It’s Advent, as you know — but today/yesterday is also the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady — and so it’s very fitting to be thinking about the Son of God, and Our Lady too, and how their missions were interwoven for the salvation of the world. We’re at that point in our reflections on the Creed where we profess, “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Our Lord, who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary …” The Catechism explicitly says how the lives of Jesus and Mary are bound up:
487 What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ.
Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God; He did not begin to exist 2000 years ago, but has always existed, for He is the eternal Son of the eternal Father, “God from God,” as the Creed says: “true God from true God,” as truly God as the Father is God. So, when He was conceived within Our Lady’s womb, it was “by the power of the Holy Spirit” — no human father was involved: God the Father is the father; and Mary herself is truly His earthly Mother, giving Him the flesh He desired, so as to enter visibly into the world. This is the ultimate need for male and female in our race, that God could enter into His creation: He could become truly man in the womb of a chosen woman, and yet His divinity could be known and assured by there being no human father. As an unborn child, as a baby, and a teenager or young adult, Jesus was at all times true God, as well as true man. He subjected Himself to the physical human needs: to be hungry, to be tired, to sleep and to be tempted … He is like us in all things but sin. Why would the living God, the all-powerful God, do this? Why reduce Himself to this world, when He didn’t need to? Well, as one of the friars said to us the other day: one word, “love.” He did it out of love … He was willing to become man, so as to be one with us, teach us, lead us to His perfect homeland. This He could not do without entering our world in a visible fashion — this He did with the co-operation of a simple, poor teenage girl, Mary of Nazareth, who said to Him, “I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to Thy word.”
What of Our Lady? What an extraordinary calling she had, at such a young age. Today (8th Dec.) we keep as her feast of the ‘Immaculate Conception.’ Now, let’s be clear what we mean by that, as there is widespread confusion about the term. When we speak of the ‘Immaculate Conception,’ we mean Our Lady: Mary’s being sinless always, from the first moment of her conception by her parents, St Joachim and St Anne. She was conceived in the normal human way, by her parents, but by God’s grace, she did not inherit that original sin that has affected the rest of humanity since the Fall of our first parents. At Lourdes, when she appeared to St Bernadette, who pressed her to reveal her name, she herself said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.’ This privilege of her being a human being always without sin meant that she was fitting and ready to be with Mother of Jesus, the Mother of the Son of God. She was to give Him His flesh — she had to be sinless in order to have the all-holy Son of God in her womb. It is for this that we honour her so much, as the greatest of all the saints, Jesus’s most perfect disciple, our heavenly Mother — not a goddess, but a person fully human: perfect in God’s sight, as we all should be.
These are wonderful reflections to be able to make in Advent, so that we truly understand the grandeur and the meaning of Christmas. Let’s face it, so many of the people round us do not have a clue about the depth of the humbling reality which Christmas is. They know it’s something about a baby in a manger … but many may falsely dismiss it all as myth, and just the excuse for a party. We have something important – life-changing! — to say to that. We have a mission in Advent, to bring the historical truth of Jesus and Mary to the waiting world. Our society doesn’t need a myth, a fairy tale: what the world needs — through us — is the tale of true love: God’s love for us, given us in Jesus, brought to us through Mary.