A Reflection for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
You can find today’s readings here.
Mary said: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
Let it be to me according to your word.
A blank sheet of paper. Every person I know panics when presented with one. In fact, it’s the permanent reaction I have every time I’m asked to prepare a text, whether it’s an essay, a homily, a letter to a friend, or a spiritual reflection like this. It could be said that it is an occupational hazard for a writer, which, at least on paper, I consider myself. And yet, when I get over my fear and insecurity, who am I kidding? More like when the deadline is coming up and I don’t have time to think about the final product, because I just need to put the words on the page and do it: procrastination stops, confidence builds, and the piece writes itself. It doesn’t matter how much I’ve written, or how often. This is what happens every time.
This very stressful and bewildering process rehearses itself as I sit down to write for this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the highest level of all the feasts our church has to offer. What I am going to do? I have no idea what this party is really about. Do I understand or completely believe it? And then the inspiration hits, and I recognize a familiarity in my process that echoes the words of another in today’s Gospel: “How can this be…?” This can’t be happening to me. Has no sense. How can I be pregnant “since I don’t have relations with a man”? And then suddenly there is a surrender that calms the fear. Realizing that it is the voice of God speaking through the angel Gabriel, Mary realizes that it is already done and that God is calling her to live her life in a very absolute and concrete way, and she embraces him: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.
Be done in us according to the will of God. Go ahead!
At this point you may rightly be thinking, “He’s got this all wrong. He is preaching at the wrong party. This is not the party where we remember the angel Gabriel announcing the imminent birth of Jesus and the “Yes” of Mary. This is that of Mary, being born without sin. You need to get back on the page.” Or you may just be thinking, “What is she talking about?”
Well, here’s the deal.
Mary’s “yes” to being the mother of God is only possible thanks to her Immaculate Conception. It is because she was created as a person with perfect freedom, without giving in to the sin of her selfish temptations and the desire to preserve herself and the life she had planned for herself, that she is able to accept the most daunting task of The life of her. Mary doesn’t let her ego get in the way. Instead, she immediately turns to the task at hand. She accepts what is asked of her because she knows that the goodness of God is imbued in her flesh and blood. She trusts in God’s plans for her and not in her fears for what is to come. Put a bit more crudely: the follow-up to his “How can this be?”, which might be better translated today as “WTF?”, was far more aggressive than we might conjure up when we read his response, “Can let it be done to me according to your word. Rather, it seems to me that the response he gave to God through Gabriel was more like “Thank you, Jesus. Give it!”
And it is Mary’s “yes” that has given me the confidence to write this, to believe that I too am created free by God and for a clear purpose. If it weren’t for her example, I would still have a blank sheet of paper in front of me. I would keep procrastinating and worrying about how this would all turn out. But I know that this is how God speaks to me, in the song of words, and I believe and pray that through my little “yes”, as I write this, you also believe in yours.
Be done in us according to the will of God. Go ahead!
Meet Ricardo da Silva, SJ, Associate Editor
Favorite Advent or Christmas art?
This time of year is filled with so much art that it’s hard to choose. I think last year, I might have said it was “My soul in stillness waits.” And for some reason this beautiful song is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Advent. But, thinking about this day, the song that comes to mind is “Gabriel’s Message” (which some may argue is more appropriate for the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord) and here it is performed by the Chanticleer vocal ensemble, whom I had the pleasure of listening live a few days ago.
Favorite Christmas tradition?
To visit someone who might have been forgotten, to sing to them, bring them Communion, serve them a hot meal. It’s not a tradition (although I wish it were), but my most meaningful Christmases began as a caroler in an oncology ward or in a women’s prison, providing community to a terminally ill teenager, or serving food to people in need. they live on the streets.
What project are you most proud of having worked on this year in the United States?
It’s too good a promotional opportunity to miss, so here’s a shameless add-on: “Listen up! The stories behind our favorite Christmas carols”, and the last episode is probably my favorite so far. And while I’m at it, have you seen “Think Like a Jesuit” and “People of God: A Portrait of Catholic Parish Life in the United States”?
Favorite Christmas recipe?
This one never changes, so I self-plagiarized myself from my reflection from last year.
The Portuguese celebrate the nativity on Christmas Eve much more than on Christmas Day. And while traditional food is decidedly unappealing, for me “Bacalhau da Consoada de Natal” oozes nostalgia. It is a fully boiled dish of salt cod, cabbage, carrots, potato and eggs, covered with generous squirts of olive oil and vinegar.
Favorite Christmas photo?
On this solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, in which we commemorate Mary, the perfect model of the Christian life, who is also Queen of all saints and mother of our Savior, I remember the one who gave me life, the queen of my heart. , my dearest mother.