Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which, as everyone knows, is the day Mary got pregnant without even trying that commemorates Mary’s conception in her mother’s womb, free from the stain of original sin.
Jesus saved His mother before He saved anyone else.
Makes sense when you stop to think about it, doesn’t it?
Would a good Jewish boy do anything less for his loving mother? What if that good Jewish boy also happened to be God, and was therefore free to apply retroactive grace from His redeeming passion and death to her before she was even born, so that He would have a pure and spotless womb in which to implant?
Honestly though, it’s not any weirder than the rest of what we believe. Eating flesh. God becoming a human embryo. Raising Himself from the dead.
Catholicism: there’s something for everybody!
I was thinking about Mary this afternoon at the very ill-chosen noon Mass that I attended with John Paul and Evie in tow, Joey being safely enclosed in his preschool classroom on the other side of campus. It was ill chosen for a handful of reasons, but I’ll just highlight the pertinent few:
It started at nap time.
We spent the morning at the mall visiting Santa, who lives inside a giant Frozen-themed dome filled with falling artificial snow and Elsa’s voice on a repeating loop.
John Paul drank the last 2 ounces of my Starbucks while we waited for the fat man.
Any other questions?
I’m sure all 300 of my fellow parishioners who’d chosen this lovely noon option were beyond delighted to see, nay, hear us make our entrance up the center aisle during the Kyrie. We spent 9 minutes in the pew, during which time John Paul moaned audibly at a pitch mostly dogs (and I) can hear, and Evie engaged me in a largely silent wrestling match because I dared to strap her into the Ergo. She claimed victory when she smashed her forehead against my nose and we evacuated to the vestibule.
The rest of Mass wasn’t that bad, honestly. I mean, John Paul did lie on the floor moaning and kicking his velcro sneakers against the ground in a vain, vain effort to get them to light up. And he may have mentioned to me 2 or 44 times that he wished they did light up, like those of the other small, naughty exile sharing space with us back in the clink. But at least we were on the wrong side of the glass doors.
As our pastor reflected on Mary’s motherhood and her nearness to us in our shared humanity, I found myself profoundly grateful for the gift of her presence. God was so right to give her to us.
And He did give her to us. Specifically. It was pretty much His last earthly act: Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your Mother.
I struggled with the idea of Mary when I was coming back to the Faith, not because I thought she was undeserving of my affection, but simply because I didn’t see a real need for her.
Now that I’m a mom, the need is there, and it’s immense.
We don’t revere Mary for her own sake, but for His.
After all, she loved Him more perfectly than anyone else ever has – or ever will.
Nobody loves Jesus the way His mother does. She carried His tiny body inside her own, and she nursed Him and changed His diapers and held His lifeless, bloodied corpse in her arms. Her love for Him was perfect, because He allowed the grace He won for us all to transform her soul from its very beginning. What the rest of us experience in the waters of baptism, she experienced in the water He rested in within her womb.
As I held my thrashing salmon of a baby in Mass today, trying to avoid damaging blows to the face, I was so grateful to a God who gave us not only His Son, but also a Mother.
She probably stood holding a fussing baby, her back aching and thoughts of dinner occupying her mind (though not during church. Because, again, immaculate.)
She knew the rising panic of realizing you’ve lost a child in a public place, the terror that grips your heart.
She endured the disapproving stares of her neighbors, her swelling belly earning her a reputation she did not deserve. You might even say she carried the original unplanned pregnancy.
And she did it all with perfect love.
He asked, she accepted, and for that, we rejoice.
Oh Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.