Thursday, December 8, 2011

Untying the Knots

Our Lady of Lourdes - "I am the Immaculate Conception"
Readings for Thursday, December 8/ Immaculate Conception:
Genesis 3:9-15, 20
Psalm 98:1-4
Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
Luke 1:26-38

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers.”

These words found in the third chapter are often referred to as the ‘protoevangelium’ or ‘first gospel’ because they tell us the good news that humanity is not subject to the consequences of that first sin forever, but that there will come a savior – the offspring of the woman who is at enmity with the evil one. This anticipation of a savior colors the whole Old Testament and finds its fulfillment in the coming of Christ Jesus in His Incarnation at the Annunciation. Throughout that whole story, though, we can see that God often works in similar ways, using a pattern over and over. This use of patterns by God is not because He is uncreative, but rather because the patterns permit us all to look at events and recognize its significance because of its likeness to a previous event. We can see the hand of God at work now because the signs were the same in the past. We see one of those clear patterns in the story of Eve and Mary.

Eve was created by God and was entirely free from sin, entirely immaculate, and is presented with an option: follow the Lord or seek after her own desires. Manifesting her pride, she disobeyed the will of God and ate of the forbidden fruit. In this, she brings sin upon her, then upon Adam, and ultimately the two of them bring condemnation to the whole human race. In this action, Saint Irenaeus, a great defender of the faith in the early Church, says that Eve took the purity of humanity and, with Adam, tied it into a great knot.

As we noted, God often works in patterns, and we all know that the only way to untie a knot is to go back and undo it in the same way it was formed. And so we must begin again with a woman entirely clean from all sin. The Immaculate Conception of Mary in the womb of Saint Anne, which we celebrate today, gives us that woman. Rather than being cleansed from sin as all of us are, Mary was kept free from all sin from the first moment of her conception by a special grace of God. She is indeed a blessed Mother. In our gospel we hear the choice put to her as well: follow the will of God and bear the Son of God or to turn toward herself. Mary manifests her humility, submits herself to the gracious will of God and, by bearing the Christ, helps to bring all of humanity not condemnation but redemption and salvation. In this she unties that knot made by the first ‘mother of all the living’ and helps to restore humanity to its purity.

While she has untied the knot of sin for all humanity, it does not mean that we are now perfect. On the contrary, quite often in our lives we model ourselves after Eve and reach out for those forbidden fruits in our midst and tie knots ourselves, for which we later suffer. On this feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, let us ask our Blessed Mother to be conceived in our own hearts that she might also work in us to untie the knots we have made there. She has much experience in this great work, so let us place our hearts, souls, and lives in her loving hands, confident that she will accomplish this in us so we might merit that great gift of salvation. 

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!