When I was a kid, social media had yet to be invented – and so when two people were having a fight, they did it not by posting nasty messages or unfriending each other, but by insulting each other face to face. And the worst possible thing, which would risk transitioning the fight from words into a physical altercation, would be to insult someone’s mother. It was like the nuclear option because even kids understand intuitively that there is something sacred about one’s mother. She was probably the first one to hold you when you came into this world. She probably was the one to take care of you when you couldn’t dress yourself, clean yourself, or even eat without help. The cumulative weight of all the little acts of love mothers perform is incalculable. Whether we think our mothers were perfect, or whether our relationship with them could be tough at times, there are certain debts to our mothers that can never be repaid. And for that, we each give special honor to our mothers.
How beautiful it is that Jesus came into this world, not riding a cloud or appearing through a portal, but by being born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus loved His Mother, and just like any of us would go out of our way to do something special for our mothers, Jesus did something special for Mary. He redeemed her ahead of time, preserving her from any sin whatsoever, so that she would be fully equipped for her unique mission as Mother of God and Mother of the Church. This is the mystery that we celebrate today – the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Mary’s coming into the world free from sin, free to be a perfect mother for Jesus and for us.
We join with Christ in honoring Mary, our Mother. It’s very pleasing to God that we give a special level of honor and veneration to Mary because she is His finest creation. She is, as many of the Church Fathers have called her, the New Eve, who by her Yes to God’s plan, cancelled out the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Hanging on the cross, reconciling heaven and earth, Jesus made sure in one of His last words to entrust Mary to His followers: “Behold, your Mother!”
It is no coincidence that we celebrate the Immaculate Conception right in the middle of Advent. In his encyclical letter Marialis cultus, Pope Paul VI writes the following: “the faithful, living in the liturgy the spirit of Advent, by thinking about the inexpressible love with which the Virgin Mother awaited her Son, are invited to take her as a model and to prepare themselves to meet the Savior who is to come. They must be ‘vigilant in prayer and joyful in…praise.’”
As we continue our progress through Advent, in expectation of the coming feast of Christmas, let us entrust ourselves whole-heartedly to Mary, the best of Mothers. She it is who will always point us to Jesus. It is she who is praying for us night and day. It is she who will lead us home to heaven, as we ask her so often, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!”
AUTHOR: Father Peter Stamm, SBCA Chaplain