The Immaculate Conception introduces into the world a possibility that otherwise would have remained literally “inconceivable.”
December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is the Patronal Feast of the United States. This glorious holy day marks the conception of Our Lady in the womb of her mother Saint Anne. At her conception, Mary was miraculously preserved from all stain of sin so that God could do two fundamental things: Prepare in Mary a worthy Mother for the Son of God, and also mean to the world the beginning of the Church, with all its healing and salvation. Energy.
That the Immaculate Conception is a holy day of obligation indicates how crucial this feast really is. But why exactly is it so important to us?
Begin with the first reading of the Mass of the Immaculate Conception. Do so by keeping in mind the two senses of the word “conception”: (1) conception as a biological event that leads to birth; (2) conception as an idea that takes over our mind and affects the way we act.
How did the snake succeed?
As we read about Adam and Eve being tempted in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:9-15, 20), we have to ask ourselves: How could the serpent tempt our First Parents into Original Sin? And the answer is: By way of conception. The serpent seduces them with an idea, a conception, which went something like this: God knows that the moment you eat the fruit of the forbidden tree, your eyes will open and you will be like God. What do you want: your life here in Eden or to be like God?
Notice how the Catechism of the Catholic Church talks about this cataclysmic crime. It speaks of Adam and Eve fearing God “from whom they have conceived a distorted image” (CCC 399). Humanity is finished at the beginning by a diabolical conception!
But God, in his transcendent sense of humor, nullifies this devastating disobedience the very way it happens: by presenting a “conception” of his own that restores humanity’s lost friendship with God and leads us back to Paradise: Mary the Immaculate Conception. .
Everything in life depends on how we conceive things.
Everything in life depends on how we conceive things. And the evil one knows how tempted we are to live in our heads, and turn our ideas into idols. So, in order to get us back to Eden, God counters Satan’s conception by presenting us with a new Conception to yield to. But this new Conception is NOT a notion or an idea or a thought or some mental construction. No. The Immaculate Conception is a person for us to embrace. The Immaculate Conception prevents us from challenging God and deifying ourselves.
Mary the Immaculate Conception is God’s way of understanding his own goodness, beauty, tenderness, holiness, justice, and love…all of which he wants to give us so that we MAY become like God. That is God’s desire for us! Mary Immaculate Conception restores to us the proper way of conceiving God. With Our Lady in our life, when we are tempted by Satan’s misconceptions, we can turn to the Immaculate Conception, our Mother!, to recover the just consideration and peace that we need.
But this cannot happen if we are separated from God, as Adam and Eve did when they succumbed to the serpent’s conception. We are called to enter into a devotional relationship with the Immaculate Conception of God, who is wonderfully our Mother. So it’s the easiest thing in the world to do.
an inconceivable possibility
And then everything changes, especially discouragement and sadness, desolation and doubt… discouragement in our lives. The Immaculate Conception introduces into the world a possibility that otherwise would have remained literally “inconceivable.”
Here’s an example of what I mean. I remember watching an amazing documentary about World War II. When he got to the part about the D-Day invasion of Normandy, he pointed out that, before the massive naval invasion, the assault was already being carried out from the air. In the middle of the night, more than 23,000 Allied soldiers descended on Normandy from gliders or parachutes.
These airmen took up their position in the French camp. They knew that the invasion of the beach was scheduled for that day. But they didn’t know if it would be a success. And if it was NOT a success, then they would be trapped… doomed. Isolated and defenseless as they were, the enemy would capture or kill them. As one soldier recalled: “If the beach didn’t resist, they would leave us there, they would abandon us, they couldn’t get us out.”
But then hope exploded. Because from their hiding places in the woods, they saw an Allied Sherman tank rumbling down the road. And in that instant they understood that the invasion had been successful and that the enemy would be defeated. Victory was drawing near! As that same soldier relates: “When that first tank arrived, I knew that the beach had held, and I knew that help was on the way.”
This is the day to claim the triumph of hope! We are not isolated or abandoned.
The Immaculate Conception is like that Sherman tank! From our dark hiding places of sin, of fear, of grief, of helplessness, as we contemplate this glorious day, we see coming to us one who is God’s immaculate sign that deliverance is real… that the enemy has been defeated. … that the tyranny of death and destruction has ended… that conquest is ours… that the final victory is near! This is the day to claim the triumph of hope! We are not isolated or abandoned. Heaven has come to our rescue in the form of an Immaculate Mother. This is the day to proclaim, hearts overflowing with faith, hope and love, that divine help is on the way!
Today’s feast is an invitation to abandon our overwhelming prejudices and surrender to the Immaculate Conception of God, who is a radiant Mother who looks at us with eyes of love. When we give ourselves to this New Eve, there is no worry that she will give us some forbidden fruit. But, in any case, the ardent desire of Mary to give us fruit remains: the fruit of her womb, Jesus.