Immaculate Mary, Model of All Christians, Ushers Life of Angelic Tranquillity Eternally
Our Sunday school classroom was a pandemonium as Professor Kakkiyni was absent on that day. It was then that the vicar stepped into our classroom. There was absolute silence in the class as we all already knew the hardness of the stick (chooral) in vicar’s hands. Today the goodness of stick has stepped out of schools. It was our class leader Jose who responded to The Vicar’s question – “what is going on in the class?’’ He told: “Father, last Sunday professor started to teach us about Immaculate Conception. We were sharing our doubts on the topic and it became noisy.” The Vicar said, “Today I will clarify your doubts but on one condition that each one of you will get only one chance to ask your doubts”. We readily agreed to father’s suggestion.
As usual, Thomas was the first one to raise his doubt and I understood why he is named as Thomas. His doubt was whether we are celebrating the conception of Mother Mary in the womb of St. Ann or the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mother Mary on the feast of Immaculate Conception. The Vicar started to explain. “St Joachim and St. Ann were the parents of Virgin Mary. The Church celebrates the day on which God planted the divine seed of the rose of Sharon in the womb of St. Ann as the feast of the Immaculate Conception. We celebrate the birthday of Virgin Mary on the eighth of September that is after nine months of Immaculate Conception”. We the students lent our ears totally to the Vicar’s narration.
The next question took its shape from the mouth of Celine and her question was “Father our professor taught us that whoever is born after the first parents are born with original sin. If that is the case how can Mary’s conception be immaculate?’’. The Vicar’s answer was like this ‘’Even though the roots of lotus plant reach to the dirt in the pond, the white lotus blossoms above the water without a spot of dirt on it. Though Mary’s ancestors were born with original sin, God made Mary, the white Lotus Flower, to blossom on the surface of the murky waters of the world without having a bit of sinful dirt on her. It is impossible for human beings to be born without original sin but everything is possible for God (Matthew 19:26). Is it not possible for the creator of creatures to create his creature as an immaculate one?’’
Mathew’s doubt was why God had created Mary as an immaculate one. The Vicar answered with the help of a comparison. As per Indian philosophy, the goddess of wisdom sits on the spotless lotus. God made Mary, the spotless white lotus to give birth to the embodiment of wisdom. God made Adam with untainted mud. The Second Adam, who comes to wipe out the stains of sins from the souls of humankind, had to have a spotless womb to be born as a human being. So God made Mary as an Immaculate one. Mary was the new pot that was moulded by God to contain Jesus the new wine that came to the earth to give intoxication of happiness to the humanity.
Susan who asked about the history of the feast of Immaculate Conception is now teaching history in a reputed school. The Vicar opened before us the pages of the history of the feast of Immaculate Conception like this. “The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, in its oldest form, dates back to the seventh century, when the Eastern Churches started celebrating the Feast of the Conception of Saint Anne, the mother of Mary. In other words, the feast commemorates the conception of Virgin Mary in the womb of St. Ann and nine months later, on September 8, Church celebrates the birthday of Virgin Mary. The west began to celebrate the feast probably in the 11th century. Anyway, both the Eastern and the Western Churches had maintained that Mary was free from sin throughout her life’’.
Augustine came up with this doubt – “Does it mean that Mary never sinned as she was immaculate?’’ The Vicar clarified his doubt with an example. When a snake bites us, the poison will spread through the entire body and cause death. As God did not allow the snake of original sin to bite Mary, the poison of sin never found a place in her human body. Mary remained as a stainless white lotus from her birth till the day she reached the presence of the one who created her as an immaculate soul.
The question – “what does the Fathers of the Church say about Immaculate Conception’’ came from Rose. The Vicar gave us the sayings of the Fathers of the Church as the answer. John Duns Scotus said, “God had sanctified Mary at the moment of her conception in His foreknowledge that the Blessed Virgin would consent to bear Christ”. St. Andrew spoke in his sermon “Just as Adam was formed of a soil on which the curse of sin had never rested, so also was the body of the heavenly Adam formed of a sinless virgin.” St. Ambrose addresses Mary as the one who is “free from every stain of sin.”
George posed the question – “When did the Church declare Mary as Immaculate?’ The Vicar replied saying “It is on December 8, 1854 that Pope Pius IX officially declared the Immaculate Conception as a dogma of the Church, and it implies that all Christians are bound to accept it as true. The Holy Father wrote it in the Apostolic Constitution called Ineffabilis Deus” Merlin’s doubt was “whether there is any reference in the Sacred Scripture regarding Immaculate Conception”. To answer her question The Vicar began by quoting St. Luke’s Gospel 1:28 “Hail Mary Full of Grace”. She was “full” with God’s grace so there was no space for sin in her mortal body. Song of Solomon 2:2 says that “She is like a lily among brambles’’. Song of Solomon praises her by telling “ You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you”(Song of Solomon 4:7). She is a clean vessel in the eyes of the Lord (Is 66:20)
After clarifying our doubts on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, The Vicar asked us a question – “The sons and daughters of a Mother were born with caps on their head, who are they?’’ We replied in one voice ‘arecanut’. It was because of the original sin committed by our first parents that we are all born with the caps of original sin. Among the daughters of our first parents, God created only Mary without the cap of original sin to bear Jesus’. And your prayer should be Hail Mary wrap us in your blue dress and keep us safe from the stains of sin. When The Vicar completed saying this, the bell rang in the Sunday school. Even today, when I walk through the corridor of the old Sunday school, the breeze of memory of a holy priest who taught us the lessons of our Christian faith pats on my shoulder.
Fr. Joby Kochupurayil CST