Last night at Mass, Monsignor Mike preached about the true meaning of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception: that this feast celebrated Mary’s conception, not our Lord’s. While preaching about Mary being born without Original Sin, he made an important point: Mary was the first creature to be born since the creation of man without the veil that separates man from God. He went on to say that our true selves are meant to be in total union with God, to be one with Him, and the veil of Original Sin acts as a wall, impeding that relationship. Jesus came to lift that veil so that we could be one with God again, but His coming did not eradicate sin from our world. He opened the door to heaven for us so that one day, the veil could be completely lifted and sin could be wiped out of our lives.
Mary was one with our Lord, right from the first moments of her creation. She was born to be her true self, without any veil. She was singled out to be completely pure. Isn’t it ironic then that Mary, who was chosen to bear the unknowable, unfathomable God incarnate in her womb, had to bear the ‘sin’ of being pregnant without being ‘married’?
I realized that this ‘sin’ would not only cause her grief at the beginning (in trying to explain the situation to her betrothed, Joseph, and to her family), but it probably followed her for the rest of her life. She was able to tell Joseph and Elizabeth, her cousin, the truth and they either believed right away or came to believe through the help of God’s grace (Elizabeth by her pregnancy, Joseph by an angel in a dream). But what of her immediate and extended family? What of her neighbors? What must it have been like to tell them? Did she tell them the truth as well? Did the ‘stain’ of this ‘sin’ follow Mary for the rest of her life? I had never thought before of the silent burden she would have to bear as the people she knew and loved perhaps wanted to cause her shame. They would never understand the glorious union she had with God, not only as His pure vessel, but as His only spouse, and the mother of His Son. Surely that knowledge and the memory of Christ in her womb (as well as Him being in the world) was her solace. But her silent burden was a foretaste of what Jesus would know in His life on earth – knowing who He was but being so misunderstood by His own people, especially His own kin and neighbors!
Yet despite this burden, Mary, in a sense, had Jesus all to herself during those 9 months of pregnancy. Anytime the sting of her ‘shame’ would hit, she could meditate on the Son of God, warm and safe in her own womb. Containing the uncontainable – what solace that must have been!
While we may not have the privilege of housing the incarnate God in our bodies, we do house the Holy Spirit. And we too can share the intimacy that Mary shared with Jesus, especially by partaking the Eucharist. As her blood flowed to her baby, nourishing Him and helping Him to grow, so now we can have His precious body and blood flow throughout our blood, to every cell in our bodies. While it would have been extraordinary to meet Jesus in person as a man, we can meet Him at any time, in any place simply by calling out for Him. We can even receive the Eucharist virtually by meditating upon it. We indeed have an extraordinary opportunity!
Thanks be to God that Mary said yes and willingly went through her silent burden, and the other sufferings to come as the “sword pierced her heart” to work with God to bring Jesus to the world!
Copyright 2010 Susan Bailey
About the Author
Susan Bailey is the author of River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times (Ave Maria Press), and Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message (ACTA Publications), part of their Literary Portals to Prayer series. Along with her blogs Be as One and Louisa May Alcott is My Passion, Susan writes for the Diocese of Worcester newspaper, The Catholic Free Press.