There’s Something about Mary


The Immaculate Conception

The first chapter of John’s Gospel begins with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.  A little later, we read, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”.  Why? Why would He humble Himself and become one of us?

To understand, we have to go back to the very beginning. When we read the first chapter of Genesis, the account of Creation, at each step along the way, we see, “And God saw that it was good”.  Yet, in his Letter to the Romans, Paul tells us that creation is in bondage to decay, and that the whole of creation has been groaning in travail.

So, what happened? In a word, sin. Original sin

You see, when our first parents disobeyed God and ate of the Tree, they didn’t just ruin it for themselves.  They didn’t just ruin human nature.  Their sin affected all of creation!! As Paul tells us in Romans, “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, so death spread to all men because all men sinned”.

But, God had a plan all along. After our first parents sinned, in His judgment on the serpent, God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman,  and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head,  and you shall bruise his heel”. The woman’s seed is Jesus.  God’s intention was always to redeem mankind.  We read in the Book of Revelation that He is the Lamb of God slain from before the foundation of the world!

Later, Paul calls Jesus The Second Adam, or the Last Adam. Christ’s life, death, and resurrection began the process of restoring creation, starting first with man. Then, as we read in Revelation, at the end of the age, there will be a new heaven and a new earth.

So, where does Mary fit in all of this? Is she just some teenage girl chosen by God to be a willing womb?  Or is she more important?

You know the story. As He hung on the cross, when Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

Mary is our mother. She is the mother of those living in Christ - the mother of all living in the new creation.  In Genesis, after the judgment in the Garden of Eden, we read, “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living”.  

  • St. Justin Martyr wrote,  “For Eve…having conceived the word of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy”. 

  • In his Catechetical Lectures, St. Cyril of Jerusalem said, “Death came through a virgin, Eve. It was necessary that life also should come through a virgin”. 

  • And St. John Chrysostom said, “A maiden expelled us from paradise, through a maiden we find eternal life”.

Mary is the New Eve. That is why Jesus referred to her as “woman”.  It wasn’t a disrespectful term of address. When our first parents were in Eden, Scripture refers to our first mother as “The Woman”.  It’s only after they sinned that Adam called her Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.  In the same way, Jesus was acknowledging that Mary was the New Eve.

Today we celebrate what, in the East, is called The Conception of St. Ann, and in the West, The Immaculate Conception.  Whatever you call it, it is the celebration of a miracle of God, one step in His restoration of all creation.  The doctrine states, “The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin”.

This fact is reflected in the Angelic Greeting that we repeat every time we pray in the Hail Mary. The word that St Jerome translated as “plena gratia” - “full of grace” was coined by Luke for his Gospel. It is κεκαρητομἐνη - woman who has completely received grace.

Why was it necessary for Mary to be preserved from the stain of Original Sin?  Two reasons come to mind.  The first is that, up until the time of the Fall, the First Eve was preserved from Original Sin. 

The second reason is that Jesus is the Wisdom of God.  In the Book of Wisdom we read, “Wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul, nor dwell in a body enslaved to sin”.

So much of what we believe about Mary flows out of this.

  • Jesus is the Divine Mercy. Mary is Mother of Mercy.

  • The original Ark of the Covenant carried the presence of God among the Israelites. Mary, the new Ark of the Covenant,  carried the presence of God in her womb.

  • In the Israelite Kingdom, the Queen Mother, the Mother of the King, was second in authority behind her son, the king. Jesus is our King, and Mary is our Queen.

  • From the moment of conception, the man Jesus was God Incarnate. Mary is therefore Mother of God.

My friends, Mary is indeed our Mother, our sinless mother whose obedience to God’s call has made our salvation possible.  She is our Mother who constantly prays for us.  She is our Queen who is always there to hear our appeals. And, as the Ark of the Covenant, when she is found in our hearts, there will be found the presence of God!!!