The words which, under the pen of Saint Luke, open the Gospel of the Mass of February 2, have something to surprise and trouble us: "When the days of Mary's purification were fulfilled, according to the law...".
What could be the meaning of such a statement? Because only what can be purified is purified... How can one admit that Mary, the Immaculate Virgin, could have been purified? And if she was, what meaning can the word "purification" still have when applied to the "all pure"?
In order to understand it, we must remember the prescription of the Law of Moses: any woman who, having conceived from a man, gave birth in her blood by ordinary means, contracted a legal impurity, from which she had to be purified at the end of a certain period. The reason was that the being brought into the world had been conceived and given birth in original sin.
Upon closer inspection, as noted by St. Bede, St. Ambrose, or even Origen, it appears that the Virgin Mary was not affected by this prescription. Not having conceived of a man, but of the Holy Spirit, she had remained a virgin after the conception of the Son of God; and when the latter was born, she gave birth in an immaculate manner which, again, miraculously preserved her virginal seal. The Son of God, who became flesh in her, by becoming flesh and then being born, had not opened her womb; nothing in all this followed the ordinary ways. No defilement, therefore, ever tarnished the Marian purity.
Preserved from the first moment of her existence from the original stain, she never committed the slightest fault, not even the smallest imperfection...
And the child she conceived and gave birth to, being the Son of God, did not even need to be preserved from original sin, which in any case could no longer reach him. Even better: far from being an occasion of defilement for her Holy Mother, the Child God was for her the beginning of a new holiness: the Immaculate Conception under the shadow of the Holy Spirit welcomed the blessed fruit in her fertile womb, and received through this divine contact, a miraculous increase in grace and purity. Her original holiness was confirmed and increased.
And throughout her whole life, until her Assumption into the glory of heaven, the Mother of God never ceased to grow in the order of grace. From then on, far from needing a purification to which she submitted in order to give us an example, it is she who purifies us!
First of all, because she is the very pure source of Him who is Purity itself, and she offers Him to us so that through Him we may be washed of our defilements. Furthermore, because she draws us away from the devil whose head she crushes, to offer all of us to her divine Son. Finally, because by her very beauty, she elevates and purifies our souls: St. Thomas, in fact, makes his own the opinion which circulated in his time, whereby, "as it is said, the grace of sanctification not only repressed illicit covetousness in her, but [this grace] also had an effect on others, so that even though she was beautiful in body, she could never arouse any covetousness to herself. " 1
O Immaculate Mother Mary, full of grace, purify your children defiled by sin.
- 1. Super Sent., lib.3 d.3 q.1 a.2 qc.1 ad4