The Immaculate

Hail Mary!

Hail, full of grace!

Hail, sweet purity!  Hail, perfect humility!  Hail, she who has seen what no man has seen!

The Lord is with you.


His messenger has visited you.  Sent off from heights unfathomable, to the dust of our pale blue dot.  Beautiful daughter of God, he sends his messenger to speak to you and comfort you.

You, and no other.

You are afraid.  Though not, perhaps, how we fallen might be afraid.

When we are visited by an angel, it is like a thunderbolt.  We are afraid because of our bodily vulnerability, and because we are mired in darkness.  We are far from the land where angelic radiance dwells.  It is too much for us, cataclysmic.  We simply brace ourselves.

You, Mother, are not troubled by the darkness.  You are immaculately kept.  Therefore, the fear we see reported must be of another kind, and I will boldly venture a guess.

You knew, in a way we cannot possibly know, what Gabriel meant.  You saw the empty throne.  You realized the King was coming.

Mary, anyone now reading skimmed over that, too quickly.  They noted it as a point of Christian doctrine, and filtered it through their faith or lack of faith, and now are irritated that I have bothered to say so.

Well, we have heard it said, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.”

If that is so, then you have seen Him most clearly.  And you will know that God becoming man is like man becoming a cartoon.  It is not merely humbling; it is an utter depravity.

See how impossible it is for us to even conceive of a way to condescend like this!  There is nothing like it!  You may as well cover a mountain with a handkerchief – to propose it is to stretch the human mind until it frays.  How much less can we understand God doing it?

But you, Mary…you understood like no one has.

Mary, we can scarcely appreciate your moment in time.  Women were expected to be virgins and preserved until marriage as a matter of course.  And if they were found with child…

But you are holy.  You, dear Mother, did not even ask about this.  Gabriel said you would bear a child and you did not express the least concern that you should be castigated, gossiped about, calumniated, and abandoned.  It simply did not enter the conversation.

You are truly full of grace, to the brim, and spilling over.

Rather, you appealed to nature!  You appealed to God’s own laws, which all men know, even to the present age:  “How should this happen, if I have had no relations with a man?”

That’s when Gabriel spoke just a little slower, in the cadence of awe.

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

The foolishness we hear is for some to gainsay the virgin birth.  To what effect?  What is their great rebuttal?

It is mere incredulity!  As if theirs was the height of understanding…and theirs the kingdom, and the glory, and so on.  Let us cast our pearls elsewhere.

Indeed, this is likely the most unremarkable thing about Gabriel’s message.  God, incapable of a virgin birth?  What fool casts his shadow so shamelessly?

No, what is remarkable is this…

“Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.”

The ground is still shaking from the moment Gabriel announced this.  It is almost a reassurance to you, that you heard him correctly.

God Almighty, Existence itself, will dwell within your womb.

God Almighty, indeed!  What is this?  All Power and Majesty!  …in a baby.

Cynics, nonbelievers – even ye faithful – you are not hearing this correctly unless you have a shiver down your back, and a shock in your heart.  You really have no conception at all of the Immaculate unless your vision has just gone a little blurry.

Everything beautiful, everything majestic and worthy and glorious and good – goddamn, atheists, listen to yourselves talk about Nature! – is made weak, dumb, and eminently vulnerable.  It is the poverty every human being has known.

Yet not even a king can slay him.

I beg your pardon, Mother.  I have been wrangling with these atheists for years now.  They are so close, but make their singular virtues – skepticism, discrimination – into idols.  They do not expect the Lord to answer them, and more’s the pity.

Because, as you know, He has.

He has entered that very fabric which they decry as unjust and incompatible with Him.  They cry, “How can God allow it?”  And God answers, “I have come, and suffered it.”

Every word after is so much intellectual vomit.

Our angel finishes by declaring another impossibility:  Elizabeth, thought barren, is carrying a son who will go ahead of your Son, and prepare the way for Him.  Then you utter the words par excellence of the female genius:

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  Be it done unto me according to thy word.”

At bottom, Mother, I am a humble man.  I cannot respond to this; you were actually perfect, and I am deeply flawed.  You are Immaculate; I am empty.  I can only finish what faith has started…

Holy Mary, Mother of God

Pray for us sinners

Now and at the hour of our death,


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