Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception! During the Exsultet, the Easter Proclamation at the Easter Vigil, the priest gloriously sings, "Oh happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a redeemer." Might it be said, that we can also give praise to God that the sin of Adam, the sin of Eve gave us so great a mother as Mary?
We hear the oft-repeated phrase that "Mary is the new Eve"; what Eve lost for mankind through her pride and disobedience, Mary gained for mankind through her humility and obedience. Her purity and innocence were maintained from her conception, not by a heavenly decree but by a free and natural choice. Natural in the sense that God did not violate Mary's nature and free will by allowing her to be conceived without original sin; she was still human and was as free as Eve was in the garden to choose between good and evil. The fact that Mary freely chose God should not make her untouchable for us; in fact, in should be precisely because she chose God that she can be so near and dear to us.
How many of us have thought of Adam and Eve, wondering why they allowed sin into the world, knowing that our daily temptations, the world's many sufferings, would disappear if sin had not entered the world? We can easily understand why they gave into temptation as we have so often done, but do we desire to continually relate ourselves to them because of this fault? Instead, we should relate and gravitate to Mary. Whereas we see our demise and failings in Adam & Eve, we see our hope and inherent goodness in Mary. Her fiat is the choice we desire to make, but think we lack the courage to do so on so many occasions. In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales advises that if one wishes to be acquire a certain virtue, he should act as if he already mastered that very virtue. A priest once commented that we should not look to the saints to see their faults, but rather look to them to see their virtues. Mary's Immaculate Conception and embodiment of virtue should not turn us away from her but rather turn us toward her.
Mary's Immaculate Conception reveals to us that we are not condemned to act as Adam & Eve, condemned to live a life of misery outside of the gates of Paradise. Rather, we are called to act as Christ and His Mother, to live a life of joy, called to live in eternal happiness, in Paradise with God forever.
I'll close with a link to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854, and a beautiful prayer by St. Louis de Montfort:
"O most loving Jesus, deign to let me pour forth my gratitude before Thee, for the grace Thou hast bestowed upon me in giving me to Thy holy Mother through the devotion of Holy Bondage, that she may be my advocate in the presence of Thy majesty and my support in my extreme misery.
Alas, O Lord! I am so wretched that without this dear Mother I should be certainly lost. Yes, Mary is necessary for me at Thy side and everywhere that she may appease Thy just wrath, because I have so often offended Thee; that she may save me from the eternal punishment of Thy justice, which I deserve; that she may contemplate Thee, speak to Thee, pray to Thee, approach Thee and please Thee; that she may help me to save my soul and the souls of others; in short, Mary is necessary for me that I may always do Thy holy will and seek Thy greater glory in all things.Ah, would that I could proclaim throughout the whole world the mercy that Thou hast shown to me ! Would that everyone might know I should be already damned, were it not for Mary! Would that I might offer worthy thanksgiving for so great a blessing! Mary is in me.Oh, what a treasure! Oh, what a consolation! And shall I not be entirely hers? Oh, what ingratitude! My dear Saviour, send me death rather than such a calamity, for I would rather die than live without belonging entirely to Mary. With St. John the Evangelist at the foot of the Cross, I have taken her a thousand times for my own and as many times have given myself to her; but if I have not yet done it as Thou, dear Jesus, dost wish, I now renew this offering as Thou dost desire me to renew it.And if Thou seest in my soul or my body anything that does not belong to this august Princess, I pray Thee to take it and cast it far from me, for whatever in me does not belong to Mary is unworthy of Thee.O Holy Spirit, grant me all these graces. Plant in my soul the Tree of true Life, which is Mary; cultivate it and tend it so that it may grow and blossom and bring forth the fruit of life in abundance.O Holy Spirit, give me great devotion to Mary, Thy faithful spouse; give me great confidence in her maternal heart and an abiding refuge in her mercy, so that by her Thou mayest truly form in me Jesus Christ, great and mighty, unto the fullness of His perfect age. Amen."