[Note:It’s easy to remember my niece’s birthday as she shares it with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception…]
This a season of Mary as well as of the coming of Jesus. It’s rather like we need to see what came before to get to the gift of the baby Jesus. And so, I’ve been considering the concept of “Immaculate Conception.” I learned early on in my journey into Catholic Christianity that this Immaculate Conception refers to Mary’s beginnings, not to her conceiving Jesus.
Often, it helps to go back to the original language to find a meaning to theological ideas. But, I don’t have a history of terms here, so I fall to considering the English meaning of Conception. Creatures are conceived, but also are ideas conceived. Take the term “concept” – basic concepts underlie projects and belief structures. Mary’s Immaculate Conception – Mary, conceived without sin — that had to be God’s concept. We wouldn’t have thought of it. And so, Mary, who the Catholic Church declares to have been conceived without sin, had to be the result of a concept that was born from God.
As Advent progresses, we move toward the birth of Jesus. What a concept! God becoming one of us in every way except sin. Had to be God’s idea. We would never presume to think this is really something God desired. I suspect that even those sorely broken humans who seem to think they are God carry deep within them a strong doubt that God would really want to be them. They might think they can have God’s power, but, I suspect that they don’t really think God would BE them.
And so, I wrestle with terms like Immaculate Conception and Jesus born of the Virgin Mary. And I look at the word Virgin, free of sexual attachments. I consider the Virgin was a translation and perhaps it refers to a young woman, free, in an of herself, to make the decision to embrace God’s will. The angel Gabriel told her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her. Ah! The source of the concept of Jesus – God incarnate originates from God as the Holy Spirit. And Mary said “Yes.”
The power of Mary’s “yes” and the awesome gift of her allowing God to become human through her knocks me over sometimes. And it reinforces my awe at the site of a new baby, and the power of someone, anyone, everyone saying “yes.”