Too often, words and descriptive titles roll off our tongues so easily that we fail to notice their richness, significance and depth so let’s stop and exam two: first Sinless, then next week Virgin.
Last week we took a closer look at Mary being free from the separation of sin from that very first instantaneous moment of her conception. Many people have difficulty with this mysterious truth and especially with what follows from it – life without sin.
The angel Gabriel greets Mary in the same way we greet her when we pray, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Lk. 1:28). What does it mean to be “full of grace?” I like to picture a large glass of water so filled to the brim that the next drop will cause it to overflow. Add the smallest pebble (sin) to this glass and it ceases to be full of water (grace). Combine this imagery with the definition of Grace, participation in the life of God (CCC 1997), and we can see Mary, from the moment of her conception, in intimate union with the Holy Spirit. Eve did not have this Grace even though she was created without sin. As stated last week, Mary, at conception and through God’s intervention outside time, received as prevenient (before coming) Grace what Christ gained for all of us many years later through His redemptive act (CCC 2853).
Now, let us recall the nature of sin: simply put, it is a rejection of God’s Will. What Adam and Eve said to God by their actions is the same thing we often say: Thanks, Lord, but I can handle this one myself. I’ll do it My Way. This is sin.*
When Mary recognizes God’s desire for all mankind and the role she is to play in His plan, she responds – with the help of the Holy Spirit – “Be it done to me according to thy word” (Lk. 1:38). She freely chooses God’s way… then and the rest of her life!
God gave us a free will, so that we can freely choose His love and freely choose to love Him in return but, too often in our own daily actions, our selfishness and our pride override God’s desire. Mary had the same free will but her intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit combined with her willing heart kept her from sin. Yes, she was free, but how could she reject the joy and peace she enjoyed in her unique and intimate relationship with God?
Finally, consider a different kind of logic. If Mary had sinned – separated herself from her unique and intimate union with God – would it not have been a sin far worse than that of Adam and Eve? Who can imagine the havoc it would have wreaked!
Blessed are you, Mary, who believed…
and offered to serve!
[ *For a fascinating look at sin and temptation,
read C.S. Lewis’ “Perelandra” ]