Chapter Two: The Creation of the Immaculate Heart
Since we’re already discussing devotion and consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we might now wish to ask why Mary’s Heart is called the “Immaculate” Heart? For the answer, we have to go all the way back to the creation of Mary herself. Or better yet, let’s go back to the creation of the universe, and even to the eternity before anything was created at all.
God, of course, has no beginning and has existed from all eternity as three Divine Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—in one Divine Nature. When God decided to create the material universe—and its crowning glory, man, made in God’s own image—He already had in mind the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son. The Father’s eternal divine Son would become a man.
Therefore we have go back to the beginning of creation to understand the mystery of Christ. We learn this from St Paul in the Epistle to the Colossians: “For in [Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible… all things were created through him and for him” (1:16). All things were created for Him: that’s the important thing here. God created everything for his Son! We, of course, fit in there somewhere, but the main reason the material universe exists is that it is a gift of the Father to his Son.
Note the mystery here, though. St Paul is talking about the incarnate Son, not only the eternal, pre-existing divine Son. In this whole passage from Colossians (1:9-23), the “he” and “his” that refer to the Son of God often refer to things pertaining specifically to the incarnate Son: He is Head of the body, the Church; He is the first-born from the dead; his Cross was the means of making peace and reconciliation. To say that everything was created for Christ means that the Incarnation of the Son was in view from the very beginning. It was not a “Plan B” executed only when the first humans, Adam and Eve, ruined “Plan A” by their sin.
Because the whole of creation is focused on the Incarnate Son of God, we naturally come to the conclusion that Mary would also have been in God’s mind from the very beginning, for there could be no truly human Son without a human Mother. So when God was contemplating the incarnation of his Son from a virginal Mother, Mary’s Immaculate Conception was undoubtedly part of his plan. This the basic reason why Mary’s Heart is Immaculate, but there is more.
If the incarnation of the Son was part of God’s eternal plan, and not merely a response to the fall of Adam and Eve, then of course the Mother of the Son would be created sinless. This is the only fitting condition for one who would bring God into this world as man. The introduction of sin into the world did nothing to change God’s plan for Mary’s sinless and immaculate conception. She would have been immaculate whether or not there was a fall. It is only because of the fall that Mary’s conception is looked upon as exceptional.
Mary’s Heart is immaculate because her soul and her whole being are immaculate. She was intimately and completely united to the Holy Spirit from the first instant of her existence. But to say, as I did above, that Mary was “created sinless,” does not mean that her Immaculate Conception was somehow independent from the merits of Christ the Savior. God is not bound by time. Foreseeing the redemption wrought by his Son for the salvation of the world, He applied the merits of Jesus’ Sacrifice to Mary’s soul at the moment of her conception. Thus she was redeemed and sanctified in a unique manner—for the sake of her unique mission—but still by the grace and mercy of the one Redeemer.
Mary, the New Eve
Both Adam and Eve were at fault in the original sin. This is important for understanding God’s plan of redemption. The sin and hence the death that the first Adam and Eve introduced into the world would be undone, according to God’s inscrutable wisdom, by a New Adam and a New Eve, Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is clear, however, that the role of the New Adam is primary and indispensable. The Scriptures present Christ as the New Adam, and a number of the Fathers of the Church unveil the mystery of Mary as the New Eve. Mary’s role as the New Eve is important for our understanding of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Our Lady is called the New Eve, in the Christian traditions of both East and West, because her Yes to God cancelled Eve’s primordial No. But since the first Eve was originally created without sin, it would be absurd to conclude that the New Eve bore the legacy of the fallen Eve. Since God wanted to “re-create” humanity in Christ, Mary was created to be the “place” of God’s unprecedented intervention in human history—the Incarnation of the Son. She was therefore a new creature, the first-fruit of the Redemption, wherein the Son of the Most High was wholly pleased to dwell. The Fathers of the Church have affirmed that Mary gave birth without pain, which means that she alone was free from the curse laid upon Eve and her descendants. If she was free from the curse, it means she was free from the reason for the curse, that is, sin.
The Immaculate Conception marked the beginning of the new creation in Christ. Just as God created everything at the beginning, so now with Mary He began his wondrous act of re-creating everything, renewing the entire heaven and earth through the redemption that her Son would accomplish.
Another reason for the Immaculate Conception is that God willed Mary to have absolute power over the devil and all evil. This would not be possible if she had been conceived in sin. Mary’s unique union with God, both in her Immaculate Conception and in the Incarnation of the Son, prepared her to share in his mission. Henceforth eternally united to God, Mary continues in this mission of conquering evil in her role as Queen and Mistress of Heaven and Earth. As heavenly Mother, she also protects her children from spiritual harm, insofar as they have recourse to her.
Early in the Book of Genesis we have what is sometimes called the “proto-gospel,” the first indication of the redemption of mankind from sin. It follows immediately upon the primordial wrongdoing of Adam and Eve. In Genesis 3:15, God addresses the serpent who tempted them: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.” This quote is from the Douay-Rheims Bible, a translation of the Latin Vulgate which has been normative for Roman Catholicism for many centuries. Blessed Pius IX relied on the Vulgate in 1854 when he promulgated the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in his apostolic constitution Ineffabilis Deus: “The most holy Virgin, united with him [Christ] by a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with him and through him, eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with her immaculate foot.”
There has been some dispute as to whether the correct reading for the one who will crush the serpent is “he” or “she.” Traditional piety and art—and even approved apparitions like that granted to St Catherine Labouré—clearly understand it as the Woman who crushes the serpent, probably because in the text of the Bible it is clearly stated that the enmity is between the woman and the serpent. But to say that Mary crushes the serpent is not to imply that she does so independently of the power of Christ. Blessed Pius IX makes it clear that it is because of her indissoluble and intimate union with Christ that she can crush the enemy of our salvation.
To be continued…