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Immaculate Conception

Tuesday, December 08, 2015
December is a paradoxical month, a month of endings and beginnings. 

The days are still getting shorter, and the coming of the new year makes us inclined to look back on the good and the bad things of 2015. But in the church, it is a time not of looking back, but of new beginnings. We have begun advent, the start of the new Church year. We look forward to Christmas, the feast of the beginning of God’s presence among us in the child Jesus. And today we celebrate the feast of the beginning of Mary, the Immaculate Conception. 

Why dwelling on all these beginnings? The great Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner said that it must be because the beginning as such is God, the fullness of all reality. The world and we ourselves, we have our beginning in the inaccessible mystery that is God. It is as mystery that God reveals himself slowly in the course of our history, which is why we accept it in darkness and patience, with trust, hope and courage. God is a mystery that we will never understand, but that we can learn to live in with ease. That is why we never stop to celebrate beginnings: the beginning that is God is not something we leave behind, but the ground of our being. 

Let me make two points about the particular beginning we celebrate today. First a typically Dominican point: the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a reminder that revulsion of the human body or human sexuality as such does not fit very well with Christian faith. Mary was, after all, conceived in the same way as we all are: in an act of sexual intimacy of her parents. Today’s Feast cannot be about a degradation of human sexuality. 

So what is it about? This is the second point. Today we celebrate a Feast of God’s beginning, and that is always a beginning in grace. Mary belongs to this beginning in a unique way. In her begins our redemption. She belongs to it as redeemed in advance, for the sake of Christ, the redeemer. Because of this beginning, God will be all in all.

That is why the feast of the Immaculate Conception is our Feast as well. Our human history, with its beginning in God, but also with its history of guilt, is already embraced by love and forgiveness. Our guilt and sin cannot stop God from beginning. Rahner again: “Guilt was only admitted because it remained enveloped within this hidden beginning which from the start was the overflowing spring of grace.” From the roots of her being, the Blessed Virgin Mary shows us what we for the grace of God will be one day: completely filled with God’s love.

Br Stefan Mangnus O.P.



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