“Remember O most loving Virgin Mary, that it is a thing unheard of that anyone ever had recourse to thy protection and was left forsaken…. …”

 (part of the Memorare, a famous prayer calling on Mary,

Mother of God, to intercede for us). 

“Mary Immaculate, Star of the Morning, chosen before the Creation began”, has been a phrase that has ‘rung’ through my heart for some time. It ‘echoes’ words of the author of the ‘Letter to the Ephesians’, used as the second Reading in the Mass for the Immaculate Conception – words that refer to all Christians: “Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ to be holy and spotless and to live through love in his presence … …” (Eph 1:4)


Mary Queen of Heaven with the Baby Jesus in St Mary's Narthex Leyland

Picture of Our Lady, Assumed into Heaven, in the Narthex of our Church

Come with me as I explore this concept of Mary a little – try to take things a little deeper. In doing so, we have to bear in mind that, from the logical point of view, it is beyond (our) understanding to say that, from the moment of conception, Mary was completely free from sin. How can that be – except by a miracle from God? That is the ancient teaching of the Church, however, and one that links with two other teachings: firstly, that Mary is truly the Mother of God, or ‘Theotokos’ – which means ‘God-bearer’ (Council of Ephesus 431 AD), and secondly, that she was assumed, body and soul, into heaven at her passing from this world (Decreed in 1950, but taught from about the 3rd Century AD). In themselves, each of these teachings defies human logic, but, within them, there is a certain consistency. If Mary is, truly, the Mother of God, then it is surely – at the very least – a fitting thing that she should always be free of any taint of sin, for God and sin cannot ever mix! Also, her bodily ‘assumption’ is also fitting, because being taken up to heaven – body and soul – implies that bodily death had no hold over the ever-sinless ‘Theotokos’.  Sin is the cause of our death.  In the Garden of Eden, before the sin of Adam and Eve, we were created by God to live for ever; death – the death that you and I must face – was, and is, the fruit of that ‘Original Sin’. We must face it – Mary too faced it, but in a different way! What it was like for her we do not know. Her body was taken up to heaven with her spirit because that part of creation was sinless. So there is a consistency in those three teachings.

What does all this mean for us, normal human beings, fragile and sinful as we are? We are called to be free from sin by the power of God, and this is achievable, at least from time to time, when we are truly one with God. St. Paul to the Romans wrote: “If because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:15) In the present moment, we can be truly sinless through the gift of God’s grace because, when we repent and are sure our sins are forgiven, then we are His, and sin has no claim on us. We can – so long as we are friends with God – be ‘immaculate’ like Mary, and, if we keep responding to God’s gift of grace, then this can become a ‘habit’ and we then ‘remain’ in God. How wonderful, for we are free to be truly ‘loving’ people when we are free of sin. Driving the lesson home, and relating all this to our world, I suppose this is what a saint – what sainthood – means: somebody who recognises that he, or she, is dependent for all virtue on God, and who manages to remain sinless, frequently; should separation from God occur then he, or she, can repent and begin again, in union with God. For God always wants us to ‘yield’ Him our sins.  Sin is the only ‘thing – if you can call sin by that word – for which God, himself, is not responsible. Through his Son Jesus, God has taken away sin by means of the Cross and glorious Resurrection of Jesus. When we ‘give’ the Lord our sins, Jesus rejoices, because then we are acknowledging the reason why he became man, and lived among us.

I am aware that many of these ideas underlie the design of the Church of the Theotokos, at Loppiano. Certainly, they provide the architectural foundation for this very beautiful modern church pictured below:



   Photos of Theotokos Church Loppiano  

1) The Inclined Plane and 2) Its ‘prow’ to where the inclined plane leads 

It’s very carefully designed features are truly fascinating; here, I want to focus on just one – the roof. This is specifically designed to show how Mary, THE perfect disciple of Jesus, can be considered like an inclined plane that reaches from heaven to us on this earth – and vice versa!

Mary was – and is – a creature like us: she was born in the ordinary way of all human beings: by the Fathers of the Church, she is called, ‘the perfection of all creation – so perfect that, unlike any other part of creation – she has no trace of sin. She comes, so to speak, from creatures like us, from the earth, from the ground reaching upwards. In a totally different way, Jesus, born of the Holy Spirit, not by man, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is from above. Yet, He takes his body from this perfect part of ‘our world’ that is Mary: every child grows within the womb of the mother taking sustenance from the mother and so did Jesus. In this very special way, Mary is the conduit – the connection – between our world and God’s. Thus, the teachings of Chiara Lubich – the one who originated this idea of Mary, as an inclined plane, reaching from heaven to earth – are in full unity with the Fathers of the Church, and the teachings of the Church. The Church at Loppiano is built with this sloping roof for this very purpose – to demonstrate in concrete, tile and glass – that curving path that has ‘MARY’ ‘stamped’ all over it – analogous I suppose, to Dorothy’s ‘Yellow Brick Road’ in the ‘Wizard of Oz’, but with the name of ‘MARY’ etched on every brick.

Maybe now we can understand, more clearly, why Mary is so important, and why she helps us if we ask her to intercede to God for us.