Saturday, December 7, 2013

Blessed be her Holy and Immaculate Conception

Tota pulchra es, Maria, et macula originalis non est in te. Vestimentum tuum candidum quasi nix, et facies tua sicut sol. Tota pulchra es, Maria, et macula originalis non est in te. Tu gloria Jerusalem, tu laetitia Israel, tu honorificentia populi nostri. Tota pulchra es, Maria. The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception Sunday 8 December 2013

“Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee!” Canticle iv, 7

Dom Prosper Gueranger in his book, The Liturgical Life Vol. 1 comments: “The happy Mother of the Messias was to be born before the Messias Himself; and this is the day of the Conception of Mary. The earth already possesses a first pledge of the divine mercy; the Son of Man is near at hand. Two true Israelites, Joachim and Anne, noble branches of the family of David, find their union, after a long barrenness, made fruitful by divine omnipotence. Glory be to God, who has been mindful of His promises, and who deigns to announce from the high heaven, the end of the deluge of iniquity, by sending upon earth the sweet white dove that bears tidings of peace. “The feast of the blessed Virgin’s Immaculate Conception is the most solemn of all those which the Church celebrates during the holy time of Advent; …The intention of the Church, in this feast, is not only to celebrate the anniversary of the happy moment in which began, in the womb of the pious Anne, the life of the ever-glorious Virgin Mary; but also to honour the sublime privilege, by which Mary was preserved from the original stain, which, by a sovereign and universal decree, is contracted by all the children of Adam the very moment they are conceived in their mother’s womb. The faith of the Catholic Church on the subject of the Conception of Mary is this: that at the very instant when God united the soul of Mary, which He had created, to the body which it was to animate, this ever-blessed soul did not only not contract the stain, which at that same instant defiles every human soul, but was filled with an immeasurable grace which rendered her, from that moment, the mirror of the sanctity of God Himself, as far as this is possible to a creature. The Church with her infallible authority, declared by the lips of Pius IX, that this article of her faith had been revealed by God Himself. The Definition was received with enthusiasm by the whole of Christendom, and the eighth of December of the year 1854 was thus made one of the most memorable days of the Church’s history. …Nothing defiled could be permitted to enter, even for an instant of time, into the creature that was thus predestined to contract such close relation with the adorable Trinity; not a speck could be permitted to tarnish Mary that perfect purity which the infinitely holy God requires even in those who are one day to be admitted to enjoy the sight His divine majesty in heaven; in a word, as the great Doctor St. Anselm says, ‘it was just that this holy Virgin should be adorned with the greatest purity which can be conceived after that of God Himself, since God the Father was to give to her, as her Child, that only-begotten son, whom he loved as Himself, as being begotten to Him from His own bosom; and this in such a manner, that the selfsame Son of God was, by nature, the Son of God the Father and this blessed Virgin. This same Son chose her to be substantially His Mother; and the Holy Ghost willed that in her womb He would operate the conception and birth for Him from whom He Himself had proceeded.’” (De conceptu virginali cap. Xvii) Gueranger, p. 377-9

‘Thou are all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee!’ Canticle. iv, 7

Dom Gueranger comments on Our Lady’s purity as foreshowed in the Old Testament. “And how can we do less that admire and love the incomparable purity of Mary in her Immaculate Conception, when we hear even God, who thus prepared her to become His Mother, saying to her, in the divine Canticle, these words of complacent love: ‘Thou are all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee!’ (Cant. iv, 7) It is the God of all holiness that here speaks; that eye, which see all things, finds not a vestige, not a shadow of sin; therefore does He delight in her, and admire in her that of His own condescending munificence.” Gueranger, p. 381

“The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His ways, before He made anything from the beginning.” Prov. 8: 22

Dom Gueranger tells how today’s Epistle (Proverbs 8:22-35 relates to God’s eternal decree of Jesus being born of Mary: “The apostle teaches us that Jesus, our Emmanuel is the firstborn of every creature. (cf. Col. 1: 15) These mysterious words signify not only that He is, as God, eternally begotten of the Father; but also that the divine Word is, as Man, anterior to all created beings. Yet how is this? The world had been created, and the human race had dwelt on this earth full four thousand years, before the Son of God, took to Himself the nature of man. It is not in the order of time, but in the eternal intention of God, that the Man-God preceded every creature. The eternal Father decreed first to give to His eternal Son a created nature, namely, the nature of man; and, in consequence of this decree to create all beings, whether spiritual or material, as a kingdom for this Man-God. This explains to us how it is, that the divine Wisdom, the Son of God, in this passage of the sacred Scripture which forms the Epistle (Proverbs 8:22-35) of this feast, proclaims His having existed before all the creatures of the universe. As God, He was begotten from all eternity in the bosom of the Father; as Man, He was in the mind of God, the type of all creatures, before those creatures were made. But the Son of God could not be of our race, as the divine will decreed He should be, unless He were born in time, and born of a Mother as other men; and therefore she that was to be His Mother was eternally present to the thought of God, as the means whereby the Word would assume the human nature. The Son and the Mother are therefore united in the plan of the Incarnation; Mary therefore, existed, as did Jesus, in the divine decree, before creation began. This is the reason of the Church’s having, from the earliest days of Christianity, interpreted this sublime passage of the sacred volume of Jesus and Mary unitedly, and ordering it and analogous passages of the Scriptures to be read in the assembly of the faithful on the solemnities or feast of the Mother of God. But if Mary be this prominent in the divine and eternal plan; if, in the sense in which these mysterious texts are understood by the Church, she was, with Jesus, before every creature; could God permit her to be subjected to the original sin, which was to fall on all the children of Adam like her divine Son Himself, and to be born at the time fixed; but that torrent, which sweeps all mankind along, shall be turned away from her by God’s grace; it shall not come near to her; and she shall transmit to her Son, who is also the Son of God, the human nature in its original perfection, created, as the apostle says, in holiness and justice.” (cf. Eph. iv, 24) Gueranger, p. 400-1

“Hail, full of grace; the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.” Lk 1:28

In today’s Gospel (Luke 1:26-28) Don Gueranger brings out the importance of Angel Gabriel’s greeting. “The Archangel (Gabriel) proclaims her full of grace. What means this, but that the second woman (Mary) possesses in her that element of which sin had deprived the first (Eve)? And observe, he does not say merely that divine grace works in her, but that she is full of it. ‘She is not merely in grace as others are, ’Saint Peter Chrysologus told us in his feast, ‘but she is filled with it.’ Everything in her is resplendent with heavenly purity, and sin has never cast its shadow on her beauty. To appreciate the full import of Gabriel’s expression, we must consider what is the force of the words, in the language which the sacred the historian used. Grammarians tell us that the single word which he employs is much more comprehensive than our expression ‘full of grace.’ It implies not only the present time, but the past as well, an incorporation of grace from the very commencement, the full and complete affirmation of grace, the total permanence of grace. Our translation has unavoidably weakened the term. “The better to feel the full force of our translation, let us compare this with an analogous text from the Gospel of St. John. This evangelist, speaking of the Humanity of the Incarnate Word, expresses all by saying that Jesus is full of grace and truth. (cf. Jn. I:14) Now, would this fullness have been real, had sin ever been there, instead of grace, even for a single instant? Could we call him full of grace, who had once stood in need of being cleansed? Undoubtedly, we must ever respectfully bear in mind the distance between the Humanity of the Incarnate Word and the person of Mary, from whose womb the Son of God assumed that Humanity; but the sacred text obliges us to confess, that the fullness of grace was, proportionately, in both Jesus and Mary.
“Gabriel goes on still enumerating the supernatural riches of Mary. He says to her: ‘The Lord is with thee.’ What means this? It means that even before Mary had conceived our Lord in her chaste womb, she already possessed Him in her soul. But would the words be true, if that union with Him had once not been, and had begun only when disunion Him by sin had been removed? The solemn occasion, on which the angel used this language, forbids us to think that he conveyed by it any other idea, by than that she had always had the Lord with her. We feel allusions to a contrast between the first and second Eve; the first lost the God who had once been with her; the second (Eve-Mary) had like the first, received our Lord into her from the first moment of her existence, and never lost Him, but continued from first to last and forever to have him with her…. ‘Blessed are thou among women.’ For four thousand years, every woman has been under the curse of God, and has brought forth her children in suffering and sorrow: but here is the one among women, that has been ever blessed of God, that has ever been the enemy of the serpent, and that shall bring forth the fruit of her womb without travail. “The Immaculate Conception of Mary is therefore declared in the Archangel’s salutation…” Gueranger, p. 403-5

Bl. John Duns Scotus, the Subtle Doctor

It was Franciscan Bl. John Duns Scotus using the Franciscan Thesis (Christ the first-born of all creatures) who proposed the Immaculate Conception as the “perfect fruit, of a perfect redemption, by a perfect redeemer.” Our Lady would have to be sinless; her redemption would be preservative, in light of the foreseen merits of her Son’s redemption, as she never contracted any sin. She would also have to be predestined to be Mother of God (Divine Maternity) in the same divine decree for Incarnation. She would also have to be free from any sins if she were to assist her Son as Co-Redemptrix. Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception and Co-Redemptrix, is “the perfect fruit, of a perfect redemption, by a perfect redeemer.” First, there was the joint predestination of Christ and Mary which was willed by the Father from all eternity. Second, there was the perfect redemption with Mary’s preservative redemption (all other redemptions were liberative after contacting original sin). Finally, there was Mary’s Divine Maternity when she was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. As the New Eve, Our Lady would be the object of all complacence by the Holy Trinity. No wonder, Bl. Pius IX would tell us in bull, for the Immaculate Conception on 8 December 1854, Ineffabilis Deus that Our Lady’s “participation in the Divine Life exceeds that of all angels and saints (together).”

The Divine Maternity and Immaculate Conception

Blessed Pius IX in his solemn definition, Ineffabilis Deus, says of the Immaculate Conception: “The most holy Virgin Mary was, in the first moment of her conception, by a unique gift of grace and privilege of almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, preserved free from all stain of original sin…. God so loved her with a unique predilection that He filled her with the greatest abundance of his celestial gifts and her participation in the Divine Life exceeds that of all angels and saints together. Her life reflects so great a fullness of innocence and sanctity that a more exalted creature cannot be conceived of except by the creator Himself.”