Many of us will hear excellent homilies today on the theology of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, but what is the importance of this mystery for our personal spiritual lives?
St. Louis de Montfort tells us that Our Lady is the “mold of God,” the very mold in which Christ Himself was formed, so whoever gives himself to Mary will also be formed into Christ. Since she is the means by which Jesus came to us, she can also be the means by which we can go to Him.
One of the most intimate ways that we can enter through Mary, the Gate of Heaven, to get to Jesus is by inviting her cooperation in our reception of Holy Communion. That is, if we give ourselves completely to Mary before Holy Communion and ask her to lend us her heart, then she, in return, will adorn us with her virtues so that we will receive her Son with the same purity and faith with which she received Him at the Annunciation.
This was the whole reason for St. Mary being immaculately conceived in the womb of her own mother, St. Anne: so that Mary, pure and spotless, could be a worthy vessel to carry the most precious Body and Blood of Jesus. She, then, is the one to get us ready to receive Him also at Holy Communion.
St. Therese of Lisieux gives a beautiful image of Mary preparing her to receive Holy Communion, which I will alter slightly. Picture your soul as a little three year-old boy who has just come in from playing in the mud, ashamed to present himself before the altar to receive Jesus. But as soon as we appeal to Mary, this mother of ours occupies herself with making us presentable: she scrubs the dirt off of our face, combs our hair, and dresses us in our Sunday best. Now, thanks to the help of Mary, Our Mother, we are respectable enough to take our place without embarrassment at the “Banquet of the Angels.” Even though, intellectually, we may grasp the importance of receiving this great sacrament, our senses and fallen nature may keep us from understanding the whole of what is going on. So, just as every toddler needs his mother to cut up his food so that he is able to eat it, we too need our Mother’s help to receive the Holy Eucharist so that, by her merits and purity, we can receive Him as she did, and not miss out on any of the graces due to our fallen immaturity.
We need Mary before and during Holy Communion. We need her afterwards in our thanksgiving, too, when we should be focused upon the awesome gift of Christ. But again, like a little child, we often don’t have the patience or presence of mind to fully grasp the reality of Our Lord’s presence in us, for our mind may grow distracted with thoughts of breakfast after Mass or the challenges of the day to come. Once again, we need our mother. If we entrust to her our Holy Communion and ask her to take charge of our thanksgiving, we can rest assured that she will say the necessary things, adult to adult, to the Lord, so that He is properly thanked for this greatest gift – the magnitude of which she understands and sees even when we don’t.
When we adore Jesus with and through the Heart of Mary, our every prayer can become pure and infinitely more pleasing by the fact that it has gone through Mary, the Spotless One. Think of Mary as a monstrance into which you can put the Host you have received: through Mary’s purity we are able to adore all the more purely the Jesus Whom we have received.
So let us give thanks to God today for Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Let us give thanks that she was made sinless within the womb of her mother so that she could be worthy to carry the Incarnate Word within her own womb. Through her Immaculate Conception, she is able to mediate for us the graces of Holy Communion. Let us not ignore any opportunity to be so much more open to these graces.
Image: St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, Chicago