Reflections on the Teaching of Vatican II Through the Magisterium of John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis
Tuesday, December 08, 2015
Bishop Robert Barron on the Immaculate Conception
The Immaculate Conception
The Immaculate Conception, not to be confused with the virgin birth of Jesus that we celebrate on Christmas, is the dogma that teaches that even from the first moment of her own conception, Mary was rescued from the power of original sin. Christ, who receives his human flesh from his mother, receives this flesh from a person who, by a singular gift from God, comes into this world without original sin. To understand the significance of this fact, we need to go back to Eve and the original sin.
The Church Fathers often made a connection between Eve, the mother of all the living, and Mary, the Mother of God and Mother of the Church. In fact, they saw Mary as “the new Eve,” the one who undid the damage done by Eve.
Our first parents, Genesis tells us, were given a garden in which to flourish. They were given free rein, permission to enjoy and eat of any tree in the Garden, save one—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Why the prohibition? Because the very best things are not taken; they are received as gifts. God did not block their access to the tree because he wanted to prevent them from having what he had; he blocked access because he wanted to give them gifts.
Now let's turn to Mary. The angel’s greeting to her is important. He says, “Hail Mary, full of grace.” Mary is greeted as someone who is able to accept gifts. Eve and Adam grasped; Mary is ready to receive.
The angel then explains to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…” At the heart of the spiritual life is the conviction that your life is not about you, and this is precisely what Adam and Eve couldn’t tolerate. They grasped at God and tried to seize his gifts. But the real spiritual life is about allowing oneself to be overwhelmed by the one who loves us, to be carried away by the Spirit.
Mary is someone who is ready to receive the impossible, and this it precisely what makes her the paradigm of Advent faith.