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Conception of Mary – Br. Mark Brown

Gen. 3:9-15, 20; Psalm 98; Eph. 1:3-6, 11-12; Luke 1:26-38

Somewhere Oscar Wilde is to have said that we ought not to disparage the legends told about a man, because it’s by them that we have an inkling of his true physiognomy. I’m sure Wilde would have agreed that the same is true for women: that the things that are said about someone—even when not strictly factual—reveal the true contours of a person’s humanity, the sheer force of the personality. 

Of course, the most amazing things are said about Mary. Assumed bodily into heaven and crowned queen. Conceived a child in her womb as a virgin and remained intact both during and following childbirth, according to some. That “in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, [she] was preserved free from all stain of original sin”.  (That is the Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception.)  All these things, whether factual or the poetics of piety, bespeak a personality of singular contours and force. Quite a constellation of assertions surround the figure of Mary.

Speaking of constellations, the Immaculate Conception is often represented in art as a young woman standing on the moon with a ring of 12 stars for a crown. And, of course, she has her own actual constellation and astrological sign: Virgo–August 21 or so to September 21 or so.  Mary’s birthday is smack dab in the middle of Virgo on September 8—that is, exactly nine months from today, when we celebrate her conception.

About one twelfth of us are born under the sign of Virgo (I happen to be one of them: Sept. 9.)  Textbook Virgos tend to be perfectionists. The Virgin Mary, conceived without the stain of original sin, and full of grace, was perfect in her way—so, the reasoning seems to be, those born under her sign lean toward perfectionism. The sun was in Virgo, but the moon was in Aries with Pisces rising when I was born: which means I’m inclined to surprisingly intense, fiery, even volcanic emotions.

I readily admit to some perfectionism—the fiery emotions, well…  But the real perfectionist in all this is God. God is the original perfectionist, the true perfectionist.  If the reports are true, God seems to have been in a hurry with the Virgin Mary: bang—right from the moment of conception full of grace! With us, the adoptees of the family, as Paul puts it, being made perfect is stretched out over time and eternity.  Mother got there first, but the children follow.  Made perfect, complete, new, cleansed from every stain of sin, conformed to the very likeness of her son.  Our true physiognomy is Christ himself—not quite yet, perhaps, but eventually.  Isn’t that wild?

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1 Comment

  1. Doris Christina Odlozinski on December 16, 2015 at 05:10

    Dear Brother Mark Brown,

    i hope 1) you may reply to my thoughts. 2) I hope you may not think them too heretical.
    I like to open with the remark made by a Catholic sister that “some people are too heavenly bound to be any earthly good.” How does this apply?
    a) in the folkloric ascription to Mary. I consider this to be a diminishing of God’s presence at every birth in this present reality and /immortal time frame. I do not know of the church offering a litany of prayer at the moment of birth, or of the safe development of the child. I could cry when I think of the vulnerability of a newborn -of God’s vulnerability.
    b) In the Jungian lexicon a virgin arch-type is a woman in the process of becoming; and motherhood is exactly that: holding the paradox of servitude (to the child) with assertiveness for that child’s wellbeing, of loving a child intimately in its early nurturance and of changing that love into loving and even distant? respect as the child matures. Is the energy of love ever distant?
    Let’s not dwell on the human foibles that undermine God’s wonder of creation in a child as domestic violence, sexual abuse of children, war, the primacy of violence as entertainment and the expression of commercial sexuality, the understanding of life as a right not as an unfathomable gift.And what are the qualities of Joseph that gave strength to Mary and a male model for Jesus?
    I rejoice with you that in Christ we can find our human fulfillment. In Christian love DCO

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