Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Immaculate Conception: Something to Think About

Although there's a great deal in Catholicism that I appreciate, I'm not up on all the different observances, and so today's Feast of the Immaculate Conception wasn't on my radar screen. I don't know whether or not Mary was conceived or born without sin; it's not a concept that's part of my theology one way or the other.

But not a few people have suggested over the past year or so that I give some thought to Mary, and I have done so tonight. I even looked around oneline for some Immaculate Conception artwork, but most of what I found, with the exception of one icon, is of the hazy-ethereal-romantic variety -- Mary floating around in the sky with angels and such.

I wanted something more contemporary, something more reflective of the Mary to whom I have given some consideration over the past several years, if not months: a Mary who is one insistent, determined, bold, and single-minded young lady. A young woman not to be messed with. Not, you know, remotely meek or mild.

It occurs to me that the Immaculate Conception tradition might have a universal application in the hope that perhaps we are born with whatever it is we need for the life ahead of us. I don't know why the mother of Jesus would need to be sinless, although I suppose it makes sense if one believes that sin is genetically transmitted. And I don't believe that we are born with everything we need, either ~ the reality of suicide demolishes that one.

But I like the idea: the hope that we might be equipped for what is to come.

Personally, I have not felt the least bit equipped for the realities of the past fifteen months. But it seems that I am still here, still blundering around ~ equipment-less.

I wonder how Mary felt about it ~ about her own preparedness, after the death of her son.

Would it help, to be without sin?

Somehow I doubt it.


Stratoz said...

Would it help, to be without sin? ... there may be a sin or two I could live without having on my shoulders

Quotidian Grace said...

We learned on a trip to Rome with our daughters a few years ago that the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary IS part of Catholic theology and a relatively new part at that--announced by Pope Pius IX as a dogma in 1854.

Daughter Babs was astounded when the docent at the Vatican explained this and demanded to know the Catholic church then also believed that Mary's mother was immaculately conceived and HER mother, etc etc back to Eve.

Almost had an international incident on our hands!

On another note, I like your idea that maybe it means she (and we) are born with whatever it is we will need for the life that is ahead of us.

artandsoul said...

I, too, have some question as to the doctrines around Mary.

But, I have no problem with the way she draws me to her in meditative and prayerful ways. I have found meditating on Mary's position to be helpful and comforting in times of deep distress, especially relating to my children.

Mary watched, without blinking, her son die a terrible death. The strength, courage and love that it takes for a mother to do that is something that many of us turn away from. We turn away from the awfulness of addiction, we turn away from the awfulness of suicide, we turn away from the intensity of the mother who watches.

Because my experiences tell me that just watching is sometimes all I can do. Much as I would like to do something, anything, to alleviate the pain or change the course of events - I cannot.

And it can be a terrible calling to be the one who watches.

To me, that is Mary's gift. To me and to mothers who suffer.

You may want to look up some of the contemporary "Black Madonna" literature -- Sue Monk Kidd, Marion Woodman, and here is a link with some others: http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/resources/BlackMadonna_bib.html

I find this body of Marian writing to be quite accessible and much more fruitful to my own spiritual path. And I'm a Catholic. :)