December 8, 2014 - The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

GENESIS 3:9-20

HIS FEAST OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, my brothers and sisters, is replete with mystery that confronts each one of us here today as we commemorate this unique grace of the Mother of God.  In her conception we celebrate the unique fact of a human person being from the instant of conception wholly inhabited by the Spirit of God.  The Son of God, born sinless to Mary took on a truly human nature while remaining Divine in his person, so that, though in a distinct manner, both of these two are the only persons who never knew sin.  Since it is by virtue of the foreseen merits of her Son that Mary was preserved from sin, today we honor him along with her as the one who obtained this unique gift of grace for her.

The reading from the third chapter of the book of Genesis at this mass is a passage that introduces God directly in conversation with his creation.  As simple as it first appears, yet the exchange it introduces contains vast implications for all men and women.  The very first words that God addresses to a member of our human race are put in the form of a question.  This question posed by the Creator to his creature continues to confront each one of us today no less than it confronted the first man as it was directed to Adam in the garden.  May we hear it in our inner self, and take it to heart.  Here is the way Scripture puts it: "The Lord God called to the man and asked him, 'Where are you?' Of course, the Lord knew exactly where Adam was.  He did not ask for his own information, but rather to lead the man to realize that he had hidden from himself. He was lost yet did not grasp his condition.   Confused, ashamed, not understanding what had transpired within himself once he disobeyed his Creator he was, hidden from himself, displaced psychologically and disoriented.

As we experience our modern world in its rapid evolution in recent years we readily recognize in this disoriented Adam, hiding from God in his nakedness, no longer at one with his surrounding world, an accurate description of our technological culture.  One of its most celebrated contributors to the latest understanding of our physical universe candidly summed up his state of mind in words reminiscent of Adam's response to God's question: "the more I understand the universe, the less meaning it has." God did not leave Adam, however, altogether without hope of recovery, though he made it clear that the return to wholeness and holiness would be painfully laborious.  He did not revoke the great gift of having created Adam in his image and likeness, however faint that likeness became after the fall from grace.  In a later age, he gave a descendant to Adam who would give a fresh assurance that recovery of what was lost was placed within our choice by the fidelity of Jesus and his death and resurrection.  Today we commemorate with the celebration of this Eucharist the unique beginning of the fulfillment of that promised redemption as we honor the Immaculate Conception of Mary.  She is the pledge of God's fidelity to His promise, itself the expression of His abiding love for the creatures of His creation.

Mary in her person, from the beginning of her existence, became a pledge of God's brilliant plan that would do more than restore what was lost.  He would surpass the original goodness of Adam's creation, making accessible to each of us a personal communion with Him in His transcendent holiness.  In Mary's Immaculate Conception, made possible by the anticipated merits of His Son and the foreseen fidelity of the Virgin Mother The Father of Lights has provided each of us anew with access to that garden of delights from which we were expelled in Adam's fall from favor.  In honoring Mary today in her very beginning already living in intimate communion with her creator, we give praise and thanksgiving to the Great Father who gives new hope of eternal fulfillment to us, his needy children, who trust in His Son, our redeemer.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger