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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Tomorrow is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in the Catholic Church.  The Feast celebrates the state of Mary, that she was conceived, by a singular grace without sin, just as the Ark of the Convenient, in which the Hebrews carried the Word of God, was covered by the most precious metal, gold. The doctrine means, in effect, that Mary was prepared for being the Mother of God, the mother of Jesus, God incarnate, by being left pure, and not predisposed to sin.

This feast is in the first week of Advent, the period of preparation for the coming of our Lord, the period of hope, expectation, prophecy and trial that gets us ready for Jesus.  It is followed on the 12th by another feast of Mary, the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, one of my favorite feast days in the church.  Advent is a time of repentance of sin, like Lent, but unlike Lent, it is a period that looks forward from the time of Genesis to the birth of Jesus and the beginning  of his ministry.  Mary sums up the experience of the Hebrew people for us, and shares her motherly love with us, through her son. Mary is a New Eve, like what Eve was before she fell, and hence a Mother of all the Living, but by adoption rather than by natural order. In advent we strive to become a people of God, and she provides motherly love to us in that effort.

Putting aside for now the doctrinal matters of the church regarding this, let me consider my own reaction to Mary and to this feast.  I am a person who suffered the minimal attention of a mother, not through her fault, but by the fact that my mother herself suffered with mental illness and struggled with it.  Early on, from the first time I heard the song at 12 or 13 years old, I identified with the old folk song "Motherless Children".  I often turned to Mary, as a child, for the motherly love I could not receive from a mother confined to a hospital.

Similarly the poor that I learned early to identify with, seek her motherly love.  The feast of the Immaculate Conception is followed so closely by the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe precisely because she is not only the Mother of the Americas, but because she is the Mother of the poor.  She appeared to a poor and downtrodden Indian because she had to bring God's special love for the poor.  So this period of time in advent is a time when we must rededicate ourselves to the poor in preparation for the coming of Jesus.  Indeed he comes as a poor child, lying in a manager and is soon on the run as an undocumented person in Egypt. The Holy Family, in fleeing Herod represent poor immigrants and refugees everywhere in the world.

I am following this with some videos  posted from U-Tube

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