10 December 2008

The Conception of the BVM - Some Thoughts

My dear friend, Rev Dr Burnell (Fritz) Eckardt, a Lutheran minister, ponders and debates within his mind (for all to see) whether he should institute in his parish the formerly Lutheran custom of celebrating the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In no particular order, I've suggested the following points for his consideration:

1. The Feast of the Conception of the BVM (as it is known in Orthodox churches, and was previously known to Lutherans) is not tied up in notions of (original) sin or guilt (which, popularly amongst Rome, seems to mathematical), but is yet another opportunity to exalt the human nature in Christ.

2. Three (and only three) nativities are celebrated by the Church: Christ, Mary and St John the Baptizer. In the same way, three conceptions are also celebrated (25 March, 8 Dec, 25 Sept). Asking why only these nativities are celebrated might lead one to consider why celebrating the conceptions is important.

3. The Marian feasts, generally, not only exalt the human nature in Christ, but also God's magnificent mercy; namely, that He deigns to save man. ("What is man, that thou art mindful of him?")

4. That the Gospel reading for the Feast in the historic Western tradition is Mt 1.1-16 (exalting the ancestry of the Christ) should be instructive.

5. The icon "The Conception of the Theotokos" (above) teaches a story told five previous times; namely, that in the ancestry of Jesus, God intervenes with a miraculous conception and birth for a barren woman. (Sarah-Isaac, Rebecca-Jacob/Esau, Rachel-Joseph, Samon's mother-Samon, Hannah-Samuel, Anna-Mary, Elizabeth-John -- all leading to the ultimate conception; namely, the conception and birth for a woman who "knows not a man").

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