The Feast of Immaculate Conception of Mother Mary

The Eight of December celebrates the Dogma of Immaculate Conception. It is a day of great joy and festivities for the people of Margao, Panjim, Moira, Calangute, Carmona, and Parodo in Goa. It celebrates the anticipation of grace earned through the obedience of Jesus Christ on the cross. This grace is applied to his mother at her conception by a special favour of God to humanity. This anticipatory grace is a special gift to virgin Mary so as to make her ready to become the mother of God. Catholics believe that God gives the same grace to them at the time of their Baptism. This grace does not take away the freedom of mother Mary. She could very well say no when she was invited by the angel Gabriel to become the mother of God. Her fiat is her response given in freedom and obedience to God. The dogma does connect Christ’s obedience on the cross and the grace of salvation that he merited with the obedience of mother Mary. It also links the birth of Jesus Christ and the birth of mother Mary. Although, all these important moments of grace are distant in time and space , they are intertwined in the God’s plan of salvation. This means they are not inter-related by a relation of opposition but by relation of affirmation. There is a flow of grace that intertwines them together.

We cannot understand its reality with our habitual logic of binary opposition/ relation of dvaita. What we need is a logic of affirmation/ doctrine of coincidentia oppositorum/ advaita that gives us a synoptic vision to understand the several intertwined elements of the dogma of immaculate conception. Synoptic vision lets us enter what we may call the synopticon ( Syn -together + optics -seeing). The synopticon is profoundly mystical. It enables us to cross barriers of time and space and offers us an insight into the real. Several Western thinkers like Nicolas of Cusa, Meister Eckhardt and G.W. F. Hegel have held that the presumed polarities of our thought do not exclude each other but are necessary for assertion of opposites ( for instance , the notion: poor is needed to understand the notion: rich). It is we who privilege one of them over the other. We can also find this in the advaita logic of Adhi Shankara. Into the depths, all oppositions correspond with one another. It is in the blissful state of the depth of a mystical experience that the principle of contradiction, the bed rock of logic is left behind. It takes us in the inner sanctorum where we can think, feel and see one in the many and many in the one. In this synoptic vision dialectical thinking dissolves into the dialogical. When the dialectical melts into the dialogical, one enters the synopticon.

Thinking together the opposites is a fruit of a synoptic vision. This thinking together of the opposites in very much not just in the theology of the dogma of the Immaculate conception, it is also present in the spiritual as well as the cultural celebrations of the feast. The spiritual celebration is not univocal but is analogical. It joins us heaven and earth and therefore, it cannot be fully expressed in human language, rituals and symbols. The social cultural dimension of the feast is also not univocal but is equivocal where both Catholics and Hindus of Goa celebrate the festivities with great joy and deep devotion but do not necessarily view mother Mary in an univocal sense. Goa has a tradition that intertwines mother Mary with one of the six sisters of Godess Santeri and is held in high esteem and deep devotion by the Hindus. Catholics also do not see it as a Mariolatary/ idolatrous worship of mother Mary. This seeing together is also a synoptic seeing. We can, therefore, see this hermeneutics of seeing together at several levels in the understanding and celebration of the feast of Immaculate Conception. This is why like every feast in Goa, the feast of the Immaculate Conception is actualizing the synoptic seeing that is embedded in Goa, Goans and Goan-ness. We can indeed see God’s welcome inscribed in our life and culture. This God’s welcome is at the heart of our susegad culture and enables us to become hosts and hospitable and not hostile to all who come to Goa. Like every other feast in Goa, the feast of Immaculate Conception makes us enter the synopticon of our Goan-ness and find new energy and vitality to live in harmony and happiness.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao