Ironic Advent 2016 Meditation #12:
Today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. I was going to say in the liturgical year, but this is Advent. What other year is there?
Two things I know about the Immaculate Conception are this. First, most of my Protestant friends have no idea what the Immaculate Conception is. Second, most of my Catholic friends have no idea what the Immaculate Conception is.
I guess that should be three things I know, because also most of my Buddhist friends have no idea about what the Immaculate Conception is. Except Sarah, she's a Buddhist scholar in Oxford, but I'll bet she knows about the Immaculate Conception.
Anyway, or anyways as Jennifer Lynne Ricke likes to say, I'm not going to be sarcastic about it though. Holy Mother of God, you don't expect to be sarcastic about church dogma do you?
Seriously now, I'm just not going to get into this theological discussion tonight, this very bitter cold twelfth night of Advent (this is SUCH a long Advent; oh come on already, Emmanuel!). You can't make me.
It does remind me, though, of a friend of mine who cannot bear to hear the word womb. I say, what? That's the line of Ave Maria, "Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus" That just makes her scream.
I say, but that's the final lines of Salve Regina, "and after this our exile, show unto us the fruit of thy womb, Jesus [fingers in ears, screaming noises, "ewwwww"), O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary, now and at the hour of our death." If you ask me, the screaming and the "ewwwww" and the horror should be at the word death. Womb is life. Womb is human bodies, alive, making life, sheltering life, doing miraculous things.
But, to tell the truth, it did kind of gross me out when I was a kid. Also, Fruit of the Loom underwear did too, because I thought that was kind of the same thing. Turns out "Fruit of the Loom" isn't part of the liturgy at all.
So, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception I find myself meditating on the messiness and not-so-neatness of conception, pregnancy, parturition, placenta, and all the rest of that stuff also known as the fruit of the womb. Despite the fact that immaculate means spotless, ultraclean, pristine, unsoiled, unstained, unsullied, and uncool (I made that last one up).
Whatever the conditions of Mary's life in her mother's womb, mine, I know, were messy. So were yours. And so were everybody else's since . . . forever. Besides that, so is life out of the womb. And on Mars, which the ancients called the Immaculate Planet (I made that one up too), if you could get there dear reader.
No offense, but if you went to Mars, you would mess it up as soon as you got there. It might not be as messy as my office, but, believe me, your human footprint (like mine), is enough to remind the universe that we are one messy bunch of critters down here.
I know very little about Immaculate anything. You might say, I can't conceive it. Although I did have a brand new car once. For one day. Then it lost that new car smell. That's all I'm saying. Although I love every one of my four children very much, they were all messy. I mean as babies. Then again as teenagers.
Also every church, every culture, every community, every organization, and every Advent I've ever been part of has been messy. I have never been unsoiled, unstained, unsullied, or uncool. Especially not uncool.
I hope the divine being of power and love doesn't hold it against me, but I can't really imagine "immaculate-ness." When I think of Mary, what stands out are the perfectly manicured toenails on the statue of her in the Cathedral. That and the fact that she experienced and embraced the sword in her heart of parenting, love, and loss. Even if she understood somehow that her loss was our gain, I don't think it took away her pain. That would not be cool as far as I'm concerned.
When I think of Jesus, I think of fishing, and story-telling, and lifting up that woman caught in un-immaculate-ness, and making some pretty soiled and sullied dudes his best friends and followers. And of going all the very bloody, messy, unclean way (at least the way he thought he had to go) for them. For me. For his mother, I guess, who, if the stories are true, stood there and watched it all. Pierced through the soul (by which I mean her whole being, including her toes) by love.
Maybe, his doing that so well and with such perfect abandon is the best image for me of what it means to be whole. To be all all right. To be immaculate. At least, that's the way I conceive it.