The Mass of the feast of the Immaculate Conception begins with the Introit “Gaudens gaudebo” in the third mode, which is the “mysticus modus” – mode of mysticism and contemplation. This beautiful piece is also marked with a deep and intense joy. This piece is assuredly an invitation to enter into the soul of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to feel and to taste the joy that she would express so admirably when she would sing her Magnificat. The Immaculate Conception has received the fullness of the grace of God that envelops her like a coat. God has clothed her with the garment of salvation – vestimentum salutis – and this is the reason of her unspeakable joy. This is precisely on these words that the Gregorian melody reaches its peak, telling us that there is not greater joy than being covered by the grace of God.
After original sin, Adam and Eve were ashamed of their nudity. Their eyes were opened, as the book of Genesis reports it. They began to look at some realities that had not attracted their attention until then. Concupiscence had turned their hearts, but in the same time, they realized that they were deprived of the grace of God. Their bodies became subject to death, sickness and other infirmities. They became object of sins – what Saint Paul would call later the works of the flesh. Once you have abandoned your reason in order to sin and that the grace of God covers you no longer, you are like an animal. Man has been defined as a rational animal. But is he still rational he who sins? He might be still rational as he can still use his reason to understand his condition and be ashamed of it. He is certainly no longer reasonable. The order of the Divine grace is different than the order of nature, but one cannot separate them. By trespassing against the first one, men corrupt the other one. Original sin is truly a sin of nature – peccatum naturae – not only because it has affected the whole human nature and in a certain way all the whole nature, but also because it is a revolt of the nature and a sin against nature. Therefore the punishment would fall on the nature and would strike anyone who shares in it by virtue of descent from Adam.
The great theologians of the Middle Ages, following Saint Augustine, had well understood this reality. Universality of sin is a truth that we cannot omit. Mary, as a descendant of Adam and Eve must have been affected too. And she would have been without a unique and particular privilege given to her by God. It took 19 centuries to finally realize this great privilege. If today the name of Immaculate Conception sounds familiar to all the faithful, it was not the case 150 years ago. Bernadette Soubirous did not understand the words of Our Lady when she told her name: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” How deep are the mysteries of God and of our salvation! But how beautiful they are!
Mary, the Immaculate Conception is the response of God to original sin. It is His most beautiful work after the humanity of Our Savior; and precisely the Immaculate Conception of Mary is the jewel case that receives the humanity of the Redeemer. The first Eve, by her own work had uncovered the grace of God. The new Eve, without any merits from her part, has been recovered in a more admirable manner. She has been raised above all the creatures, and for this she is the humblest of all as Dom Delatte says. This is the condition of any creature. This is the grace of the Immaculate Conception. Our Lady had never belonged to the enemy. She had never belonged to herself neither. She is entirely to God: Totus Tuus!
The Immaculate Conception is, according to Dom Delatte, the exercise of all the faculties submitted to the reason; interior harmony; sovereignty; modesty; this measure and this perfect peace; the full possession by God; the quiet and grave march of a creature that is in the hand of God.
This is what is expressed by today’s Introit that is an invitation to follow the Immaculate Conception toward God. We are invited to share the shame peace and harmony, the same sovereignty and modesty. This is the gift of Christmas that is anticipated by the grace of the Immaculate Conception: a grace that was given to Mary, but that is for all men!