Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary 2021

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

My Brethren in Christ Jesus, blessings, and peace, as we celebrate today the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and Patroness of the Faithful. In thinking upon her glorious and grace filled conception, it is fitting that we do so in a Church named St. Mary of the Angels. God’s angels are so named because they are “messengers.” Their primary responsibility to us is to reveal God’s will in a manner more likely to catch our attention and to compel a response. In placing a Cherubim with a flaming sword on the path to the Tree of Life, God is making it all too clear to Adam and his descendants that, on account of Adam’s sin, eternal life is out of reach, if men try to attain it on their terms and without repentance. The Three Men who appear before Abraham, and who inform him that his aged and barren wife will conceive a child, are described as angels. They are foreshadowing the revelation that Christ Jesus will make clear – namely that God is One in Three Persons. The intimation is that relationship is intrinsic to God Himself – that is, the relationship of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to one another in His eternity – and so what God has in store for Abraham is to be the Patriarch, not just of one nation among many, but of the People of God in communion with God and with one another. These People of God will root their faith, grow in hope, and blossom forth in love, not in virtue of whatever they may earn for themselves by the work of their hands, but by the unearned gift of grace that God bestows on them – hence, the sign of Sarah, aged and barren, conceiving a child by virtue of the grace she has not earned and notwithstanding her disbelief. The Burning Bush appearing before Moses is also described as an “angel of the Lord.” By this messenger, God conveys to Moses the work that He has ordained for him to do, but He also conveys that He shall preserve Moses, just as the bush is preserved from the flame, no matter what may befall him going forward. In all of these cases, the angels do more than relay God’s message. They awaken men to the work to be done in response to this message: In the case of the Cherubim with the flaming sword, the work to be done is repentance, which Christ Jesus ultimately will do for man. In the case of the Three Men, the work to be done is communion; the People of God learning to live for God and for one another in faith. In the case of the Burning Bush, the work to be done is salvation; the faithful to be made holy, purged by fire and tribulation, but finally preserved by God’s greater faithfulness.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is not an angel, but she is also a messenger of God. Indeed, apart from Christ Jesus, she is the preeminent messenger of God’s love and faithfulness to His people. Her life is a testament to the grace that comes unto us when we give ourselves wholly and lovingly unto Our Father: Be it unto me, according to thy word. There is no greater expression of faith in action. “Be it unto me,” transform me, make me anew. “According to thy word,” not as I would transform myself, but as you would transform me. Repentance, Communion, Salvation, hinted at in the Old Testament, but made manifest and offered unto us in Our Lord. These three may be thought of as the preconditions to the life God has in store for us. We must repent from our sins, be in communion with God and with the People of God, and be saved from our past life, if we are to move forward into our new life. In the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we see, finally, clearly, what our new life will be when we too are freed from sin and reborn as incorruptible to the high glory of God. “Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.” The angel is speaking unto Mary, but Mary’s message to us is that, if we are as faithful unto God as she is, then all the angels will be speaking the same unto all of us. Mary, as the Queen of Heaven, is our living, breathing example today and forever of that exalted life we too shall have when we obtain our incorruptible crowns and reign among the Saints within the Father’s Kingdom. Mary is set aside from all of humanity before her in her conception. Whether described as “immaculate,” or “spotless,” whether held as a pious belief or an absolute dogma of the faith, what really matters is that she is set aside by God, not just in virtue of her ordained role as Mother of God, but as an example of the life that God has in store for us. For as Mary is conceived spotless, so shall we be spotless when reborn in Christ Jesus. For as Mary had lived a life of devotion to God without the stain of Original Sin, so shall we when finally reborn into the Father’s Kingdom live out our lives in devotion to God and without the stain of Original Sin. If in our venerations of the Blessed Virgin Mary we are inclined to imagine her as a kind of demigod, held up on a pedestal by her sublime sanctity, so bathed in divine light as to be unapproachable except through our most ancient rites of praise, then this is because we are seeing clearly in her what we sense by faith is in store for us in Christ Jesus. If we give ourselves unto her Son, as she did, then we too shall be conceived in blessedness when reborn in Him. Like our Holy Mother in grace, we too shall be spotless tabernacles of Our Lord, who will be alive in us as we are in Him.

All of this may seem very much removed from our fallen lives in the here and now. Imagining a new and incorruptible life in the Father’s Kingdom seems more fairy tale than real. Frankly, we are more inclined to believe that Christ Jesus rose from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father than to believe that we too shall rise from the dead and be seated before God on His eternal throne. We may believe in an afterlife, but we are less inclined to believe in our own future blessedness in a new creation beyond heaven and earth. Mary helps us in this regard as well. She teaches us by her example to see ourselves in her. For Christ Jesus saves us all; but it is Mary who first responds to Him in faith, and responding to Him in faith is what we are called to do first and foremost. Christ Jesus tells us to preach the Gospel; but it is Mary who preaches the Gospel in its most succinct expression when, at the Wedding at Cana, she tells the servants to do whatever it is He tells them to do, and so, again, she is our example of doing what God is instructing us to do. The more we can see ourselves in Mary the more we can really believe that God intends for us to be blessed. The more we can emulate her example the more we can really respond to her Son. The key is not to take Mary down from her exalted pedestal but to learn to see our future selves up there too, if only we embrace the eternal life God is offering unto us in His Son. Mary will be with us there, our companion, our Mother, conceived to the glory of God.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Published by Michael Sean Erickson

I write, act, and produce films in Los Angeles. Everything else is conjecture.

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