Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Immaculate Conception—8 December AD 2009

“Novi et ætérni testaménti—the new and eternal covenant.”


Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

    At each and every Mass the Church has her priests say these words as part of the consecration of the wine:  “For this is the chalice of My Blood, the new and eternal covenant: the mystery of faith: which shall be shed for you and for many unto the forgiveness of sins.”  Our Lord is literally making an eternal promise, sealed in His own precious Blood.

    Some years ago, as I was offering Mass, the words just seemed to jump off the altar card.  The use of the word “eternal” seemed a little strange.   Some missals translate the word as "everlasting," but eternal rings truer to the Latin word “ætérni.”  Our Lord is speaking of an eternal covenant.  What seems strange about that is that the word “eternal” means not only “going forever forward into the future,” but also “going forever back into the past.”  God is truly eternal, because He always existed and always will;  there never was a time nor will there be a time when God did not exist.  But, if we speak, for instance, of the angels, we can point to a time when they were created by God—even though they will continue to exist forever into the future, they did not always exist.  In technical terms, something that is created and then exists forever is called “aveternal” rather than eternal.

    But yet our Lord refers to the Holy Sacrifice as an “eternal” testament;  one which, if He is speaking in the technical sense, has always existed;  one which did not just come into being on the night of the Passover in the year 33 A.D.  To understand this, it helps to remember that God is not bound by time in the way that we are.  We humans are able only to remember the past, and can only guess about the future.  The only time travel we have is the process of getting older.  But God, who created space and time, can, in a sense, look down from above, and see past, present, and future all laid out in front of Him.

    From all eternity God knew that He would create the heavens and the earth, that He would make Adam and Eve, that they would sin, and that He would send His only-begotten Son to redeem them from their sins.  The Psalms speak of God laying his plans before embarking on the work of creation:  “In holy splendor, before the daystar, I have begotten Thee.  The Lord has sworn and He will not repent, Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech.”[1]  So, before all creation, there was a priest; one pledged eternally to offer the sacrifice of our redemption.

    And, as well as there had to be a priest to offer sacrifice, there had to be a victim—one holy, and pleasing, and worthy to appease the Justice of Almighty God.  From all eternity God knew that no victim would do other than the same eternal High Priest.  So, from all eternity, God knew that He would someday send His Son into the world; that He would someday associate human substance and nature with His own divinity—He would “humble Himself to become partaker of our humanity.”[2]

    Now, since God does nothing apart from His eternal plan, He clearly knew that at some point in time He would fashion the perfect human instrument for bringing His sinless Son to mankind.  We might say that the Immaculate Conception took place first in eternity, as God conceived the Blessed Virgin Mary in His mind;  the most perfect of all His created beings.  God did not create a perfect world, but He did create a perfect woman to be the mother of His perfect Son.  He created a woman of perfect humility—humility so perfect that it drew Him down from heaven.  He created a woman of perfect chastity—so pure and undefiled as to be His “fit dwelling place” from March until December.  He created a woman perfectly steadfast—so steadfast that she would not only bear Him and raise Him, but also would stand with Him at the foot of the Cross—so steadfast that in spite of having free will, she would never betray Him with the least venial sin.

    Of her free will, she would never betray Him.  So He gave her something special, something unique among the descendents of Adam and Eve.  Before anything was made He decreed that she would never share the taint of original sin;  that she would benefit in advance, being “preserved from all stain of sin through the foreseen death of her Son.”[3]   It is often rightly said that God made Mary His "co‑redemptorix;  one who, jointly with Him, would offer their Son in Holy Sacrifice;  one who, jointly with Him, would suffer His passion by means of her com‑passion.  He fashioned her to join Him in things no un‑redeemed or sinful person do.

    God determined these things before all creation.  They are an integral part of the “eternal covenant” of our redemption.

    But, please don't let the word “eternal” make you think that Mary's part in our redemption was something that took place only in the mind of God, as though it were something theoretical and not actual.  Because, when He judged it to be the appropriate moment in time, God created the sinless soul of Blessed Mary through the generation of Joachim and Anna.  Of the same Jewish tribe as St. Joseph, whose genealogy we read in yesterday's Mass, she had many of the same ancestors in common;  men and women afflicted with original sin (and some with some pretty serious sins of their own).  In Mary, God made order out of chaos, wrought holiness out of a fallen generation, and brought salvation out of perdition.

    And again, even now, this is not something that happened two thousand years ago only to be forgotten with the passage of time.  It is part of the “eternal covenant,” so it goes on forever.  As long as we are here on earth, we are working out the process of our salvation.  Sometimes that is difficult and seems to be a lonely task.  But in this feast of the Immaculate Conception, we see that in keeping His part of the eternal covenant, God has given us someone to help us keep our part.  When times are difficult, go to Mary!!  When you feel discouraged, go to Mary!!  When you are tempted to sin, go to Mary!!  As she cooperated with God in securing our redemption, she will cooperate with us in securing our salvation.

    O, Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!



[2]   Blessing of the water at the Offertory.

[3]   Collect of the Mass of the Immaculate Conception


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