December 8th: Immaculate (re)Conceptions

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On December 8th many Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox Christians celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Many mistake this feast for the day when Mary supposedly conceived the Christ in an immaculate way, but that’s not it at all.

The Immaculate Conception honored on December 8th by many Christians is not the conception by Mary, but of Mary. The lore goes that this is the day her mother, St. Anne, conceived Mary by immaculate means.

There is much to unpack here (theologically, biologically, sexually), and that unpacking doesn’t fit nicely in a devotional space.

But I wonder, if we can for just a bit, examine the deep root of all this talk about “the immaculate” for a moment.

Why does everything have to be perfect? Why do we desire that?

Why is religion obsessed with the spotless and blameless? I ask this question because I think that, when religion is at its best, it helps people make sense of the muck of life, in the muck of life. There’s nothing spotless about that at all!

I don’t need a spotless Jesus, and I certainly don’t need a spotless Mary.

What I need is a way to sort through the muck of the world. And the path doesn’t have to be perfect (what is perfect?); it doesn’t have to be immaculate in the least.

I just need it to be accessible.

And for someone (like me) who is not immaculate, all this immaculate talk doesn’t do that, Beloved. It doesn’t do that at all…

The bald and beautiful mystical teacher, Father Richard Rohr, says this about so-called perfection, “The great mystics tend to recognize that Whoever God Is, he or she does not need our protection or perfect understanding…All our words, dogmas, and rituals are like children playing in a sandbox before Infinite Mystery and Wonderment.”

This Advent I’m not waiting for the Divine to make things immaculate; I’ll happily settle for better.

But one of the things that I do like about the idea of the Immaculate Conception is this notion that from someone, and in this case a young woman, amazing things can happen, the journey to “better” can be kickstarted.

And that I’ll sign on to every damn time.

As we wait, watch, and wonder in this pandemic Advent, add New Republic’s “Better Days” to your playlist. We don’t need it to be immaculate, Beloved, just better.

Just better.

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