At our pontifical Mass this morning for today’s Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Abbot referred to the Holy Father’s words before leading the recitation of the Angelus at Cofton Park in September. Pope Benedict noted that Blessed John Henry Newman’s priestly life was one of filial devotion to Mary, and then quoted one of Newman’s sermons:
Who can estimate the holiness and perfection of her, who was chosen to be the Mother of Christ? What must have been her gifts, who was chosen to be the only near earthly relative of the Son of God, the only one whom He was bound by nature to revere and look up to; the one appointed to train and educate Him, to instruct Him day by day, as He grew in wisdom and in stature?”
Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception – that is, her being so full of grace from the very beginning of her life that she was preserved from any sin in virtue of the divine Son she was to bear – did not make her any less human or more “divine” than we are. Nevertheless, she is placed higher than us by God as one whose faith was unbroken to the point that the grace of her Son could work unobstructed in her. As Bl John Henry notes, she was the only earthly near relative of the incarnate Word, indeed Christ’s mother. As her son in the flesh Jesus was bound by the divine law, in particular the fourth commandment, to honour and obey her.
God made man, Jesus Christ, was bound by divine law to obey a human person! Indeed Mary is blessed among women, among us all. No wonder Christians have from earliest times called upon her intercession in the confidence that, subject to the divine will, Christ can refuse her nothing.
But this feast reveals as much about us as about Mary. It reveals the power of faith, and the effects of grace that such faith unlocks. Nothing is beneath God in his work of saving us, even to taking on a human body and all the limitations that entails, and of subjecting himself in his human life to one of his creatures. God subject to man! Even to the Cross. No wonder St Paul could acknowledge that this was “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor 1:23). But of course, faith knows as does St Paul that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 1:25).
So we are called to abandon ourselves to the foolishness of God, whose love for us knows no bounds, and who will reward true faith with grace beyond our logic to conceive, and make of us bearers of Christ to the world. In this, may the Blessed Virgin Mary ever be our guide and our intercessor.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art though among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. (Luke 1:28)