Sunday, December 5, 2010
I know the Immaculate Conception is controversial as viewed from a Protestant perspective, but there is a Gospel analogy that supports it. Why would Mary, the most important woman in salvation history, "need" to be Immaculately Conceived, a "new creation" like Eve?
Because you "can't put new wine in old wineskins" - Mat. 9:14-17, Mark 2:18-22, Luke 5:33-39. To follow Christ and be saved, we must be made anew, part of the "new creation". We cannot pour his new wine into our old wineskins, ratty and torn as they are from Original Sin. This applies particularly so to the Virgin Mary. She must be the paradigm of the "new creation", sinless from her very conception, to be worthy of bearing forth Christ in a way more powerfully than any of us sinful Christians can.
And once you begin to consider the Virgin’s lifelong purity, other things begin to open themselves up to you. For instance, how did she live before the Angel appeared to her at the Assumption? What was her “hidden life” like? Mary's immaculate heart must have been pierced by many swords along the way, even before Jesus. To be pure and to live in this fallen world must have been an ongoing suffering for a woman who, like Christ, did not need to suffer. Imagine the nasty hard-heartedness and sinfulness she encountered day by day in the world. It must have pierced her heart with many little pins and tiny arrows of suffering.
So while the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception may appear to be divisive, rankling the Protestants among us, we must see the depth of theology implicit in the event, which is God’s desire to remake us utterly, to change our very natures, to give us new wineskins. Mary models for us what the perfect Christian should be, not merely a nice person, but a new creation, a pure and loving man or woman capable of intimate union with the Holy Spirit, a glorious vessel to bear forth the presence of Christ Himself to others, a remade human, not without suffering (in this life), but filled with a contentment that is made even richer through suffering.
As St. Paul tells us, “For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision matters. Rather, what matters is being a new creation.” (Gal. 6:15)
(A response to my friend Joe Grabowski's post about the communion of saints.)
At times like yesterday when I went to Holy Mass at a parish center that is used for Mass by a parish in Kansas that has abandoned its old traditional church and uses a meeting room with folding chairs and no kneelers until the new church is built (even though the old traditional building remains standing), when the priest encourages everyone to sit comfortably for the consecration (since kneeling on the floor would be too difficult), when the homily turns the peace that passes understanding into "why don't we all just get along", when the music sounds like new age sauna background tracks, when the "communion hymn" assures us that we are God's body (true, of course, but not in the way the hymn seems to imply), when a new rite is borrowed from a Bernardine influenced web site for the congregation to bless the "cribe shrine" which the priest encourages us all to pray and which asks for the blessings of the star of Bethlehem upon our homes - whatever that means - deliberately avoiding the invocation of any saint or angel or any plea for the grace of God, when I leave Holy Mass not with a feeling I've come closer to Christ but with a strong desire to punch someone in the face, when all of this happens, I say to myself, "This Church still somehow, against all expectation, produces saints", then I know that it is not a tradition of man, for if it were, it would not last out the next few years without completely self-destructing. It is the saints and their example and our communion with them that serves as the best evidence for me of the continued presence of Christ among us when all else seems lost.