handle people observing, loving and appreciating beauty in HIS OWN CREATION, even though everything in the universe was made by Him and through Him.
So every time a parent looks at their child in love, Jesus gets all mad. And every time a man looks at his wife in love, Jesus gets all mad. And every time a son looks at his mother in love, Jesus gets all mad. And every time a man looks at the mountains, or a sunset, or up at the stars in loving wonder and appreciation, Jesus gets all mad. And every time a person looks in loving appreciation at a beautiful painting, or building, or reads a beautiful bit of prose or poetry, or gazes upon a particularly elegant bit of mathematics or even computer programming code . . . JESUS GETS ALL MAD.
Do I have that about right, y’all? Snorf.
Anywho, back to the Immaculate Conception. This doctrine and non-negotiable tenet of Christianity teaches that Mary was, by the grace of God, prevented from carrying the stain of Original Sin from the moment of her conception. Mary was saved from sin by her Son, like all of the other faithful, it is just that the timing of her salvation was different from everyone else. This is why Mary calls God “my Savior” in her Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55. Instead of letting Mary fall in the mud puddle of sin like the rest of us, God stuck out His Arm back through time from the Cross and kept her from falling in the mud puddle â€“ but if it wasn’t for God’s positive action of reaching out across time from the Cross and holding her from falling, she would have fallen. This is called “grace”, and is what the Angel Gabriel was referring to when he greeted Mary at the Annunciation with the words, “Hail! Full of grace! The LORD is with thee. Blessed art thou among women.” Luke 1:28
Full of grace means FULL. OF. GRACE.
How full is full? Full is totally full. To the brim. Full does not mean half-full or mostly-full. Full means full. Mary was FULL OF GRACE. And because Mary was FULL of grace, there was absolutely no room for sin. Mary didn’t sin because God her Savior had filled her with grace and therefore she just COULDN’T sin. Most of us reading this have a tiny taste of what this is like. For example, I^m guessing that everyone reading this, if handed a baby would be incapable of killing that baby. We just COULDN’T do it. No matter what threat was made against us, no matter what the adverse consequences to our own lives might be, we would take any adverse consequence before killing that baby. We are simply incapable of performing that act. Why? What is that internal force of energy that prevents us from committing acts of evil even when under intense duress and threat? It is grace. Pure and simple.
2012 editorial update: Apparently this example is somewhat iffy today, as almost every one of you would happily kill a baby with your tax dollars, as long as your tax dollars pay someone else to actually do the limb-ripping and decapitation of said baby behind closed doors. But I digress.
Sadly, most of us have a little grace, but are not in any way FULL of grace. I am personally much closer to being full of crap than of grace (which many of you have already pointed out to me, thank you very much), hence the daily, persistent, repeated sinning on my part. And I suspect it is a similar situation with you, dear reader, with the grace-to-crap ratio being much higher for you than for me. I really am quite full of crap.
With Mary there was no crap because God her Savior had FILLED her with grace, and thus there was no room for crap, and thus there was no sin. It’s really just 2nd grade math if you think about it. But WHY? Why was it essential for Mary to be sinless and sinless from the moment of her conception?
That’s where the science comes in.
There are two phases to Mary’s existence. The first phase was from the moment of her conception until the Annunciation, which is when Jesus was conceived in her womb. The second phase was from that moment of conception forward for all eternity. Each phase has its own physiological delight attached to it which required Mary to be a sinless vessel for Our Lord.
First, the pre-Annunciation period. As it turns out, all baby girls have all of the eggs that are ever going to be in their ovaries fully formed not just at birth, but fairly early in their fetal development phase. Unlike men who are continuously producing new sperm, a woman’s eggs aren’t created and formed with each menstrual cycle. All that is happening during a cycle is that an egg, which has been fully formed in a woman’s body since she was a pre-born fetus, is released into the reproductive tract. What this means theologically is that the egg containing the 23 chromosomes that God would miraculously fertilize with 23 chromosomes that He miraculously supplied (including a Y chromosome) to become the Word Made Flesh, Jesus Christ, was physically present inside Mary’s body from the time that Mary was inside of her mother’s womb.
That egg, and those chromosomes, that physical constituent of Our Blessed Lord was present inside of Mary’s body, waiting to be . . . if I may use the word . . . consecrated. The word consecrate, when broken into its Latin components means:
Ate: Territory of a Ruler
And so, Mary was, from the time she was inside St. Ann’s womb, already carrying a portion of Our Lord’s physicality, namely 23 of His chromosomes. And thus Mary was, from her very beginning, already a tabernacle, already the Ark of the New Covenant, carrying within her what would be consecrated into The Law Incarnate, The High Priest, and The Bread of Life, directly analogous to the Old Ark, except perfected and fully fulfilled as God Incarnate. And as we know from the book of Exodus, the Old Ark had to be “pure within and without” (Exodus 25:11). And thus, the Ark of the New Covenant was truly pure within and without, except this purity was a purity that only God Himself could accomplish: the purity of Mary, full of grace and thus saved from all sin.
The second phase is actually broken into two sub-phases. The first sub-phase is when Mary was pregnant with Jesus and His entire body was inside of hers. The second phase is that phase from the time of Jesus’ birth forward into all eternity.
Jesus is STILL physically inside of Mary in a unique way. It was discovered just a few short years ago that immune cells pass from a pre-born child to the mother across the placenta. Not only do these immune cells, which are the child’s and thus carry the exclusive DNA of the child, pass across the placenta, but they persist in the mother’s body for the rest of her life. A woman who has carried a son has immune cells with Y-chromosomes in her bloodstream that can now be filtered out of her blood and observed. Female children also pass cells to their mothers. Thus, a woman truly does carry her children around inside of her, with their DNA coursing through her heart, for the rest of her life. That isn’t just a sentiment, it is a physiological fact.
Thus, Mary continued and continues to this day to be a perpetual, living tabernacle of her Son, as she carries cells with His DNA in her bloodstream. And so now we see why Mary had to be filled with grace and thus saved from the stain of sin from the moment of her conception eternally forward, because she was and is a perpetual Ark of the New Covenant.
This also explains why Mary’s body was assumed into heaven, body and soul, immediately at the end of her earthly life, because her body literally contained living cells of Our Lord and thus her body could not remain on earth in physical death to decay in any way. She simply was afforded the same physical resurrection that all of the faithful will receive, albeit instantaneously for her, given her very special state, both spiritually and physically. This is what is doctrinally referred to as “The Assumption”. The Feast of the Assumption is August 15th.
Finally, if you are reading this and it has made you the least bit angry, you need to sit down and ask yourself one excruciatingly simple question: WHY?
(This is in German – beautiful.)
- RORATE CÆLI: The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (newsforcatholics.wordpress.com)
- Video Benedict XVI: We look with trust to Mary. (deaconjohnspace.wordpress.com)