The Conception (In Naples)
Country : Italy
Year : 1618
From the first moment of her being, Mary was filled with Divine Life; from her was to come Christ, who would redeem the world; would return Divine Life to mankind; and God, that Mary might be a pure channel for the Incarnation, gave to her the fruits of the Redemption, still to come.
Caryll Houselander, the saintly author, in her book, THE REED OF GOD, wrote of Mary, “It is Our Lady—and no other saint—whom we can really imitate…Each Saint has a special work to do; but Our Lady includes in her vocation, in her life’s work, the essential thing that was to be hidden in every other vocation, in every life; she is not only human, she is HUMANITY. The one thing Mary did and does, is the one thing we all must do, namely: bring Christ into the world. Christ must be born from every soul, formed in every life.”
Mary, in the first instant of her being was adorned with grace, and by reason of that fact, free from original sin. Original Sin, the privation of sanctifying grace, is the punishment for the sin of Adam, our first parent. So, we are conceived in our mother’s womb, without grace, and are on that very account displeasing and without beauty in the eyes of God, since the grace that should be in us, is lacking. In the case of Mary alone, did God make an exception, in the womb of her holy mother Anna, she was already arrayed in Sanctifying Grace to an extraordinary degree. That is the basic thought of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Mary was bedecked as with precious bridal jewels, preordained for her from all eternity, that she might be the Immaculate, the all fair, the full of grace.
How great Sanctifying Grace must be! God, Who can give all things, since all things belong to Him, must surely have given His Mother for her bridal array (as Spouse of the Holy Spirit), the very best that it was in His power to give and He knew nothing greater than the shining raiment of Sanctifying Grace. From this we see that in the eyes of God, holiness, virtue, purity of soul, all are the most precious things, while in the eyes of men, earthly possessions and material beauty are given the highest place.
Regarding her great privilege, Mary speaks to us herself in the BOOK OF WISDOM, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His ways, before He made anything…I was set up from eternity…The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived (in God’s plan). When He prepared the heavens, I was present. When He compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters, that they should not pass their limits, I was with Him” (in thought before the eye of God).
Already in the first plans God had in view for His world, Mary had an important role as Mother of the Redeemer of Mankind. Even then, because of the unique part she was to play in the plan for the salvation of mankind, God had decided to preserve her from original sin and to adorn her with grace. God Himself—in His own mind—painted the first and most beautiful Madonna: He was Himself, if one may say so, the first votary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. No one, therefore, has any right to find fault with us if we poor mortals, too, render sincere honor to Our Lady. Mary speaks to us in these gracious words (taken from the Old Testament), “(My) children, hear me. Blessed are they that keep my ways, that hear me and watch daily at my gates. He that shall find me shall find life and shall have salvation from the Lord.” Such is the blessing that comes from devoutly honoring Mary.