This past Sunday, our topic in RCIA was on the Blessed Virgin Mary, which followed another important topic — the Incarnation.
Catholics revere the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God, because she gave birth to Jesus Christ, who was and is both God and man. She gave to Jesus her human nature, and thus Jesus is fully human in all things but sin.
God can do anything. Becoming a man isn’t so much a matter of impossibility as it is a matter of mystery. There is a great why to the question of the Incarnation, much less is it a question of how. We know that God can. Understanding this doesn’t add much to realizing God’s ability. But the Incarnation tells us an awful lot about us.
What does God reveal about Himself in the Incarnation? That He wishes to enter into a relationship with us. He cares so much about this relationship, that He would lower Himself to our level, which for God is quite low. And, in doing so, in lowering Himself, He actually raises all of humanity to a higherdignity in Creation.
God is essentially saying, “I love you THIS MUCH.”
C.S. Lewis provides several different metaphors. In Mere Christianity, he talks about toy tin soldiers, and what would happen if man could animate his creations.
Lewis also talks about dogs. He points out that while men love dogs, this does not mean that men love dogs enough to become dogs in order to have better relationships with them.
I’ve remarked before on ancient imagery of a shepherd and his flock. Jesus uses this in parables, several times. The Good Shepherd seeks after the lost sheep. But imagine the shepherd who becomes a sheep out of love for the flock. Perhaps this idea of Incarnation is also part of what the Holy Father refers to when he talks about priests putting on the aroma or odor of the sheep. That’s what Jesus did/does!
The distance between man and dog is infinitely smaller than the distance between man and God. Yet, the great mystery is that man is so loved by God, that God becomes one of the creations.
God is still God. He is love. All that is good is of God. What does this have to do with the Virgin Mary?
Think about what the ancient Hebrews did with the tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments were the Law. The Law was given by God, but it was not God. The Hebrews took the Law and built a beautiful Ark, made of precious things, to hold it. The Hebrews recognized that something that is given by God is worthy of reverence. It is — or rather before Jesus was — our greatest Treasure.
Jesus is Lawgiver rather than Law. In believing that the Holy Eucharist is the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord, we place the Eucharist in a Tabernacle, following the ancient tradition of the Hebrews in the temple and the holy of holies — a place that symbolizes the great treasure that it contains. We do this because of what we believe the Eucharist is.
What would we do with a tiny baby Jesus? Would we not choose a suitable place for Him, the best that we can offer?
In being carried by a creation of His, would the first place of rest on earth (the womb of the Blessed Mother) not be a worthy receptacle, a Living Tabernacle, something spotless and without stain?
This is why we believe in the Immaculate Conception. It is not to elevate Mary to a position of prestige, or to deify her, but to reflect the Truth that Christ is God. He lowers Himself so that we might be raised, but lowering is not the same as defiling. He is all good. He would not derive His human nature from anything other than what is also good, the best version of His creation.
And so, since God stands outside of time and place, Our Lady receives the gift of being conceived without stain of original sin, which is fully predicated upon the saving work of Jesus Christ (in other words, Mary needs Jesus to be saved just like all of us do), before the linear event of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.
Our Lady becomes the Ark of the New Covenant. For a time, she carries not merely the Law, but the Lawgiver, the Word, Himself. She is consecrated — made Holy — for this purpose.
She is the living Tabernacle of the Word made flesh. It is why she was made, and why she is holy, blessed, and full of grace.
And what does she say to us? She says, “This is my Son. Listen to Him.”