“IEXULT for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God; for he has clothed me in the garment of salvation and robed me in the cloak of justice, like a bride adorned with her jewels” (Is 61, 10). This entrance antiphon for the feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8) is the wedding song of the Blessed Virgin.
God made the world as an act of love, so we can enjoy communion with him. This communion is a true marriage, and Mary is the most excellent representative of the power of this union. In her, earth weds heaven. There is not another human person (Jesus is a divine person with a human nature) who is more like God than Mary. And, in her marriage with the Lord, she speaks and acts in the name of us all.
This feast celebrates the unique privilege given our Lady. God chose to make her like him not only during life, but even in birth. Adam and Eve were created in grace because there was no sin. Mary as the New Eve is conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, but without original sin. This does not mean she is not among the redeemed, but God lovingly brought her forth without sin in light of the merits of the Son whom she would conceive.
Mary is the prime chosen one of the human race. The angel calls her “full of grace” (Lk 1, 28). She is the fit vessel in which the Trinity will bring forth the fruit of her womb, Jesus. Her vocation is to be the Mother of God. Hence, soul and body must be wholly pure. No sin of nature nor of person can spoil her life. She cannot even experience the weaknesses that result from original sin.
Eve did not obey God because she loved herself more. Adam affirmed her unloving disobedience in his own sin. Christ comes to earth to redeem us from original sin by reversing this unloving disobedience. Mary begins this process. She is asked to respond to the love shown her, even at her conception, by an act of faith and loving obedience to God. He will not bring the grace of the Incarnation to the world if she is unwilling. Her Immaculate Conception prepares for her assent: “In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 490). Mary answers in our place with the greatest act of affirmation ever made. She combines love and obedience and the process of our redemption finally begins; “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy Word” (Lk 1, 38).
Father Mullady is a professor of moral theology at Holy Apostles Seminary, Cromwell, Conn.