She Will Crush the Serpent’s Head
Monday December 9, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Immaculate Conception (observed)
Reading I (Genesis 3:9-15, 20)
Reading II (Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12)
Gospel (St. Luke 1:26-38)
Today as we celebrate this glorious Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we celebrate a singular grace: the only human person ever in history to be conceived without Original Sin, the only one person that we can look to, then, who was able to live a life of absolute perfection in a human manner, because from the very first moment of her conception what the Lord had done was to take the grace that His Son would obtain for humanity on the Cross and beforehand (some fifty or so years beforehand) took that grace and applied it to His mother so that she would be without sin from the very first moment of her creation.
Unlike all of us who are conceived with Original Sin, she is not; therefore, from the first moment of her existence she belonged entirely to the Lord. She gave herself freely to God at every instant of her being to the fullness of her ability so that she was able to live her life – even in the womb – for the Lord. This is something that we cannot even begin to grasp because we do not know what it is to be without sin. We do not know what it is to be without the weakness that comes from Original Sin even after having been baptized, because Original Sin brings with it the darkening of the mind, the weakening of the will, the concupiscence of the flesh, and all the various struggles that we have. Our Lady did not have that problem. She did not have to deal with the problem of falling into her weaknesses. Certainly, the devil tempted her, but the grace was there for her to reject it at every moment of her being.
And so what we see in that first reading we heard from Genesis is that there would be enmity between the devil and a woman – one particular woman and her one male offspring is what is made very clear in the reading. The part that is not clear is who is going to do the crushing of the serpent’s head. In the reading as it is translated here, it is the Son who crushes the head of the serpent. Saint Jerome, when he translated the Vulgate Bible, translated it as “the woman” who crushes the head of the serpent. We can certainly look at the Crucifixion and the Resurrection and see that Our Lord is the one who crushes his head, and yet we can also look at all the prefigurations that are spoken of in Scripture and say, “It has to be Our Lady.”
Indeed, it is Our Lady. She is the one because the humiliation of Satan is going to be that much greater when it is not God Himself who crushes the head of Satan but a human woman who is going to crush the vile creature’s head. The wonderful thing for all of us is that that human woman is our Mother. She is with us as long as we are with her, standing behind her, standing beneath her mantle, protected by Our Lady. She will keep us safe, interceding for us with her Son. It is not that she has any power of her own to be able to do this; the authority and power that she has comes directly from God. But nonetheless, it is given to her by her Son.
And this, as I have said many times, is Our Lady’s time. This time was given specifically to Our Lady by Our Lord, so this is the time. This vile, despicable creature is going to have his ugly head crushed by the most beautiful, perfect creature that God has ever created. We get to be a part of that, if we choose it. So while we with all of our sins cannot understand how all of this works, Our Lady, who is our Mother, will bring us right there. The one who is full of grace, the one who was predestined by God for the praise of His glory, has chosen her children to be with her – not to be full of grace, but to co-operate with grace and also to be predestined, chosen by God for the praise of His glory as we strive to overcome sin in our lives. And as we are united with Our Lady in the power and the grace of God to crush the head of Satan and to be part of the ultimate victory and the humiliation of the devil and the final vindication of God and of His mother and in the glory of God to which we are each called, we will be able – even here on earth – to be a part, with Our Lady, in the glorious victory of Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.