Yesterday Catholics across the world gathered to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, acknowledging our belief that Mary, Mother of Jesus, was born without original sin. Mary and Jesus are the only people we acknowledge as having been born without sin, so born, of course, due to the roles that they were to play in our salvation.
The readings for yesterday's liturgy began with a reading from Genesis, wherein Adam and Eve are hiding in the Garden of Eden, having eaten from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, knowing they are about to face God's consequences. The event is widely known among Christians to be the Fall of Man.
The Gospel reading for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception comes from Luke, and recounts the revelation to Mary by the Archangel Gabriel that she will conceive and bear a son who will be the Savior of the World. Christians believe that this is not a responsibility that was forced on Mary; rather, she chose to accept this responsibility out of her great and pure love and obedience for God. Because of her role in our salvation, Mary is often considered by Catholics to be the new Eve, the woman whose choice lifted us from the choices that caused our fall.
When I think of my life and the choices I have made in its course, I can hardly consider myself Marian. I'm sinful and selfish, just like the rest of us. Still, I know that one unique choice does set me apart from most of the world, while it brings me a bit closer to Our Lady. THe decision to carry my son to term in spite of his diagnosis is a decision that only 1 in 1,000 American women will have to make, and one that only 2% to 8% of that 1 in 1,000 will choose. Those are just the facts. And the fact is, I made the choice to carry my son out of obedience to God's will for me to put my money where my pro-life mouth was and walk the walk that I'd been talking of. I made the choice out of fear of Hell. But above all, the fact remains that I made my choice for one very selfish reason, and that is I loved and wanted my son so much that I couldn't just let him go. I wanted him to stay, and so I would keep him as long as I was permitted.
I named my son Gabriel. I was confident that he was bringing a message to this earth, that he would change the world, just as the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel the Messenger changed the course of our lives after death. I named my son Gabriel because the name means "Hero of God," and "God is my strength," and to me our time together epitomized both phrases. As I leaned on God in the weeks that followed Gabriel's diagnosis and 10 days that followed his birth, I knew that my son was doing great things, heroic things. I was just the vehicle, along for the ride.
Gabriel passed, and I knew the piercing pain that the sword of her child's death brings to a mother's heart.
Then one day, I was holding my precious daughter Eden in my arms, after a brief but painful labor. Somehow, I had gone backwards. I had gone from the promise I felt when Gabriel was conceived, to the crushing blow of his diagnosis, to the stabbing pain of his death, to the skepticism of a subsequent pregnancy, to the joy of Paradise. I've gone from Gabriel to Eden
Occasionally discussion arises among Christians: Was the Fall of Man not necessary, in order for Christ to rise? If not for a flawed world, would we ever appreciate paradise?
I'd like to think that we would, but I don't know. This is the only life we know. This is the only world we know. Likewise, I only know a world marred by the death of my son, made bright again by my daughter's sweet face. I only know the road from Gabriel to Eden.