Thursday, December 8, 2016
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception
What follows is an excerpt from my book Lady of the Sea: The Goddess Who Births the New Age,
© Margie McArthur, 2002-2016, All rights reserved)
In the Catholic calendar, today, December 8th, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.
The Catholic Church has long held that Jesus had been conceived by divine intervention, without the aid of a physical father. Although born of a human woman, he was declared to be without the “soul-stain” brought about by the Original Sin of Adam and Eve, which was said to be, thereafter, passed on to their descendants—every human being ever born.
But how could this be unless the mother of Jesus was equally free of such sin?
The great minds of Christianity pondered this for centuries and came to the conclusion that Mary herself must also be free of sin. But how could a mere human be without the stain of the Original Sin?
Several theories were proposed: that her conception was as virginal as that of her son; that God granted her the special privilege of sinlessness at the moment of her conception; that her physical conception had occurred in the normal way, but that her spiritual conception—the infusing of soul into body—was the part that was sinless. As one might imagine, this opened the door to even more thought and theorizing as to the soul condition of her parents, and the part played by normal sexual desire, called concupiscence, which was often equated with sin.
So, at one point in its evolution, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception sought to extend the nature of Jesus’s conception—sex-free and desire-free—to that of his mother as well. This version did not make it into the final and formal doctrine, but it was quite seriously considered and debated for many years.
During the 1830 apparitions to Catherine Laboure, Our Lady requested that a medal be struck with a prayer on it saying. “Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” This may have served to reignite interest in the subject, since the doctrine was finally and formally proclaimed by the Church in 1854, and thus was only four years old when, in 1858, the Lady of Lourdes said with great intensity and emotion to fourteen year old visionary Bernadette Soubirous, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
While the Church obviously took this to mean the concept on which they’d been considering for years—that Mary’s own conception was virginal and asexual—was correct, it is interesting to ponder what this doctrine, and Mary’s statement, mean on a deeper, more esoteric level.
To begin with, the idea of a person being born of a human woman yet fathered by a spiritual power was not a new one. Many other gods, avatars, and prominent spiritual teachers in the ancient world were considered to have been thus conceived. It is not at all surprising to find the Church considered Jesus’s conception to have occurred in this manner; indeed, it would have been surprising had they thought otherwise. But it was quite significant that they decided the same was true of his human mother. This, combined with the fourth century proclamation of Mary as Theotokos—Bearer (i.e. Mother) of God—quite neatly recognized her inherent divinity without actually committing the sin of blasphemy by calling her a Goddess.
The word immaculate means very clean, very pure, and without stain. Metaphysically this can be seen to mean the condition of pure spirit—before matter came into being. “Conception” is the first spark in the process of coming into being, into manifestation.
Therefore, the phrase I am the Immaculate Conception means one who came into material manifestation by purely spiritual means; no physical realm influences playing a part. This is quite profound, as what it really states is that such a being is inherently a being of pure spirit taking manifestation in human form and is thus both human and divine. This places Mary in the same category as her divine son and other divinely conceived—and therefore themselves divine—avatars of other religious traditions.
But this point of view is based on the traditionally Catholic understanding that there is a huge inherent difference and separation between things physical and things spiritual, between human and divine. If one doesn’t accept that position, if one holds that the physical realm is but Spirit in Manifestation, that we are all pre-existent spirits manifesting in human form, then things begin to look different.
Seen in this light, the Immaculate Conception may mean that Mary is the very essence of pure Spirit in the exact moment at which it sparks into material manifestation, or begins its movement into physical reality. This would mean she is the Void itself, as well as the Void as it births manifestation, bringing energy into being, light into darkness, and ultimately, energy/force into form. Thus, in her simple statement to Bernadette, the Lady proclaims herself the Primal Source and Creatress.