The Blessed Mother is a trinitarian masterpiece created with the unique perspectives of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Father Donald Calloway, MIC, said to those who gathered Dec. 4 for a talk at Immaculate Conception Church in Park Hills.
The church was at capacity with more than 300 in attendance for Father Calloway’s talk on “Mary, the Masterpiece of God,” an evening event that included the Rosary and confessions, followed by a book signing with Father Calloway. The frequent conference speaker and author serves as vicar provincial and vocation director for the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception and resides at the Marian House of Studies in Steubenville, Ohio.
Speaking before the event, Father Calloway noted that Advent is a perfect time to reflect on the role of the Blessed Mother. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit each had an important role in Mary’s creation, from the moment of her Immaculate Conception (which the Church celebrates as a solemnity on Dec. 8) to her heavenly Assumption.
“The Immaculate Conception is the announcement of the coming of the Messiah,” he said. “Mary is the perfect fruit, meaning that she cannot exist unless He comes. She precedes Christ (on earth) and leads us to Him.”
During Advent, Mary also leads us closer to Christ through the Nativity. Father Calloway asked: What would she want of us during this season? She wants everyone to clean themselves and to become as immaculate as we can be, he said. That means preparing ourselves by going to confession and attending Mass.
Mary also leads us to the extension of the Incarnation, the Eucharist, Father Calloway said. In this time of eucharistic revival in the Church, “Jesus is still with us in the Eucharist,” he said. “Mary is pointing us to the tabernacle. Advent is a season of grace and mercy because Mary gives birth to mercy Incarnate.”
Sharing insights from Bishop Fulton Sheen’s talks and writings on the Blessed Mother, Father Calloway spoke about the Blessed Mother as she was created by the three persons of the trinity. He told the crowd to imagine being God after the fall of man:
“You, God, are so good that you’re going to enter into your own creation and give your life and save them — elevate them to a level they didn’t have before they messed it up,” he said. “Why? Because you are so good. (God) knew, He anticipated the fall. It means you are going to do something so extraordinary that’s never been heard of before.”
Jesus the Son makes the perfect mother: “Never has it been heard that a child precedes His mother. That’s normally not how it works,” Father Calloway said. “But there’s one child who has existed before, who is God, and by taking on human nature, He is going to fashion His own mom.”
Father Calloway asked the audience, if you were Jesus, how would you create your mother? “You’re not going to make her a sinner. If I were God and I were making my own mother, I would make her — let me think of a word — immaculate. Free of all sin. No original sin, no personal sin. Flawless.” Through her Immaculate Conception, Mary was created without sin so that she could help all of her spiritual children to become immaculate, too, Father Calloway said.
God the Father makes the perfect daughter: God made the most beautiful little girl, and He loves her with a protective love, Father Calloway said. God makes Mary the queen of the universe, and He does amazing things for her because he loves her. “She would be able to rest secure in the love of her Father,” he said. “She knew that God loved her, and she trusted Him completely.”
God held nothing back and gave Mary everything. That’s why she is often associated with the superlative “most” — most humble, most kind, most loving, Father Calloway said.
The Holy Spirit makes the perfect bride: God the Holy Spirit also made His own bride, Father Calloway said. The Holy Spirit took up residency in the body of His masterpiece. “She is the personification of the bride, and we need to conform to that pattern,” he said. God wants us to model ourselves after Mary’s “fiat,” Latin for “let it be done.”
The model of Christianity isn’t whatever saint you pray to, Father Calloway said. Mary is a saint maker and a model of Christianity. What she has been given, she will share with you: freedom from sin, he said.
“That’s how much God loves this woman: the perfect mother, the perfect daughter, the perfect bride. Mary, the masterpiece of God. That’s who she is. And He wants you to know and love her, to accept her into your life, to help you to come and love Jesus more.”
Father Calloway’s talk was among a week of events planned at Immaculate Conception in Park Hills to celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The parish also offered Masses, First Friday devotion, eucharistic adoration and a special dinner on the feast day.
>>Mary’s predestined role as the Mother of God
When God sent forth His Son Jesus, He wanted the free cooperation of another human. For the mother of His Son, He chose a daughter of Israel, a young Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee, “a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1:27).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that “From among the descendants of Eve, God chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of His Son. ‘Full of grace,’ Mary is ‘the most excellent fruit of redemption’ (Sacrosanctum Concilium 103); from the first instant of her conception, she was totally preserved from the stain of original sin and she remained pure from all personal sin throughout her life” (CCC 508).
Mary’s divine motherhood was declared at the Council of Ephesus in 431. The council formalized Mary as “theotokos,” or the “Mother of God” in Greek.
Interestingly enough, there is a shrine in Ephesus (modern day Turkey), where the Blessed Mother is said to have lived her last days with St. John, the beloved disciple. Several popes have visited the site, including St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
>>The Immaculate Conception of Mary
Mary was without sin from the moment she was conceived in her mother’s womb. We celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception — Mary’s conception by St. Anne — on Dec. 8. It is a holy day of obligation in the Church.
Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception a dogmatic teaching of the Church in 1854: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”
By preserving Mary from the guilt of original sin, God made Mary worthy and well-disposed to be the mother of our Savior.
The Annunciation to Our Blessed Mother is the moment when the Archangel Gabriel visited the Blessed Mother to tell her that she would become the mother of Jesus, Son of God. The feast is usually observed on March 25, nine months before the birth of Jesus on Christmas.
In the Gospel, the Archangel Gabriel greets Mary as “full of grace.” The Greek word that is translated as “full of grace” (“kecharitomene” in Greek) is not found anywhere else — not only in Scripture, but in any ancient sources. Like Mary, the term is unique in history. The Annunciation is about God the Son’s humility in becoming Incarnate in the womb of Mary, and Mary’s humble acceptance of God’s will for her life.
At the announcement that she would give birth to “the Son of the Most High” without knowing man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded with an obedience of faith: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38).
Another of the Church’s dogmatic teachings is that Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin. References have been made throughout Church history; the Council of the Lateran in 649 declared that Mary conceived “without any detriment to her virginity, which remained inviolate even after His birth.”
The Catechism notes that the “Gospel accounts understand the virginal conception of Jesus as a divine work that surpasses all human understanding and possibility,” and that Christ’s birth “did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it. … The liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as ‘Aeiparthenos,’ the ‘ever-virgin.’” (CCC 497, 499).
“For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her,” the angel said to Joseph about Mary, his fiancee (Matthew 1:20).
The Church also sees this as a fulfillment of the divine promise given through the prophet Isaiah: “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel.” (Isaiah, 7:14).