December 08, 2017 – Mary’s Conception was a New Creation

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Readings – English / Español

 

English

Preachers have long lamented the fact that this is the Gospel that the Church chose for the Immaculate Conception, because people are already confused enough about this feast day. The event described in our Gospel today is NOT the Immaculate Conception. It is referred to as the Annunciation by the Church, but you could also refer to it as the Virginal Conception if you wanted to. This Gospel is the moment when Jesus was conceived by a miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit. The Immaculate Conception, on the other hand, refers to Mary’s conception, by her parents using the normal means. What is special about Mary’s conception is not HOW it happened, but the fact that it happened without the transmission of Original Sin. The Council of Trent teaches us that Original Sin is inherited through propagation, not imitation, so for the rest of us, we are marked by Original Sin just by being conceived. But not Mary. Mary was kept free of the mark and the fall of our first parents.

Not only is this miraculous, but it is one of the greatest miracles ever performed by God in the history of Creation. See, if Original Sin is propagated not imitated, it means that Mary had to be exempted from the normal metaphysical act of creation. In other words, she had to be independently and specially created. We might even go so far as to say that Mary’s conception was a new act of creation, just like the creation of life and the creation of Adam and Eve. This event is so miraculous because, and I am admittedly extending the theology of the Church here, because Mary’s Immaculate Conception was an act of creation ex nihilo, an act of new creation. These acts of creation ex nihilo are one of the key features that sets God apart from his creation, and shows forth his awesome glory and majesty. If there is one thing that humanity cannot even begin to imitate, it is creation from nothing.

It is also for this reason that Mary is so strongly referred to by the Church as the “new Eve”. This is not simply an analogy. God began the human race with Adam and Eve, and he began its recreation with Jesus and his mother Mary. We participate in the original humanity by our birth as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, and we participate in a recreated humanity through our baptism into the Body of Christ, of which Mary was the first and primordial member.

Finally, we do not celebrate the Immaculate Conception simply because it is a great miracle performed by God. We also celebrate the Immaculate Conception because it is in Mary that Jesus reveals his plan for us. By preserving his mother from all sin, even Original Sin, Jesus showed us what perfect redemption looks like. And so today we celebrate our model and ask for her intercession, so that one day we might live in that perfect redemption that Mary has illuminated since the very moment of her creation.

Español

Los predicadores han lamentado durante mucho tiempo el hecho de que este es el evangelio que la iglesia eligió para la Inmaculada Concepción, porque la gente ya está bastante confundido acerca de este día de fiesta. El evento descrito en nuestro evangelio de hoy no es la Inmaculada Concepción. Se conoce como la Anunciación por la iglesia, pero también se podría referir a ella como la concepción virginal si quería. El Evangelio es el momento en que Jesús fue concebido por una intervención milagrosa del Espíritu Santo. La Inmaculada Concepción, por otra parte, se refiere a la  concepción de María, por sus padres utilizando los medios normales. Lo que es especial sobre la concepción de María no es cómo sucedió, sino el hecho de que sucedió sin la transmisión del pecado original. El Concilio de Trento nos enseña que el pecado original es heredado a través de la propagación, no de la imitación, así que para el resto de nosotros, estamos marcados por el pecado original sólo por ser concebidos. Pero no María. María se mantuvo libre de la marca y la caída de nuestros primeros padres.

No sólo es milagroso, sino que es uno de los milagros más grandes jamás realizados por Dios en la historia de la creación. Ver, si el pecado original se propaga no imitado, significa que María tuvo que ser eximida del acto metafísico normal de la creación. En otras palabras, tenía que ser independiente y especialmente creada. Podríamos incluso ir tan lejos como para decir que la concepción de María era un nuevo acto de creación, al igual que la creación de la vida y la creación de Adán y Eva. Este evento es tan milagroso porque, y estoy ciertamente extendiendo la teología de la iglesia aquí, porque la Inmaculada Concepción de María fue un acto de creación ex nihilo, un acto de nueva creación. Estos actos de creación ex nihilo son una de las características clave que distingue a Dios de su creación, y muestra su impresionante gloria y majestad. Si hay una cosa que la humanidad no puede ni siquiera empezar a imitar, es la creación de la nada.

Es también por esta razón que Maria es referida tan fuertemente por la iglesia como la “Eva nueva”. Esto no es simplemente una analogía. Dios comenzó la raza humana con Adán y Eva, y comenzó su recreación con Jesús y su madre María. Participamos en la humanidad original por nuestro nacimiento como hijos e hijas de Adán y Eva, y participamos en una humanidad recreada a través de nuestro bautismo en el cuerpo de Cristo, del cual María fue la primera y primordial miembro.

Finalmente, no celebramos la Inmaculada Concepción simplemente porque es un gran milagro realizado por Dios. También celebramos la Inmaculada Concepción porque es en María que Jesús revela su plan para nosotros. Al preservar a su madre de todo pecado, incluso pecado original, Jesús nos muestra la redención perfecta. Así que hoy celebramos nuestro modelo y pedimos su intercesión, para que un día podamos vivir en esa redención perfecta que María ha iluminado desde el momento mismo de su creación.

 

4 thoughts on “December 08, 2017 – Mary’s Conception was a New Creation

  1. Hi Father Moore,
    Last evening, I found this homily intellectually stimulating. I was taken back to a time when I, as a 12 or 13 year old, would have discussions that bordered on arguments with my grandmother, my father’s mother, who was Baptist. The point I remember most was her view, which I assumed was the Baptist Church’s view, that Mary did not remain a virgin throughout her marriage to Joseph. My brothers and sisters and I would passionately disagree with her.
    During your homily last night, I must admit that I heard my grandmother’s arguments again in my head. I was very interested in the terminology “propagated not imitated.” I had to find it and re-read it. From what I just read, I understand it to be said that Mary’s conception was somehow miraculously like the creation of Adam and Eve, but it took place within the womb of Mary’s mother? Did I get that right? I would be interested to learn more about The Council of Trent, Original Sin and the meaning of ex nihilo.

    • Mike! Glad to hear it! And thank you.

      My argument is basically that, if all the other human beings who are conceived posses Original Sin, then there must have been something unique about Mary’s conception. Even if her parents used the normal means, something was not normal, and God would have had to intervene specially. (This, by the way, is why St. Thomas Aquinas argued against the Immaculate Conception – because he knew that it would require an unprecedented intervention by God). So I am extending all of this to suggest that Mary’s creation must have been exactly like Adam and Eve’s creation, where God also had to act specially.

      The analogy actually holds pretty well given modern science. If we accept the natural evolution of the human body, then God’s “creation” of humanity was the act of infusing a rational soul into a previously irrational vessel. Similarly with Mary, even if her physical creation came through her parents using the normal means, there must have been something like the creation of Adam and Eve happening at her conception. Maybe we could say that Original Sin is inherent in the soul*, so God re-created the human soul free of sin for Mary’s moment of conception.

      (*Aristotelian metaphysics, which the Church generally favors today, has never really satisfied me regarding the act of human conception. The soul is supposed to be the “form” of the body, so body and soul are not independent entities, but expressions of each other. But the physical processes are almost completely understood, and yet we would not say that genes determine the nature of a soul. So anyway, my language here is more dualistic that Catholic theology really allows. It might be best to say simply that the whole human person is created at the moment of conception, and what we receive from our parents is marked by the sin of our first parents. And yet, Mary only received some of what the rest of us receive from our parents, so God would have had to supplement the rest, and I think we would not be off base to considered this intervention and supplementing as an act of creation from nothing.)

      • Thank-you. I have no disagreement. If we, as free thinking individuals, accept the belief that God created the universe, including Adam and Eve, then why wouldn’t it be possible for God to re-create Mary in a special way? God can do all things. I appreciate your reply. I now am interested in finding out more of St. Thomas Aquinas.
        PS I’m just curious, do you write out your homilies, and then translate them into Spanish, or is there a app that translates?

      • I use a combination of Bing and Google Translate, but I always have to proofread the results, because language is complicated and idioms are not kind to me. 😉

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