The feast of our Lady’s Immaculate Conception is the promise of Christmas; our salvation is already in the bud. As the first green shoot heralds the approach of spring, in a world that is frost-bound and seems dead; so in a world of great sinfulness and of utter despair that spotless conception heralds the restoration of man’s innocence. As the shoot gives unfailing promise of the flower which is to spring from it, this conception gives unfailing promise of the Virgin Birth. Life had come into the world again, supernatural life, not a man’s choosing or of man’s fashioning. And it grew there unmarked by human eyes; no angels sang over the hills to celebrate it, no shepherds left their flocks to come and see; no wise men were beckoned by the stars to witness that prodigy. And yet the first Advent had begun.

Our Lady, you see, is the consummation of the Old Testament; with her, the cycle of history begins anew. When God created the first Adam, he made his preparations beforehand; he fashioned a Paradise ready for him to dwell in. And when he restored our nature in the second Adam, once more there was a preparation to be made beforehand. He fashioned a paradise for the second Adam to dwell in, and that Paradise was the body and soul of our Blessed Lady, immune from the taint of sin, Adam’s curse. It was winter still in all the world around; but in the quiet home where St Anne gave birth to her daughter, spring had begun.

Man’s winter, God’s spring; the living branch growing from the dead root; for that, year by year, we Christians give thanks to God when Advent comes round. It is something that has happened once for all; we look for no further redemption, no fresh revelation, however many centuries are to roll over this earth before the skies crack above us and Our Lord comes again in judgment.

Edited from a sermon preached on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 1936, by Ronald Kno