I came out of the mouth of the most High, and covered the earth as a cloud. I dwelt in high places, and my throne is in a cloudy pillar. I alone compassed the circuit of heaven, and walked in the bottom of the deep. In the waves of the sea and in all the earth, and in every people and nation, I got a possession. With all these I sought rest: and in whose inheritance shall I abide? So the Creator of all things gave me a commandment, and he that made me caused my tabernacle to rest, and said, Let thy dwelling be in Jacob, and thine inheritance in Israel. (The first lesson at Mattins of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary).
Happy feast to those of you who follow the traditional kalendar and keep in reverent memory a feast far older than the 1850's. When I was at Heythrop I wrote my church history dissertation on the development of the doctrine of the "immaculate" Conception and my research did much to change my understanding of St Mary's essential part in the history of Salvation. It also strengthened my conviction, which has not changed, that mankind must be redeemed after a manner consonant with his nature. That we celebrate the Conception of St Mary at all is hagiographically unique in terms of original sin, rather like the sanctification of St John the Baptist. I dissent, however, from the Romish doctrine on the grounds that it is a theological novelty, undermines the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union and enshrines a particular hermeneutic of original sin. If man must be redeemed according to the flesh then how can the mother, chosen from before all ages, not have an equal share in our humanity? Only Christ is without original sin and this is the traditional teaching of the Church.
If it isn't in good taste, it can't be good!
The photograph at the top of the post is of the south porch of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford. The beautiful statue of Our Lady was the first such erected in England since Reformation times, in 1637. The Puritans reviled it and cited this "scandalous statue" as evidence in blessed +Laud's trial. Later, some "godly" Puritan fellow took it upon himself to shoot at it. The bullet holes are still visible to-day.
Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis!