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Monday, second week of Advent

December 8, 2003

Blessed Monday!

And Blessed Feast! Those of us who are Catholics celebrate today a very special gift that God gave to His mother. Because God is eternal, the sequence of time does not limit Him. He could, and we believe He did, apply the salvation Christ won on the cross to those who lived before the crucifixion. We believe He did that in a unique way for Mary, by protecting her from the taint of original sin itself. This is what we call the “Immaculate Conception.”
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“[Mary] then was so excellently redeemed, that though when the time came,
the torrent of original iniquity rushed to pour its unhappy waves over her conception,
with as much impetuosity as it had done on that of other daughters of Adam;
yet when it reached there it passed not beyond, but stopped,
as did anciently Jordan in the time of Joshua, and for the same respect:
for this river held its stream in reverence for the passage of the Ark of Alliance;
and original sin drew back its waters,
revering and dreading the presence of the true Tabernacle of the eternal alliance.
In this way then God turned away all captivity from his glorious Mother,
giving her the blessing of both the states of human nature;
since she had the innocence which the first Adam had lost,
and enjoyed in an excellent sort the redemption acquired for her.”
-_Treatise on the Love of God_, St. Francis de Sales
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By the time Jesus was born, the ark of the covenant had been missing for hundreds of years. This sacred box, which represented to the Israelites the very Presence of God under the Old Covenant,
disappeared around the time of the Babylonian exile (2 Maccabees 2: 4-8 refers to a document that said Jeremiah had hidden it in a cave for safe-keeping) and has never been recovered. The Holy of Holies, where Zechariah met the angel who foretold the birth of St. John the Baptist (Luke 1:8-20), was empty. The ark of the covenant had served its purpose, and was no longer needed. God had a new way of expressing His Presence among us, namely by taking on flesh and living with us. Jesus is the new ark of the covenant, God’s presentation of His Presence among us under the New Covenant.
Mary, because she carried the very Presence of God bodily in her womb, is the new ark of the covenant too. The original ark was to be made of only the finest materials and the finest craftsmanship before the glory of the Lord overshadowed it (see the last few chapters of Exodus). Something similar could be said of Mary, whom the angel described as “full of grace,” before the
glory of the Lord overshadowed her (Luke 1:28-35). That’s what St. Francis de Sales is referring to in saying that the waters of original sin drew back from “the true Tabernacle of the eternal alliance.”

May the purity God gave to His mother inspire us to welcome the purity He wishes to give to us and to avoid sin like the plague it is.

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