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THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

IN THE BOOK OF GENESIS, God said: “I will make you enemies, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head and you will strike at her heel.” (Gen. 3: 15). These words addressed to the serpent, the evil tempter, immediately after the sin of disobedience committed by the first parents (Adam and Eve), have been called the proto-Evangelium or “first good news” of hope for the human race.

The Blessed Virgin Mary was chosen by God to be the human Mother of his incarnate Son, and was conceived free from any stain of the sin handed down from the first parents. From the first moment of her human existence, she was “full of grace” and God’s “highly favoured daughter.”

In Mary, therefore, this “first good news” had its first fulfilment. Satan had no part in her. The serpent had lost his power in her case. This was because of the privileged position God had allotted to her. She was to be the Mother of the long-expected Messiah - Saviour, who would finally crush the serpent’s head.

This victory, already won in the moral sense, had still to be won on the physical plane. As foretold by this prophecy and promise of eventual salvation for the human race, the serpent could still inflict pain and suffering. Using his offspring, his human agents, he had Christ condemned as a criminal to the cruel death on the cross. Christ’s blessed Mother suffered with him. She stood beneath the cross during his three hours of death-agony. She knew that he was the innocent victim of Satan’s wiles, and of the sins of  mankind. She  had to listen to the jeers and the insults of  those  very  men  whom  he  had come to save, and for whom he was laying down his life.

Yes, the serpent could and did use his poisonous fangs but they failed to save him from defeat. The sufferings of Jesus and of his blessed Mother were the very means foreseen by God to conquer sin and Satan, and to win eternal life and freedom for all the children of Eve. Satan unwittingly played the chief role in his own undoing. Calvary was the stage where the “triumph of failure” was enacted. The death of the Saviour brought eternal life to men.

Eve brought men into a world of misery, a world of suffering, a world of sin. However, Mary brought Christ our Saviour, the author of eternal life into this world. Through him, she brought to all those who will become his brothers through faith, and therefore her children, the assurance of an everlasting life and happiness, joy and unending peace and love.

As the prophecies given to his Chosen People had foretold, Christ was to be born of a virgin, a descendant of Abraham and of David. She was a virgin and intended to remain a virgin. When told by the angelic message, whom God sent to her, that the conception of this child would take place through the power of the Most High, she humbly accepted the role to which God had appointed her. The CCD translation of the Greek: “Rejoice o highly favoured daughter” brings out the angel’s meaning better than the old form “Hail, full of grace.” He is bringing her good news. It is a time for rejoicing, and he tells her she is highly favoured daughter of God, a statement that must have surprised one so humble as she. As the sequel shows, this implies some special prerogative, the divine maternity. God is working through her to fulfil his messianic prophecies.

When God chose her, before time began, for this sublime dignity of motherhood of his incarnate Son, he decreed to preserve her free from any stain of the sin committed by the First Parents. She was conceived “Immaculate,” pure and free from any human stain. She was “our tainted nature’s solitary boast” as the Protestant poet Wordsworth puts it.

This befits one who was to bear for nine months in her womb the world’s greatest mystery: God’s greatest gift to humanity, the Son of God clothed in human nature, Christ, God and Man. He was the perfect man and God as well. His Mother, the creature who was nearest and dearest to him, was the most perfect of creatures - the most favoured daughter of God.

On this great feast of her Immaculate Conception, let us turn to her with hope and confidence. We are commemorating the graces and blessings which God gave her to fit her for the dignity he had chosen for her. She, like her divine Son, wants all of us in heaven. Moreover, she was humble and unselfish. Pride had no part in her make-up. She was chaste and pure to a degree we cannot expect to reach. We should follow her in our vocation in life. Chastity, the proper use and respect for God’s gift of sex, can and must be practised not only in a life of virginity consecrated to God’s service but also in the married state. Obedience was another outstanding virtue of hers. She welcomed and carried out the will of God even when it meant offering her beloved and sonly son on the altar of the cross for our sakes. Those humble, submissive words of hers: “Let it be done to me as you say” should be always in our hearts and ready on our lips, when God asks some sacrifice of us.

Love of God and neighbour were the mainspring of her life. Her unhesitating acceptance of motherhood of the Saviour of the human race proves both her love for God and her fellowman. In heaven, we have a most powerful advocate, a Mother who loves us with a love greater than the love that any earthly mother can have for her child. If we call on her, she will hear our prayer. If, as sometimes  happens,  we should turn our back on her and on her divine Son, she will not turn her back on us. She will be praying and waiting patiently for our return.

We congratulate the Immaculate Mother of Christ and our Mother on this special privilege of exemption from the guilt which all of Eve’s children incurred and incur. We show our gratitude to God for choosing her and preparing her to be the proximate means through which he was to give us every blessing in heaven.

We shall all be saints in heaven one day enjoying unending happiness for the role of the infinitely loving  Father,  the  Holy Spirit, God’s incarnate Son  and  the Immaculate Virgin Mother who played and still  plays  a big part in bringing us to our eternal heritage.

-FEMI ADEOGUN

 


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