One confusion that surrounds the feast of the Immaculate Conception is with regard to whose conception are we referring to. It is not helped by the fact that the Gospel of the day is all about the conception of Jesus. While his conception was certainly immaculate it is not his conception that we celebrate on December 8th. His conception is celebrated on the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25th. Very neatly we celebrate his birth on December 25th, nine months later. Mary’s birthday is celebrated on September 8th and nine months prior to September 8th is December 8th – the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Thus the conception we celebrate on December 8th is the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother, Anna. Mary, who is to be chosen as the mother of God, is conceived full of grace and without the stain of sin.
At the time that the Church focuses on the role of Mary in the work of God’s love for the world the world is focusing on the effect of climate change at the United Nation Convention in Copenhagen. The main areas for discussion at the summit include:
· Targets to curb greenhouse gas emissions, in particular by developed countries
· Financial support for mitigation of and adaptation to climate change by developing countries
· A carbon trading scheme aimed at ending the destruction of the world’s forests by 2030.
The beautiful hymn in the first chapter of St Paul’s letter to the Colossians tells us that Christ is the first-born of all creation, for in him all things in heaven and earth were created. The whole of creation was harmed through human sinfulness but has been restored by Christ’s death on the cross.
It is St Anselm it reminds us of Mary’s role in the restoration of the whole of creation. He says:
God is, then, Father of all created things and Mary is mother of all that has been recreated. God is Father of the institution of all things and Mary is mother of the restitution of all things. God begot him through whom all things were made and Mary gave birth to him through whom all things are saved. God begot him without whom nothing at all exists and Mary gave birth to him without whom nothing that exists is good.
Veneration of Mary as Mother of all that has been recreated must find its expression in care for the earth. During this time of the Copenhagen summit our reflections on the role of Mary in restoration of all things reminds us of the need to ask for Mary’s intercession. We pray, through her intercession, for the success of the summit and the success of all efforts to care for the earth.
With regard to the Copenhagen summit Pope Benedict said that his hope is that “the work (of the conference) will help identify actions that are respectful of creation and that will promote a joint development based on human dignity and for the common good.” His theme for the World Day of Peace, January 1st, 2010 is “If you want to cultivate peace, protect the creation.” Interestingly, January 1st is also the feast of Mary, the bearer of God, the mother of God. The name of Mary, always associated with peace is also intimately connected with care for creation.
Mary, Queen of Peace and Mother of the restitution of the whole of creation, give us the wisdom, generosity and courage we need to care for the whole of creation that has been redeemed by your son.