Popular Posts

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Immaculate Conception of Mary the Mother of God

The Annunciation by Fra Filippo Lippi c. 1450

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of the Immaculate Conception of Our Blessed Lady.

Not much is told of Mary in the bible and most of our knowledge of her comes from apostolic tradition...stories handed down through the ages. There have been, however, mystics and visionaries like the Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich , St Bridget of Sweden, St Maria Faustina, St Elizabeth of Schoenau and Venerable Mary of Agreda who have been granted the privilege of seeing some of her life in visions.

I want to stress here that, though these women are saints of the Church,  the Holy Mother Church has not approved many of these accounts and, really, how can they be proven to be accurate.  I will here quote from the Introduction to 'The Life of Mary as seen by the Mystics' "Let them read (this book) as a religous novel but not as a fifth gospel". I would say that sums it up nicely.

Product Details
I love reading them and imagining that the graphic details recorded could be real. It is like reading a fascinating story of a famous, beloved person, knowing that, even if it is just a story, I am transported by the author's words to that place and time. Reading them have helped to develop my love and respect for Our Blessed Lady and Our Lord as they refer to details of the 'hidden life' of Jesus and Mary.

For instance, on Christmas Eve, after we attend Mass, my family and I gather around and read an account of the birth of Jesus from either the above-mentioned book or from Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich's "The Life of Jesus Christ."  They  emphasize the humble and pitiable conditions that Our Lord suffered to come to us. It never fails to bring our hearts to the right place...of gratitude and a deep and abiding love for Him.

Today, though, I want to focus on the writings which refer to the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. It is no secret that the Jews were longing for the coming of the Messiah. They also watched with hope and anticipation for the Virgin, the most holy vessel that prophecy foretold would bear Him.

According to the revelations found in the above mentioned books, the parents of Mary, Anne and Joachim were growing old and despairing of having a child. In those days, to be barrren was a sign of God's disfavour and they suffered cruel taunting.  They would make numerous offerings in the temple and pray for God to answer their prayers but to no avail. They trained themselves in continence and increased their charity and gifts to the poor, but eventually even the priest in the temple rebuked and insulted Joachim telling him that his offerings did not find favour with God.

For this reason St Joachim retreated with his flocks to do prayer and penance away from home. During this time St Anne, who had heard about the priest's treatment of her husband and hurt for him, also suffered the cruel taunts of her own servant girl who called her sterile and said that even her husband had abandoned her.

On this same evening, Anne went out and knelt beneath a tree praying earnestly to have Joachim return to her, for her own desire to have a child and for the coming of the Messiah. An angel appeared to her and told her to set her heart at rest for the Lord had heard her prayers. He told her that God had delayed answering them to give her much more than she was asking for. He then told her that God had chosen her to be the mother of a daughter who would give birth to the Redeemer of mankind. He told her to go to the Temple of Jerusalem and, there at the Golden Gate, she would meet Joachim.

Ven. Anne Catherine wrote many details of how she saw the couple being enveloped by holy light while separated and of anointing by an angel and that upon their meeting they embraced in holy ecstacy and were surrounded by angels and how the heavens opened and light shone done around them and at that moment the Immaculate Conception of Mary was accomplished. She wrote that she was made to understand that this is how conception would have been effected, were it not for the fall of man.

These details are too many to mention and we are warned not to get caught up in the details as God sometimes reveals different aspects in vision or revelation to different people. Please read here for an explanation of this.  What struck me though, was the account of how she was given an explanation of Mary's Immaculate Conception.  She saw that a Mystery for the restoration of fallen humanity was contained in the Ark of the Covenant. She wrote that she saw a shining vessel within Anne and could only describe it as a cradle or tabernacle which had once been closed but was now open and ready to receive a holy thing...that holy thing being  Mary  who was destined to  become the new Ark of the Covenant.

It is written that the Blessed Virgin said to St Bridget of Sweden "It is a truth that I was conceived without Original Sin and not in sin. A golden hour was my conception. My Son joined my father and my mother in a marriage of such chastity that a purer union has never been seen. Sensuality was extinguished in them. Thus my flesh was formed through divine charity."

As we continue into our season of Advent, many people are remembering the Virgin who gave birth to the Saviour. We contemplate her life and we reflect on her part in the Divine Plan for our salvation. We, Catholics, firmly believe that God created her unequal to other women and made her soul pure and free from the stain of original sin to be the pure vessel that would contain His Son.

We honour God  and give Him praise and thanks for the beautiful soul He created on this day, for the fulfillment of His promise through her. We thank Our Lady for surrendering to the will of God and thus becoming a mother to us all and the gate through which we received Jesus and Heaven.

Reflecting on the lives of the Saints of the Church inspires us to live holier lives, they encourage us when we read of their own trials and sufferings. No saint of the church ever was spared such and neither were the parents of Mary, Mary herself, or Our Saviour. May we, who read and reflect be inspired to live exemplary and holy lives that would give glory to God our Father.

No comments: