The Immaculate Conception by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1767-1769
If there are five days that summarize the significance of our extraordinary age of Mary, it is December 8-12. During these days we contemplate the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the events and messages surrounding Our Lady of Guadalupe. These events are strategically placed by Divine Providence at the heart of Advent —not to distract us from the coming of Christ, but to better prepare us for it. They direct our attention to a beautiful and central truth about Mary which Venerable Fulton Sheen frequently pointed out — that Mary is always the Advent of Christ.
The historical-spiritual connections of the feast of the Immaculate Conception and its direct connection to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady Lourdes and even Our Lady of Fatima —in connecting the Old World and the Americas, the Eastern Church and the Western Church — are fascinating. I have written and spoken on them many times, but you can find a good summary here.
In this post, I want to focus on how the mysteries and events surrounding December 8-12 are meant to show us the path to greatest intimacy with God — a message so desperately needed for a world that has abandoned God. During this time, we contemplate how God wishes to establish intimacy with each of us through the tenderness of His Mother. It is how He did so the first time He came and every Advent is the Church’s opportunity to contemplate how this truth is re-lived in our own lives.
Our Lady of Guadalupe and her mystery as the Immaculate Conception give us two significant truths about the intimacy of God that have great importance to the life of every Christian. The first, as we saw in a very powerful way in Mexico City in 1531, is that Mary is always working, especially in these days, to prepare souls to receive the gift of Christ. And she showed the power of her efforts to do so by converting 9 million Aztecs (without saying a word to them!), whose civilization was built upon a culture of death based on human sacrifice. In other words, where the world sees no hope or possibility in finding God, Mary is God’s secret weapon. Secret because she comes not in forceful, conquering power, but in an unexpected tender way that disarms the world around her. We must never forget that Mexico is Christian because of Mary and Mary was able to obtain their conversion because the Holy Spirit only works through Mary because she is His inseparable Spouse, a teaching always held by the Church. As St. Louis de Montfort put it: “Jesus is always and everywhere the fruit and Son of Mary and Mary is everywhere the genuine tree that bears that Fruit of life, the true Mother who bears that Son” (True Devotion, no. 44)
The second truth which Our Lady of Guadalupe reveals is that the secret to Mary being full of grace is found in her being immaculate — a word that means “without stain”. What stains our souls and our marriages and our relationship with God? Is it not self-centeredness, impurity, jealousy, putting people and material wants before God?
How is contemplating the Immaculate Conception the remedy to remove these stains? Simple. It reveals that humility and purity allow for our hearts to see God and receive the fullness of grace for which we were made. In Mary’s nothingness, she lost her identity in God. Mary is so self-less that her very self becomes identified with the Holy Spirit — “I am the Immaculate Conception,” she revealed at Lourdes. That is saying more than she is without sin. She is full of grace — she is so one with Her Spouse in grace — that when we see her, we see only God in and through her.
This is what she meant when she said, “My soul magnifies the Lord” (Lk 1: ). A magnifying glass is transparent and magnifies only what is seen through it. Imagine having a personality completely possessed by God. Yes, it is hard to imagine it. Only those who trust God completely will receive the fullness of His grace to accomplish the unimaginable in your soul and through your works.
This is what the Church is asking us to contemplate about Mary this and every Advent because she is the model of every Christian. Yes, we are called to live the mystery of the Immaculate Conception in our souls where we will discovery an intimacy with God that will transform the world around us. God loves us when we make ourselves as small as we can because it gives Him the greatest room to make His masterpieces. Don’t sigh when you read this. This is real and it is God’s desire for you this Advent.
We all have our “fullness” capacity that God wants to fill with His grace. And what unlocks this capacity is by doing what the Wise Men did — they stooped (humbled themselves) in order to be able to enter the cave and find the fulfillment of their heart’s desire — Jesus Christ, the Savior who laid in the arms of Mary. Let us imitate the wisdom of the three magi and never forget that the more we are hidden from the eyes of the world, the more God can’t take His eyes off of us. Remember that when you’re praying the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary this Advent!
Our Lady of Guadalupe and of the New Advent, Pray for Us.