Thirst drove me to the refectory after Compline. As I entered the cloister walk to cut across the garden, I paused in the middle and leaned back against St. Dominic to look up. Scattered across the deepening velvet sky like glittering diamonds were stars, periodically joined by the twinkling lights of a passing airplane. The daytime noises of flitting birds, bees and other creatures were gone, replaced by a sleepy hush that covered the cloistered like a blanket. As I looked around, I noticed the bell tower was being illuminated by a growing white light. As the light rose in the sky, still behind the opposite roof of the cloister, the shadows in the cloister began to lessen and silverly ran down the walls, down the pillars and into the cloister walk. Finally, above the roof and silhouetting a tall fir on the back side of the monastery, rose a brilliant full moon.
By “immaculate conception”, we mean that Mary was conceived without sin, by the grace of God. When God made Adam and Eve, they lived in a state of holiness, of perfection. They lost this perfection for all mankind through their sin. Since that time, all people, until Mary, have been born in a fallen state, the state of original sin. But God did not intend to leave us in that state. He promised Adam and Eve, and others throughout the generations, that He would provide a Savior to redeem us and bring us back into a state of holiness. That Savior was to be God Himself – the second person of the Trinity, the Son and Word of God – He was to come to earth as one of us, and would be named Jesus.
Mary, who was to be called by God to be Jesus’ mother, was given a “singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ…” (Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus (1854)) to be free and immune from the stain of original sin. How do we know this? The angel Gabriel tells us so when he refers to her as “full of grace”. To be “full of grace” is to be perfect. Sinless. Holy.
Does this mean we are saying Mary didn’t need Jesus as her savior? Certainly not. Mary received this singular grace completely from Jesus Christ. God, being outside of time and space and being, well, God, chose Mary to receive this grace because of Jesus – if God was so particular about the Ark of the Covenant, which to be His mercy seat on earth, what more fitting place for the Son of God to live and grow for nine months that in the womb of a sinless woman? The fact that Mary was immaculately conceived reveals more about God and His abundant love and mercy and His plans of salvation made available to everyone.
As Jesus is the sun, Mary is the moon – reflecting the light of her Savior and Love, dazzlingly brilliant, to a world shrouded in darkness until her Son returns in glory.
Blessed Virgin Mary, Immaculate Conception, pray for us!