Monday, February 1, 2016

Candlemas: For God's Sake

source: St. Dionysius Monastery
A quick reflection on the example of Our Lady, which we commemorated with today's feast. The Blessed Virgin was born without the "stain of original sin" and had no strict need to purify herself according to Leviticus ch. 12, which mandated a period of purification on account of the ritual uncleanliness of childbirth resulting from sin. I am uneasy with those who assign to the Virgin an innate inner knowledge of Divine things or that Our Lord gave her detailed lectures on theology. Personally, I bet she was as stunned at the Annunciation as any of us would be, but that the grace with which she was full helped her accepted her role in Salvation history with an eager quickness no other person has ever been capable of. She did not have to visit the Temple, purify herself, and offer the sacrifice of two turtle doves. She may not have been aware of her place, but her instinct for love of God triumphed over any given probity to self-reflection that we lesser creatures have. She knew nothing other than the love of God and love for God. Her fiat was not a passive surrender; it was an open acceptance. Ecce ancilla Domini means more properly "Behold the slave of the Lord." 

We can concretely learn from this. We can learn not to serve God out of obligation for precepts or expectation of certain promises and graces in return. Let us do whatever we do out of love for God, trusting that He will look kindly upon us as He did her. I tire of hearing 2 Corinthians 3:6 abused ("the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life) to justify every inaction and act of self-congratulatory neglect of one's duties. Our Lady is the embodiment of what this passage from St. Paul really means. The Law was meant for those mired in sin, meant to force them to behave according to the natural law and to know God at a basic level. The Spirit of the Law expects far more from us than the written word of the Law does because it is more "glorious" than that which preceded it (2 Cor 3:11). The Virgin epitomizes the realization of the letter of the Law with the Spirit that Christ brought precisely because the Law was not enough. The same presence of Christ within her as a mother is available to us through the Sacraments.

We will never be as she is, "more honorable than the cherubim and by far more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim", but we can follow her example by doing whatever we do for God's sake rather than our own.


  1. A bit unrelated, but why is the dogma of the Blessed Virgin's virginity remaining intact during and after so important? I've never found anyone to explain that to me properly

    1. Here is a good article, I think, on the perpetual virginity of Mary:

      Ultimately, it rests on Scripture (at least implicitly) and Tradition.

  2. As to her knowledge, I think it can be safely believed based on the Scriptures that she did not know in fact what would happen with the illumination being at an early age, and she learned like anyone else. Your point that she may not have even really learned is a fair one. She loved God, and he abided in her (cf. 1 Jn 4:16). But what I think what one really means by this is that when the the works of salvation in the Gospel occurred she wasn't terribly surprised like the rest of us, because she took them in reference to the words of the Angel Gabriel and then the words of Our Lord in the temple. Does that make sense? I'm not convinced. But anyways, the admonition is spot-on.