OUR IMMACULATE MOTHER
HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY 2020
By Frère Henri Poujol, Deacon, OSB, monk of Saint-Wandrille
Mary, the One who said: Yes
Only Isaiah had sufficient faith to answer “Yes, Lord, send me”. The other prophets and patriarchs, all, answered by a protest of inability when the Lord called them. And this is a great sign for man: when God calls, they are not only puppet or robot. God calls man to be his covenant partner. Therefore, the chosen one has the option to ask a question or even to make an objection to God. In the beginning of St Luke’s Gospel, it is seen to be true. Here we see Zechariah and Mary asking in effect the same question of the Angel. But Zechariah is punished by the Angel for this question whereas Mary is not. Why is there that difference of treatment? Because, in the first case, this question is a lack of faith and of knowledge of the Scriptures. On several occasions, God has already given children to old and infertile couples in Israel’s history. For example: Isaac and Samuel. So Zechariah should have trusted the Angel. But Mary’s question is a sign of innocence and a locus of the affirmation of her everlasting virginity. The sign that God is always young and creates everything anew. Thus Mary is being set apart from general mankind by this very special gift in order to become the Mother of God. Does it mean this parting is a separation? How can Mary be in communion with us sinners, in her estate of absolute purity? I have to admit that, from time to time, this purity is so immaculate that it dazzles my poor eyes those of a sinner. Then I’m tempted to think that Mary is so far from us sinners, like some medieval sculptures which are so beautiful and smiling but with such a hieratical smile and hieratical beauty.
In Communion with Us Sinners by Mercy and Grace
Father Brown, Chesterton’s character, gives us this helpful insight into the detective’s approach to this mystery. After he solved some difficult cases, somebody had asked him how he did it whereas nobody else had been able to, even, maybe especially, the professional inspector. His answer is very simple: I could have been all of those criminals. More precisely he says: I am all those criminals, because I could commit all these crimes; I’m a sinner like them. But it is not his sinfulness which allowed him to understand all those criminals. It is the fact that he is forgiven of his personal sins which allowed him to understand properly others. This experience of mercy which comes from God, is the key, the starting point of the communion with all mankind. And here, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the unsurpassable summit and the model of humankind as one who is being saved. In a common way of thinking, we understand this preservation from original sin like a lack, as if Mary were wonderful but too marvellous to be close to us, and then we put her on a pedestal. But this way of thinking manifests that we forget a very important thing: there is no communion by sinfulness, but only by mercy and grace.
Our Immaculate Mother
Our faith tells us this: as Mary is preserved from the original sin, She has more ability to be in communion with all of us. Because Her lack of original sin is not a lack of humanity but the lack of our tendency to inhumanity, about our tendency to nothingness. By the grace of her Son and Creator, Mary avoids the privation which is sin, and receives the grace of fulfilment of being fully human. As She is full of grace, She is fulfilling her human vocation more than we can ever fulfil ourselves. Mary is more human than us, and therefore She is a better image of God, a more similar one. And then fulfilled with grace, upon her rests the Holy Spirit, the One who is Love in person, the One who is the Gift-person. Therefore, Mary has the gift of giving, and She doesn’t keep this gift to Herself. But by this gift she is mother, She gives life to us, her children. And we are her children. Therefore, Mary is not far from us, and we can paraphrase St Augustine, saying: Mary knows us from inside when we are still outside of ourselves. As our mother, She wants to bring us to the better life we are able to receive: to be in communion with the Father by His Son and their common Spirit.
Today, we are celebrating the feast of this amazing act of God. We are celebrating this communion, and the greatness of Mary’s compassionate presence with us and her intercession for us. She is the Mother of our God and the Mother of each of us.