Immaculate Heart of Mary

Today, on the day after which we celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we commemorate the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy calls this memorial “a celebration of the complex visceral relationship of Mary with her Son’s work of salvation: from the Incarnation, to his death and resurrection, to the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

I’ve written about Mary at various times, and posted some podcasts from a retreat I gave on Embracing Mary. This memorial of Mary’s Immaculate Heart reminds us that Mary’s consent to the Incarnation, her Yes, was not merely a consent to bear a child in her womb for nine months. Instead, in the words of Hans Urs von Balthasar, “she speaks her perfect Yes to the person and work of her Son, who himself cannot be understood except as one of the divine Trinity.” While he was still Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI wrote, that Mary’s Yes was a consent “a priori to her child’s whole destiny.” She births a child, watches him grow and lets him go so that he may enter upon his mission. She watches him arrested, stands at the foot of the cross (where she accepts her motherhood of all of his disciples) and holds her dead Son in her arms. (Ratzinger describes the image of Mary holding the dead Christ as “the purest reflection of the divine compassion that is the only true consolation.”) And she remains in the upper room with the disciples afterwards, and receives of the Holy Spirit.

Thus, writes Ratzinger, to say Mary is “full of grace” is to say that her life was “intimately connected with God.” So when we celebrate the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we celebrate a way of live intended for all of us. A Yes to the fullness of Christ in us and in the world.


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