The Immaculate Conception – Day of Purity
“Thou art all fair, my love, and there is no spot in thee” [Cant. 4:7].
We begin our meditations where God began His work of grace, with the first existence of our blessed Mother. From all eternity He had foreknown her, and from the hour of man’s sad fall had predicted her. She was the promised seed of the woman, who should bruise the head of the serpent; the Second Eve, who should repair the losses of our first mother. God, Whose infinite wisdom devised the way of our redemption, condescended to take our nature upon Him, and His first step in the gracious work was the preparation of a Mother. All our race were condemned, and under the original curse were subject of the tyranny of the devil. The tree was corrupt at its root, and the spring poisoned at its source. The children of the fallen Eve were exiles from Heaven. The work of redemption needed to be as complete as was the destruction wrought by sin. It began, therefore, by the removal of the original curse. A Virgin was conceived, free from corruption and pure as was our first Mother when she was placed in Paradise. Without this grace of redemption, she never could have been a Second Eve, and the Mother of a new and living race. The serpent who deceived the first Eve had no power over her, for she was the child of prophecy, who was to bruise his head. She was to overcome the devil in every point, and this she could not have done had she been at any time his child and slave by virtue of the original curse. Her own office, therefore, in the economy of redemption, required that she should be conceived without sin, and God was bound by the perfection of His own being to make a perfect work. But all this grace the Blessed Virgin was to have, because the Eternal Son of God had chosen her for His Mother. The Word was to be made flesh, to take our human nature and to unite it forever to His divine Person. The incarnate Lord is no less the Son of Mary, that He is the Son of God. As He was therefore to take of the veritable substance of His Mother, so He was directly concerned in her honor or in her dishonor. Had she been the child of the fallen race, infected by the original curse, her ignominy would have passed to the dishonor of her Son. The spring of life would have gushed up from a polluted source, the stem of Jesus would have budded from a corrupting root. He, Who is all purity, would have touched the defilement of the impure. The propriety of the incarnation demanded the grace of which faith teaches us, and Mary, with innocence redolent of the purity of Eden, is created for the honor of Jesus, to glorify Him by her holiness, and to be for Him an unspotted Mother.
Among all her joys, Mary had no greater joy than this of her pure conception. It was the foundation of her exalted holiness, by which she towered above the tall cedars of Libanus, and raised her Virginal head to the skies. She came into a world of sin and death. She saw around her sorrow and distress, the ruins and wrecks of a fallen world. She saw how God’s great majesty was hourly outraged, and how His amazing love was spurned every moment by His own creatures. Yet with all this she had nothing to do. Her soul and body were fragrant with the incense of purity. She knew she had never offended her God, her first beginning and her last end. She was not one of the ruins of the first Paradise. Original sin weighs upon us with all its grievous burden. We no sooner come into the world than we begin to be offensive to God. Our souls suffer from the darkness of ignorance and from the stimulus of concupiscence. Our bodies are the prey of disease and death. And as soon as we arrive at the age of reason, when our opening faculties ought to expand I God’s grace and for His glory, we begin by our wills to turn from holiness. Actual sin develops itself in all its bitterness, and with all its fruitful power of evil. How different from this sad history was Mary’s life. No darkness ever weighed upon her understanding. No cloud ever came between the bright mirror of her soul and the light of God. She was the “bright reflection of the Eternal Light, a mirror without stain.” Her heart was never swayed by passion, nor was there ever a tumult to disturb the tranquil rest of her spirit. God’s graces came, and they were all improved. God’s blessed providence, like a shield, covered her, and from His will she never swerved. What a cause have we to bless and praise our great Creator for the purity of Mary! There was one heart in which the infinite majesty of God found a rest, one bosom in which the Incarnate Lord might find a home. With us the memory of the past is ever painful, for at every step we take in the divine life, we feel more keenly the ingratitude of former sins, and can never altogether banish the shadow which they throw upon our spiritual being. We are like sick men recovering from an exhausting fever, or like the maimed and wounded soldier returning from battle. Hence, our present loses its cheerfulness and joy. We are wearied by small endeavors, and go heavily, as if beneath a painful burden. And the future, which ought to be bright with hope, as it reveals the distant towers of the celestial city to which we journey, fills us rather with dread and an unquiet apprehension. There is no cross like the weight of sin, no joy to be compared to the blessedness of innocence. While then we meditate today on the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother, let us seek to imitate her purity and to have part in her joy. We cannot be free from the infection of sin as she was, but we have been once washed from every defilement in the blood of her Son. Had we died in the cleanness of our baptism, Heaven would have been an immediate portion. Now by penance and prayer we must anew wash ourselves in the sacred blood which we have despised, until the heart of a child come back to us with the docility and purity of our new birth. This baptism of tears is our only hope, and God, Who excites in us the desire for purification, will make that desire fruitful. The Immaculate Virgin, who is our example, will be our solace and protection. At her feet we must offer up every thought and word and work. Every intention must be placed in her hands, and through the virtue of her prayers we shall have courage to persevere and be generous with God. A healing, cleansing power shall be felt in our souls, going down to the very depths of our wants, and giving us no rest until we find union with Him Whom we adore, until we are purified even as He is pure. For “We are now the sons of God, and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that when He shall appear we shall be like to Him, because we shall see Him as He is” [1 Jn. 3:2].