God our beginning
It happens often enough that on this feast of Our Lady’s conception, she gets lost in the shuffle. This is not without some provocation, for it is true that, it was completely unbeknownst to the future Mary and most likely also her parents, that something of great moment was taking place within her at the time of her conception.
Sometimes today Our Lady gets used as a playing piece on the board of ecclesial politics—if you celebrate this feast you are in this club, if you do not celebrate this feast you are in that one, if you celebrate this feast you are a real Catholic, if you don’t you are not, and so forth. This feast also has been an opportunity for Our Lady’s humanity to be played down, even almost erased, in favor of her special status as the Mother of Our Lord, to the distress of many, many women and their friends in the Church ever since.
So what is going on in this feast that we can take away that does not deny Our Lady’s humanity, or turn her into a political football?
Maybe this. Way before Abraham, way before God sent Moses to Pharaoh, way before the Patriarchs, way before Mary’s parents were even thought of by history, way before the angle Gabriel showed up at Mary’s house, God was making the way for our salvation. Slowly by slowly, God was making the way for the radical breaking-in of grace; by the power of the Spirit God was making way for the sheer, clean radical humanity of Jesus to be born of Mary. Nothing happens by luck or by chance, Julian says, but by the foreseeing wisdom of God. From a long way off, God is working at nothing less than the world’s complete renewal, play by play, person by person, ordinary human choice by ordinary human choice.
Today we get to be the grateful recipients of God’s wise working. More than that, even, by our very ordinary human living and choosing, we also get to be part of the plan of salvation, and we won’t even know until the end what our part in that has been. Thanks be to God.