The readings and prayers of this Solemnity of Our Lady give us much Good News upon which we are called to reflect. First a “refresher” on what theological instruction underpins today’s feast. The Immaculate Conception recalls how God in His goodness applied the grace of His Son’s redeeming work to Mary at the moment of her conception. Obviously, this demonstrates that God is not restricted to time, as we are. The redeeming work of the Savior, had to take place after the birth of His mother, Mary.
The Prayer Over the Gifts in today’s Mass clearly makes this theological point:
Graciously accept the saving sacrifice which we offer you, O Lord, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and grant that, as we profess her, on account of your prevenient grace, to be untouched by any stain of sin, so, through her intercession, we may be delivered from all our faults. Through Christ our Lord.
The Catholic Encyclopedia has this to say regarding prevenient grace: ” Prevenient grace stands at the beginning of our justification. It is the actual grace that stirs us to turn to God by inspiring us to recognize Him as our true good and salvation.” (p. 780)
This is quite a marvel we celebrate today! God, through the work and love of His Son, grants the grace achieved by Christ prior to the saving events, to His Mother, Mary. God, in His goodness, in a manner fully respecting the freedom of Mary in her humanity, applies the divine grace that allowed her to be conceived without sin and to live her life without sin as a worthy Mother of God. We should also be just as astounded, that the grace granted Mary, we receive every time we celebrate and receive the Eucharist. The Prayer Over the Gifts says as much: Graciously accept the saving sacrifice which we offer you, O Lord, … so through [Mary’s] intercession, we may be delivered from all our faults.
The Second Reading, St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, also reminds us of the grace blessing that is ours in Christ:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. Again, these “spiritual blessings” are received in every Eucharist! We were also were chosen in Christ, before the foundation of the world, to live unblemished lives in the presence of God. This is Mary’s constant intercession and prayer for us, that following her example, w be as open to God’s will in our lives.
This phrase: through her intercession, is often repeated in our Prayers at Mass this day. God gave His Son and our Savior to the world, through Mary. This is theologically significant in the continuing role of the Blessed Mother in our world today. Mary continues to be an avenue of grace, a chosen “instrument of God” for granting the grace of her Son to the world.
In the history of Marian apparitions and locutions, she continually calls us to lead lives of holiness. She continually calls us to live up to the dignity of the life that is ours, having been created in the image of God and redeemed in the blood of her Son. She continually calls us to prayer, sacrifice, fasting, and penance. Let us be attentive to this consistent message of our Mother, and reflect upon our own progress along the universal call to holiness.
Mary, Conceived without sin, Pray for us!