Meditation on the feast of the Immaculate Conception
By Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen OCD | 7 December 2022
Towards the end of his life, Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen OCD (1893–1953), began to compile and condense his life’s work on the interior life into a book of meditations for every day of the liturgical year. After Fr Gabriel’s death, the Discalced Carmelite nuns of the Monastery of St Joseph in Rome completed the work which would become known under the title of “Divine Intimacy”.
I place myself in the presence of Mary Immaculate, my loving Mother, and listen to her invitation: “Come over to me all you who desire me, and I will declare to you what great things God has done for my soul.”
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is in perfect harmony with the spirit of Advent; while the soul is preparing for the coming of the Redeemer, it is fitting to think of her, the all-pure one, who was His Mother.
The very promise of a Saviour was joined to, or rather, was included in the promise of this peerless Virgin. After having cursed the insidious serpent, God proclaimed: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head” (Gen 3:15). And behold, the Virgin whose coming was foretold, approaches, “white as snow, more beautiful than the sun, full of grace, and blessed above all women”.
Precisely in view of the sublime privilege which would make her the Mother of the Incarnate Word, Mary alone, among all creatures, was preserved from original sin. Yet, in Mary Immaculate, we see not only her preservation from original sin and the complete absence of the slightest shadow of an imperfection, but also the positive side of this mystery which made her, from the very first moment of her existence, “full of grace”.
Theologians teach that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary began her spiritual life with grace much more abundant and perfect than that which the greatest saints have acquired at the end of their lives. When we consider also that during her whole life, the Blessed Virgin corresponded fully and most perfectly to every movement of grace, to every invitation from God, we can understand how charity and grace increased in her with incessant and most rapid progress, making her the holiest of creatures, the one most completely united to God and transformed in Him.
St John of the Cross, in describing the marvels of the state of perfect union with God, presents Mary Immaculate to us as the prototype and model:
“Such were those [works and prayers] of the most glorious Virgin our Lady, who, being raised to this high estate of union from the beginning, never had the form of any creature imprinted in her soul, neither was she moved by such, but was invariably guided by the Holy Spirit” (AS II, 2,10).
The two essential conditions for achieving divine union are found in their fullness in Mary. The first condition, which is a negative one, is that there be nothing in the soul’s will which is contrary to the divine will; that is, no attachment which would cause it to be subject to a creature, so that this creature would rule in its heart in any way, or impel it to act for love of this same creature; all such attachments must be eliminated. The second condition, which is positive and constructive, and the consequence of the first, is that the human will be moved in all and through all, only by the will of God. This was realised so perfectly in the most pure soul of Mary Immaculate that she never had even the faintest shadow of an attachment to a creature; in her soul there was never any impression of a creature which could move her to act; she was so completely seized by divine love that she could act only under the inspiration and “motion of the Holy Spirit”.
Thus we see Mary as the most pure spouse of the Holy Spirit, not only in relation to her divine maternity, but also in relation to her whole life in which she was moved only by His impulse.
O Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, what light and strength your sweet image brings me! The most beautiful, the holiest, the purest of all creatures, so “full of grace” that you were worthy to bear within you the Author and Source of all grace, you do not disdain to give yourself to me — a poor creature, conscious of my sin and misery — as a model of purity, love, and holiness.
The privileges of your Immaculate Conception and divine maternity are inimitable, but you have hidden them within such a simple, humble life that I am not afraid to approach you, and ask you to take me by the hand and help me to ascend the mountain of perfection with you. Yes, you are Queen of heaven and earth; but because you are more Mother than Queen, you encourage me to have recourse to you, saying:
“O my child, hear me; blessed are they who keep my ways… He who finds me, finds life, and will obtain salvation from the Lord”.
And I answer you in the words of the Church:
“Draw me, O Immaculate Virgin, I will run after you in the odour of your ointments.”
Yes, draw me, Immaculate Mother, draw me above all by the luminous charm of your spotless purity! I feel so impure and stained by the things of earth compared with you, the all-pure, so detached from everything, so forgetful of yourself that nothing moves you to act apart from the divine will, apart from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
If I see you always docile and ready to respond to every least divine invitation, even though it be hidden under the most human, ordinary circumstances; if I hear you gently repeating your “yes” — Ecce ancilla Domini, fiat — in all the happenings of your life, big and little, agreeable and disagreeable, it is because you are the Immaculate. No shadow of creatures or purely human interests or affections touches your heart; and therefore, nothing can delay your most rapid course toward God.
O Immaculate Virgin, I am so reluctant, indolent, and miserly in giving myself to God, so immersed in the things of earth! Teach me how pure my heart ought to be, so that I will never refuse anything to the Lord, and will always be able to repeat with you my sweet, prompt fiat.
Illumine my mind, then, with the light which emanates from your resplendent purity, so that no attachment, no earthly affection may remain hidden in me to prevent my leading a life truly and fully consecrated to my God.
To you I entrust, in a very special way, my vow of chastity; guard it and make me pure, not only in body, but also in mind and heart. With your help, O Mother, I am ready to renounce any affection, even if slight, which could still bind me to creatures. I want my heart to belong wholly to God, for whom I would keep its every throb in a spirit of perfect chastity.