My last parish was called “Our Lady Immaculate”, shortened to OLI. Today we keep the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Over the high altar at this church in Tolworth is a huge statue of Mary which is a copy of the original that is in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous medal, in Rue de Bac, Paris.
Many years ago a previous parish priest wanted to replace this statue with a figure of Christ on the cross. This caused great dissension in the parish that the bishop suggested that he dropped the idea. The statue depicts Mary standing on the head of a serpent and carrying in her hands a globe. This reflects the words of today’s first reading from Genesis where God said to the serpent:
“I will make you enemies of each other:
you and the woman,
your offspring and her offspring.
It will crush your head
and you will strike its heel.”
Mary was conceived immaculately that is without sin, so that she the one who gives birth to the saviour of the word.
In the gospel when the angel greets Mary he doers the use her name Mary, but gives her the title, “Hail, full of grace,”(O favoured one). “For you preserved the most blessed Virgin Mary from all satin of original sin, so that in her, endowed with the rich fullness of your grace, you might prepare a worthy Mother for your Son..” (The Preface of the feast)
Mary, O luminous Mother,
Holy healing art!
Eve brought sorrow to the soul,
But you by your hot Son
You pour balm
On death’s wounds and travail.
You have indeed conquered death!
You have established life!
Ask for us life.
Ask for us radiant joy.
Ask us the sweet, delicious ecstasy
That is forever yours.
Hildegard of Bingen