Saturday, December 8, 2012

On the Annunciation and Not Hiding from God

It's taken me until midlife to really understand the Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception and to appreciate why it is one of the concepts that keeps me connected to my Catholic faith. I am not aware of any other Christian community that gives so much honor and praise to the role of women in the Christian event. The Advent season is a time of particular focus and honor of the Mother of us all.

When I was a child, Mary felt remote and inaccessible. As an adult woman, and as a mother, I see how she is an intrinsic part of Mystery, of the overwhelming, immeasurable love with which every human is conceived. And when I ask Mary to pray for me, I understand her indissoluble link to the Divine and Mystical Mystery.

This morning my husband, my sons and I went to the 9 a.m. Mass at our parish to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. (Today was even more special because it marks the 16th anniversary of our first-born son Gabriel's baptism) For a long time in my life, like many people, I was under the misguided notion that the Immaculate Conception had something to do with Christ being conceived without sin. In fact, this Holy Day is an opportunity to reflect on the Holy Mother and how she was not burdened by the effects of Original Sin, the way the rest of us humans are.

How often in my own sin, in my failings, do I try to run from God? It is about as effective as a child covering her eyes with her hands and thinking no one can see her.

In contrast, Mary's heart was always open to Mystery. This passage from Saint Luke describes how, in the sixth month of her cousin Elizabeth's pregnancy with John the Baptist, the teenaged Mary is visited by an angel, Gabriel.

"Hail, full of grace the Lord is with thee."Mary having heard the greeting words did not speak; she was troubled in spirit since she knew not the cause of his coming, nor the meaning of the salutation. And the angel continued and said: "Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David and he shall reign in the house of Jacob forever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end."

Mary does not evade Mystery, as Adam and Eve attempted to do in the Garden of Eden. Instead, Mary says yes. And only through that yes was God able to become incarnate. Only with Mary's ability to follow the will of God was the world able to have its Savior take human form.

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