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Marist Calendar

4 December

Saint John Damascene and John Calabria
1889, opening of the first Marist school in Colombia

Marist Calendar - December

You are totally beautiful, O Mary

 

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Immaculate Conception

07/12/2005: Italy

In saying that Mary is the Immaculate one, we are saying two things about her, one negative and one positive: on the negative side that she was conceived without the “stain” of original sin, on the positive side, that she came to the world already filled with grace. This word explains all that Mary is. The feast day’s gospel reading emphasises this by reminding us of the words of the angel: “Rejoice, you who are full of grace, the Lord is with you.”
The word “grace” has two meanings. It can mean a favour, a pardon, an amnesty as when we say that a person condemned to death has been graced. But it can also mean beauty, charm, amiability. The world today knows the second meaning of grace well, perhaps the only meaning that it knows well.
The Bible also retains the two meanings of the word grace which indicates above all else the divine, gratuitous and undeserved favour, which, in the presence of sin, is translated by pardon and mercy, but also indicates the beauty that derives from this divine favour, what we call the state of grace.
We find in Mary these two meanings of grace. She is “full of grace” especially because she is the object of the favour of a unique choice; she is also “graced” because she is saved gratuitously by the grace of Christ. (She was preserved from original sin, “in prevision of the merits of Christ!). But she is “full of grace” in the sense also that the choice of God made her resplendent, without stain, “totally beautiful, totally pure” as the Church chants on this feast.
If the Immaculate Conception is the feast of grace and of beauty, there is a very important message for today. Beauty touches us all; it is one of the most important values of the human being. Love brings us all together. We can differ as to the beauty of a thing, but we are all attracted by beauty. “The world will be saved by beauty,” said Dostoïevski. But we must add immediately, the world can also be lost by beauty.
Why does beauty transform itself so many times into a mortal trap, and is the cause of offences or of bitter tears? Why are so many personifications of beauty, starting with Helen of Homer, the cause of so many struggles and human tragedies and why do so many modern myths of beauty (like that of Marilyn Monroe) have such a sad end?

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