Devotion to the Virgin Mary opens the way to Christ, just as her womb opened the way to salvation in giving birth to God Incarnate, the Word made flesh and Savior of the world.
The Church, explains John Paul II, "proceeds along the path already trodden by the Virgin Mary, who 'advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and loyally persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross'" (RM 2; LG 58). For this reason, it is especially important during the sacred season of Advent to cultivate a loving relationship with the Virgin Mary, that, through her intercession, we may be brought into greater union with her Son, the Savior of the world who came to give life and give it abundantly (Jn 10:10).
The Church throughout the centuries, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, has become "ever more aware" of Mary's constant, perpetual sinlessness and state of grace-filled being from the moment of her conception (cf. CCC 491). As greeted by the archangel Gabriel, Mary is "full of grace," the sweet Virgin whom "the Lord is with" (Lk 1:28). The dogma of the Immaculate Conception, proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854, professes this long held belief of the universal Church about Mary: "The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin" (qtd. in CCC 491).
In virtue of the sweet Virgin's sinless life of exemplary faith, hope and charity, she is rightly honored as the preeminent model of the perfect Christian. In the life of Mary, one which was "adorned from the first instant of her conception with the radiance of an entirely unique holiness" (LG 56), is revealed how we are to live as authentic disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. Further, the Virgin of Nazareth, whom the Father preordained from eternity to become the mother of his only Son, provides us with an example of openness, abandonment and docility to the will of God par excellence.
Stated another way, Mary lights for us the path to God through her Son. That is why the sacred season of Advent is a most fitting time to foster a relationship of filial love with the Virgin Mary, whose loving intercession urges the Holy Spirit to enter deeply into our souls, cultivating our hearts for a most fruitful reception of the Redeemer of humankind, our Lord Jesus Christ, the One who has come, who comes, and who will come again. Since the Virgin Mary lights the way to her Son, her life reveals what it truly means to enter fully into Advent.
In fact, since Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can say that the "hidden beginning" of the Church originated inside the holy, grace filled womb of the Virgin Mary (Redemptoris Mater 1).
"In the liturgy the Church salutes Mary of Nazareth as the Church's own beginning," wrote Blessed Pope John Paul II, "for in the event of the Immaculate Conception the Church sees projected, and anticipated in her most noble member, the saving grace of Easter. And above all, in the Incarnation she encounters Christ and Mary indissolubly joined: he who is the Church's Lord and Head and she who, uttering the first fiat of the New Covenant, prefigures the Church's condition as spouse and mother" (RM 1).
The Church, explains John Paul II, "proceeds along the path already trodden by the Virgin Mary, who 'advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and loyally persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross'" (RM 2; LG 58).
Those are profound words indeed! If the Church proceeds along the path already walked by the Virgin of Nazareth, we too, then, are to walk the journey of Mary as members of the Church. Mary's life of exemplary holiness, deeply infused with the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, forever open in trust to the will of God, is to become our model of Christian life. As Mary remained faithful to her Son unto the cross and beyond, we are to remain unwaveringly faithful to Christ forever. Mary's way of life, which is nothing other than unceasing love, is to become our way of life. That is the Father's plan for his children. Our God who is love, desires to draw his children completely into Love.
Our spiritual mother, the Virgin Mary, by her fiat (Latin for [let it] "be done") that articulated her eternal "yes" to the salvific plan of God, clearly shows her children in the Church the path to God and therefore the way to perfect happiness and the eternal reception of divine love in Christ. If we reflect on it a moment, we will see that our own fiat is a necessary component of entering fully into the Advent season, for without it ...
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