Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Immaculate Conception: the True Breaking Dawn

We will never recognize sin clearly without the knowledge which is given to us by Divine Revelation. Born in sin, we would have thought that sin is a “normal developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or simply the necessary sonsequences of an inadequate social structure” which we all have to live with in this imperfect world of ours. Were it not for Divine Revelation, we would not have known the sublime dignity that God intended for us who were originally created in His image and likeness. “God created man in his image and established him in his friendship. A spiritual creature, man can live this friendship only in free submission to God. The prohibition against eating ‘of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ spells this out:’for in the day that you eat of it, you shall die.’” (CCC, 396) Last night someone asked me: “Father, why did God create that tree of knowledge only to prohibit us from eating of its fruit?” The Catechism answers: “The ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ symbolically evokes the insurmountable limits that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust. Man is dependent on his Creator, and subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom.” (CCC 396) The sublime dignity of the human nature is shown by the fact that “Constituted in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully ‘divinized’ by God in glory.” (CCC, 398.) However, “seduced by the devil, man wanted to ‘be like God,’ but ‘without God, before God, and not in accordance with God.’” (Ibid.) This desire to be like God but without God is being popularized today by that famous “Twilight” vampire series wherein one can become immortal even without God – all you have to do is to be transformed into a vampire.

Thinking that they can become like God even without God, our first parents lost the grace of original holiness: “the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions…lust and domination; …visible creation becomes hostile to man. Because of man, creation is now subject ‘to its bondage to decay.’ And finally…Death makes its entrance into human history.”(CCC, 400) Not only did Adam and Eve suffer this loss on account of their personal disobedience, they transmitted to their children a human nature that is in a fallen state: a human nature that is deprived of original holiness and justice, a human nature that is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and a human nature inclined to evil (and sin). (CCC, 405) Original sin is like a very wealthy man who lost everything to gambling. Because of this, his children and descendants would have to be born in poverty. The nakedness of Adam and Eve shows us the abject poverty that sin has brought upon the human nature. Original sin consists in the fact that “all men…are deprived of the glory of God.” Thus, the whole world was plunged into darkness, into “captivity under the power of the devil who had the power of death.” (CCC407) “The whole world is in the power of the evil one.” (CCC 409.)

Thus, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin is the true Breaking Dawn at the end of the long dark night of sin. Not deprived but rather “full of grace”, not naked but clothed in the garments of salvation and robed in a mantle of justice (Is. 61:10), “Mary benefitted first of all and uniquely from Christ’s (future) victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life.” (CCC 411). Untouched by sin, this uniquely beautiful creature called Mary does not only show us the original intention of God for our humanity had it not fallen into sin. Mary the Immaculate Conception shows us that “Christ’s inexpressible grace gives us blessings better than those the demon’s envy had taken away.” (St. Leo the Great, CCC, 412.) The twilight of man’s fall led to a long dark night of the reign of evil. The Immaculate Conception was the breaking dawn that announced the end of the long night. “It was a breaking of light over a dark and wintry world.” Conceived immaculate, sinless and free from the guilt of our first parents, Mary was the dawn for Christ the day, the was the aurora for the Sun of Justice. She was the Immaculate Conception for Him the Son of God who will later on be her Son. Mary is God’s response to humanity’s plea for a renewal of creation. The Immaculate Conception is the beginning of the new creation.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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