Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the BVM
By Rev. Azam ‘Vianney’ Mansha, CJM
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Often we are looking for an explanation of the Dogma of Immaculate Conception which states that the Virgin Mary was free of original sin from the moment of her conception.
The early Christians did not have any difficult to believe in it but in the later centuries rational minds and separated brothers and sisters made the faith and tradition of early Christians controversial. In this situation Pope Pius IX promulgated Ineffabilis Deus in 1854 to acclaim the faith of all Christians.
People often think that once the Dogma has been promulgated there is no need to use our mind or understand it, which means just believe it. On the contrary the dogmas are promulgated so that people can experience the beauty of Christian faith through the Sacred Scripture, Traditions and Megisterium.
So, let’s together unfold the meaning of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception while unpacking the mystery of today’s Gospel focusing on a reply of angel Gabriel to Mary:
The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Although it seems simple words but for the Jews and early Christians it is the Divine presence. In Hebrew, overshadow is called שכינה (shekinah) which means “God caused to dwell.” It signify that it was a divine visitation of the presence or dwelling of the Lord God on this earth.
The overshadow of Divine presence is first seen in the Book of Exodus when God spoke with Moses through the burning bush [Exodus 3:1-7]. Further the whole Israelites experienced the Divine presence among themselves through the pillar of fire walking ahead and behind them [Exodus 13:21-22].
After crossing the Red Sea [chap 14], while the Israelites were marching toward the Promised Land, God told Moses to build the Ark so that He can meet with him and dispense His Divine Mercy [Exdous 25:10-22]. As to the instructions of God, Moses build the Ark and called it Ark of the Covenant because God is going to overshadow the Ark i.e., to be there according to His Divine Covenant.
Now whenever God overshadow the Ark of the Covenant, none of the Israelites even Moses was not allowed to enter in the Tent of Lord because God was fully dwelling there [Exodus 40:34-38]. But when Israelites entered in the Promised Land, they sin against God and Ark of the Covenant was lost which means there was no more dwelling presence of God among the Israelites.
So with this in mind, we go back to our Gospel’s reading and see that angel told Mary that power of the Most High will overshadow you which means once again the process of Ark of the Covenant is gong to take place. Once again God is going to be among His people. Once again God is going to sit on His mercy seat to dispense the Divine Mercy.
As Moses build the Ark of the Covenant according to the instructions of God so now God created Mary without original sin according to His own Divine Will to reveal His Divine Presence.
As Moses told to build the Ark of the Covenant so that people may experience the Divine Presence so now God created Mary without sin so that believers may receive the Divine Mercy.
As the Ark of the Covenant became the sign of God’s presence but lost it due to their sin so today God created Mary without sin to make her the New Ark of the Covenant as a symbol of our hope and joy.
As the Ark of the Covenant was build so that the Divine presence remain with the Israelites but they sin against God and lost the favor of God, today God created Mary without sin so that people may see, hear and touch the Savior of the world who rested in the womb of Mary for nine months.
As the Ark of the Covenant became the seat of Divine Mercy so today our Savior who was conceived in the womb of Mary dispensed the Divine Mercy to all [Luke 1:39-45] beginning with Elizabeth and John the Baptist.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, let us not only call the land holy where Jesus walked, slept and performed the miracles but the holiest is the womb of Mary where the Son of God and our brother Jesus “whom the heavens cannot contain [conceived] . . . Mary ruled our Ruler Jesus as His Mother; she carried Him in whom we are [carried for our new Exodus toward the Promised Heaven]; she gave milk to our [Divine] Bread” (St. Augustine of Hippo) therefore let us repeat the message of angel Gabriel by saying:
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.