December 2017 Concilium Meeting
By Fr. Bede McGregor O.P.
The Legion and the Immaculate Conception
In the very first Chapter of the Handbook we read a very reflective account of the very
first meeting of the Legion of Mary. We read: ‘The table around which we met bore a
simple altar, of which the centre was a statue of the Immaculate Conception of the
Miraculous Medal model. It crystallises everything for which the Legion stands.’ That
means to me a most succinct and powerful statement concerning the identity and mission
of the Legion. But why are the truth and the fact of the Immaculate Conception so pivotal
in the spirituality of the Legion? Well, it is the first thing we know about Mary at the first
instance of her personal existence. She is immersed in God’s grace, utterly free of any sin
or any tendency to sin so that she can be the worthy Mother of God and of all mankind,
and enables the world to celebrate the first Christmas. She is the magnificent and clear
sign of God’s love for all mankind. She is the sheer gift of God to the world and she is
called to give us the greatest gift of all, the gift of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
He mission is to put Christ at the very centre of the world and indeed in the very heart
of every single human person. And the Legion is called to participate in this mission of
Mary of bringing Jesus to the whole world. The Immaculate Conception is first God’s
infinate yeas to mankind and it prepares Mary’s yes to God at the Annunciation.
The first proclamation concerning the Immaculate Conception is found in the Book of
Genesis 3:15: ‘I will put enmity between you and the Woman, between her seed and your
seed and she will crush your head.’ In other words there is an absolute antagonism between
Mary and Satan not only at the time of the Conception of Mary but always, now and
eternally. Sometimes questions are raised about the translation of St. Jerome in the Latin
Vulgate and some of the other Fathers of the Church who simply say: ‘She will crush
your head.’ Let us follow the guidance of St. John Paul 11. He writes: ‘Along with St.
Luke’s account of the Annunciation, tradition and the magisterium have seen in the so-called
proto-evangelium (Gen.3:15) a scriptural source for the truth of Mary’s Immaculate
Conception. On the basis of the ancient Latin version: ‘She will crush your head’, this text
inspired many depictions of the Immaculata crushing the serpent under her feet.
On an earlier occasion we recalled that this version does not agree with the Hebrew
text, in which it is not the woman but her offspring, her descendant, who will bruise the
serpent’s head. The text then does not attribute the victory over Satan to Mary but to her
son. Nevertheless, since the biblical concept establishes a profound solidarity between
the parent and the offspring, the picture of the Immaculata crushing the serpent, not by
her own power but through the grace of her Son, is consistent with the original meaning
of the passage. so the image of Mary on the Miraculous Medal crushing the serpent is
perfectly valid and appropriate. So also the constant use of ‘She will crush your head’
by our Founder in all his writings and in earlier versions of the Handbook, is also
permissible. Our Lady seems to say the same thing as Genesis when she says at Fatima:
‘In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.’
When we say that Mary was conceived without original sin we mean that she was redeemed
in a unique and most wonderful way. She was not simply redeemed from original sin like
the rest of us but she was preserved from even contracting original sin or committing any
personal sin. Put more positively she was created in a state of grace from the first moment
of he conception. As the Angel Gabriel proclaimed: Mary was full of grace and the Lord
was totally with her. This doctrine of the Immaculate Conception leads inevitably to the
doctrine of Mary as Mediatrix of all graces. The two doctrines are inseparable. Of course,
all grace has its origins only in God but He wills to mediate all His graces through Mary.
Put simply we believe that it was God’s plan and will to give Jesus his only begotten Son
to the world through Mary and there is absolutely no grace apart from Jesus. So it surely
follows that Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces. The Legion is rooted in these two truths.
Jesus is Mary’s Christmas gift to each one of us. That is why she is the cause of our joy.
This joy is not simply emotional enthusiasm but it is the joy that comes from Mary who
establishes a deep and lasting relationship between us and Jesus through the power of the
Holy Spirit. So my dear legionaries let me wish you all wherever you are in the world an
joyful and holy Christmas and a renewed love of Mary and commitment to sharing in her
mission. Mary Immaculate, Mediatrix of all graces pray for us.