The feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary promulgated only in 1854 by the Pope Pius IX has been the crowning of a long time belief of the faithful Christians from Late Antiquity. The Pope defined the dogma in this way:
“We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful.”
Pope Pius Ix, Ineffabilis Deus, December 8, 1854
The second week of Advent this year is marked by the call of John the Baptist to purify our heart for the coming of Christ. At the heart of this season the Church puts forwards the Immaculate Conception of Mary as the model of such purity. When we talk about being clean for the coming of the Lord as it is the case for Mary we are not the level a legal purity the way the Pharisees understood it. They had according a misleading conception of the legal purity which consisted more importantly in external practices in order to become clean.
The purity we are celebrating in Mary can be equated to the notion of purity in chemistry in which a body is said to be pure when it is not mixed with another body. Mary is said to be Immaculate Conception because she is all turned toward God, her heart looks only for God. In contemplating the pot (Mary) we are celebration what the Potter (God) has made in her. We are celebrating the wonder the potter has accomplished in creating such a beautiful soul as the channel through which His son will come into the world.
In this time of Advent we are also called to avail ourselves to the loving action of God. John the Baptist said about the one to come that: “He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit” May Christ renew His Spirit within us that we may become as pure as he wants us to be after the purity of the heart of Mary. Sin is the wheat that defiles us. In subduing it in us by the power of the Holy Spirit we will be ready to welcome Christ. Let us pray together with the French School of Spirituality:
O Jesus living in Mary come and live in your servants
In the holiness of your Spirit, in the fullness of your strength,
In the perfection of your ways, in the truth of your virtues,
In communion with your mysteries
Come and master the enemy in your Holy Spirit for the glory of the father. Amen