Reflections on the Immaculate Conception
My soul magnifies the Lord And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid; For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; Because He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name; And His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him. He has shown might with His arm, He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has given help to Israel, his servant, mindful of His mercy Even as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.
Jeanne Brolan, SMIC Associate
As I read these words, I can just vision this young Jewish girl studying the words of the Prophets. We know her family and her extended family were priestly people so she must have been well educated on the Old Testament. Mary’s response to the angel tells us she is very familiar with Isaiah 43 because she knew how to respond to the angel of the Lord. Her heart must have been filled with the words of Isaiah for she understood to trust in the Lord without fear. She understood that she was indeed precious and glorious in God’s eyes. She had the wisdom to know the power of her God and that no matter what was to come into her life and that of her child she would not be consumed by those events because God loved her, God called her by name. Her knowledge of the Old Testament gave her the courage not to be afraid.
I have often read these words that Mary spoke in her response to the angel and looked at them as her holy words. I saw a young girl being able to give this response because she already started out in this world as being without sin. I would read the Magnificat with the understanding that Mary was teaching us how to respond with a Yes to God’s plan for her and for us. I would read it and pray that Mary would guide me and help me say yes but I did not look for anything else in Mary’s response. I did not see any other connection. I only saw Mary was this very holy woman who had wisdom beyond human wisdom. Her words were for God.
Now I know this beautiful prayer is an example for us. It is not just in our “Yes” to God’s plan for us but on how we must understand God’s goodness and have faith that no matter what comes into our life, our God will protect us. Mary had studied the wisdom of the prophets so she knew the power of the Lord. This young woman is saying “Yes, Yes! Lord I will carry this child without fear.” She is saying, “I don’t know how my world will accept me with child but I let go of my concerns and trust in your ways.” Her example is not just how to say yes but how to trust; she is showing us how to let go of fear and just know the power of the Lord will take care of every moment from the time the Yes is uttered.
In this one faith filled response Mary is giving us the tools for life. “My soul Magnifies the Lord, “Mary is telling us God is in us and we are in God. When we take time to contemplate of this “Awe” concept we can see how precious we are in the eyes of our God. Fear is such a big distress in our individual worlds. Mary is telling us how mighty God is, she is showing us how to let go and fully accept that our God will not let our troubles consume us, all we have to do is say Yes and let go of our fear. She is sharing with us how God sees us as we trust in His mercy. Mary is the living example of what the Isaiah writes about. If the only tools in life we had were Isaiah 43 and Mary’s Magnificat we would have what we need to function very well as people of God
by Sr. Marcia Huber
Let us now look at the spirituality of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the primary source of their spirituality. This way of living deeply is nurtured in prayer, meditation and contemplation. Through faithful prayer, the missionary sister nurtures her relationship with Jesus Christ. The Sister especially focuses on Mary, Mother of God, and Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi as icons/models of prayer and faithful living. Dom Amandus Bahlmann and Mother Immaculata Tombrock, the founders of this religious community, handed down this spiritual way of life. Their legacy is best described as imitation of Mary, Mother of God, especially in her readiness to do God’s will, and following in the footsteps of Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi. Through contemplating the spiritual journeys of Mary, Francis and Clare, each Missionary Sister gets glimpses into the mystery of God’s Presence and Action in their own lives and in the life of all creation. Like, Mary, Francis and Clare, the Missionary Sister is impelled by the Holy Spirit to see God in the world and make God visible to all. Let us listen to some words from the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.
Looking at Mary and her journey we find strength and direction for our own spiritual lives which in turn gives us the energy to carry on the tasks of making God visible to all. Mary mirrors for us how the mystery of God’s Action in our lives is manifested. In the Gospel of Luke we see Mary ready to hear the word of God. The Missionary Sisters live in such a way as to be in constant readiness to hear God’s word so as to put it into action. Through fearless trust Mary becomes mother of the Promised One. Francis of Assisi says we all become mothers of Jesus when we carry Him in our hearts. Mary’s Song, the Magnificat, while visiting Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56) is a joyful proclamation of how two spirit-filled pregnant women look to each other for support. By contemplating these mysteries, we have become aware of how we are being called by God to minister to women, especially those who are marginalized, oppressed, objectified, and violated, and to find support from our Sisters in community. This Song also mirrors for us a deeper reality that we and the persons with whom we minister are a mutual blessing to each other. Like Mary, we are grateful for all that God abundantly share with us, and so our souls magnify the Lord.
Although the Sisters live in seven countries, they are conscious that God has brought them together. Furthermore, the Sisters view their evangelical community as a living organism within the church. The Sisters, like Mary and Elizabeth, support one another in the demands of their work and fidelity to their way of life, especially in times of difficulty. The Song of Mary, clearly points to how God moves in and through the lowly of the earth, the downcast, and the downtrodden. Echoing Mary’s Song in their own lives, the Missionary Sisters minister to those who live on the margins of the dominant society.
Mary is a strong woman of faith who speaks to us: “They have no wine”. This is reiterated today, “they have no justice, they have no peace, they have no economic opportunity, they have no health care, nor political power, nor cultural respect.” Therefore, “Do what He tells you.”
Mary is parent who anguishes over her son: “Did you not know that your father and I have been looking for you?” Mary is a woman of fidelity to God’s word: “A sword (word of God) will pierce your heart.” Mary is the constant mother of faith: “At the foot of the cross, Mary stands.” And at Pentecost – coming of the Holy Spirit – Mary, is found as one among the believers. Now an aging woman she has allowed Wisdom/Sophia to grow and develop through the joys and agonies of life as Mother, Spouse, Companion, Disciple, Prophet, Friend, Widow. It is this woman that the Missionary Sisters find a mirror for their own lives of contemplation, relationships, peace-making and ministry.
The Franciscan Way of Life can be described as primarily centered on Jesus Christ and God’s gift of the over-flowing goodness of all creation. This personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God’s gift of creation is proclaimed through story-telling, song, dance, poetry, art and prayer. Relationships with people, plants, animals, sun, stars and all heavenly bodies were prominent in Francis’ life. Where exploitation of Mother Earth or any part of creation is found, one might find a Franciscan Missionary Sister of the Immaculate Conception advocating for those who cannot do so for themselves.
A deep contemplative way of being was Clare’s way. She taught us how to be contemplatives through a simple practice of taking a long loving gaze on the scriptures, persons, creation itself, and then meditating/pondering their way of manifesting God’s presence, being with this deeper reality through contemplation, and then imitating, that is, putting into action that which was revealed in prayer.
Francis and Clare were not self-focused. They were able to “read the signs of the times.” They were aware of the monumental shifts taking place in the economy and in family and societal relationships. They were aware that the center of power was located in the center of town, so they chose to live on the outskirts of Assisi. They began to experience the movement away from an agrarian to a commercial economy. Therefore, they chose to live in radical poverty and show another way.
Simplicity, aligning with the poor, peace-making, advocating for creation, collaborating with others are some of the ways we Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception live our Franciscan Way.
Let us rejoice with the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception as we become more acquainted with their Marian and Francis/Clarian Spirituality.
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