For the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I wanted to share one of my favorite passages from Ven. Archbishop Fulton Sheen. For such a prolific writer, that is saying a lot (he wrote something like 73 books!) but it is true. It is philospophy at the service of Mariology, really, and wrapped up in beautiful language about our Blessed Mother.
“God…has within Himself blueprints of everything in the universe. As the architect has in his mind a plan of the house before the house is built, so God has in His Mind an archetypal idea of every flower, bird, tree, springtime, and melody. There never was a brush touched to canvas or a chisel to marble without some great pre-existing idea. So, too, every atom and every rose is a realization and concretion of an idea existing in the mind of God from all eternity. All creatures below man correspond to the pattern God has in His Mind. A tree is truly a tree because it corresponds to God’s idea of a tree. A rose is a rose because it is God’s idea of a rose wrapped up in chemicals and tints and life. But it is not so with persons. God has to have two pictures of us: one is what we are, and the other is what we ought to be. He has the model, and He has the reality: the blueprint and the ediface, the score of the music and how we play it. God has to have these two pictures because in each and every one of us there is some disproportion and want of conformity between the original plan and the way we have it worked out. The image is blurred; the print is faded…
“There is, actually, only one person in all of humanity of whom God has one picture and in whom there is perfect conformity between what He wanted her to be and what she is, and that is His Own Mother. Most of us are a minus sign, in the sense that we do not fulfil the high hopes that the Heavenly Father has for us. But Mary is the equal sign. The Ideal that God had of her, that is she is, and in the flesh. The model and the copy are perfect; she is all that was foreseen, planned, and dreamed. The melody of her life is played just as it was written. Mary was thought, conceived, and planned as the equal sign between ideal and history, thought and reality, hope and realization….
“She existed in the Divine Mind as an Eternal Thought before there were any mothers. She is the Mother of mothers–she is the world’s first love. “ (Fulton Sheen, The World’s First Love: Mary, the Mother of God)
This really, is the meaning of the Immaculate Conception. Mary, preserved from the stain of original sin, alone could perfectly be what God has dreamt and designed her to be from the beginning of time. She is the perfect image, the perfect mother, the perfect woman. She is the New Eve. She is Eve without sin.
All of us reflect God, too–but in a distorted way. Original sin made the reflection of God in us blurry, like the sticky, fingerprinted mirrors in my house. Our own sins further obscure and diminish it, and cultural sins downright desecrate it–until at times it can be unrecognizable. Sometimes we can make out the image of the Creator, but the proportions are wrong, like an image in a funhouse mirror. Or we can recognize the song, but when played by an out-of-tune piano it pains us to hear.
Mary’s song was played perfectly. Her mission unfolded as a melody of profouond prayer, perfect obedience, and powerful intercession. Her mission is at the beginning and the end of Divine Revelation–foretold in Genesis to crush the head of the ancient serpent (Gen 3:15), and again in Revelation as the Woman clothed with the sun who brings forth a male child to rule all the nations, to the fury of the dragon (Rev 12:1).
But we too are implicated in the mision of this “Mother of mothers.” Revelation tells us that after the dragon failed to devour her male child, and after he failed to sweep her away with a flood of water from his mouth, he “was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.” (Rev 12:17)
And as Tolkien says in The Hobbit, “It doesn’t do to leave a dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”
We can’t afford to leave him out of our calculations, our plans, our consciousness. That, of course, is exactly what he would want.
We may be imperfect, blurry, and out-of-tune soldiers, but we are still called to battle, to finish off the final skirmish. We know she has been promised the victory: “In the end,” Our Lady told the children at Fatima, “My Immaculate Heart will triumph.” And so we confidently look for her holy standard in the chaos of the battlefield and plant ourselves in the middle of her army and protection.
May our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, pray for us. May we find in her perfection a hiding place for our own limitations and an inspiration to continue the battle against Satan–and own fallen nature.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.